Richmond (with secret weapon) overcome plucky Kingston 3

Surrey League division 4 match played at the Adelaide, Teddington on 2 January 2023

It is the season of colds, and Kingston 3 have suffered more than most. First the captain Stephen Daines went down with bronchitis, and then his replacement Greg Heath fell ill too, so full marks to the team and to stand-in captain Adam Nakar for getting six players to the Adelaide so soon after New Year and putting in an excellent performance against a Richmond team which not only had a huge rating advantage but also a certain P Lalić on board one. An FM-strength player in Division 4 of the Surrey League! As Kingston president John Foley quipped when he heard the news that Peter was playing, “Miss, why is that big boy in our playground?”

The big boy did indeed do the business, his tactical trickery proving too much for Nakar – there was, after all, a 600-point rating difference between the two! Peter is making a point this season of playing for different clubs in all four divisions of the Surrey League. Not something, I suspect, anyone has ever done before. Or is ever likely to do again. Peter is, in every sense, sui generis. And I mean that in the nicest possible way. He adds to the gaiety and the glory of chess, and makes all our lives more fulfilled. Adam may of course beg to differ until the pain of this defeat recedes.

Elsewhere, there was a fine win for Sean Tay, new to competitive over-the-board chess and with a provisional ECF rating now approaching 2000. This is based on very few games and almost certainly inflated, but Sean is a terrific addition to the club, not least because he has experience of running junior chess clubs. If we ever get our act together and set up our own junior section, Sean’s input could be invaluable.

David Shalom drew against the very promising Richmond teenager Otto Weidner on board two. David has returned to OTB chess for Kingston this season and is really proving his value. Hayden Holden and Shaurya Handu, two equally promising Kingston youngsters, went down to fighting defeats on boards four and five, but 11-year-old Jaden Mistry scored his first half-point for Kingston on board six as Richmond ran out 4-2 winners.

Jaden was actually rather disappointed by the result, because he let his opponent off the hook twice. He was totally won in the middle game, but failed to press home his advantage, trading off pieces (not always a good idea even when you are material up) when he could have won on the spot. Even after all the trades, he still had a winning endgame, but then went wrong in the position below:

Here, Jaden faced two main choices: 38. f5+ and g5. One is immediately winning; the other draws (though could also be losing if Black was alert to all the possibilities). Unfortunately for Jaden, he chose incorrectly and the game proceeded: 38. f5+ exf5 39. gxf5+ Kg5 40. h7 a2 41. Bxh6+ Kxf5 42. h8=Q a1= Q+ 1/2-1/2. Black’s queen is able to force draw by perpetual check with the poor old White queen unable to land a blow. 38. g5 would have been instantly winning because, whether or not Black takes the g-pawn, it allows White’s bishop to guard the queening square of a1, and the White h-pawn will eventually be able to queen alone.

But it could have been even worse for Jaden. As Kingston’s Vladimir Li pointed out when he saw the position, 39… Kf7! would win for Black. The misplaced bishop is now blocked and Black’s a-pawn can stroll home, while the Black king can mop up White’s h-pawn if it dares to advance. Losing would have been very hard to bear for Jaden after everything that had gone before. It just shows what can go wrong in a “won” position. As the Dutch grandmaster and noted aphorist Hein Donner said: “Give me a difficult positional game, I will play it. But totally won positions, I cannot stand them!”

Jaden was a little downhearted at only drawing, but at Kingston we encourage young players to treat each match they play in as a training exercise: “take the positives”, in that time-honoured sporting cliché; try to learn one solid lesson from each game you play – I suggested to Jaden that this was an example of a position where you should beware plausible moves, always digging deeper and rechecking your calculations; and don’t beat yourself up about the result or lose sleep over it.

In the end, it was a draw against a player rated 400 points higher. Despite the swindle, we’ll take that. And, given Vladimir’s observation, the final twist was a kind of counter-swindle by White. A remarkable game that Jaden will remember for a long time and which will give him much food for thought as his chess career develops.

Stephen Moss