Kingston win Thames Valley Knockout to seal historic ‘Quadruple’

Thames Valley Knockout final v Harrow played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 22 May 2023

Kingston had a considerable rating edge over Harrow in the Thames Valley Knockout final, but we knew they had some strong players, including the fast-improving Bodhana Sivanandan, who last year represented England at the Fide World Cadet Championships in the under-eight girls age group, coming second.

I welcomed Harrow in my capacity as chair of Kingston and, with Harrow’s permission, spoke of my personal game history with Harrow’s sadly deceased and much-missed IM Colin Crouch. I lost to him four times: three times in Scotland, where Colin was a regular visitor, and finally in a league match in which Colin showed his legendary attacking prowess by forcing mate with a rook sacrifice followed by a queen sacrifice.

Thames Valley Knockout captain Alan Scrimgour (standing) observing the match. Photograph: John Foley

On board 1 David Maycock unusually found himself well ahead on the clock as his opponent arrived late. The critical moment in the game came when David accepted an unsound bishop sacrifice for a bunch of pawns. He carefully defended, exchanged material and was clearly winning when his opponent lost on time.

David Maycock accepted a bishop sac which proved to be unsound and won on time. Photograph: John Foley

Peter Lalić started with his trademark Nc3 and h4 opening. He developed quickly and broke through on f7 when his opponent failed to stop him adding a knight on e5 to the other one already on g5 (see position below).

With Black’s king on the run, an attempt to find counterplay backfired when Peter added the b-file to his attacking lines. After an exchange sac on c7 he had unstoppable threats of mating in either two or four moves. A tremendous game by Peter, making it 2-0 to the Deadly Duo.

Peter Lalić played a characteristically brilliant attacking game to win on board 2. Photograph: John Saunders

Next to finish was board 3, where a draw resulted after Vladimir Li repelled Steven Coles’ kingside pressure to leave a broadly equal position. It was now down to the bottom three boards, where Silverio Abasolo seemed to be building a dangerous kingside attack, Will Taylor – down on the clock – had given up a pawn for counterplay, and David Rowson was pressing in the middlegame, with his hanging pawns producing this dynamic and double-edged position:

Against Will on board 5, Bodhana was playing calmly to incrementally increase her advantage, though Will did have a golden chance to equalise on move 36:

Here 36…Qxc4 leads to a probable draw. Will chose the plausible 36. Ra2 instead. Bodhana blocked with Rd2 and, instead of exchanging rooks, Will then played 37…Ra3, freeing up White’s c-pawn to create mayhem as it advanced. This was the final position:

Rising star Bhodana Sivanandan annotates her board 5 game against Will Taylor. Photograph: John Foley

This was Will’s third game against Bodhana and his first loss, as he described ruefully (but with great good humour and humility) afterwards. “I’ve had the privilege of playing this remarkable young lady three times now,” he said. “In our first game, nine months ago, she weighed in at a mere 1290 Fide rating points (though grossly underrated, of course). But she is now up to 2000 ECF and close to 1800 Fide, and still improving rapidly. After our last game, I told her ‘You’ll get me next time!’, which unfortunately for me turned out to be correct. This time it’s my turn to proclaim: ‘I’ll be back!’ I look forward to our next game, albeit with some trepidation, and to following Bodhana’s chess career as it develops.” Has the Willoughby Arms hosted a potential women’s world champion?

Bodhana’s win made it Kingston 2.5-Harrow 1.5, and it was all to play for. Silverio’s game had turned in Harrow captain Nevil Chan’s favour. He had castled queenside and broken through there with queen and rook. Things were looking decidedly dicey, and Kingston’s chances seemed to lie with David on board 6. He had exchanged his hanging pawns for a passed pawn, and was pressing on the a4-e8 diagonal.

There were inaccuracies on both sides as the time grew short, but David eventually transposed to a winning queen ending courtesy of his advanced c-pawn.

David Rowson took Kingston over the line with a hard-fought win on board 6. Photograph: John Saunders

David’s win meant the title was Kingston’s, but by what margin? Back on board 4, Silverio had barely survived the counterattack from Black and was now a piece down, with queen against queen and knight. However, Nevil’s exposed king gave the Kingston player some chances, and in the end Silverio found a perpetual check to draw.

Silverio’s valiant escape made the final score 4-2 to Kingston, in a close match where Harrow did well given the rating disparity. Kingston thus added the Thames Valley Knockout crown to the Surrey League’s Alexander Cup and our two first division wins in the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues. We believe this “Quadruple” has never been achieved before. Congratulations to all the captains, players and supporters who made this historic achievement for the club possible.

Alan Scrimgour, Kingston chair and captain of the Thames Valley Knockout team