Maycock lands knockout blow as Kingston progress in Cup

Thames Valley Knockout Cup quarter-final played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 6 December 2022

This quarter-final of the Thames Valley Knockout Cup – a tournament Kingston has re-entered this year – was due to be played at Richmond, but unfortunately for them their venue was unavailable and the match had to be switched to Kingston. Nor was that Kingston’s only advantage. We outrated our opponents on boards 3 to 6, while on the top two boards the tag teams of Maycock & Lalić and Healey & Wall met again, but in different pairings from their meeting just a month ago, when David Maycock beat IM Gavin Wall and Mike Healey defeated Peter Lalić.

With a three-hour session, the games developed slowly – except for board 2 where Peter Lalić offered a pawn on move three which was finally accepted on move 10. On board 1 David Maycock played a Caro-Kann, with Mike Healey replying steadily with an Exchange Variation. On board 3 Kingston’s Vladimir Li, who had a big rating plus over Maks Gajowniczek, was playing a solid Nimzo-Indian, with his Nimzo bishop redeploying to c7.

Powerful line-up on the top boards: Healey (left) v Maycock, Wall v Lalić, Gajowniczek v Li. Photograph: John Foley

On board 4, Will Taylor met the French – Jon Eckert’s new weapon this season – with a Tarrasch, and on 5 David Rowson looked comfortable as Black in an Italian Game against Bertie Barlow, both sticking to theory up to move nine. On board 6, Peter Andrews used the c4-d3-e4 structure in his favourite English Opening, while his opponent – the very promising junior Andrii Boiechko – countered with a Closed Sicilian set-up.

In the early stages the only game with a material imbalance was Lalić v Wall, where Peter was looking for compensation for his sacrificed pawn, though the first to finish proved to be Vladimir’s. Gajowniczek’s position had looked vulnerable to counter-attack in the centre and queenside, but that became irrelevant when a blunder dropped a piece.

David Rowson turned down a draw offer once, but agreed shortly afterwards in a roughly equal position. That made it 1.5-0.5, but no chickens were being counted yet. Jon Eckert had two bishops against Will Taylor’s two knights and looked to have more activity, and Andrews v Boiechko on board 6 was turning into one of those “kill or be killed” games which are fun to watch but a nightmare to play.

Still all to play for: Eckert (left) v Taylor, Barlow v Rowson, Boiechko v Andrews. Photograph: John Foley

On board 2, Peter Lalić continued to play actively – David Rowson later described him as a “magician” – and, with kings castled on opposite sides, seemed to have chances. One inaccurate move by his opponent allowed him to sacrifice a knight on h7, giving him access to the black king, followed by an exchange sacrifice on d7, which if accepted led to mate in three. Gavin naturally declined, but his denuded king left him in a lost position, and Peter concluded with bishop and queen combining to mate on f7. 2.5-0.5 to Kingston and now the door was open (metaphorically speaking, as it was far from warm in the Willoughby’s upstairs playing room and every entrance had to be firmly sealed).

The winning point came from David Maycock, who won a piece and broke through, leaving Mike Healey completely lost. Peter Andrews had by now also broken through on the queenside, creating a dangerous passed pawn, but he still had to be careful in fighting off his opponent’s kingside attack. Once that was accomplished it was all over.

Richmond’s second “Kingston player” Jon Eckert – Mike Healey also plays for us in the Surrey League – seemed to have compensation for a pawn deficit with active pieces and the two bishops, but Will Taylor managed to eliminate the bishops and turn his material advantage into a winning rook and pawn ending. Jon sportingly resigned in a lost ending but with Will having little time on his clock.

The final score of 5.5-0.5 arguably flattered Kingston. Bertie Barlow, who got a draw in a recent league game between Kingston A and Richmond B, had again been responsible for avoiding the whitewash. We now look forward to Maidenhead making the long journey to Kingston in the semi-final.

Alan Scrimgour, Kingston chair and Thames Valley Knockout Cup captain