Kingston overcome spirited Surbiton to complete clean sweep

Surrey League division 2 (Beaumont Cup) match played at the United Reformed Church, Tolworth on 29 March 2022

After the knife-edge drama of our narrow wins against Epsom and South Norwood, and with us having already won the division and promotion, the match against Surbiton 2 was always likely to be a little anti-climactic. Nevertheless, I think I can speak for the team in saying that we were determined if possible to make it five wins out of five.

Surbiton put up some stiff resistance. Mark Hogarth, for example, was generous in offering me a draw in a position where he stood well. He’d cunningly chosen the Exchange Variation of the Ruy Lopez, which I happen to hate playing against, and I’d tried to take him off the beaten track by playing 4…bxc6 instead of the standard 4…dxc6. As things transpired, I came to a deep understanding of why bxc6 is off the beaten track.

Another Surbiton player who might perhaps have played on was their board 2, Nick Faulks, who resigned a difficult position against David Maycock but one which didn’t quite seem terminal yet. On board 5 Alan Scrimgour gave the Benoni another outing (he had had a spectacular success with it against South Norwood). This time there were no fireworks and he soon agreed a draw, to make it 2-1 to Kingston.

John Shanley on board 7 outmanoeuvred his opponent in an English to win a pawn, and showed good technique in successfully converting this: 3-1. Three games were now left, and these were the hardest fought. Peter Andrews was slowly increasing his space advantage after opening with an English, when he grasped the chance to play a winning combination instead of a routine recapture. This gave us the match, but the two remaining games still drew groups of spectators, as they were the tensest of all.

Jon Eckert had won a pawn but had the kind of position where it’s not easy to make progress. He was also understandably tired after making two 4NCL car trips at the weekend. His opponent, David Razzell, seized his chance to launch a queen and rook attack down the h file aimed at Jon’s king. At first it seemed, to me at least, that Jon could secure a draw by repetition, but that was shown to be a superficial assessment as Razzell forced a win.

Peter Lalić in action earlier in the season: A player with nerves of steel and an unrivalled will to win

The final game to finish, naturally, was Peter Lalić’s. His will to win is probably unrivalled by anyone else in the team, and most likely in the whole division. He’s also blessed with nerves of steel, which enable him to play on increments for as long as it takes to grapple his opponent to the floor – I think the wrestling metaphor is not inappropriate here.

At the climax of the game the caretaker was about to appear demanding that the room be closed up for the night, and Stephen Moss and I were speculating that he had no chance of doing that before Peter achieved his win. Angus James was actually in the game right up to the point when it became a minor piece ending, but then lost a pawn and finally had to concede, sadly denying us the contest between Peter and the caretaker. 

Farewell to our Beaumont Cup season

This 5-2 win was the conclusion of our successful season in division 2 of the Surrey League: five wins out of five, first in the division and promotion to go with it. From the start we had such a strong squad (further increased in strength by the welcome addition of Peter Andrews, supersub, halfway through the season) that we were expected to do well, but in chess you can’t take anything for granted.

Crucially, apart from the combined playing ability, we were blessed with high levels of motivation and team spirit. A good example of this was the willingness of our top three players, Mike Healey, Peter Lalić and David Maycock, to turn out on occasions when they might have thought that there was little in it for them in playing weaker opposition. 

I’m also very grateful to the “engine room”, as Stephen Moss calls John Foley and Alan Scrimgour (and I should certainly add here Julian Way and Jon Eckert) for being so collectively reliable that even on the rare occasion when one misfired the others scored their points.  Add to this the pleasure of watching creativity at work – Will Taylor’s win against Epsom was especially noteworthy.

This section has already turned into the most clichéd of Oscar awards speeches – though happily with no slaps and no tears – but I would like to acknowledge too the contribution of our drivers (especially important in the case of the long day’s journey into South Norwood) and the great work that Greg Heath does to get everything ready at the Willoughby. Last but far from least, my thanks to Stephen for being our superfan/mentor/manager.

David Rowson, Kingston Beaumont Cup (Surrey League division 2) captain