Thames Valley division 1 match played at Actonians Sports Club, Ealing on 9 October 2023
We arrived at Ealing to find tables set up for a match, and young Xavier Cowan (ECF- rated 1957), whom I recognised as a strong performer in last year’s Surrey U2050 team, standing at one end of it. Assuming that he was to be Ealing’s board 6, I headed for those tables, to be told that it was for an internal training match, and Xavier was board 1 for one of the teams.
If the Ealing first team was to have six players stronger than him, we were likely to be up against it, and so it proved. When a second set of tables was set up, mostly in the dark periphery of the room, and team sheets were exchanged, Ealing were 2139 on board 6; our bottom three were outgunned while the top three looked fairly balanced.
David Maycock has been making a big effort to improve his time management, and on my first tour of the boards, his game against Martin Smith (2299) was well advanced while the others like my own were still in the early stages. Some complications in the Ruy Lopez which would be hair-raising for those not versed in these lines led to the queens coming off early; David had two pieces and a lot of activity for a rook and two pawns, which Stockfish judges to be a winning advantage. It was, however, not to be so simple.
In the position below, David played the innocuous-looking 15. Nc3, but it is an error which allowed his opponent to roll his pawns and “win” a piece for three pawns.
The game proceeds 15…c5 16. Bg5+ Kc8 17. Nxe4 b5 18. Nxc5 bxa4 19. Nxa4 Kc7 20. Re1 Rhe8. David now had one pawn for the exchange and was worse, with little material left. But his opponent’s king was the more exposed, and David managed to create a mating attack despite having only a rook and two minor pieces to work with on an open board. A few moves later, this was the position and David went for the kill.
The game proceeds 26. Nd7 Rac8 27. a4+ Ka5 28. b4+ Kxa4 29. Nb6+ Kxb4 30. Rb3+ and checkmate is imminent. A crucial victory for Kingston.
Vladimir Li was on the black side of a Torre Attack against fellow FM Rick McMichael (2256) in which the queens are exchanged early, giving Black doubled pawns on the b-file. That can be double-edged, but Vladimir mixed up different parts of his preparation and was significantly worse by move 12. As sometimes happens, the opponent taking the pawn that his play has earned gives compensation and clarity to the other side. Vladimir had drawing chances by move 19, and had equalised by move 23.
Then his opponent blundered into a psychological trap, set by 23…b6, allowing Vladimir to win material, and the rest was mopping up. The game proceeded 24. e4?? Bf4 25. Rc3 Rac7 26. g3 Bd6 27. Rac1 Ba3 28. R1c2 Bb4 29. Nd2 f6 30. Kf2 Be8 31. d5 Bxc3 32.Rxc3 Bxa4 0-1
I had Black against Alan Perkins (2177), who was well over a grade of 200 in old money for many years, and we had a rather intense game which made it difficult to stay abreast of what was going on elsewhere. He got nothing from the opening, a solid line in the Queen’s Gambit Accepted, but we both had plenty of possibilities to manoeuvre things around and try ideas, most of which would have been unsound.
I spent an age here on move 19 considering plans with Nb6-a4 and Nf6-d5, but White had too many ways to disrupt them. I decided to refrain from speculation, especially after my disaster in the Lauder Trophy last week. In the final position (see diagram below), I offered a draw with both players down to five minutes. My structural disadvantage of doubled isolated b-pawns doesn’t matter too much when they are not on an open file; he no longer has bishops, which like attacking loose pawns, and the front pawn keeps his knights out of c5.
John Foley played a London System against John Quinn (2171). They first played each other in 1969 when John Quinn, the newly crowned British under-21 champion, came to Salvatorian College to give a simultaneous display. Not much seemed to be happening from the opening when suddenly there was a tactical melée. Our John offered an exchange sacrifice which the other John declined with a clever counter-sacrifice. The position got tricky but, after the smoke had cleared, John Quinn had a winning advantage. The last occasion that Kingston played Ealing was in April, the final match in the Thames Valley league. Kingston won the match with the sole result being the victory by John Foley over Andrew Harley. On this occasion, John’s result was the only defeat for Kingston. Swings and roundabouts.
Alan Scrimgour played carefully against Andrew Harley’s c3 Sicilian, finding a line which liquidated the major pieces and led to a quick draw. So when my game finished we were 3-2 ahead, with Peter Lalić’s game on board 3 against the strong junior Nischal Thatte (2178) still in play. Peter played the Exchange Variation against the French Defence, and on my first tour of the room I was surprised that for one of his games the position looked fairly normal – material balanced, no unusual pawn advances. Peter had more open development to compensate for an isolated queen’s pawn, and his manoeuvres gradually induced Black to huddle his pieces on the queenside, where they were largely immobile and could do little to defend the king.
An exchange sacrifice opened up the black king, and then with players short of time a little sequence won a rook, leaving Peter ahead and with mate imminent.
The game proceeded 26…Rd7 27.Qg6+ Kf8 28.Qxh6+ Kg8 29.Qxg5+ Kf8 30.Qh5 Kg7 31.Qg4+ Kf8 32.Qxd7 1-0
A really tough match and, with Ealing having an average rating advantage of 50 points a board, a very gratifying result against the odds. Kingston’s defence of the Thames Valley title is off to the best of all possible starts, with an away victory against one of the club’s fiercest rivals.