Kingston reach final of Lauder Trophy – by a whisker

Lauder Trophy semi-final played at the Willoughby Arms on 5 February 2024

Just as we did in the first round when we squeaked past South Norwood, Kingston won this match against Coulsdon on board count. The final score was 3-3, but by virtue of winning the top two boards we took the match on tie-break by 12-9. In the event of a tie, top board is assigned a value of six, and the values then descend to board 6, which has a value of one (are you following this?). Winning boards 1, 2 and 6 gave Kingston a score of 12; winning boards 3, 4 and 5 gave Coulsdon a score of nine. It was that close and Coulsdon captain on the night Nick Edwards accepted his mathematical defeat with magnanimity.

Kingston suffered an early reverse when David Bickerstaff blundered and lost to Venerando Bermudez, a dangerous player, as he had demonstrated a couple of weeks earlier when he beat Jon Eckert in the Alexander Cup semi-final. Coulsdon had two super-solid players and a ratings advantage on boards 3 and 4, so it was always likely to be Kingston’s top two, Peters Lalić and Andrews, and new boy Ergo Nobel on board 6 who had to bring home the bacon, though Jon Eckert on 3 and Gregor Smith on 4 battled hard and were close to securing draws.

Peter Andrews, playing White against Nick Edwards on board 2, got an early advantage when Black chose to give up a pawn in this position in response to White’s provocative 9. d4, and after that Black’s game rapidly went downhill:

So 1-1 and one of the all-important top two boards in the bag. Ergo was doing very well on board 6, but Peter Lalić and Ian Calvert looked level on top board, while we had by no means given up all hope on boards 3 and 4. All to play for.

Ergo has been an excellent addition to the club this season, playing his first ever competitive rated chess and with a provisional rating of 1200 which probably does not represent his true strength – crucial in the Lauder where a team’s collective rating is not allowed to exceed 10,500: underrated players are gold-dust. Playing White, he had two pieces for a rook in his board 6 game against Mason Thorpe. He was also half an hour up on the clock and in the end that decided it: on the increment, Black played an illegal move, incurring a time penalty but also ensuring further material loss. He resigned, putting Kingston 2-1 up.

Kingston and Coulsdon do battle in a nail-biting Lauder Trophy semi-final. The bunting was not put up specially

Gregor Smith, the exchange down but in what he felt was a holdable position, was having his own time problems against the always competitive Paul Jackson on board 4. Gregor blundered as time trouble approached, and Coulsdon were level. Jon Eckert, who had had a draw offer turned down, was still fighting valiantly on board 5 in a queen and pawn endgame, but Coulsdon’s Martin Faulkner was infiltrating with his queen and a loss was a danger, so realistically Peter Lalić had to conjure up one of his mysterious wins from a level position on board 1 to win the match. How would the sorcerer do it?

Board 1: Ian Calvert v Peter Lalić

Peter’s win put Kingston 3-2 up and we realised that even defeat on board 3 would mean us going through on board count. Jon Eckert fought to the end, but that was indeed the result, so by a hair’s breadth we are through to the final, where we will face last year’s winners Epsom, formidable opponents who have cracked the code of Lauder success. Can we construct another team capable of manufacturing a 3-3 “win”? All resignations in drawn positions will be gratefully accepted.

Stephen Moss, Kingston captain in the Lauder Trophy