Maidenhead A secure vital draw at Kingston

Maidenhead A v Kingston A, Thames Valley division 1 match played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 4 March 2024

Peter Lalić (foreground, left) secured a crucial win on board 2 to earn a draw for Kingston against Maidenhead

Maidenhead A have been struggling in division 1 of the Thames Valley League this season, which is surprising given that they are a strong and much-improved side. They got a deserved 3-3 draw on their visit to Kingston, and we could have no complaints about a dropped half-point which further dents our already slim chances of catching Hammersmith in the race for the title.

Alan Scrimgour secured an early draw with Black on board 4 against Majid Mashayekh, and there was then a long period of struggle on the other five boards. The deadlock was finally broken on board 1, where FM Andrew Smith prevailed against Kingston’s David Maycock. Andrew played his usual Centre Game (1.e4 e5 2.d4 exd4 3.Qxd4 Nc6 4.Qe3 Nf6 5.Nc3 Be7) and David responded enterprisingly, but the Kingston man missed a key tactic when he played 21. Be6 in this position:

That gave Maidenhead a 1.5-0.5 lead and at that stage we looked in danger. Peter Lalić was a little worse against Steve James on board 2 and William Castaneda had the bishop pair and a slight edge against Nick Grey on board 6. On the plus side, the evergreen John Foley was well placed against Nigel Smith on board 4, and Julian Way was engaged in a classy game with Ishan Wirantunga on board 3. The latter was the next game to finish – a draw by repetition after 41 moves, with Julian’s queen pitted against his opponent’s rooks (see final position below).

John Foley, who had hurried to the match after running the Kingston Chess Academy, then brought his well-constructed game to a glitzy finish in the position below.

White to play and win

By now Peter Lalić and his opponent were in a time scramble, and Peter, who had earlier had a draw offer turned down, is brilliant in these situations, setting problems until his opponent cracks. That duly happened in the position below when Black played 33…Bf5.

Peter’s win made it 3-2 to Kingston and we were sure of at least half a point. But that was all we were going to get. Valiantly though he fought, Nick Grey was unable to wrestle back the initiative in a losing endgame and eventually had to admit defeat. Honours were even, and Maidenhead could embark on their long trek home feeling a little more comfortable about retaining their place in Thames Valley division 1.

Stephen Moss