The Fellowship of the Hammer – Corking in C-Orc-dor

[Official Warning – This report contains graphic passages on alcohol abuse and requires a knowledge of J.R.R. Tolkein’s masterpiece – The Lord of The Rings]

Yes, the official chess season was done and dusted and that could only mean one thing – the Hammer Crew were once again off on their foreign quest in search of beer, pubs, friendship, fun and a bit of chess. The Hammer 2018 tour party was primed and ready – the only question was where to go?

The chosen city of our munificence was the beautiful city of C-Orc-dor, set in the South West of the Emerald Isle in the ancient province of Munster. The prize was to destroy the legendary Ring of Cork and secure peace and friendship forever. A noble quest if there ever was one.

The chief protagonists in this cabal were Mark Watkins, aka Mark Gamgee, Chairman of C-Orc-dor Chess Club, and John White, aka Clueless Baggins, the Hammer emissary. A covert meeting was held on the 28th December 2017 in a dubious inn on the quayside in C-Orc-Dor. The two men quickly agreed dates and the format over a few beers and several casual games of chess. The deal was done and the challenge was on.

By plane, train, automobile and boat, the Hammer Fellowship arrived in Cork on Friday the 8th June. The Fellowship were given special codenames for this quest by Clueless – their familiar designations are also given below:

  • Chairman Bajrush – Wily – aka Aragorn
  • Ryzsard – Breslau – Eomer
  • Chris Skulte – Sydney – Gimli
  • Wyatt – Gandalf, and surprisingly… still Gandalf
  • Dipender – Mr Dipendable – Elrond
  • Shiraz – Vintage – Pippin
  • Chris Moore – RU Serious – Faramir
  • Mike – Mad Dog – Merry
  • Paul K – Dead Eye – Legolas [Ed – genius.. ]
  • Eva – Athena – Eowyn
  • John – Clueless – Clueless Baggins

This tale starts with a simple fact. The beautiful city of Cork is definitely not Mordor – it is simply stunning, with pubs, bars, restaurants and music galore. There is craic to be had everywhere and the people of this proud city are hugely welcoming and friendly.

The Fellowship assembled at the home of C-Orc-Dor Chess Club on the Friday after dumping their luggage at various places around the city. Clueless Baggins on behalf of the Fellowship presented a certificate to Mark Gamgee that declared everlasting friendship would be the goal, but we were there to win the Ring of Cork.

The C-Orc-Dor Chess venue is truly stunning with panoramic views of the River Lee and plenty of space to play. A genuine and relaxed atmosphere was established and all settled down to enjoy lots of bliss, chess and getting to know our new friends.

The leader of the Fellowship, Aragorn, was in great form and as the night wore on rallied the Hammer boys and urged them to great deeds in the two long-play matches scheduled for the following day.

As the night drew to a close the Fellowship dispersed with certain Hammers seeking alcoholic and musical entertainment. The inn that drew most of the attention went by the Gaelic name of Sin E (a very quaint quayside bar with a musical bent) – the raiding party consisted of Gimli, Aragorn, Eomer and Clueless and they were joined by Eowyn. A good few Stouts were consumed – as is well documented, alcohol can raise the courage levels. The music provided the perfect backdrop but travel fatigue took its toll and the Hammers hit the sack with a vengeance.

The following morning C-Orc-Dor greeted us with brilliant sunshine and the Fellowship gathered to take on the challenge of a morning long-play game. The fate of the contest would be decided over two ten-board contests – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The morning Hammer line-up in Board Order was:

Eomer, Gimli, Aragorn, Legolas, Clueless Baggins, Eowny, Faramir, Elrond, Pippin and Gandalf.

Before battle commenced, welcoming speeches and gifts were exchanged, and the Ring of Cork was revealed. Whether it would be a source of discord or harmony was to be determined…

My precious!!!

The games were played under time incremental conditions. In this tense morning session, the contest swung backwards and forwards, with both clubs at different stages holding the edge.

This was the tale of the morning session:

All the games were closely contested with a real, epic heavyweight contest on board One with Eomer (Ryszard) holding a slight edge – huge complications then ensued and the outcome of the contest hung in the balance. In a hard-fought game Eomer could not hold it down and went down in flames – a real battle of Helms Deep proportions.

The Hammer Fellowship heroes were Gandalf (Wyatt), Pippin (Shiraz), Paul (Legolas) and Aragorn (Bajrush) who all scored excellent wins. Whilst Baggins (Clueless), Elrond (Dipender) and Gimli (Chris S) stayed true and solid to the quest and drew. There were tough losses for Eowyn (Eva) and Faramir (Chris) – like the Lord of the Rings they were united in their bravery.

The Fellowship had sneaked a 5.5-4.5 win – a truce was called and both teams regrouped and took on board refreshments ready for the afternoon struggle.

If it was possible, the afternoon session was even more intensely fought with the fate of the Ring coming down to the last game to finish.

Ryszard (Eomer) was under severe pressure, facing multiple threats, but as time pressure came into play, kept his cool and started finding consistently strong moves that challenged his opponent. In a battle of nerves and skill he held out and gained a great revenge win.

Chris (Gimli) was in awesome form and when that is the case, a win usually ensues – he did not disappoint. Hammer at 2-0

The Fellowship heroes of the morning, Aragorn (Bajrush) and Legolas (Paul K) both suffered afternoon reverses with their opponents playing excellent forcing chess that merited two deserved wins. It was getting tense at two points apiece.

Clueless Baggins was involved in a real struggle having punted a Budapest gambit, and with forceful play had established a definite edge. As is common with Baggins, he has issues converting positional advantages into a win. Pushing hard for victory, he let his worthy opponent off the hook and went down in flames.

Both Faramir (Chris M) and Gandalf (Wyatt) scored excellent wins against stronger opponents. Indeed with his heroics this weekend Wyatt has emerged as Gandalf the White and definitely not Grey. A tremendous performance by both men.

Two more losses were suffered by Elrond (Dipender) and Merry (Mike) with both Fellowship heroes fighting to the last. Hammer down 5-4 and on the ropes.

All eyes turned to the final encounter which would decide the destiny of the Ring of Cork – a win for either Cork or Hammer in this game, and the Ring would stay intact and balance would not be found. A draw would see the Ring of Cork broken and divided.

All eyes turned to Pippin.

No pressure

In a great struggle Pippin (Shiraz) ended up in a  rook and pawn endgame that really went down to the last pawn. He had a winning line, that he failed to see in time pressure, and the game petered out to a draw.

Definitely no pressure at all…

This meant that the overall match was drawn and the Ring of Cork would be cleaved in two and its spell broken! Harmony and balance would triumph and both clubs would be forever bound in friendship.

In the end, Fellowship won and the great chess clubs of Cork and Hammer will always be bound by friendship, an appreciation of beer, and a mutual love of the noble game of chess.

With the serious business done and dusted both clubs ambled along to the Franciscan Well brewery, where with the burden of combat already a distant memory, beer, chat and chess endured long into the night. There is nothing like copious amounts of good beer and pizza to create a brilliant night.

Friendships were formed and will endure.

I have vague memories of leaving The Well at about 1am in the company of those ill-reputes: Bajrush, Chris S, Ryszard and Wyatt, in search of another bar. Cork City was still buzzing.

There was definitely more beer and shots consumed and somewhere around 3am Ryszard, Bajrush and I surrendered and sought our way back home. Wyatt and Chris went in search of more entertainment – I can only admire their capacity and stamina.

The following morning Chris S missed his flight – a definite case of the effects of over-indulgence, while the remnants of the Fellowship gathered for the last hurrah at the Cork Chess Club. A blitz tourney had been arranged as a parting gift – from a medical perspective one of the best antidotes to excessive beer consumption and hangovers!

In an excellent tourney, First Place was taken by Ryszard with the critical encounter against Bajrush proving a mesmerising battle. In the end Ryszard won and deservedly took first place.

We thanked our hosts – they had put on a brilliant chess and social weekend that will live long in the memory, and departed on the best of terms. Real kudos should go to Mark and the Cork Chess Committee.

This is where the tale should end, but some of the Fellowship decided to wander the streets of Cork City, take in a meal, consume the odd drink before, before heading for the airport and home.

Honour had been satisfied – we had also had the very best of weekends. There will be further adventures to come.

Here ends the tale of the Fellowship of Hammer.

Summer League – Round One

Making his Captaincy debut, Charlie takes us through his Team’s Round I Results from this week!

The Summer League Round I shone upon us on 26th June. With temperatures at highs of 28 degrees, there was a warm air of certainty around the Labour Club, and after such an inspirational weekend of drinking, frolics, quiz games, and lazy afternoons with the Espion Dutch Crowd, it was hard not to feel like you were on your Summer break! “A working holidayGM Keith Arkell responded to me, as he gleefully shook the hand of a wide-eyed and big-smiling 6 year old fan who offered him a game of chess.

What a week we have had! Thank you again John for driving on and pushing through a great weekend [writeup to follow next week!]. It has been an absolute pleasure to join Hammersmith Chess Club, and what an honour to be asked to lead the Hammer Heads into the abyss that is the Summer League 2018.

To the team then! I was lucky enough to have my first team selection made up of Brexit, Clueless, and “the Suit“, with myself making up the team on Board 4. I couldn’t have asked for an easier start to this captaincy business.

I didn’t get to see much of the game on Board 1, but attach the game below for you all to peruse. Jeremy was in a bad position early on against a really exciting line (IMO!) by Black. But through grit, determination and of course a bit of help, Jeremy pulled through and delivered the first win for the team.

1-0 up, and on to Board 2, where Clueless seemed lost! But then I realised he often pulls that face to lull his opponent into a false sense of security. So with a presented opportunity of a tactic (see move 13), John found a discovered attack which could have led to recapturing his lost pawn. Instead of recapturing the pawn (see move 14), John decided to push his pawn instead. Leading to more positional play the game looked decidedly drawish as they shook hands.

One and a half up, and it looked like this captaincy was pretty easy!

When I looked over to board 3 I got to see Matteo deliver a lovely check with his Queen that gave him a rook for free. His opponent smiled gracefully, “well played”, and they shook hands.

Although the early positional plays are unclear to me (my weak point, I know), the tactical finish was beautiful! Matteo gave me a win, smiled, and disappeared in the blink of the eye. Well played sir, and thank you for turning out.

Thank you to all of you for playing, and anyone else who is interested in playing some Summer League chess for the U150’s section please drop me an email: charliesturt2000@yahoo.co.uk, and I will try my best to fit you in.

Onto the last game. I would like to add that, due to all the distractions we have had of late, it was hard for me to put on my game face, but when Harry Morgan sat down opposite me all I needed to do was remember what we @Hammersmith Chess say via WhatsApp… “It’s Hammer Time!!

So I was in no mood to take the draw offered on move 39, but to be honest I was in a terrible position, so who knows what goes through my head sometimes!!

However, just like Jeremy I too voted “to leave” and although it seems to some that we may have put ourselves in a worse position (see move 41), maybe like Harry, Europe will also blunder (see move 43) and we will come out stronger for it.

Charlie.

If that’s not enough…

Continuing the excellent web-form of last season, the Summer League is again putting every game online each week for your perusal and enjoyment!

Summer Chess League – Launch Night – June 19th

Ladies & Gents, the Summer League is almost upon us!

It all kicks off next Tuesday evening from 7pm at Battersea’s home venue – The Battersea Labour Club, down on Falcon Road, a mere 5 minute stroll from Clapham Junction station.

Remember, the Summer League is a bit different from the usual staid and sometimes stuffy atmosphere of most league chess, and the launch night will be no different – it’s going to be a chess extravaganza! With fully 26 teams this year (yes, twenty-six – that’s not a typo!!), Summer Chess has gone London-wide, with entries from all over the city.

First up, GM Simon “The Ginger GM” Williams, will be providing one of his entertaining & equally insightful lectures for the audience. This will be followed by a blitz tournament, a Chess-themed quiz, and a series of puzzles.

It’s going to be massive!

Importantly – if you are planning on coming along, you need to ensure you complete the doodle below so that the Battersea folks can manage numbers & ensure everyone gets to take part. It takes all of 20 seconds to complete:

https://doodle.com/poll/in3dgm7zzgkzw7fb

Sign up to ensure you don’t miss out – it’s going to be a great evening!

And remember, the rest of the game nights are as follows – your captain should already have been in touch to check availability. If not, just drop us a line!

Puzzle of the Week #019

So last week’s offering was a bit of a thronker-of-an-endgame study, with White in a seemingly precarious position. Black was threatening promotion, and despite being a Rook to the good, White appears to have very few options – how to force the draw.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man… and our local Twitter celeb and top player, Jim stepped up with the winning moves. Congratulations Jim!

On to this week’s puzzle…

Black, an all-time great, has just played Bg5? How was that brutally punished? Answers in the comments please.

The 2018 Summer Programme

Get excited! Our Summer Programme is back for 2018, bigger & better than ever! We will be upstairs at The Albion every Monday night this Summer, putting on a host of different activities:

Training Sessions

The club’s top players will be hosting a total of SIX training sessions throughout the Summer. Specific details will be announced nearer the time, but we already have some great things scheduled.

ECF-accredited coach, Paul McKeown, will host a pair of sessions (9th July & 30th July) focused on “Calculation and visualization with Michael Tal” – each session aimed at different strength players, though as with all our events, everybody is welcome.

Two of our strongest players – Jim Stevenson, and Carsten Pedersen – will be taking a session each. Jim will be focusing on “Practical Thinking Skills” (25th June), using illustrations from classic Bobby Fischer games. Meanwhile, Carsten will be providing his expert analysis on some games submitted by members (23rd July) – you’re invited to submit 3 or 4 games each, at least one win and one loss, and Carsten will take us through some of the more instructive ones.

(For those not in the know, our Jim is also an avid user of Twitter, and is well worth a follow: @Jimovskytwenty3 – some fabulous chess analysis & musings on life!)

And another ECF-accredited coach, Tony Niccoli, will be taking a session on 20th August. Details TBC at the moment, but those who came to Tony’s session earlier in the season will recall what a well-run and instructive evening that was.

History Lecture

As well as the training, Carsten will be providing us with a fascinating lecture on the History of Chess, for general interest on 13th August.

Tournaments

After the amazing success of similar events last Summer, our Tournament wizard Adam, will be organizing three more events this year:

  • Team Rapidplay (2nd July) – attendees will be split into four teams and play one rapidplay game against each of the others. Prizes to the winning team!
  • Handicap Blitz (3rd Sept) – a straight up Blitz tourney played out in traditional Hammer handicap style
  • Bughouse (16th July) – This chess variant is great fun and hugely popular. Players will be paired according to grade and fight it out for the grand prize
Some of last years tournament winners, with prizes!!
Pub Crawl

Arguably the highlight of Summer 2017 – this year’s Kensington pub crawl will incorporate even more pubs, with plenty of chess along the way. Save the date – 6th August!

Club Nights

The powers that be have selfishly littered a few Monday nights with big football games and bank holidays. No problem! Come along to The Albion anyway and there’s sure to be plenty of like-minded folks around to play some chess.

Summer League

And don’t forget – as well as all this, there are also 6 Tuesday evenings of Summer League Chess down at Battersea Chess Club (5 mins from Clapham Junction). We are entering even more teams this year, so there’ll be loads of competitive chess to play!

Full details of all events below, and on our Club Calendar:

Stop the Press!! Hold the Front Page!!!

The Hammersmith Blitz Champion 2017-18

After the shortest AGM in Hammer history, the hammerites got down to the fun part of the evening – the final leg of our three-tourney-cycle to determine the Handicap Blitz Champion of the Club for the 2017-18 season.

Twenty-three of the best of our club entered this final round with the two blitz gurus of the club, Chairman Bajrush, and Carsten, vying for top dog status. They were #1 and #2 in the rankings after the first two rounds and surely one of them would emerge as the champion?

However, matters were not so simple, with 23 points up for grabs for first place in this final round.

Without further ado I can announce that the winner of the third-round of the Blitz Tourney with a perfect 8/8 was Tony Niccoli.

Not only that, but he also seized the overall title as well with this superhuman performance that propelled him into first place. A stunning score of 43.5 points.

In second place was new member Thomas, with a total of 42.5 points – another epic performance.

In third and fourth respectively were bookies favourites, Carsten and  Bajrush.

The best result of the night was Robin Lee, who finished joint 5th despite being ranked 15th – a really stellar performance.

A big vote of thanks must go to Adam who ran the tournament really well and used the software expertly to keep matters rolling along.

So, we have a new champion – yet another sign of all the changes happening in our vibrant club – roll on next season! The best is yet to come.

The tournament results in full:

Puzzle of the Week #018… plus FREE GM Simul!

It has officially been one month since our previous Puzzle of the “Week”, so without further ado, the winner from our previous Puzzle is….

Charlie (aka. Sorted) & Adam (aka. Pickle), both of whom were correct, albeit with ever-so-slightly different styles of responding! Honours shared this time – congrats to both excellent solutions.

1…Nxd5
2. exd5, Rxd1+
3. Ke2, Rxd5

The puzzle was taken from Sokolov-Thogersen, Rilton Cup 2018. White should now have continued with Rxb7 with reasonable drawing chances but Sokolov played Bxa7 and eventually lost, securing his opponent a well deserved FM title.

The position was from the weekly column in the Danish newspaper Fyens Stiftidende, a personal tribute to their long standing chess correspondent Niels Erik Neilsen, who is recovering from a recent stroke.

Our puzzle-setter in chief, Carsten, has known Niels Erik for almost 40 years, so I’m sure we all join Carsten in collectively sending Niels Erik our best wishes too!

On to this week’s offering then – White to move and draw! Answers in the comments please:

 

And Finally…

If that’s not enough for you, our friends over at Battersea Chess Club will be hosting GM Danny Gormally for a Simultaneous exhibition next week – and it’s FREE to enter!

The details you need to know:

  • Where? Battersea’s Home Venue – Battersea Labour Club, 81-83 Falcon Road, SW11 2PF. It’s next to Clapham Junction Station
  • When? Kicks off at 7.30pm
  • Who? GM Danny Gormally, currently rated 2484!
  • Contact? Reserve your spot by emailing Aldo: aldocamilleri@aol.com

Battersea have generously reserved a number of spots just for us Hammers, so you’ll be guaranteed a place – you just need to drop Aldo an email to confirm first.

London Div 3 – Season Finale: The Push for Promotion

Starship Hammer 1 has locked into orbit around the familiar neutral planet of Citadines for the next week for the two final matches of the mission. The season-long goal to boldly go to Division 2 of the London League has been achieved, thanks to the outcome of the Albany-Kings Head clash, with victory for the latter ensuring that Hammer is secure in second-place and guaranteed promotion.

Starfleet, however, is not satisfied. They have issued an edict of the highest priority that dictates Hammer 1 must finish as champions – as crewman Dead-Eye put it “Nobody remembers who came second.”

Welcome to the final report of the 2017-18 mission and the voyages of the Starship Hammer 1.

Cuid a hAon Deag et et Parte Douze

Captain’s Log – Star Date 23/05/2018 – Clueless at the helm

Hammer 1 has been totally galvanized by the achievement of promotion and the crew members are ecstatic. Thanks to the actions of Kings Head the primary goal has been achieved – Hammer 1 is now a Division 2 team in 2018-19.

Now is the time for mind reset and refocusing now that the mission goal has been stretched. This is not an easy task and Clueless is concerned that the team may be demob happy and not able to summon the will to finish the job.

Team selection will not be easy with Sydney absent for the first game and Forza for the second. There is one lesson this year-long struggle has taught us – Caissa can send the odd curve-ball anytime.

Returning to the familiar surroundings of Planet Citadines, where Hammer is undefeated this season, is a help as familiarity of the combat zone will produce the necessary will to win the Division and get promoted as champions.

The first match saw Hammer taking on the planet of WanWood, a binary system in the NE quadrant of Londonium.

The final match one week later will be against an alien species called Wombles 2. They inhabit a Common planet in SW Londonium and are apparently obsessed with racket sports as well.

Victory in both clashes would result in mission accomplished.

So many factors for Clueless to contemplate… please read on.

The landing party in board order for the WanWood encounter:

  • T-Bone (Thomas)
  • Zeus (Marios)
  • Wily (Bajrush)
  • Prof (Paul McK)
  • Loco (Jim)
  • Forza (Tommaso)
  • Dead-Eye (Paul K)
  • Spock (Pavel)
  • Pandit (Sheikh)
  • Brexit (Jeremy)

Clueless was non-playing captain and as usual displaying pre-match nerves.

His slightly frayed demeanour is put at east when WanWood concede victory by walkover on board eight before the match has even begun. Spock being the excellent and logical first officer he is, made the generous decision to allow Brexit to take his place. A typically unselfish gesture by one of Starfleet’s most decorated officers.

Hammer at 1-0.

The scoreboard then moved along swiftly with T-Bone in crushing form and totally overwhelming his opponent with a ruthless combination of tactical and strategic pyrotechnics. This was French élan and flair at it’s best. Hammer at 2-0 and looking good.

The Hammer crew working their magic

The next two results saw Loco and the Prof secure draws in games that rarely fizzled and despite their best efforts to create complications and tactics. Their opponents just played solidly and were obviously delighted to secure the half-point. Hammer now at 3-1 and looking well set.

There then followed those moments as a non-playing Captain you dread. When events on the board wreck your air of quiet confidence.

Pandit played a superb attacking game. He had trapped his opponent’s King in the centre of the board and his pieces had occupied the optimum outposts. His opponent’s pieces were totally restricted and he was running out of viable moves. Pandit was in complete control and was eschewing which way to win. Clueless had all ready mentally chalked up the win.

What followed encompassed the beauty and cruelty of chess. Pandit missed a tactical shot and his opponent won a piece with a clever check. Pandit was rocked and then reconciled himself to the new situation on the board and started to fight for the draw. He strained every mental sinew but his young opponent kept his cool and saw through every trap that was set. This was a vary mature performance. Hammer pegged back to 3-2 but it was more than a win – especially as the game was virtually won for Pandit.

On board 3 Wily had a bad-tempered game with his opponent making various assertions to his Captain about our Chairman leaving the room when it was his move. I can report this was a very poor version of the infamous Toiletgate story from the bad-tempered Topalov-Kramnik match of yesteryear. However, I also know that our Chairman was not well and had been extremely ill that week. Anyway, there was no mobile phone analysis going on the Citadines facilities. Wily countered by pointing out that his opponent was not writing the moves down when the latter thought he was down to the last five minutes. His opponent was not aware that the digital clocks added 20 minutes once you made the time control. It was all handbags at dawn to be honest.

Wily took revenge by pursuing the game to the very end although it was a total lost cause. Hammer pegged back to 3-3 and a full-blown wobble was in progress.

Zeus then contrived to totally misplay a drawn position where he was slightly better. Obviously, influenced by the ongoing events on Board 2 and the reversal of fortune for PanditZeus went for it. This was a classic case of over-reach and sacrifice for the team and as is the case when reaching for the firebird even a God can go down in flames. Caissa admired the nerve but dished out a cruel dose of humble pie. Hammer now 3-4 down and dreams of the title disappearing down the Swanny. Clueless in despair.

This is where the men of the hour step forward to defy the odds and by sheer will-power drive the team towards victory. Fortunately, for Hammer, those men were Forza, Dead-Eye and Brexit – the new and the old of Hammersmith Chess Club.

Tommaso displayed and deployed all his skill to win a drawn game. This was a dead drawn King and pawn ending with correct play from both sides. However, his opponent overplayed his hand. Forza sacked a pawn and activated his king. In a flurry of moves and the time counting down he checkmated his opponent after queening a pawn. The Forza is strong in this Hammerite.

Dead-Eye is in superb form this season and tonight when Clueless needed him most he yet again came through. His opponent was a novice to the London league and completely oblivious to the idea of resignation. Dead-Eye was getting frustrated as he kept dismembering his opponent, but rather like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, he kept dismissing the loss of material as mere flesh wounds. In the end his lone King was facing Dead-Eye with a Knight and three pawns. He still didn’t resign. Dead-Eye was incensed but kept his cool and saw the game through to victory. Hammer at 5-4 and some momentum had been clawed back.

At last to Brexit – the match and the Title were on the line – would he the hero or the villain?

Yet again defying the real-life Brexit fiasco – our nicer version – played a peaky blinder after a non-stellar first half of the game. However, Brexit is resilient and obstinate when he has to be and is a passionate and proud Hammerite. His is a definite true-blood. After dancing on the edge in the early middle-game he was able to open the h-file and free his imprisoned rook. He then smoothly moved over to the attack and his pieces effortlessly flowed towards the enemy King. His opponent resigned gracefully when the threats became overwhelmingly. Yes, you read it here Brexit had dragged us over the line to the border of the promised land.

A great performance by Jeremy and a vital 6-4 victory was achieved.

It was definitely not sexy and definitely not found in the Starfleet manual but Hammer had triumphed against all the odds. It was a dirty win but when it comes down to the wire with so much on the line I, Clueless, totally adopt the mantra – “A win is a win

Hammer beamed back to the safety of our Starship and recuperation after this wild-ride of a match. The title was still on but a huge hurdle still had to be overcome in the form of our final opponent – the fearsome Wombles 2 to complete our mission.

Clueless relieved and the dream was still alive.

Captain’s Log -Star Date – 30/5/2018 – Clueless at the helm

Clueless has been in the think-tank for the last week and contemplating the enormity of the task and the right team to achieve it. After consultation with Zeus our Chess God asked to be stood down – he felt even a God can get chess fatigue after a long season. Forza after his brilliant run asked to miss the encounter for personal reasons – she is a lucky lady is all I will say. So, our landing party was two men down. Fortunately, Sydney moved heaven and earth in Crypto world to make himself available and Clueless contacted Pickle to answer the call to arms. The crew was complete.

Our opponents Wombles 2 have a fearsome reputation and have excelled this season in the alternative world of TV Division 1. They would not be pushovers and with their need to clear up litter wherever they go Hammer had to be on guard to ensure they were not consigned to recycling.

The night of destiny was upon us.

The night did not start well with Sydney succumbing to a debilitating virus in Crypto world and Brexit en-route was side lined by a desperate 999 call from Ice world. Clueless stepped into the breach for Sydney but there was no time to cover Brexit (chess mirroring real-life again!!). Hammer 0-1 down without a piece moved in anger. A tough task just got harder.

The depleted landing party consisted of in board order

  • T-Bone (Thomas)
  • Bajrush (Wily)
  • Loco (Jim)
  • Prof (Paul McK)
  • Spock (Pavel)
  • Dead-Eye (Paul K)
  • Pandit (Sheikh)
  • Clueless (me), and
  • Pickle (Adam).

The omens were not good and things did not get any better.

The Prof facing a fellow Hammerite in Yasser Tello who plays for the Wombles in the London League. The Prof went wrong in a position where he held a definite edge and in the end was glad to take the draw. The Prof was very annoyed with himself and no matter how many beers he consumed afterwards his disposition did not improve. All I can say is that he has been an invaluable addition to the Hammer Crew this season and we would not have been challenging for the title without his efforts. Hammer down 0.5-1.5

Things that turned definitely for the worse when Spock lost on time and Clueless played a horrendous game. Pavel held his hand up as did Clueless – it was just total rubbish – we gave the recycling Wombles everything they wanted on a plate. Hammer down 0.5-3.5 and things were about to get worse.

Clueless was observing title dreams disappearing before his eyes.

T-Bone, Pandit and Pickle were all a pawn down with all three looking at nothing better than a draw. Dead-Eye was playing a position that had less hope than despair. These were grim, very grim moments. Hammer were in massive trouble and title hopes were receding faster than a Jeremy Corbyn apology. Hammer were staring defeat in the face

It is often said that the darkest hour is the hour before dawn. Hammer just had to survive and hang on till any light appeared.

The first sign of dawn, signally a change in fortune, arrived in the form of Loco. The Flying Scotsman gave Hammer hope with a beautifully played attack. The sight of his opponent’s knight pinned to the enemy King, and nowhere to go, produced a pleasing picture. The fightback was on. Hammer at 1.5-3.5 to the bad.

The dawn continued to break as Wily employing his usual set-up created a passed pawn. His excellent endgame technique did the rest – Hammer back to 2.5-3.5. Hope was suddenly on the horizon.

The next piece of good news was Pandit who used his opponent’s time trouble to improve his position and then win material. All of the sudden Hammer had drawn level. However, we still needed two points from the last three games to secure the match. If you were a betting man you would have put your faith, and money, on a three-legged horse winning the Derby rather than Hammer pulling it off. Hammer now tied at 3.5-3.5.

Clueless was literally hoping and praying for a Citadines miracle.

The first hint that there may be a chance, was when T-Bone made something happen out of nothing. He has done it so often this season Clueless should not have been surprised. Hammer inching ahead at 4.5-3.5

The problem was Dead-Eye looked dead in the water and Pickle was facing nothing better than a draw. This would mean a drawn match and the title chance gone.

Dead-Eye playing an incredibly complicated against a well-known foe in the form of Womble, Nick Grey found a resource. This seemed to turn the tide and gave hope that a draw or even more unlikely a win may be there. This was excruciating to watch and terrible on the nerves. The last part of the game saw Dead-Eye’s King on an open board trying to avoid mate. One mismove would be curtains – somehow Dead-Eye negotiated it all – with a huge dose of luck and secured the draw. Hammer now at 5-4 and all eyes turned to Pickle.

I suppose it had to come down to this. The last game in the last match of the season was the one that would decide whether we would win the Title. You could not write a better cliff-hanger of a tale.

Pickle was a pawn down in a knight and pawn endgame. His knight had struggled all-game to find a decent square – luckily, he was able to activate his king and eliminate the passed pawn on the Q-side. Unfortunately, this left the white king in a better position and a three pawns vs three pawns on the K-side. Playing accurately and betraying no signs of nerves Pickle probed, maneuvered and by sheer force of will created a passed pawn on the King side. By some Football Radar Voodoo, he also got his King and knight into the optimum positions. It should have been a draw but Caissa took a hand and decreed that on this night Hammer would not be denied. Adam was able to force the pawn through and would have won but his opponent ran out of time. A win for sheer guts and determination. Clueless is now lobbying Starfleet command for the Freedom of Hammersmith award and other titles for this sterling performance. Pickle had saved the day.

Hammer had won 6-4. It was not pretty, it was not great chess but it did not matter – we had earned the right to call ourselves Champions. That indeed is something special, Clueless was in shock – this really was a Phoenix from the Ashes scenario.

Once again Hammer had come back from the Dead – We are the Champions!!!

In honour of our diverse nationality squad of players I give the following chant

Είμαστε οι πρωταθλητές, Nous sommes les champions,
Siamo i campioni, Мы – чемпионы,
Ne jemi kampionet, Is iad na Seaimpíní iad,
Me olemme voittajia…………………

The celebrations went long into the night. This has been a great group of guys who have fought every inch of the way to achieve what they have achieved, They, really are Champions – one and all.

Here for your delight dear reader are the last match card and final table:

And the table:

We won every match played at Planet Citadines!

Captain Clueless signing off – mission accomplished. May the next mission by just as enjoyable and successful. Bring it on!!

John (aka. Clueless)

AGM – Monday 4th June

Ladies & Gents – we are rapidly approaching the date for our Annual General Meeting (AGM). It will be held this coming Monday 4th June, at Lytton Hall, starting 7.30pm sharp!

As usual, it will be an informative and fun occasion as the Committee presents details of our club’s ongoing progress this season, and plans for the future, plus all the usual business for members to vote on. It’s the chance for all Members to have their say on how the club is run – please make every effort to attend.

There’ll also be extra drinks and nibbles laid on, and of course the concluding round of our Annual Blitz tournament! You’ve got to be in it, to win it!!

See you there!

London League 5 vs Cavendish

24.05.18 – London League 5: Cavendish v Hammersmith

Welcome to our new campaigner, Aditya – or Adi – who debuts this time out.

As we settled in with White on top board, I had high hopes for our last match this season.

An hour passed and then, on board 3, John Ryan got up and as I glanced over at him, he gave me a rueful look and downward thumb, and I saw him go.

Shortly thereafter Wyatt on board 4 and Adi on board 1 filed out also. I got up and saw the scoresheet 0-3, I felt like I had to make the effort and stop the great rout from Moscow.

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow

After putting pressure on my opponent in the middle game, things got swapped off, and I had emerged with 2 bishops against my opponent’s bishop and hobbled knight. I was tempted to offer a draw having, I judged, barely a minuscule advantage and 5 minutes more on the clock.

I watched carefully as my opponent seemed to be panicking as I increased the pace and kept up the pins and fork threats in the endgame. Finally forced off the knight for a bishop and somehow got a passed pawn on my a-file. With Bishops of opposite colour, was it drawn?

There were two sets of linked and blocked pawns each on the h and g-files, but my king could get behind them possible, but only if his bishop could be pried out of the corner. In the last 2 minutes, my king got to c2 and the bishop was displaced from the corner by zugzwang, and after 99.Bc4 Kg2, the white bishop at c4 couldn’t protect his pawn at g3, so White resigned.

Match lost 1-3

Later, Wyatt told me it was an equal looking endgame that was his undoing. Sharp tactics and cruel endings are common.