Alexander Cup semi-final between Kingston and CCF (Coulsdon), played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston on 30 May 2022
Kingston ran out 7-3 victors in a spirited match against CCF (Coulsdon) in which Kingston did not lose a game. Kingston are now in the final of the Alexander Cup for the first time since 2018. The previous occasion that Kingston won the Alexander Cup, the open knockout for teams in the Surrey League, was 47 years ago in its centenary year of 1975/76. The final against Wimbledon will be played at a neutral venue. No date has been set, but it is likely to be held at the start of next season in September. This year’s competition was beset by Covid delays affecting the fixtures.
The final score does not do justice to the hard-fought encounter. The Kingston team outrated Couldson, especially on the lower boards. However, ratings count for little in knockouts, and the two Coulsdon juniors on boards nine and 10 played well, with the experienced Kingston players unable to find a weakness. Six of the 10 games were drawn, and three of Kingston’s four wins came with the white pieces.
Our innovation during this match was to use a whiteboard to display the results as they came in. This ensured that all the players were aware of the match situation, which is a vital consideration when offering or accepting draws. Several of the players made nervous glances towards the board, wondering if their game would turn out to be match-critical.
On top board, Martin Jogstad (Kingston) and Mark Gray (Coulsdon) had a tense encounter in the last game to finish. Martin tried a kingside attack from a semi-slav. However, Mark deftly fended off the threat and launched a counter-attack on the queenside. They had a queen and four pawns each. Martin was not tempted to enter a pawn race because his king was vulnerable to checks, whereas Mark’s king could find shelter. So the game ended with perpetual check, the outcome of the match already determined.
On board two, Chino Atako always seemed in control as white in a Catalan against Mike Healey. This may have been an illusion as the engine indicated otherwise. As they reached the heavy pieces endgame, Chino had an ominous extra outside passed pawn. Mike decide to complicate – for which he needs little excuse in normal circumstances – by launching his kingside pawns at Chino. After the queens and most pawns were swapped off, Mike was able to hold the rook endgame.
On board three, Peter Lalić and Chris Howell were level going into the endgame. Peter’s rook was more active but unable to do very much until Chris unwisely advanced his kingside pawns. It is always tempting to “do something” rather than wait patiently. The pawns became vulnerable, and Peter was left with a rook and the g and h pawns against a rook. There was a nice passage of play when Chris offered his rook which, if captured, would lead to stalemate. Peter found a way out of the swizz-attempt and concluded the game expertly. It should be noted that Magnus Carlsen was unable to convert this exact ending against Vladimir Kramnik in a blitz game in 2013.
Board four comprised positional manoeuvring by Martin Faulkner and David Maycock in the exchange variation of the Queen’s Gambit Declined. The game was level until Martin unaccountably allowed a knight fork which won the exchange.
On board five, Vladimir Li didn’t get the start he wanted against Ian Calvert, who sprang the fashionable Scandinavian for which he had prepared well. Whilst the position was still balanced, Ian offered to exchange queens, but Vladimir responded by a surprise rook sacrifice against the king. The sacrifice could not be accepted and the rook remained behind enemy lines, wreaking havoc.
White to play (solution at end of report).
On board six, Nick Edwards held the advantage for most of the game in an Old Indian. He doubled his rooks on the open h-file against David Rowson’s king. It looked like curtains for the Kingston player. However, just when it looked like Nick was going to break through, he shifted his attention to the queenside. He missed a winning check on move 31, and the game petered out in a draw soon after.
On board seven, Julian Way played the game of the match. Facing another Scandinavian, he played classically to prompt a weakness on the king’s file. Julian doubled rooks and, when the time was right, shifted them to the h-file, where they penetrated with devastating effect.
Solution to problem: 17. Rxb7! If the king captures the rook, then 18. Rb1+ leads to mate in three. Black captured the queen, but after the zwischenschachs 18. Rc7+ Kb8 19. Rb1+ Ka8 20. gxf3 white is winning.
Starting with 1. b4 looks like a piece of wilful eccentricity. But over the years strong grandmasters have played it
Last Monday I gave a lecture at Kingston Chess Club on three Orangutan games I’d played. For those able to attend, I tried to explain the ideas behind the opening, along with some of the issues for both players. The games chosen were all against strong players, using two bishops and ultraviolence. Here are the firework endings:
In this blog post, I hope to expand on the opening itself.
The onomatology of the opening is more diverse than for most chess openings, the names of which are typically based on the players who – or locations which – made them famous. Originally 1. b4 was the Hunt opening, named after a Canadian doctor no one seems to know anything about. Then it became the Hunter-Englisch (Berthold Englisch was a strong Austrian player in the latter part of the 19th century). With the arrival of the hypermodern school, it became the Polish (following its adoption by Savielly Tartakower) and then the Orangutan (supposedly because “the climbing movement of the pawn to b4 and then to b5 is reminiscent of that animal”). Then its stronger, but more risk-averse, little brother “Santasiere’s Folly” (1.Nf3 d5/Nf6 2. b4) was developed, and used by many strong grandmasters (including Viktor Korchnoi and Nigel Davies). Finally 1. b4 became the Sokolsky, named after its most committed adherent, the Ukrainian-Belarusian IM-strength player Alexey Sokolsky, who used it over the board and in correspondence chess to great effect.
I will be calling 1. b4 the Orangutan. Picture an orangutan winged hussar hunting for maple syrup if that helps. [No – Ed.]
There are many big names who have dipped their toe into the Orangutan over the years (Capablanca, Alekhine, Smyslov, Spassky, Fischer), but only a few true believers – Sokolsky, Boris Katalymov and Michael Basman being the main three, each with completelydifferent playing styles (positional, tactical, chaotic). Possibly the Orangutan does not suit the purer chess genius: Capablanca had 0/2 on both sides of b4, and Carlsen maintains a measly 2/4 on the White side.
What are the main characteristics of the Orangutan (other than inducing laughter)?
White’s main aim is to gain queenside space, and if possible exchange wing pawns for more valuable central pawns. It is quite possible to transpose back into more standard positions, especially with Santasiere’s Folly (named after the New York-based chess writer Anthony Santasiere).
Some Black openings (the Grünfeld, Queen’s Indian Defence) do not work that well against the Orangutan. Others (King’s Indian Defence, Dutch) transpose to fairly standard positions. However, there are many, many choices of set-ups for both sides, and a wide variety of unbalanced and unexplored positions can result. If you seek the immortality of your own opening variation, the Orangutan is an excellent place to mine.
One of the main differences between the Orangutan and the vast majority of standard openings is that it forces both sides to think for themselves from early in the game. It is quite possible for even extremely strong players to completely mishandle the opening in the first few moves. Middlegame positions are often “equal”, but slightly easier for White to play.
Early attempts at refutation (c6 and Qb6; a5; d5 and Qd6) don’t seem to work, and often rebound on Black. The most sensible way for Black to play is either to go down the main line “Open Orangutan” (1. b4 e5 2. Bb2 Bxb4) or choose a set-up they are comfortable with from other openings.
Often the opening resembles two boxers circling, with neither army making contact. This early flexible dancing is a major characteristic of the opening. When opposing pawns do eventually meet, the results can be explosive. IM Basman has compared the Orangutan to the St George (1…. a6 2…. b5), the opening of a “counterpuncher”. This is a pertinent observation of Orangutan psychology. Black will take the initiative and the centre, but when White eventually starts hitting back it will certainly hurt. A most unusual way to play with the White bits.
What are the main problems for the Orangutanger?
White’s major headache is development, especially the queenside knight and rook. The Orangutan dark-squared bishop is either stupendous or ghastly, with little in-between. Casual White play leads to good Black positions, so White does need to know what they’re doing. Even if White plays well, the opening will seldom grant any serious advantage. Moreover, the White kingside is often attacked (not to everyone’s taste), to the extent that sometimes queenside castling becomes a valid alternative, despite our first move! And of course White will often forget the b4 pawn is undefended, especially after a couple of pints.
Why should one play the Orangutan?
(a) From a competitive perspective
Your opponent may feel insulted, become annoyed and play badly. Equally they may well underestimate an opening with a silly name they have never faced. Black will often invest time working out a system against this novel opening, which is excellent news for rapid and faster classical games. There are a tremendous number of possible Black set-ups – it is move one after all! As the opening progresses, Black is often caught between playing dynamically and strategically, aggressively and solidly, ending up with something in-between which is neither. White, if they play the opening accurately, should be able to control the pace of the game. Some players react badly to a slower game, or playing on the backfoot with little opportunity for dynamism.
From a “professional” point of view, it is another opening in your arsenal, something else for an opponent to prep against. Black might well read up on a “refutation” or “solution”, but not know that much about the resulting position. It is very easy for Black to “equalise”, but the resulting positions are often incredibly unbalanced (especially the main line), involving unique strategies and even tactical patterns, where the experienced Orangutanger should have the advantage.
I myself use the Orangutan as a weapon against titled players – bringing them to an arena where they should know less than I do (unlike every other opening) – and where it is difficult for Black to play for a win against such insolent weaker opposition. Against weaker players, playing sensible moves, it is difficult for White to avoid draws, while there is often a risk of overpressing. However, White can keep the pieces on and create extremely tense positions, with the battle raging right across the board, which a weaker player will sometimes mishandle.
(b) From the perspective of becoming a stronger chess player
As a chess player, the wider your appreciation of different types of position, the more universal a player you become. The Orangutan is most certainly a challenge, and one that forces you to think and to respond to your opponent from very early in the game. It teaches you to be extremely careful about development, about pawn placement, and about exchanges of both pawns and pieces which will radically alter positions. Rushing too many pawns forward will lead to disaster – the Orangutan often rewards caution, and waiting for the perfect moment to open things up. Certain patterns recur (a weak c6 square, use of an open a-file) which can win games on their own. Positions which seem to be ambling along can suddenly accelerate into dominating White positions:
As an e4 player, it is pleasant to be able to play something completely different from time to time, rather than facing the same openings again and again. I can flex strategic and chaotic neurons which a thousand Ruy Lopezes tend to dull. The Orangutan is most certainly an opportunity for creativity. Here is IM Graeme Buckley v Mike Healey: [N.B. Mike is on the receiving end – Ed.]
Whilst always trying to hack the enemy king if possible, I also get to play set-ups never reached with 1. e4, such as KID and IQP positions. Here is an example:
One valid criticism of my lecture was that the games shown demonstrated not the opening’s strength, but my own. Well, here are four impressive positions reached against extremely strong players using the Orangutan:
Healey v IM Jovanka Houska (+4 after 15 moves)
Healey v GM Chris Ward (+1.2 after 10 moves)
Healey v GM Nick Pert (+2 after 23 moves)
Healey v GM Evgeny Postny (+1.8 after 20 moves)
While we must not take Stockfish’s word for everything, the Orangutan most certainly played its part in getting to these positions; an inept hairless ape brought home 0.5/4 however!
If that was too depressing, some scalps to cheer you up (including the Polish defence with Black):
Slowplay wins v IMs x 4; draw v GM Chris Ward Rapidplay wins v IMs x 4 Blitz wins v IMs x 4 and against GM Gawain Jones; draws v GMs Marie Sebag and Paul Velten
We return to the new season and have to reacquaint ourselves with the quaint custom of adjournments. We were unfortunately reminded of this by our recent match against Surbiton. For readers outside ye olde England, an adjournment involves stopping the game, sealing a move and resuming the game on another day. Adjournments were essential when there were indefinitely long playing sessions. Competitors would stay up late into the early hours analysing the adjourned game. In elite events, they may have benefited from paid analyst assistants whose task was to burn the midnight oil. The tradition lasted for most of the 20th century until the advent of digital clocks. Bobby Fischer won the last game of the 1972 World Championships when his opponent Boris Spassky resigned without resuming their adjourned game. FIDE phased out adjournments for the world chess championship in 1996.
Adjourned position of the 21st game. Spassky (White) had sealed 41.Bd7
Before dealing with the substantive issue of adjournments, we need to deal with the preliminary matter of time controls since the two matters are inextricably bound together. The main function of digital clocks is to implement incremental timing. This has two advantages. First, players are freed from the horror of the flag. As the deadline approaches, the quality of the moves deteriorates. The flurry of moves in the frenetic minutes before the time expires may be entertaining for the spectators but can be heartbreaking for the players. In chess, hours of building up a strong position can be thrown away by a careless move. The Germans call this critical period “zeitnot”. Digital clocks do not eliminate zeitnot, but they reduce its intensity and some of its worst manifestations.
The second advantage of incremental timing is that it enables organisers to ensure that the playing sessions are of a manageable duration. The felicitous invention of incremental time means that we no longer need to trade time certainty for chess quality. The playing session length depends upon the time control. We can choose a time control to be 99% confident that the games will be complete by the time the janitor locks up. So for the vast majority of games, we get the freedom to play as we want, to keep in the zone of flow. Only very occasionally will there be a long endgame to detain the players. In some cases, say as R&B v R, diplomatic negotiation may resolve the matter or, in the worst case, there is an extra charge for room hire.
FIDE properly insists on incremental timing in order to have games recognised for rating purposes. Adjournments are no longer part of the FIDE rules but are included in the guidelines in the appendix to satisfy the British. Incremental timing disposes of the need for adjournments, so why does England persist with this egregious anachronism? The reason is deeply rooted in the history and culture of evening league matches.
We can trace the history of evening league chess back to the arrival of suburban railways at the end of the 19th century which created commuting as we know it today. As the workers ended their long and tiring day, those who were keen to play chess had a choice. They could play near their work or they could travel back home in time for a match at their local club. Hence in London, we had a London league which started early, 6.30pm and various suburban leagues which started later at 7.30pm. It was a similar situation in the conurbations of Manchester and Birmingham. The late start combined with the need to get home and rise early for work meant that the playing sessions were limited to two-and-a-half or at most three hours. This session duration continues to the present in the London league and the leagues surrounding London: Surrey, Thames Valley, Middlesex etc.
The English Chess Federation tried to banish the adjournment option a few years ago (including adjudications – the cruel cousin) but was rebuffed by several leagues who control crucial constituencies in the ECF council. The problem for the leagues is that there are still players who refuse to countenance incremental timing. The fragility of club economics and the practicalities of team selection obliges captains to indulge the resistance. However, it is time to review the situation.
Adjournments cause untold damage to the operation of chess in England. The first major impact is that English chess ratings are incompatible with the rest of the world. Chess club games played under the aegis of the English Chess Federation do not receive the Elo ratings as recognised by the 192 countries in FIDE. Any federation which allows the outcome of games to be determined by chess engines and third-party analysts places its members in an invidious situation as far as international comparisons are concerned.
England has had a proud chess history but is rapidly slipping down the international rankings. It is surprising that the ECF has tolerated this situation for so many years. Curiously, instead of fixing the problem, it is being camouflaged. The latest manifestation of the ECF rating system now has 4-digits to make it look like with Elo. But it’s really not.
The English national rating system stems from a period before computers when transnational chess was rare. There was hardly any need to compare a foreigner with an Englishman. Nowadays some tournaments in England are FIDE rated because they do not allow adjournments but these are elite events such as the 4NCL. There is a disincentive to play in such events because they require paying a higher subscription to the ECF. Surely, the default rating system for England should not involve an extra fee. It is as if England revels in its insularity – pounds and pints instead of kilograms and litres, English chess grading instead of international rating. Sure you can convert, but for goodness sakes why not join the rest of the world?
The second major impact of adjournments is that they complicate inter-club tournaments. If a game is adjourned and the result of the match depends upon the game then the team captains throughout the league are in a state of uncertainty regarding the relative league position of the teams. Bear in mind that games can be adjourned again at the next session. The league tables are usually in a state of permanent incompleteness as adjournments take place in several fixtures in different clubs. Nobody knows if the next match is vital for promotion or to avoid relegation. Sports reporting has to be prefaced by a mathematical description of the possible positions as if we are living in a quantum universe.
The third major impact is on league players irrespective of whether they adjourn. On arrival at a match, the players must decide from a bewildering number of time controls and finishing conditions. Typically there are options for a longplay finish or a rapidplay finish, with or without an intermediate time control. Time controls differ depending upon whether the clock is analogue or digital to accommodate players who refuse to use a digital clock or accept incremental time control.
To make it more complicated, some leagues have a rule that boards must alternate between rapidplay and slow finishes, which involves a rejigging of board reordering in order to satisfy the combinatorial challenge. Furthermore, this restriction does not apply after a certain date in the season (1 May for the Surrey League) when all games must be set to rapidplay. As if this was not enough cognitive overload, there are further options to either adjourn or adjudicate the game.
The Surrey rules stipulate that “When a visiting player arrives at a match, he or she must offer before his first move at least two alternatives of game finish method from adjudication, adjournment or quickplay. The home player shall before his next move select from those offered.” It is not unusual for a player to arrive late and then must have the procedure explained to him or her. Many players are ignorant of these alternative finishing regimes, especially those who are new to league chess or come from overseas.
The procedure continues: “A visiting player failing to make an appropriate offer shall be deemed to have offered all three methods. Should the home player fail to select a game finish method, the visiting player may do so. If neither player specifies a game finish method, the game shall be subject to adjudication.” Note that if the players fail to agree to a more sensible method of finishing the game, then it will be adjudicated – the ultimate threat. This is worse than adjournment because the players have no role in the outcome. At least in an adjournment you can analyse your own position – there is still some personal connection to the outcome. Adjudications are determined by a remote master with a silicon friend.
The visiting player may wish to avoid quickplay and so offers adjournment or adjudication. This leaves the home player in a quandary. Adjournments involve a lot of hassle, but adjudications take the soul out of chess. Hence, adjournments are often chosen as the lesser of two evils. When it comes to the moment for adjournment, there is a search for a sealable envelope (ie the glue has not dried up) which all clubs are required to store. The player having the move seals his move and hands it to the opponent to hold until the resumption.
In Surrey, the visiting player has the choice of the resumption venue. This puts some pressure on the home player to agree a draw even if they are ahead, or resign even if they have drawing chances, because they do not fancy the extra trip. Usually, contact details are exchanged pro tem so that there is a chance to avoid the adjournment in the hope that someone will resign or agree a draw. However, this can give rise to bothersome extended prevarication when one player becomes unresponsive to communications. Nobody is in a rush to resume a losing position.
These arrangements apply to Surrey where the “guidance to captains” includes the duty: “For adjourned games, check that the players who have to make a sealed move have done so and placed them in sealed and signed envelopes. Try to ensure the second session is completed within 28 days.” The players set a resumption date some weeks hence when there is a gap in the calendar not clashing with other fixtures in other competitions, public holidays, bank holidays, religious festivals, personal vacation plans, medical appointments and family events. League players who wish to know the outcome of the match will need to be extremely patient.
If, like Kingston, a club competes in more than one league, then it faces a completely different set of rules in the adjacent league. In the Thames Valley league, a player who insists on playing on shall travel to his opponent’s club premises for the resumption, unless mutually agreed otherwise. So if you are the away player at a hard-to-reach venue you have a dilemma. You reckon that you have a better position but you don’t want to travel again so, therefore, you agree to a draw or concede the game as the case may be. The burden of travelling has a big determinant on the outcome of the game. Hence the rating system is not measuring pure playing strength but instead reflects the vagaries of late-night travel options.
In Surrey, the player sealing his move hands it over to their opponent. In the Thames Valley, the sealed envelope is kept by the person who sealed the move protected only by the signature of their opponent on the seal. Neither of these contrary arrangements seems particularly secure. The contents can be read on the one hand or changed on the other hand with a minimum of stealth. Sometimes two matches are held simultaneously at the same venue from different leagues so the adjournment regulations diverge – a rare situation but one of torment.
The fourth impact, and probably the worst in practical terms, is the headache it causes for the match captains. If playing in the match, their attention is divided by the need to attend to the arrangements at the start and the end of the match as well as if a dispute arises during play. Captains need to record the time controls played on each board and the finishing arrangements. Somehow, league chess has become byzantine in its requirements. All this information needs to be input into the online league management system. The captain needs to keep an eye on each board just in case the players get confused by the complexities of customised time controls and alternative finishing conditions.
In the aforementioned match against Surbiton, there were three different time controls over six boards and a diverse set of arrangements for finishing the games. This bureaucracy means that captains are estimated to perform 200 points less than their official rating. This is one of the deterrents to being a match captain. In Kingston, the number of teams we enter into leagues is constrained by the reluctance of people to volunteer for captaincy.
The period of Covid has allowed time for reflection. The world seems changed in so many ways and it has certainly become more digital. Chess clubs including Kingston have seen some older players retire from active play due to age and the need for caution in public spaces. Previously, hardly any club players knew how to set digital chess clocks. As Generation Z players have started to join the club, we have experienced the converse issue – some don’t know how to set an analogue clock.
The places where chess is played have also been changing gradually. In the cities in particular there is a premium on property prices and convenient meeting places have been disappearing. Community centres, sports centres and church halls were once the social infrastructure which enabled clubs to thrive. However, the insatiable demand for housing and the incessant privatisation of community spaces have made it difficult for chess clubs to secure suitable venues. Many clubs are resorting to pub venues which are mutually keen to secure regular clientele given their perilous financial position.
Pubs are not usually ideal for chess from the point of view of noise, although Kingston is fortunate in having a soundproofed room upstairs at our disposal. Of more concern is that pubs are far from ideal for juniors, and the future of chess-playing culture is open to question. However, another consequence of so many clubs migrating to licensed premises is that there is no longer a tight deadline at the end of the evening. The publican smiles on those who feel thirsty. Hence, the traditional justification for fixed time controls has been dwindling and now is hardly relevant for the typical venues embraced by our leagues.
The time has come to abolish adjournments. They cause considerable disruption to players and captains and impair the management of the game. The English Chess Federation should decline to rate any games which are adjourned or adjudicated. There were once valid reasons for adjournments, but the historical justification no longer applies. Clubs will need to finally switch to digital timing, a policy that should be welcomed by all chess players.
John Foley is chairman of Kingston Chess Club, has captained all of the club’s teams at one time or another, and was formerly the inter-club tournament director for the Surrey County Chess Association and a non-executive director of the English Chess Federation.@ChessScholar
Sixteen-board ‘friendly’ between Kingston and Surbiton played at the Willoughby Arms, Kingston, on 30 September 2021
The pandemic has had many downsides for chess, but this 16-board match – or Megamatch as the organisers billed it, pretending it was a heavyweight title fight – was one of the upsides. Paul Durrant, who has spent most of his life building up the Surbiton club from small beginnings (just seven members at one point) into a powerhouse of chess in south-west London, realised that the Surrey and Thames Valley leagues were going to be skinnier in this tentative recovery year, and wanted to give his members a bit of extra ECF-graded chess. Hence he offered a defi to smaller local rivals Kingston. Who would win bragging rights for the coming year?
Normally Surbiton would stroll it, but they have lost a few of their top players over the past year as the pandemic altered work-life priorities – a few players have moved away, started PhDs, become monks (OK the last bit is a flight of fancy, but we have all been changed by lockdown). Several other factors also played in Kingston’s favour: they have been joined by David Maycock, a 2250-rated British-Mexican who promises to be a flagbearer for the ambitious (yes we are ambitious!) club over the next few years. David is already making waves on the London chess scene and, still just a teenager, could well make IM – or more. We intend to be with him all the way and give him whatever support we can. We also fielded Peter Lalic, a friend of the club who has returned to chess and made an immediate impact (see his performance in the recent 4NCL congress in Leamington Spa where he drew with GM Peter Wells) and, on top board, the hugely talented Mike Healey. Kingston had home advantage – useful as the match was played during the fuel crisis – and the organisers’ intention was to balance the grades on each board as far as possible to ensure competitive match-ups.
The top eight boards were strong and played at a time control of 75 minutes with a 10-second increment. The bottom eight boards, played with a control of 60 minutes plus a 10-second increment, were made up of stalwart club members and players who were new to over-the-board chess. Kingston fielded half a dozen players who had never played for the club before – people who had come along during lockdown and had stayed for the return to league chess. Managing this transition will be crucial to the future of the club – indeed all clubs in the UK. Chess clubs have an ageing demographic; Kingston (unlike Surbiton) does not have a vibrant junior section; so we need these twentysomethings who come to us via our website or Facebook to stick around, graduate to competitive chess, and be the captains and administrators of the future. That’s the dream anyway.
I am unable to give a blow-by-blow account of the match because, with Surbiton’s board 10 failing to show, I stood in for him. This was legitimate as I am a member of Surbiton as well as Kingston, though it felt a little odd as I had organised the Kingston team. I was intent on a draw, but my opponent – John Shanley, one of the Kingston debutants – had other ideas and kept pushing for a win, though in the end the spoils were shared. (I was rather pleased with this as the cider I had drunk beforehand, thinking that I didn’t have to push any wood and celebrating the fact that all 16 of my players had shown up, was definitely inhibiting my already limited powers of calculation.)
Kingston’s three young lions won their games on boards 1 to 3 (you will find their brilliantly annotated games by clicking the scores on the scoresheet below); the club’s traditional engine room – David Rowson, John Foley and Alan Scrimgour – secured draws against strong Surbitonians; and Jon Eckert (in a splendidly violent game) and John Bussmann (with typical tactical imagination) won their games on boards 7 and 8, giving Kingston a remarkable 6.5 to 1.5 advantage on the top boards.
Surbiton clawed back some of that deficit on the lower boards, but it was not enough and Kingston ran out winners by a comfortable 9.5 to 6.5. David Shalom, playing his first match for Kingston for several years, beat Douglas Robson in a topsy-turvy, nerve-shredding struggle, and Gregor Smith, one of the Kingston debutants, got off to a winning start.
A wonderful night enjoyed by all. Thanks to the Willoughby Arms for letting us use the playing room on a Thursday, which is not our usual club night, and to John Saunders for acting as arbiter and taking a marvellously evocative set of photographs of the occasion. The match was played in honour of Ken Inwood, a Kingston player since the 1950s (yes, 70 years!), who has been in hospital recently and was unable to attend the match. There are hopes that the Megamatch will become an annual fixture as the curtain-raiser to the season, though next year it will be Surbiton’s turn to host and you can bet that even now the wily and determined Durrant will be plotting his revenge, calling back his 2200-strength players from their rural retreats and monastic hideouts. This was a significant battle to win, but the war – a friendly war of course – goes on.
There has been a Kingston-Surbiton match for over 50 years according to Paul Durrant who recalled playing in one when he first joined Surbiton at the start of his chess career. The two clubs share the same locality. Kingston upon Thames is the town in which the Saxon kings were consecrated, and the area is distinguished by being named as the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames. Surbiton and Norbiton emerged on to the map as locations for the railway to Kingston.
This match was the Kingston club’s season opener in terms of being the first fixture of the 2021/22 season. However, it was not the first chronological match of the season because we had already played Guildford in the Lauder Cup (match report). That match was held over from the 2019-20 season, the intervening 2020/21 season having been cancelled due to Covid.