Hammer Q&A with… The Queen of Katwe!

Hammers, 

It is an honour to welcome Phiona Mutesi, Woman Candidate Master, also known to the world as the Queen of Katwe, for a meet and greet on Saturday, 27 March, at 19:00 GMT, followed by a Q&A session.

The Queen of Katwe – Photograph credit: David Llada @davidllada

The stirring life story of Phiona has inspired the Disney movie “The Queen of Katwe”, released in 2016. Check out the trailer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4l3-_yub5A 

Phiona is one of the first titled female chess players in Uganda, representing the country at four Women’s Chess Olympiads in Azerbaijan, Norway, Russia and Turkey. She is currently studying at Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, where she has opened a chess club in 2017. 

Under Phiona’s leadership, the Northwest University chess club secured the Top Small College Team title in its first season of competition. 

Please do watch the movie if you have the chance and come prepared with your own questions for Phiona. It’s available to watch on Netflix, Amazon Prime and Disney+!

We look forward to seeing you on Saturday! Please register your interest via the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/JPLLMF8

Raluca

And in other exciting news…

Junior Hour – April Residency with WIM Camelia Ciobanu

Following on from Camelia’s excellent workshop on Tuesday, she will be taking up residency at our weekly junior hour for the entirety of April.

I’d like to thank Christof for the huge amount of personal time he has put into running the junior hour so far this year. The committee and members are massively indebted to his commitment, and I know I speak on behalf of everyone when I offer our gratitude for the countless hours he has invested in bringing up the next generation of Hammers.

With a huge spike in interest from adult beginners, owing in no small part to Christof’s efforts and the success of The Queen’s Gambit, we have decided to rebrand the junior hour as the Weekly Workshop. Camelia will be hosting five sessions in April:

  • Thursday 1st April, 6:30pm
  • Tuesday 6th April, 6:30pm
  • Tuesday 13th April, 6:30pm
  • Tuesday 20th April, 6:30pm
  • Tuesday 27th April, 6:30pm

Zoom links will be sent weekly to all existing junior hour participants. If you are not on that mailing list, but would like to attend these sessions, please let me know. These sessions, along with all club activities, can be found in the club calendar.

Camelia is also hosting a simul on March 30th, in case you’d like to test out her tactical prowess before signing up! See this video for more details.

Adam

 

A Workshop with WIM Camelia Ciobanu

Hammers,

We are excited to inform you that WIM Camelia Ciobanu will be running a workshop for Hammersmith Chess Club members on Tuesday, 23 March, from 18:00 GMT.

WIM Camelia Ciobanu

Camelia was awarded the first National Champion title at the age of ten. She has won multiple competitions both in Romania and abroad. Since she moved to Italy, Camelia is currently most active in Sardinia, Sicily and Rome. 

Her chess lessons are known to be very inspiring and interactive. She is a well-versed chess coach in all aspects of the game: her sessions focussed on understanding the position, detecting weaknesses in the opponent’s position and making the right plan. 

The session on Tuesday will include tactics exercises, the analysis of a middle game, with other variations as well and the opportunity to ask Camelia questions and learn more from her experience as a titled chess player and trainer. 

The workshop will take place on Zoom instead of the Junior Hour, which will resume the following week on Tuesday 30 March 2021. All members are welcome. Please sign up to attend at the following link: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/RJ32SZN

Raluca Stroe

P.S: Below is one of my favourite chess games of WIM Camelia Ciobanu. I hope you will find it as interesting.

Hammer Firsts Get The Triple XXX Treatment

A triple dose this week – Hammer Firsts taking on the might of Wimbledon, Athenaeum and Charlton in that order.

The first match was against Wimbledon – always strong and a local rivalry not only in the LL but also the Thames Valley league.

The second match was against Athenaeum – a club with a huge history – they are the oldest chess club in London, founded in 1873. Even Lord Clueless was not alive then.

The final match was against Charlton – another club with a huge history and always up for a fight. One of my earliest memories of Charlton was seeing a young GM Danny Gormally playing for them – rated about 175 ECF in those days.

Here are the scorecards:

So a draw, a win and a loss – not bad considering we were playing three of the premier chess clubs in London and we are missing a lot of our top players – OK, am gonna say it – why has Ryszard taken up on Wednesdays and a T-Bone, T-Bone, my kingdom for a T-Bone. Rant over!

Let’s look at the matches and the individual games.

First up directly after the holiday season was Wimbledon. Hammer were out-graded by 20 points a board, yet we still drew 2-2. We are punching well above our weight.

Great wins from Chris D and Bajrush – both games worthy of a serious study. A hard-fought game for Skults against an IM, and Lord Clueless was a late substitute and neither of us could get the requisite half-point for the win.

These are the games:

Chris Skulte:

Bajrush:

Chris:

Lord Clueless:

I think Skults was really unlucky, and Clueless was doing OK then lost his way. The draw seemed a fair result.

Match two brought us up against Athenaeum – to be honest the Hammer crew were in imperious form – in fact, awesome form.

Carsten, Chris D and Jonathan were dominant and scored decisive wins – once again, Carsten played a very correct endgame, Chris had fire on the board and Jonathan had a combination of both. BajrushHammers Wily Coyote – had a perfect hippo unfortunately it sunk and did not stay buoyant. A 3-1 win, a great result – the games follow.

Carsten:

Bajrush:

Chris D:

Jonathan:

Definitely a superb team effort – get in there Hammer!!

To the third and final match, and the highest-rated team we have faced – ignore the ECF ratings listed above – on the Tornelo platform we knew we had a tough task.

IM Mark answered the call to beef up our top board, and I thought we had a fighting chance. Once again, Chris D the Hammer Postman – he always delivers – an in-joke there for our Hammer golf aficionados – scored a highly tactical win. Really great chess to watch.

The other ChrisSkulte version, took on a really tough opponent. Indeed he fought to the bitter end, nearly achieving parity, but in the end he went down in flames and glory. Bajrush playing a fellow wily competitor in Nick Briggs ventured the hippo but again the beast refused to stay afloat – really interesting game though.

Finally, to IM Mark. He was winning – at least I thought he was – and a rushed move at the end cost him an instant material loss. He was gutted but again, a game worthy of careful study.

Mark:

Chris S:

Bajrush:

Chris D:

A 1-3 loss hard to take, but it was so hard fought.

All twelve games here were decisive and are credit to the fighting nature of each Hammer and their worthy opponents.

All this gives the following League table with two rounds to go:

Lord Clueless is still content – the final matches are against Streatham & Brixton, and some club called Battersea. Yep, no idea who they are either.

Lord Clueless will be raising the banner/standard and calling all hands to the pump – this is the business end of what has been a great and thoroughly enjoyable tourney.

Lord Cluelessthe 2021 version.

Hammer Firsts Getting it Done in the LL Online

A double-dose this week – A pre-Christmas fixture report and one from the resumption of the league last week. After a slow start, Hammer are starting to get into their stride so a battle against league leaders Hackney, and one against one of the struggling teams – Imperial – would give a true indication of our team.

The first match was against Hackney – League leaders and one of the perennial powerhouses of London League Chess.

First of all, this was a superb performance by Hammer – IM Mark and Chris D were in scintillating form and played very forceful chess.

Here is the scorecard:

IM Mark was in awesome form against a tough opponent, and all-round good guy, Bob Eames. Mark was never in trouble and I ask you to just enjoy this demonstration of forceful chess:

Next up was Carsten, where he had to be very careful in a tricky position – I think his experience counted for a lot here when if he had over played the position, he could have ended up in a lost position.

Hammer 1.5-0.5 to the good.

Next up was Lord Hurricane himself, my fellow peer, in a tough complex Sicilian he was always under pressure – he battled to the end with a possible stalemate in the offing. However, it was not to be. Hammer pegged back to 1.5-1.5:

It all came down to the final game – and Hammer have new member Krasen (Chris) who was fighting for the match victory.

Krasen has a truly combative style – it is as if complications suit his temperament and bring out his best chess – this is a deadly positive in rapid chess.

This was spectacular stuff and worthy of close study:

Yes, not for the first time Krasen had ensured a Hammer victory – a great result and definitely a marker for the future.

The first match of 2021 saw Hammer taking on Imperial College – Jonathan’s old alma mater – this match on paper should have been a certain Hammer victory.

For once, life followed the script and Hammer duly delivered the win. Here is the scorecard:

A clear Hammer win – the only draw from Ryszard – but what a game! Indeed, the endgame is worth serious study – I know he has posted it on the Hammer chat.

All I can say is he stole half a point from the jaws of defeat after an uncharacteristic error in the opening. This is a fascinating game:

Hammer all square and up next was Carsten. I have to say that Carsten is probably the most classical chess player in the club – he is steeped in chess literature and is very correct. This was a perfect illustration of his style. Controlled the middle game and excellent endgame technique:

Hammer forging ahead 1.5-0.5

Next up was Krasen, whose game was first to finish. This was an all-out assault from about move 5 when he had four pieces in the game and his opponent one. This was hyper-aggressive chess with no holds barred attitude. This is a terrific attacking display. Plus it put Hammer 2.5-0.5 up – match point secured.

Finally, to our board 4 Jonathan, who was again in superb form. He was in control from move 12 and displayed a deadly accuracy at the end to finish his opponent in good time.

Hammer overwhelmingly winners at 3.5-0.5 – a fantastic result.

This gives the following table:

Lord Clueless is in excellent mental health and dead proud of these Hammer heroes.

On a final note – the hidden chess player in my last report was the unique Tigran Petrosian – probably the most different of all the World Champions.

I have not included one this week, but invite all readers of this article to share one good thing from the last 10 months of OTB chess starvation in the feedback. It does not have to be chess!

One good thing, I have conquered the skill of making puff pastry from scratch – none of your Delia cheating – this I regard as a significant accomplishment.

It is time to accentuate the positive and start looking forward to a hopefully better 2021 – world and chess wise.

Lord Clueless.

A Big ‘Thank You’ & Membership Update

I want to start with a bit of history – the year is 1816. It was the year without a Summer, massive crop failure, hunger, riots and rampant disease – all caused by a massive volcanic eruption on the island of Sumbawa in Indonesia that happened the previous year. It was a very, very dark time.

Fast forward 200 plus years to 2019, when humanity has suffered another catastrophic event despite its massive progress in technology, housing, medicine and institutions. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected all of us. It has taken away lives, businesses, jobs, our family and social circles, and for the sake of this article, our wonderful game of chess in the over-the-board format. 

On top of that the social side of chess has been put in cold storage, and has put severe pressure on the very survival of chess clubs – the bedrock of chess in the community.

A truly difficult situation.

What have we been doing at Hammersmith Chess Club to keep going and engage with our members?

The Hammersmith Committee has worked around the clock to provide online lessons, events and tournaments to fill this void. Two particular heroes have been our online mentor Christof, and Club Secretary Adam.

Most of these initiatives have been down to these two Hammers and a supporting cast, and we want to put on record our tremendous Thanks them for some truly herculean efforts.

None of this would have happened without them – thank you, gents!

Membership Update

We would also like to thank all members who have paid their subs for the 2020-2021 season – your commitment and dedication keeps us going, and has really helped secure the future of the club.

At our last Committee Meeting in December 2020 we discussed the likely total absence of Over-the-Board chess this season.

In light of this, it was agreed that all membership fees paid for the 2020-2021 season would instead count towards membership for the 2021-2022 season, when we hope to see the return of OTB chess.

Thus – if you have paid your subs for this season, you will not have to pay subs again next season.

This also means that anyone wishing to join the club right now will only have to pay a single fee to participate in all our membership activities for the remainder of the 2020-2021 season, and the full 2021-2022 season!

There really has never been a better time to sign up! Drop us a line if you’d like to join.

Thanks again to everyone for your support, and we look forward to seeing a return to OTB chess later this year!

The Committee.

The eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815

Socially Responsible Chess

*Note:  this article was written while London was in Tier 2*

We live in a time where not since the Great Wars has chess been affected so, life is precious, though losing the things we love that make us human has been just as damaging to many.

With the release of Queens Gambit on Netflix, chess has never been so popular – though for many club players it has been a stab in the heart. There is so much potential, though even living in a digital age (where Hammersmith continues to run online tournaments, coaching sessions, puzzle groups etc.), with the regular clubhouse closed it is not quite the same as over the board chess – staring into your opponents eyes, watching them sweat as your pieces slowly surround their King, waiting for the time to strike.

Looking over the channel to the European mainland, where over the board chess was once again beginning, created much discussion on how we could play across the board again. We didn’t want to break any of the Covid rules where other table sports such as Dominos have seen players fined: (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-55503852).

On top of this, we didn’t want to risk the health of our members either. Therefore, as London was in Tier 2 at the time – and armed with masks, gloves and hand sanitiser – we descended upon the Prince of Wales Townhouse – a newly-refurbished pub in Hammersmith which had an amazing heated outdoor area, ideally suited to a meetup. Adhering to the regulations, we all had a substantial meal and sat on a table of six, where we ensured extra precautions were taken for any members who felt more uneasy.

It was a fabulous evening of interaction and our beloved pieces were dusted off to once again brave the board. From old friends who we have not seen in many months, to new members who we have only met in a digital setting prior, the spark was alive again in Hammersmith – if only for a moment.

As we go into another lockdown the mighty Hammers are getting ready for 2021! We will play again, and it will be brilliant. In the meantime, join our online community and warm up for the action to come.

I will leave you with this ‘Hand & Brain‘ position which was played between some new club members, and some ‘soon-to-be‘ Hammers. White to play and draw.

(Note: Hand & Brain is a 2v2 match where one player on the team says which piece is to be moved, and the other player has to make the move with that piece without conferring! e.g. You say ‘pawn’, then your partner can move any pawn anywhere they want).

Happy chessing!

Chris Skulte

https://ratings.fide.com/profile/3214044

Christmas Blitz Tournament

The Club called, and many came, members and friends, to celebrate Christmas and the end of the calendar year with an online Blitz tournament. Well, not just any Blitz, but one with simultaneous chats and video links on the club’s Zoom channel. So, it resembled as much a party of good old times.

24 participants, mostly members and a few friends, plus some on-lookers. Three father-son teams competed, even playing each other, well Christmas is family time. The fathers performed better than their sons, Tom better than Max, Richard better than Adam, and Ken’s son Felix looked on Zoom even happier than his father. We chatted about the right age for children to start playing chess. Conclusion is, any age is right. This evening however, it was not the Juniors who took the Blitz crowns as you would have expected, but the adults.

Special prizes for the event went to:

  • Under-10: Max
  • Best female player and among top-10: Raluca
  • Best senior and highest endurance with 16 games: Richard
  • Runner-Up and overall winner: well, read on

Not that it was all about chatting. Chess did matter, a marathon for three long hours. The club’s undisputed Blitz genius Thomas (T-Bone, peak December rating 2401) competed and was early leading the pack, in his usual berserk mode, a specialty of Arena tournaments on lichess. You can double your points when starting with only half of the already short time. So, Thomas was immediately charging ahead. Unfortunately for him, and we still feel honoured by his participation, he had to drop out at one point because he competed in two other international competitions this evening.

The lead was soon taken by a challenger who won one game after the other, and in Arena tourneys winning streaks also double points. But then, suddenly, he was disqualified. The lichess system somehow decided that he was cheating. Was it a software running simultaneously, was it his too good to be true performance, we don’t know what lichess detects and how the algorithm works. Sad enough, that happens. The club’s attitude is clear: we expect everyone to be clean, and we will look into each case where doubt is raised. Honestly, sometimes it is difficult to deal with when there are no clear answers.

The fight did go on: Liam was charging ahead. Liam has continuously improved his skills since he joined the club two years ago. And he was relentless also this evening, rarely leaving a point behind while others were taking short breaks. And in the final of three gruelling hours, two more contenders came closer, Tom and Christof. We know Tom as as successful bridge player, European Junior champion and English Champions League winner, and in autumn he made a clear statement of his chess ambitions when he won 4 of the 8 weekly Blitz tourneys of the club. Now it all boiled down to the last few minutes, and to the last game, between Tom and Christof. Would the game be finished before the deadline of 9pm? If not, its result would not count and Liam would be declared winner, the same if the game ended in a draw. If there were a winner, he would win not just this last game but also the tournament. It was a bitter fight. Huge advantage from the beginning for Christof. Stubborn fight back by Tom, trying to use whatever small chances were remaining, moving his king all the way up to the opposite ranks. And with Christof, you never know, in Blitz even more so. The later computer evaluation shows how Caissa’s favour switched from one side to the other, from plus 8 to minus 7 and back, well, Blitz games are not high quality. Tom could have won a rook, Christof could have queened. Then, seconds away from the deadline 9pm, foto-finish looming, each side at risk of losing on time, Christof promoted his last pawn only to be taken, then it was Tom queening only to be taken as well. But he still had another pawn on the board. Last man standing, and last man running. Tom it is, the winner, the champion.

What an evening, but what a year. The right spirit to the end, giving hope for our club chess when it will resume at one time in 2021.

Christof

The MindSports Centre – The Time is Now

John White – PR Officer of Hammersmith Chess Club and Member of the London League Chess Committee:

The world has changed forever in the last six months. Every aspect of our lives has been affected and the consequences will be profound. If there is one positive to come out of this earthquake, it is the chance to examine our lives, priorities and where we want to go. This is scary stuff but also an opportunity to radically alter our direction.

The chess world has not been immune. Look what has happened.

Essentially a complete absence of OTB chess, online chess has become the norm, the club night has been put on life-support, the issue of cheating in chess has consumed column inches in such august organs as the Guardian – as well as the chess press – and probably the worst thing, for me at least, the social side of our brilliant game has gone.

Nine months ago, I was lucky to enjoy the delights of the Bunratty Chess Festival for the first time – chess was the main reason I made the journey to the West of Ireland, but the craic and genuine camaraderie is the key ingredient of this superb tournament. Covid-19 has robbed us of that.

I guess what I am saying, that just as in real life, where many of you are considering your options and maybe contemplating a radical new direction – chess has to do the same.

There has never been a better time to plot the future of chess. Everything should be on the table – the ultimate question being why do we do chess the way we do?

It is something that has preoccupied me since early June. My club Hammersmith has undergone a complete metamorphosis in the last five years (we were below 20 members, with an average age north of 60 and were definitely not diverse) – now we have a membership north of one hundred, a new venue (the YCBC), a thriving junior section, stable finances, an excellent website and social media presence. We have run numerous events within the club – with guest speakers like Jon Speelman and Danny King and chess weekends in Amsterdam, Cork and Wroclaw. This year’s trip to Lübeck for obvious reasons is on hold. In other words, we try to offer more than just club and league chess.

Now is the time for the next steps both for Hammersmith and I believe chess as a whole in the UK.

Over the Summer, one of the projects I have got involved in, in conjunction with David Parry at the Young Chelsea Bridge Club has been the creation of a Mindsports Centre. In many ways the concept has been given fresh impetus by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for Bridge, Go and Chess (the three most prominent Mindsports) to have a permanent venue that they own, and can enjoy a successful future. In other words, to establish a beacon for Mindsports.

This article is to inform you of the reasoning behind the project, the progress so far, and why it will hopefully have a huge impact on the game we love.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Club chess in the UK today, in my experience, feels a bit like football did in the 1970’s and early 1980’s. The game for a start was run on a shoestring. Hardly any marketing or branding ideas.

At the time the fan and player experience were pretty dismal – the grounds were old and crumbling, the pitches were mud-baths, there was a large hooligan problem and the organisation of the sport was in the hands of the FA. The horrors of Heysel and Hillsborough were yet to come. The sport needed to change. And it did.

I think chess has to make the same changes.

Overwhelmingly, the venues I play chess at – this includes the Middlesex and Thames Valley Leagues, as well as the London League – are pubs, dingy community halls, or in some cases an even worse venue.

My point is, these venues are not attractive to women, young players (and their parents) or new people wanting to play chess.

The London League venue is held in a central London hotel room, in which 100-plus players are crammed in, with no room for your scoresheet and making a mockery of any social distancing. We need thirty odd nights at this venue to complete the League each season.

I know for a lot of members of chess clubs, the venues are fine. However, I throw this challenge at you – the club is not yours, per se. You are merely the custodians of it. Your responsibility is to run it efficiently and hand it on in rude health to the next generation of chess players.

Part of the reason for your existence is to help promote chess to new people.

Is it coincidence that the Netflix mini-series “Queens Gambit” has produced a sudden media interest in our sport or a jump in membership enquiries that Hammersmith Chess Club has received over the last few months?

My personal view is that chess, along with Bridge and Go, have to attain ‘sports’ status in the UK to help facilitate the evolution of our sports.

Why has chess achieved sports status in so many countries, but only has activity status here?

There have been numerous articles on the benefits of Mindsports in pupil performance, mental health generally and even physical well-being. My partner Karen is a Cognitive Behaviour Therapist working in the NHS in South London – the avalanche of mental health issues that Covid-19 has brought to the forefront in the past eight months is potentially cataclysmic. The imperative for Mindsports has never been higher.

The concept of having a place that helps promote, teach and give a venue worth playing our wonderful game in can only help raise the profile of chess and its status. In other words – it is time to take chess from the Combined Counties League to the Premier League. The possibilities are enormous with chess leagues being based there, national and international competitions, a learning and teaching centre resource and a highly visible demonstration of the ambition of Chess, Bridge and Go.

There have been attempts in the past to create a Mindsports centre but they have always failed – Malcolm Pein was involved in past attempts to realise this vision.

The real game-changer this time has been that members of the Young Chelsea Bridge Club and the Go Association have purchased a building in Hammersmith (see picture). The property is a former Salvation Army Hall near Ravenscourt Park. The Mindsports Centre is going to happen with or without chess. The big question is – will Chess get involved?

So far, Chris Skulte (Manager of the Celtic Tigers) and I have each invested £2.5k to fund the legal work, plus the initial site and structural surveys. We are both committed to this project.

The current building will be usable once some decoration and remedial works have been done to make it functional.

The centre will be run on a commercial basis with a company owning the asset and a management team running it day-to-day to make the asset sweat. There will be more information forthcoming in the next few weeks on the various options available. The Centre has to be a going commercial concern and produce a return for the investors.

If we wish to truly transform the premises into something that would be worthy of the title, the National Mindsports Centre, then it will require additional investment. There are various options on the table including adding two additional floors. The fourth floor would be transformed into a penthouse flat that would be sold for circa £1.2 million that would provide an immediate return for shareholders. The investment estimate will be between £1.5 million and £2 million pounds, and this investment has to come from chess players and chess enthusiasts.

I personally feel that the “fan” ownership model is the right way to go – to put it in simple terms, it would be chess players with a stake in the project.

Chris and I will be coming forward with a proposal in the next few weeks that will establish a vehicle that will raise funds for this investment. We will decide what form that vehicle will take – a limited company, a charity or a combination of both.

This is one of the most exciting projects I have ever been involved in and it gives an unprecedented (definitely the word of 2020) opportunity to transform chess in the UK once and for all.

The idea that chess could be played and enjoyed by players of all strengths in high-quality premises with a bar, café and restaurant on-site is something worth fighting for.

Please watch this space.

John White.
PR Officer
Hammersmith Chess Club
www.hammerchess.co.uk

Christmas Gifts from Chess & “The Queen’s Gambit”

Recently, Hammersmith Chess Club was contacted by a national radio station. The reporter wanted to speak with female chess players who could share their opinion on the latest Netflix mini-series, “The Queen’s Gambit“.

The interview fell through, but with the festive season just around the corner, here are some thoughts to ponder over. Maybe we can all make someone smile this Christmas.

Spoiler Alert: If you have not watched this series yet, the following article will include quite a few light spoilers!

“Chess can also be beautiful”

These were the words of the protagonist, Elizabeth ‘Beth’ Harmon, a fictional chess genius who succeeded against all expectations on the world chess stage. As I feel the series only covered specific aspects of this mind sport, please find below a few additional reasons why chess can be beautiful:

It is widely known to improve cognitive abilities such as reasoning, making decisions effectively, the capacity to solve problems, the accuracy of performing tasks and many more. Academic research in the sector even examined the effect on social-affective development of children and adolescents (Sala & Gobet, 2016 / Sigirtmac, 2016 / Aciego et al, 2013).

What made me realise that existent research is only scraping the surface is this incredible and very insightful article written by a 22 year old man under the pseudonym Simon, and published by Frederic Friedel @Chessbase (Friedel & Simon, 2020) on autism and chess.

The article mentions past studies that revealed a relationship between autistic people and chess, but also speaks about Simon’s personal experience playing chess and the role of chess in training social skills and encouraging interaction with others.

There’s joy in chess for everyone, no matter what background one comes from, their age, gender, ethnicity, income, health status etc. There is no need to even buy a chess board, when you can easily make one. Some got very creative with it, the latter image reminding me of a chess game in Hangzhou against a talented junior player who drew the board and made the pieces from paper himself.

Credit goes to Martin Shaw @geekalerts.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Credit goes to Otechknow @instructables.com

It is specifically magic when it brings together people from all walks of life, who most likely would not have crossed paths otherwise.

Chess can teach us a great deal about life and sometimes acts as a reminder of issues we have yet to tackle. One example is the ‘white moves first‘ rule, first adopted at a chess tournament in New York in 1880 according to historian Robert John McCrary, a reminder of white privilege and its lingering effects.

Another is a more subtle one, related to the role of each chess piece. Each game tells a story and each experience of playing a chess match is unique. Chess has evolved at least at a pace similar to nowadays society, from being used as a training tool for warfare to teaching us the true value of teamwork and collegiality.

Why is chess beautiful to you? Who are you going to challenge for a match this Christmas?

Where is Mr William Schaibel?

In the series, Beth learns how to play chess from the orphanage Janitor, Mr William Schaibel. He also sends her the money for a chess tournament entrance fee. A similar pattern is witnessed in a 2016 movie the “Queen of Katwe“, with missionary Robert Katende coaching and mentoring Phiona Mutesi in Uganda. Robert scrapes together the funding the children of Katwe require to join a chess tournament at a school in Kampala.

While neither Mr Katende or Mr Schaibel were chess experts, they chose to share their knowledge and teach someone else. It makes one wonder how society nowadays would look if more individuals did the same. How likely is it for an orphan to come across a Mr Schaibel? How frequently are children in Uganda or other developing countries receiving guidance from someone like Mr Katende?

Some will ask, why teach another how to play chess? The aforementioned people surely needed different types of support. Here are my two pennies worth:

Granted, Mischel’s Marshmallow Test is still considered a means to measure future success, why not teach young children chess, to help nurture patience and the ability of waiting for that greater reward?

The Marshmallow test was born following an experiment run in the late 1960’s to early 1970’s by psychologist Walter Mischel and his colleagues over a period of several years. The experiment determined that children with the ability to wait for a better reward, rather than immediately accept the one marshmallow or treat they were offered on the spot, were more likely to become successful in the future.

More recent research established that variables such as one’s environment and financial status will considerably affect the results of this experiment and merely teaching someone to ‘delay gratification’ was not meant to guarantee future success (Watts et al., 2018). Which is why teaching chess should be part of the solution, more so since it also creates a safe social environment.

If you know how to play chess, teaching someone else will be mutually helpful. Apart from the universally-known argument that happiness gained from helping others lasts longer, playing chess happens to be a good method to stimulate the brain and keep it active. Research in the area has covered the role of chess in preventing or slowing down Alzheimer’s disease. It has also been used in mental health therapy and more generally, it is just a great creative outlet.

So, if you’re lucky enough to spend Christmas home with your family this year, do invite them to play a game of chess. I feel it is one of those mind sports that really brings generations together and has the potential to reduce loneliness and improve communication.

If you are somewhere far away from your family, chess might be the way to enjoy some great moments with your flatmate(s). It might also be worthwhile looking into volunteering opportunities in your neighbourhood. I recently found out my club mates had previously challenged inmates from Her Majesty’s Prisons to a game of chess. Given the Covid-19 safety measures, this might not be possible right now, but I’m quite sure there are people out there who would love nothing more than a video call and chatting over an online game of chess.

Afer all, as poet John Donne very well said, “No man is an island”. What made “The Queen’s Gambit” series memorable to me was the help and guidance Beth received from her lifelong friend Jolene, from Mr Schaibel, from Benny, Harry, Townes, and from many others. You might also find family where you least expect it.

“Let’s play”

This is Anya Taylor-Joy’s final line as the mini-series reaches an end. The scene is filmed in a Russian park and I found it to be one of the most meaningful and uplifting concepts introduced in the series.

Credit goes to Netflix
Credit goes to Koren Reyes Photography

It focuses on being outside and having fun whilst playing chess – age and gender becoming irrelevant. Given the current situation, it made me wonder why we do not have more/any chess tables outside in the iconic British parks, or in markets and squares. It would surely by an inexpensive initiative, with great social and educational outcomes, especially in a country such as the UK, where low levels of numeracy continue to be an issue.

If you are able to support such an initiative, please get in touch. I’m currently looking into the best ways to reach out to the local government and submit a community development proposal!

Raluca.
O.stroe@outlook.com

 

Hammer Firsts vs. Cavendish: Round 6 – The LL Online Open Division

Yep, in this holiday season the games come thick and fast. The next Hammer challenge was Cavendish – one of the strongest clubs in London and armed with a huge history. I have to say, the last time our clubs clashed in anger was a Division 2 match in May 2019. The result a stunning 7.5-2.5 win for the Hammers. A definite statement win at the time, for a club aiming for the top division of the LL.

The Hammer team comprised of the following total heroes – in board order: Ryszard, Carsten, Chris D and Jonathan.

Like last week, before I go to the match report – were you able to identify Week 5’s concealed chess figure? It was the great Viktor Korchnoi – a true fighter of the chess board. In this week’s report another historical figure lays hidden. The clues are once again in bold, and please enter your answers in the feedback.

Before I go to the match report, I must first evoke the great Stephen Sondheim and refer to the chorus from Cell Block Tango in the brilliant musical Chicago. Please forgive the editing:

“They had it comin’
The had it comin’
They only had themselves to blame
If you’d have been there
If you’d have seen it”

Yes, you guessed the Hammer crew were on top form. After three draws and two gut-wrenching defeats, a win was long overdue.

This was a great result. First the scorecard:

Board 1 saw Ryszard playing White against a tough opponent. His FM-titled opponent ventured the Benoni and this is what ensued:

At this point hostilities were ceased and a truce was called – it was quite a double-edged position, a wise move by our man.
Hammer 0.5 – 0.5 Cavendish.

Although not a Celtic Tiger performance, it was definitely the performance of a Tiger.

Carsten on Board 2 played ultra-solid – he was never in trouble and the game was long drawn before it was actually agreed – however Carsten had to be accurate – Q & P endings are never easy.

Carsten has been so solid in this competition – never in danger and taking draws where appropriate.

Hammer holding the line at 1-1.

Still all to play for.

Chris D on Board 3 played a total peaky blinder – this game is worthy of close study, especially the re-routing of the white bishop manoeuvre. The decisive error was black playing f4, but I think Chris was strategically winning anyway. This was a brilliant win. The ending was devastating with memories of a stunning world championship game in the mid-1960’s.

Hammer deservedly ahead at 2-1.

The fate of the match was over to Hammer stalwart Jonathan – under immense pressure he delivered. Two weeks ago, I commented on a definite change in his match approach – this was again on show – excellent time management and excellent tactical and strategic control.

His fearless attitude brought a win and a 3-1 victory for Hammer. In the end it was a win in time, but his position was strategically won.

A fabulous win by the Hammer crew: 3-1, woo hoo!

Lord Clueless is ecstatic – Hammer so deserved this win and remember what I wrote last week: “In fact the injustice will spur us on next week against Cavendish. I know it will” – I predicted it!

Lord Clueless is in supreme mental health and order has been restored in chess cyber-world.

Hammer power is on the march.