Ealing A v Richmond A 08-04-19

We’d managed to assemble our strongest team of the season for this crucial match. A win would keep us in the top division, while a loss would still leave us at the mercy of other results and even a draw, putting us on at least 50%, wouldn’t make us 100% safe.

On exchanging teams we discovered that Ealing also had their best team of the season, with formidable players on the top five boards. We were stronger at the top and the bottom, but outgraded on the middle boards.

My opponent offered me a draw on move 15 as he was feeling unwell. As I’d misplayed the opening I was happy to accept. But elsewhere things weren’t going according to plan. Max had allowed his opponent a crushing rook sacrifice which won material. Julien and John scored solid draws, while Gavin reached a rook ending with an extra pawn, which he eventually managed to convert. Mike’s position was typically incomprehensible, but, after declining a draw, he also brought home the full point. Meanwhile, Chris had gone down in the ending, so everything rested on Raghu’s game. Fortunately for us he was able to win, giving us a narrow victory in an exciting match.

Congratulations, as usual, to Gavin and Mike, and especially to Raghu for scoring the point that kept us safe. Congratulations also to Julien and John for highly creditable draws and thanks to all who played. Thanks also to Ealing for their hospitality: we wish them well in their remaining matches.

Ealing A Richmond A
1 Phil Makepeace 199 0:1 Gavin Wall 223
2 Alan Perkins 198 0:1 Mike Healey 212
3 Patryk Stanisz 197 ½:½ Julien Shepley 174
4 John Quinn 190 ½:½ John Burke 181
5 Rajat Makkar 186 1:0 Chris White 177
6 Joao Santos 169 ½:½ Richard James 167
7 Simon Healeas 149 0:1 Raghu Kamath 169
8 Alastair Johnstone 137 1:0 Max Wood-Robinson 176
3½:4½

We’re now second in the league, ahead of Wimbledon A by the smallest of margins. We both have one more match, against Surbiton A, who have still only played half their matches.

5th and 6th places in the league will rest between Ealing A and Ealing Juniors. Ealing A had fielded weak teams in some of their previous matches, but if they can field a team like this there’s no way they should be anywhere other than Division 1. It would also be a travesty if Ealing Juniors, who have access to many of London’s top young players, were relegated.

Looking at Division 2, though, it’s clear that Surbiton B and Kingston A, last season’s two relegated teams, are much stronger than the other teams and ambitious to return to the top flight.

Traditionally, the higher divisions of the league have always had 8 teams: perhaps the league committee will choose to revert to 8 teams in Division 1 next season. This would raise a problem regarding the lower divisions. I’ll write more about this at the end of the season.

It’s certainly good to see the top division becoming more competitive, with Hammersmith and Ealing Juniors joining the more established stronger teams.