Hammer Firsts Enter the London Chess League Cyberworld

Yes, Lord Clueless, chief chess correspondent for “The Woodpusher’s Gazette” is back!

Over the next few months I will be chronicling the weekly adventures of Hammer Firsts in the inaugural Online London League competition. We are playing in the Open Division.

Lord Clueless will be slipping in quotes from a particular movie in each of his reports – your job is to guess the movie. The relevant words are highlighted to help you – answers please in the comments. The first correct answer earns a pint from Lord Clueless!

I know I have used this style before – but the mantra in Clueless lazy journalism is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” – so without further ado…

Hammersmith v Hendon – 21/10/2020

My fellow Hammers, it is with a great sense of duty and awesome responsibility that I take on the role of Captain of Hammersmith Firsts. I have been absent from the captaincy role for far too long and, like a good drug (I am a pharmacist!), you just have to try it out again.

Our first opponents were the dreaded Hendon. A team that has been absent from the LL OTB competition for several years – preferring to graze in the pasture of the Middlesex League. A little history here – I think it’s fair to say Hammersmith have had serious beef with Hendon in the past – mainly based on the culture and philosophy of both clubs – they are so different. Plus, this additional issue – Hendon’s home venue is so remote from any decent pub it constitutes a real slap in the face for all Hammers. Indeed, this fact and this fact alone condemns them.

However, in a world ravaged by Covid it is time to move on – there is no point in holding grudges. Sometimes you gotta spurn the beef.

The line-up for Hammer was a mixture of youth, good looks, experience and a definite hint of German (thank God). Yes, Hammer is a true international club. Here is the face-off table:

A solid 2-2 draw with a real chance missed for the win – but more of that later.

Before I get down to the nitty-gritty there is something surreal as a non-playing captain in online chess watching “your boys” do battle in cyber world. You watch the games as a detached observer but with real emotion involved. The best analogy I can think of is Jose Mourinho being sent to the stands to watch his team play and not being able to get involved. It is horrible – but in a Covid world we must all make sacrifices. How noble Lord Clueless is.

Board One saw Mark, playing White, take on a wily opponent – Bob Wilmoth. The game was a Dutch with Bob advancing to e4 – Mark retreating his knight to g1 with the idea of re-routing to h3 and f4. The first 15 moves were played rapidly as both players were definitely in their opening knowledge sphere. The first big think came when Mark played Qb3 – this is where things got complicated. From here it was tense and very double-edged. It was decided by a blunder in a tough situation – but hats off to Bob, Nf3 was devastating and immediately provoked resignation from Mark. I was gutted for him – he has played superb chess over the last 12 months, beating a GM amongst others and this was a definite aberration. However, I do not believe any version of the Dutch system, sorry Ginger GM, is totally secure.

Hammer down 0-1.

Board Two saw Lord Hurricane, the Skult, who is a one-man Cult, playing black in a Sicilian that involves an early massive pawn/piece swap early on. By move 16 there was a definite lack of bits on the board with a R + B for white versus a black R + N – with a number of pawns. It was definitely a book line – in the end I felt Chris had a small advantage but definitely nothing big enough to secure a win – one slight inaccuracy could lead to disaster – a draw was the result. I guess it was a case of the only way to lose is to play a move.

Hammer back in the game and on the scoreboard but still trailing 0.5-1.5.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man – yes Hammer hero and all-round star of our club – Christof, aka “Der Vater”, was up next.

The game was most pleasing – a London System – the favourite of our most excellent Club Secretary, Pickle. Christof played a blinder – with a nice tactic leaving his b5 bishop en-prise and playing the sublime Ne5. This was a masterclass of Nimzowitchian proportions – time for some Covid-era hyperbole – there is just not enough around.

Christof’s opponent subsequently went into meltdown sacking the exchange in the hope of forcing a drawn position but forgetting a rook fork. Christof just went into Defcon 1 mode and obliterated him.

Hammer back on equal terms – 1.5-1.5 and all to play for.

All eyes turned to Jonathan, the last game to finish and saddled with the added burden of the outcome of the match. It could be said that the primary goal was to win the game. I think JH played solidly, although he did incur some verbal banter online from MC John “The Sarge” Sargent and his sidekick Jacques Tivillier, the Celtic Tiger and top bloke. Check this out:

In the end due to a clock running down but with a winning position achieved JH took the draw – probably if he had five more minutes on the clock, he would have plotted his way to victory.

A draw was agreed and the match ended 2-2, a solid start for Hammer Firsts.

Next match is next Wednesday 28th – Lord Clueless is content. Next time I’ll make sure I get the PGNs.

Finally, I appeal to all Hammers to get involved in this competition – it is something different – it’s against local rivals, and to be honest it is all we have got at the moment outside our Hammer Chess bubble! Hammer needs you all.

So before I signoff, can you identify the film? Answers in the comments please, and no Googling – that is cheating! – where have I heard that said before in relation to chess??

Lord Clueless.

Junior Hour, Late Starters and the London System

One of the ongoing features of Hammersmith Chess Club in the time of Corona is the Junior Hour. Online, that is!

With the start of the new season, the online Junior Hour is open to Club Members including those who are so-called ‘late starters‘, or to put another way ‘adult improvers‘. Each Tuesday, the participants meet for one and a half hours in a dedicated Zoom room. A senior club members leads the group through the topic of the day, and we always start with a few warmup puzzles.

Last week, the topic was the London System. We went through the main features, focusing on 12 games which Magnus Carlsen played this year using the opening. We delved deeper into two of his games which demonstrated good examples of how to build a Kingside attack. Here is the first:

Believe it or not, an hour after leading the Junior Hour, Christof played for our sister club The Celtic Tigers in the online Four Nations Chess League, and was able to play the London System exactly in the spirit of what we had learned that same evening, taking a leaf out of Magnus Carlsen’s book! Here is the proof with Christof’s game – a short game with a nice mating attack:

Once per month, the lectures cover one of the many British chess legends. The last one was on Mir Sultan Khan, as a few weeks before another one was our own Club Member GM Keith Arkell. We analyse selected games and ask ourselves whether we would have found the Master moves, or – what we realise surprisingly often – whether we might even have improved on our role models.

We also did it with games of (name-dropping here!) the young Magnus Carlsen, Nigel Short and others. A few of these lectures are summarised in some short clips on the Club’s YouTube channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6fQcpSozPdx531L4Klha9w/playlists

Some of the participants then meet on Sunday evenings on lichess to compete with other members in the Weekly Hammer Blitz tournament, and I can assure you I see a gradual progress of our Juniors and Late Starters in playing strength.

We all wish the old times back, playing and meeting in our venue. The Club Committee is regularly reviewing the situation and when we might get back over the board in person, but sadly it does not yet look like there will be a return to F2F competition anytime soon.

So, whether we like it or not, if we want to play chess, we have to embrace the online version! The good news is, there is a lot on offer in a familiar Club environment:

Hammersmith Chess Club – 2020/21 Season

Hammersmith Chess Club – 2020/21 Season

With Hammer’s Summer School having just drawn to a close, it’s time for a long overdue update about the upcoming season at Planet Hammer.

Sadly coronavirus is still very much a pandemic, affecting the lives of billions worldwide. With the government’s new “rule of six” coming into force this week, and winter fast approaching, it is with regret that the club sees no imminent return to over-the-board chess. This is a view shared by the vast majority of our rival clubs, as well as the organisers of all the leagues we play in.

Now for the good news… there are plenty of opportunities to play online chess!

Whether you’re a beginner or grandmaster, adult or junior, blitz addict or slowplay guru, we’re confident Hammer has something for you.

The Sledgehammer, Rockhammer & Jackhammer Cups

These tournaments proved to be increasingly popular last year – especially after moving online. The idea is that you can challenge any player at the club, and agree on a mutually suitable time to play. The Sledgehammer is a slowplay version, Rockhammer is rapidplay, while Jackhammer uses the Chess960 variant. Matches can be played online or over-the-board, with all Sledgehammer and Rockhammer games eligible for ECF grading.

Weekly Hammer Blitz

Over the spring and summer we held our “Corona Cup” series, with lots of you taking part in ad-hoc blitz tournaments and arenas. It will come as no surprise that the series winner was Thomas Bonn, who played excellent chess throughout. Congratulations T-Bone!

From this Sunday 20th September we’ll be putting on weekly internal 7-round Swiss tournaments, with a 5+3 time control. Be sure to join our lichess team to take part: https://lichess.org/team/hammersmith-chess-club. The first event can be found at this link.

Simultaneous Exhibitions

Over the spring and summer we also hosted a “Covid-19 Simul” series. Top club members and associates were invited to take on lots of you at the same time. Grandmasters Jon Speelman, Simon Williams and Keith Arkell were just a few of the names involved, with the series culminating in IM Adam Taylor simultaneously taking on 6 Hammers BLINDFOLDED, finishing with an astonishing 5.5 points.

A huge congratulations to Moritz Reuter, the winner of our Covid-19 simul series, who dismantled many extremely strong chess players!

We’ll be looking to offer lots more simuls over the coming months. If there’s someone you particularly want to play, please get in touch and we’ll try to make it happen!

League Chess

The London, Middlesex and Thames Valley leagues are all planning to start online competitions in the near future. These will provide opportunities for players of all levels to represent Hammersmith at a slower time control.

We expect the organisers to employ arbiters and anti-cheating measures to provide an experience as close as possible to competitive over-the-board chess. Furthermore we plan to open up our Zoom room after each match to facilitate virtual analysis and socialising.

If you are interested in captaining one of these teams please contact club captain Ben: ben@rothwells.org.

Challenge Matches

Over the last few years, the club has made a lot of connections with other clubs around the world. We have been on trips to Bury St. Edmunds, Cork, Wrocław and Amsterdam, with this summer’s tour to Lübeck sadly scuppered by Covid.

We are reaching out to all of these clubs to organise exhibition matches. Cork have also invited us to their online congress in October. Be sure to join our chess.com club, through which many of these matches will be arranged: https://www.chess.com/club/hammersmith-chess-club

Junior Hour

The club will be continuing a weekly Junior Hour at 5pm on Tuesdays, across a varied set of topics, focussing on improving chess understanding. As well as juniors, it will also be open to “late starters”: adult members relatively new to the game, looking for advice on how to improve. The first session will take place on Tuesday 22nd September. Please contact Christof if you’d like to take part: cbrixel@yahoo.com.au.

Subscriptions & ECF Membership

Hammersmith membership for 2020/21 was agreed at the AGM at the following rates:

  • Adults & Juniors: £65 per annum
  • Concession: £40 per annum (for senior citizens, and unwaged)

Despite the lack of over-the-board chess at present, the club still expects to have many costs for the year ahead. Please support us by paying your subs early. If it transpires that Covid-19 prevents OTB chess for a significant period of time, and venue and/or league fees are therefore much lower than usual, we are committed to offering a discount on 2021/22 subs to all 2020/21 members.

Subs can be paid via bank transfer:

  • Name: Hammersmith Chess Club
  • Sort Code: 40-03-21
  • Account Number: 91245120

It is also time to renew your membership with the ECF, which, amongst other things, covers the costs associated with grading your games. Bronze membership this year costs £18 for adults, or £6 for juniors. Further details are available here.

Please contact Adam for any questions about membership: adam1234321@gmail.com.

The Hammersmith Committee

Hammer Summer Online School

This year, Hammersmith Chess Club is organising a Summer Online School, for recovery from other exhausting holiday activities, for those rainy days, but mainly for a systematic improvement in the understanding of chess. Because we all want to be better and better when over-the-board chess resumes, or for any of the club’s online tournaments.

The Summer Online School is free for club members, and geared towards Juniors and Late Starters (adult beginners who know the basics and a little more). There will be 4 events each week, two of them reserved for Juniors. We do not expect huge crowds, so there will be ample time for individual attention. Each event will last 1-1.5 hours. Success is guaranteed – this is the summer of real improvement in the understanding of chess!

TUESDAY at 5pm, starting on 4 August

Juniors: A structured Zoom lesson, each time covering

  1. a specific opening line (the focus is not on learning many lines but on the technique to create a simple opening repertoire),
  2. a specific middlegame topic (focusing on the thought process and the positional characteristics),
  3. a specific endgame type (each week with the focus on a different piece).

The whole program is scheduled for 6 to 7 weeks duration, for a comprehensive coverage of each package. Each lesson starts with warm-up puzzles. The main lesson will cover a little theory and lots of practical examples. There will be suggestion for homework – of course on a voluntary basis.

THURSDAY at 6pm

Juniors and Late Starters: A second Zoom lesson as follow-up of the week’s Tuesday focus.

SATURDAY at 11am

Juniors: Christof or another club member will be available on Zoom for a consultation on anything chess-related; it could also be a game review, a practise game or a simul game if there is more interest.

SUNDAY at 6pm

Juniors and Late Starters: A blitz tournament will be organised on lichess for those who like to think and decide fast.

Late Starters wishing to participate, please contact Christof: cbrixel@yahoo.com.au. And anyone wishing to join the club as a new member, please contact Adam: adam1234321@gmail.com

Christof

Hammer goes 960!

Diversity is in the DNA of the Hammersmith Chess club, and what in chess can be more diverse than Chess960, also known as Fischer Random chess? Don’t think this is not chess. Even the FIDE has organised its first formal World Championship in Chess960 last year, and this is the only title not currently owned by Magnus Carlsen, but by Wesley So. So, there is something special about Chess960.

Over the last few months, Hammers have enjoyed lots of activities around this variation. During Corona lockout, our Finnish club legend Rauno gave a Zoom based introduction into Chess960. Shortly after that, our GM Keith Arkell offered a Simul exhibition on lichess exclusively for club members in the Chess960 format. In order to prepare for this, Christof shared his opening principles of Chess960 in another Zoom conference. Needless to say that Keith Arkell won all his eight games, confirming the statement that Chess960 brings out the true chess master, without players relying on memorised opening lines. Well, up to a point at least…

During the opening phase, it seemed that the ordinary club members generally performed as good if not even better than the GM, so there is something to learn from special 960 opening principles.

A further club event started early May and is still being played, a correspondence online tournament on chess.com with Chess960 rules. 12 games are still in progress, the farthest ahead in move 40. The scoreboard leader is Jim, but with Moritz close behind, it is a race comparable to Liverpool’s 2019 chase of Man City, and it will all depend on their 2 still undecided games against each other.

The club’s Chess960 activities continue. This week, a special session of the Junior Hour focusses on Chess960, and next week there will be another club internal Simul, this time by Christof against the Juniors. And in the recently started new season, the Jackhammer960 Cup has been added to the established Sledgehammer and Rockhammer Cups. Games are handicap-scored as well, but it is with randomly allocated Chess960 opening positions in rapid time control, as in the FIDE World Championship. It is time to register, please contact Nadim.

And if you want to come prepared, watch the club’s Youtube channel. A special playlist dedicated to Chess960 was set up with so far three videos: the general introduction, the opening principles, and the analysis of the Simul opening moves.

Christof

Sledgehammer & Rockhammer 2019 – The Results!

In 2019, Hammersmith introduced two new internal tournaments, with a handicap scoring system, allowing players from all levels to compete and have fun playing ECF graded over-the-board games. At least, that was the original idea until COVID-19 struck the world, and it became challenging to play OTB chess.

At that point the tournament rules were relaxed to allow online games to count for the tournament while not being ECF graded. This has enabled Hammers to continue playing in those tournaments during the lock-down period.

On June 30th 2020, the 2019 season was officially closed and we can now announce the winners.

Sledgehammer Cup 2019 results (Standard Play)

Winner:  Christof Brixel (97.5 points)
Runner-up: David Lambert (83.5 points)
Third: Nadim Osseiran (49.5 points)

Rockhammer Cup 2019 results (Rapidplay)

Winner:  Nadim Osseiran (49.5 points)
Runner-up: Christof Brixel (45 points)
Third: David Lambert (43 points)

All the details for the 2019 season (games & standings) can be found on this link to the tournament record sheet.

The 2019 cups will be distributed to the winners as soon as the social distancing situation permits, hopefully soon!

Launch of the 2020 Hammer Tournaments Season

This year we will have 3 different Cups:

  • The Sledgehammer Cup for Standard Play
  • The Rockhammer Cup for Rapid Play
  • The Jackhammer960 for 960 chess variant in Rapid Play time control

Those tournaments are open to all Hammersmith Chess Club members. All you need to do is to contact fellow members and submit the game result via this link to the game submission form.

Some changes have been made to the rules as follows:

  • Online games will now count towards the ECF online grading (except for 960 chess)
  • Only games that are rated on the online platforms will be accepted, casual online games will not be accepted
  • Players are encouraged to have a live video connection during online games
  • Game results will only be accepted via the provided game submission form, results by email will not be accepted.

For complete information and rules, please have a look at the Hammer Tournaments 2020 Documentation

Good luck for the 2020 Hammer Tournaments Season!

The Internal Tournaments Team

The Corona Diaries

Hammersmith’s Junior Hour tutor, YouTube star, and 2020 Club Personality of the Year, Christof, shares some selected highlights from his diaries over the last four months.

My Corona Diaries

On 25th of February, Corona shows up for the first time in my diary notes. There are worrying reports about increasing numbers of infections and deaths from the virus in Korea, to where my wife has planned a trip in three weeks time. We agree to postpone the trip until the end of Summer, observe how Korea deals with the situation and wonder whether similar measures would be possible to adopt here in the UK.

Chess becomes increasingly affected by Corona. In early March, I participate in a weekend Congress in Exeter. Last year, I had been a returnee to chess and surprisingly won the Major Section there. This year, I play in the Open section (finishing joint 6th), but that is not the only difference – people are allowed to not shake hands before or after the game. Allowed to abstain, not required to do so, well that sounds harmless. But does the virus travel via the palms, or in the air? Even today, I still remember the hot breath of my opponents, two feet away, for 20 hours over 3 days…

During the Congress I receive an email from FIDE informing me that the Amateur World Championship for which I was nominated to play in April on Crete, is postponed for half a year. Well, that now starts to affect my daily life.

I had endured a rigorous training program for the past three months and there were just three more weeks to go until the big event and before resuming a normal life again. How will I be able to keep up that energy level for another six months? Well, being in principle a positive-thinking person, I convince myself that I should be lucky to be healthy, with numbers of virus infections and deaths quickly starting to increase in the UK. But read on.

Club life changes in early March. It soon becomes clear that over-the-board chess will disappear for some time, and that club members are looking for alternatives. In a club which never sleeps, there are so many people with lots of ideas, enthusiasm, and some with time (including me, not having to prepare for my Crete tournament anymore), and a lot of new activities are organised. It seems chess has never been more diverse and vibrant.

Lockdown starts, but for me as a pensioner there are not many changes in the daily routine. Okay, no pubs, fine dining and cultural events anymore. No day trips to the country, all international travel cancelled, but otherwise even more chess than before – not too bad!

The lockdown beard begins to blossom

News about Brexit is replaced by news about Corona. Worrying news. Death rates spiralling out of control, the government obviously indecisive. I cherish the health and social care workers. And then comes my own personal encounter with the health crisis.

One morning I wake up with never before experienced excruciating pain (though my wife reassuringly tells me it will be nothing compared to labor pains) and I have to call the emergency services.

Dry cough or similar symptoms? No. Fever? No. Periods of unconsciousness? Not yet. Well, then they cannot send an ambulance, sorry – the NHS has to be protected.

After some time the GP answers my calls, delivers a remote diagnosis and prescribes me some medicine. For two weeks I live on drugs before I am back to normal.

Some afterthoughts remain and I cannot forget the pictures of the PM boastingly shaking hands in Corona-infected hospitals when I diligently restricted myself to elbow-checks with my chess opponents, and we both fell sick during the same days a month later. And I will not forget whose responsibility it was and is for the underfunding of the NHS.

The beard in full bloom!

Social life goes on during the next weeks in lockdown, but no, not as some privileged politicians do. Gatherings now take place via Zoom, be it in normal chats or in highly sophisticated cocktail hour groups. Discussions circle around health issues (mostly my older friends) and economic worries (the younger ones). Political discussions with family and friends abroad compare the different national approaches to the crisis. I tell them, being a chess player I believe in post-mortem, an exercise where you learn from mistakes by going through the finished game together with your opponent. While the term may currently be inadequate, I express my hope that one day such an exercise will be done on Corona, because I dream of a life after lockdown and definitely do not want to have to repeat this experience.

And now, 15 weeks after my first Corona diary entry, my 3-month Carlsen-style beard shaved off, close to start of Summer, it feels more like Spring is beginning, everything re-awakening. Discussions are intensifying about resuming regular chess activities, not only in other countries which have already overcome the crisis, but even in the UK. I feel anxious.

Christof.

In normal times, a pre-lockdown hair style

John Harold Woolley, 1946-2020

Hammers – as many of you will already be aware, we sadly lost one of our own recently when long-standing player and stalwart John Woolley passed away. He will be greatly missed in the world of London Chess, having been an active player on the circuit at various clubs for many years.

Fellow Hammer and long-time friend of John’s, Carsten, offers us a fitting tribute.

John Woolley: A personal Appreciation

I no longer remember when I first met John, but it must have been late Summer or Autumn 1995 when I joined Hammersmith after a few years away from chess. We became regulars in the same teams for the next 20+ years, most of them with John as captain of the Thames Valley team.

As is thankfully still the case, we usually socialised after matches in a local hostelry, and we were also both in groups where a few of us would occasionally meet up outside the club to play some blitz and put the world to rights, so over time I think I came to know John quite well.

He was instantly recognisable – a thin man always in a jacket, a size too large, shirt whatever the weather, and an overall slightly dishevelled appearance giving a somewhat eccentric impression.

However, behind the exterior was a keen mind with a wide range of interests, and our conversations ranged well beyond chess, usually including discussions about whatever book I was reading, exhibitions John had been to (there were many!), films he’d seen (he had a love of arthouse cinema), politics (left!), football (Arsenal!) or any other topical issue of the day. We didn’t always agree – in fact often we did not – but it was always stimulating and frequently gave me a different perspective, which I appreciated. I hope I did the same for him.

Saying all of the above, we of course primarily met through chess, where John’s contribution to Hammersmith Chess Club was substantial.

As mentioned, he was Thames Valley captain, a league he felt a strong affiliation with – for many years a committee member, and a regular for other teams as well as being a very frequent club night participant. One of the reliable regulars every chess club needs.

Checking the ECF grading list I see that John’s grade when we first met was consistently in the mid-150’s, roughly equivalent to 165-170 today. Somehow I remember him as stronger than that.

In a sense, he was. John had a classical positional style and quite a strong aesthetic view on how chess should be played correctly.

This gave him a somewhat impractical attitude to competitive chess, and as a result he got swindled more often than he should have been, especially in time trouble. This, combined with a propensity for premature resignations – especially if he felt he’d messed up a good game – and draw offers, meant that his practical results were always below what they should have been purely based on his chess ability.

These traits got more pronounced in his latter years, and his results declined in line with that, but for those who only know him from this period, he was more than you saw.

I must also mention John’s absolute honesty and insistence on always doing what he felt was the right thing to do, and his expectation that others would reciprocate. This sadly on occasion was to his detriment.

At an away match at Harrow, John’s opponent was playing on in a stone-cold theoretically drawn ending, clearly trying to flag John who was down to his last couple of minutes while his opponent had plenty of time. John was murmuring under his breath, clearly unhappy, and the Harrow captain, Nev Chan, was standing next to the table also not looking happy.

Eventually John’s flag fell, and Nev immediately asked “John, why didn’t you offer a draw? I would have immediately accepted it as a section 10.2 claim, as our player clearly wasn’t trying to win by normal means”. John’s response was along the lines that it didn’t occur to him, he was too upset by his opponents unsporting behaviour.

John didn’t say so, but I think another factor may have been that his opponent was an irrelevant pawn up, but classic good manners in that situation dictates that the player with extra material should offer the draw. This is undoubtedly what John himself would have done.

Of course, to him, chess was more than a competitive game – it was a lifelong passion with an appreciation of the aesthetics and history of chess.

As I sadly don’t have one of John’s own games to show, I will invite you to play through a game he several times mentioned as one of his absolute favourites, played by his great idol Tigran Petrosian, to get a feel for his chess ideals.

Petrosian – Botvinnik, 5th game, 1963 World Championship match:

https://www.chessgames.com/perl/chessgame?gid=1032639

Chess has lost a great friend, rest in peace, and thanks for the memories.

Carsten.

John Woolley, 1946-2020

John’s funeral will take place at Mortlake Crematorium on Monday 15th June, starting at 10am. Please refer to the Mortlake website for visitor information:

https://www.mortlakecrematorium.org

The Hammer Relay Marathon

Més que un chess club

Being a member of Hammersmith Chess Club is not only about playing chess – there is much more to it. We have many groups of interest ranging from culinary ideas, lifestyles, philosophical discussions and much more. One of those groups is for keen runners.

Hammer’s runners share a WhatsApp group and a Strava team, and they try to keep fit together, particularly during lockdown times!

On Saturday June 6th, a small squad of Hammers – Adam, Chris, Raluca, Benji and Nadim – ran a virtual relay Marathon. Every runner covered 10.5km, so that the total distance summed up to more than the official Marathon distance (42.195km).

The beauty of that event is that it came as a good way to break the Covid-19 social isolation – whilst adhering to the required social distancing – and it was one of the first physical club member meetings organised since the lockdown started back in March.

All the runs were synchronised to converge at the same point in Kensington Gardens at 5pm. It was with great joy that the runners finished their runs together and met in real life in the park! Everyone felt that life is getting back to normal again, despite the lack of handshakes or hi-fives.

Kishan, who did not run on the day, joined the gathering with a generous serving of support and delicious snacks and drinks.

Everyone enjoyed the event and hoped for many more, if it was not for the British weather that cut the after-run gathering a bit shorter. Everyone is now eager for the next event, hoping it takes place on a more sunny day!

Jonnydangerous faces off against the Ginger GM

Before talking through my battle with “Ginger GM” Simon Williams, I will start by discussing my background in chess. I do this to outline how an ex-130 rated player (currently 106) might think as they work through a game in a highly uncomfortable position they have never seen before, against much higher-rated opposition.

Lots of my club peers probably go through the same kind of feeling during certain games of chess. I do this to point out the obvious: feeling uncomfortable at times is an unavoidable part of chess – the trick is to accept and embrace it!

I learned to play chess when I joined my school chess club at the age of 11, and my 14-year-old self made it to 130 level, from where I stagnated with no coaching and no plan. I continued to play actively through university and during my first years of work. However, work combined with some life events led me to all but give up chess at 30, for the best part of a decade.

Your correspondent – Dangerous Jon

Then, my childhood friends Aidan and Mark helped me back into chess. A plan was hatched to learn the same openings as they were, ditching my beloved e4 as white and Sicilian as black, for things I had never played before. The reinvention of my love of chess had begun. While I have hardly played in England, i have made recent annual trips to Bunratty with my friends to enjoy a break for socialising and chess.

I’ve now been a member of the mighty Hammer for about 18 months. I joined after a combined effort from John White and Mark (of Cork Chess Club) that got me involved in the Keith Arkell Simul at the tri-club meeting with our Dutch and Irish friends in London in Summer 2018. I hope to play many more matches and get back into over-the-board chess, and while I have had a few outings, work has conspired against me at various points.

Still, I am delighted to be involved with a great club that has a strong beating heart of committed players and great team spirit, and I hope to continue playing in future…. but for now we are in lockdown and with no over-the-board chess.

Since lockdown I have been continuing to play on Lichess, and my outdoors cycling has been swapped for cycling in the shed on my indoor training, where I have regularly combined exercise with watching YouTube chess videos, particularly when I find ones focused on openings I play.

On one such occasion I  stumbled upon some videos by Simon Williams of ‘Ginger GM’ notoriety, which I found instructive and entertaining. I had seen Simon play at Bunratty and knew he was famous for a love of pushing ‘Harry’ and ‘Gary’ whenever possible. I appreciate good attacking chess and like this style, so when the invitation to play Ginger GM in a simul came up, I felt I had to give it a go. I have played in about half a dozen simuls over the years, and lost all except one – a draw with Peter Wells while I was at university.

So, the scene is set…

1. e4, g6 2. h4

So, already Simon demonstrates his love of Harry… this is not something I have ever faced before. Objectively speaking, 2.h4 must be an inferior move and black should be able to at least equalise. Practically speaking, it is entirely a different matter!

I know that when an opponent attacks on a wing, it is often good to counter in the centre, and so…

2…d5! 3. h5

3…dxe4

I felt 3…gxh5 was obviously bad. 3… Bg7 doesn’t feel quite right here either –   I felt I had to take up the offer of a central pawn and play for activity.

4. hxg6, fxg6 5. d3, Nf6!

Taking the pawn would just help white achieve his aims. I have to continue to play actively. I am a pawn up but can see how easily white can attack if given  half a chance!

6. Nc3, Bg4

Again playing for activity above all else, development of a piece with tempo felt logical.

7. Be2, Bxe2 8. Qxe2

Simon may have made a slight mistake here as Ngxe2 seems more useful development.

8…exd3! 9. cxd3, Nc6 10. Nf3, Nd4

Both Bg7 and Qd7 are also good here. I simply wanted to continue to develop with tempo where possible and felt piece swaps help me more.

11. Nxd4, Qxd4 12. O-O, O-O-O!

I had committed to this with my 10th move. The position is sharp, but black is doing well.

13. Nb5! Qb6

White’s 13th is not the computers best move, but Simon seeks to create complications and attack against a lower-rated opponent. 13… Qd5 may well have been my best option.

14. a4, a6 15. Be3, Qe6

Black is better, but the position is very sharp.

16. Rfc1, Nd5?

A mistake by me. White’s 16th is not the best, I should have taken up the challenge with 16…axb5! For example: (i) 17. axb5 Qe5 18. d4 Qd6 19. Ra8+ Kd7 20. Ra7 Rb8 21. Qc4 Nd5 and white has nowhere near enough for the piece. Or (ii) 17. Bf4 Qxe2 18. Rxc7 Kb8 19. Rxe7+ Ka7 20. axb5 Kb6 21. Rxe2 Nd5 and black is fine. I respected my opponent too much, I trusted that my GM opponent has serious threats. I saw how sharp taking the piece was and didn’t manage to calculate out those variations to safety. Spending a bit more time thinking here may well have yielded dividends for me!

17. Na7+?

17.Nxc7 was white’s chance to gain the advantage. I was working about this move once I had played Nd5.

17…Kd7

Not 17…Kb8? when 18. Nc6+ bc6 19. Ba7+ wins the Queen.

18. Rc5 Nxe3! 19. Fxe3 Qb6

I was looking at this and at 19…Bh6, and immediately wished I had played the latter: it develops with threats, connects the rooks, and is just a good move! …Qb6 mistakenly focuses on his threats, rather than generating my own.

20. Rac1 c6?!

20…Qxa7 is okay for black but after 21. Rxc7+ Ke8 there is still a lot of hard work to do.

21. Qg4+? e6!

White would be better playing 21. Nxc6 bxc6 22. Rxc6 Qxc6 23. Rxc6 Kxc6 but black should still win if he can complete his development without dropping a piece. This mistake is understandable as white has been under immense pressure to try and find threats.

The above point, with hindsight, reveals much to me about mistakes in my thinking as a (hopefully) improving club player. My main learning from this game is that feeling uncomfortable in this open position is absolutely okay, but it meant I did not realise at the time quite how strong my position actually was and how much pressure white was under.

The position is assessed by our silicon friends as better for black almost entirely throughout this game. It is right to feel uncomfortable, but I needed to also recognise that my position was better, and work to dissipate white’s short-term threats, then take my opportunities as they emerge.

The fact it was a GM on the other side of the board perhaps clouded my judgement, led me to worrying too much and giving him too much respect in some of my move choices! I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in a game like this, and should play as such!

22. Nxc6 Bxc5!

The point of …e6. Now white is in big trouble.

23. Ne5+ Ke8

e8 felt like the right square, to stay away from as many checks as I can.

24. d4 Bxd4

24… Rxd4 25. exd4 Bxd4+ 26. Kh1 Bxe5 is better as white has a resource after Bxd4.

25. exd4?

White could have played: 24. Rc6!! Bxe3+ 26. Kh2 Qxc6 27. nxc6 Rd6=

25… Rxd4! 26. a5

26. Rc8+ is met by 26…Rd8+!! However, now black has a big threat:

26… Rd1+!

White is lost.

27. Kh2 Qg1+! 28. Kh3 Qe3+ 29. g3 Qh6+ 30. Kg2 Qh1+ 31. Kf2 Qe1+

31… Rf8+ is also good e.g. 32. Nf3 Qf1+ 33. Ke3 Qd3+ 34. Kf2 Qd2#

32. Kg2 Qf1+! 33. Kh2 Rd2+ 34. Qe2 Rxe2#

Looking back over the game I am pleased with my fighting spirit, and while I made mistakes, I was delighted to take the tactical opportunity I was presented with! My first every victory against a GM, 31 years after I learned how the pieces move. Here’s hoping I can do it in a real over the board match one day!

I think Simon ended up with 11/15, so well done to the other three Hammers who took points (I’d love to see those games too), and a big thanks to Simon for his fun approach to the simultaneous. I have promised him a beer when he visits our club when we are all able to meet face-to-face again!

Simon broadcast the simul on his Twitch channel – you can re-watch here (starts at 7 minutes in):

https://www.twitch.tv/videos/625839239

Jon.