Kingston triumph in pre-season ‘Megamatch’

Friendly match between Kingston and Richmond over 16 boards, played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on Monday 5 September 2022

It is too early to call these 16-board pre-season matches a tradition, but after the success of the encounter with neighbours Surbiton last year the Kingston club decided to repeat the exercise and issued a challenge to our neighbours on the other side of the Thames, Richmond, who have been going great guns at the Adelaide pub, their new venue in Teddington, and now boast more than 70 members.

They accepted the challenge and put together a team at relatively short notice to take on a Kingston team selected and captained by Julian Way. Kingston club chair Alan Scrimgour welcomed Richmond, and Richmond president Richard James informed him that this was the 75th anniversary of a previous “big match” involving earlier incarnations of the two clubs, played on 17 June 1947 over 36 (!) boards (result unknown).

On this occasion both sides were fairly experimental, with the opportunity taken to blood new members, but Kingston were unquestionably stronger on paper. Richmond were without stars such as Gavin Wall, Mike Healey and Bertie Barlow, whereas the Kingston team was headed by several first-team regulars. Richmond were outgraded on every board and Kingston ran out reasonably comfortable winners, but it was by no means a walkover and Richmond fought hard despite some large rating differences. A notable feature of the match was that there were no draws – in a friendly, players perhaps play with more freedom than in a league match where every half-point counts.

Ljubica Lazarevic gets the better of the resilient Michael Robinson-Chui in a bishop and pawn endgame

Richmond made the early running, with two of their ungraded players winning on the lower boards against two of our newbies, Hayden Holden and Stephen Daines, while Kingston’s youngest player, the immensely promising and committed Jaden Mistry, provided an assured win. That early 2-1 lead was, however, as good as it got for Richmond, with Kingston winning the next five games.

Kingston president John Foley mopped up after his opponent lost a couple of pieces; Vladimir Li roared home in just 18 moves after sacrificing his rook on h1 for a forced mate; Emma Buckley won convincingly in 33 moves after an unusual response to the Caro-Kann – 2. Qf3; Jon Eckert forced resignation after 25 moves, threatening an unstoppable mate after a quiet Exchange French opening; and David Rowson had to work hard against his talented young opponent, giving up two knights for a rook and pawn to gain an initiative which eventually produced an overwhelming attack.

Richmond struck back with a win on board 7 against our late replacement, Jacky Chan, to make the score 6-3 for Kingston. Thereafter, wins alternated between the clubs (victories for Kingston debutants Charlie Cooke and Silverio Abasolo, losses for Max Selemir and Gregor Smith) before the score reached a decisive 9-5 for Kingston, with the winning point being scored by David Shalom on board 11.

That left only two games in play, Maxim Dunn for Richmond resisting strongly against Kingston’s much higher-rated David Maycock on board one and Kingston’s Ljubica Lazarevic in a bishop and pawn endgame against Michael Robinson-Chui. On board one an interesting position arose (see photograph below), with queens on a1 and a8 linking up with bishops. From a vantage point above the board a knight sacrifice on g7 looked inevitable, and so it proved.

The final game to finish was board 10, where, after mistakes on both sides, Lju Lazarevic prevailed. The result, 11-5 for Kingston, was a good one for the outrated Richmond team, but, in any event, it proved an excellent season opener for both clubs. For Kingston, fine wins by a clutch of new players gave cause for optimism ahead of a challenging season in which the club will field six league teams and three cup teams, and play more than 50 fixtures – a huge challenge given that the club’s membership remains smaller than that of some of its rivals.

Matching last season’s extraordinary performance in winning five trophies will be well-nigh impossible, but we have high hopes in the top divisions of the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues, to which we were promoted last year, and a successful defence of the Alexander Cup would be a tremendous achievement. The preliminaries are over. Now for the real thing.

Alan Scrimgour and Stephen Moss