Return of the Grudge Match (vs. Battersea)

28.03.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Battersea

In our return match versus Battersea, we outpointed them with a delta of 17 points!

But first let me say that Kaan Corbaci debut’d this match and had a shocker of a win defending with the black pieces against a straight-forward Guico Piano, his opponent fell for a pawn and his Queen was lost with a Kaan (Knight) fork. Congratulations to Kaan!

Brian played the white pieces against the Sicilian defence, using the O’Kelley variation to achieve a Maroczy Bind. From the middlegame onward, the position reduced to a Rook and minor piece endgame, but Brian had superior pawns, his opponent having blocked and isolated pawns. Brian piled on the pressure, with his Rook and Knight dominating an inferior Rook and somewhat bad Bishop, and the position somewhat blocked.

Through some confusion, his opponent allowed his clock flag to drop without making his first 30 moves, so he lost on time. But Brian was able to demonstrate a winning advantage to his opponent afterwards.

John Wooley achieved a creditable draw early on.

My game was a disaster waiting to happen, after I thought I had trapped my opponent’s Queen with a poisoned pawn. But it wasn’t to be, alas, the Queen escaped and I was down 2 pawns, but then getting into time pressure, I lost the endgame (expletives deleted!!).

Still, we won the match 2.5 – 1.5. Congratulations to the team!


A Season of Two Halves

23.03.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Lewisham

You’ve probably heard the cliché “a game of two halves”, well I think we need a new cliché for our loyal band of warriors in Division 4 as we look set to embark upon our “season of two halves”!

As luck would have it, our first few games pitted us against the lower graded teams – and we certainly scored well there. But you can probably guess what that means – most of the big boys still lie ahead!

The key task now is to step up to the plate and take down some of the big dogs. Remember what happened when David fought Goliath!

Yeah, well, that was all very good in the Old Testament but things played out slightly differently in our hallowed theatre of Golden Lane as we face Lewisham.

We went down fighting but unfortunately couldn’t prevent a narrow 3.5 – 4.5 defeat. Top performance though; we ran them right to the wire and I was proud of the guys who turned out for Hammer, giving away around 10 grading points per board on average.

The night started pretty sweetly with fine wins for Marios and Brian on boards 1 and 2. Marios made short work of his opponent despite rocking up 15 minutes late. The art of intimidation obviously one of his strong suits. That, and a supported pawn on the 7th. His opponent was no slouch either – Mr. Stewart is averaging almost 180 for the season.

I managed to catch Brian’s game just as the hammer came crashing down. BD’s Rook came marauding forward and pinned the Queen to the King. The instinct to immediately take must have been a strong one… before realizing that immediately setup a Knight fork on the unhappy royal couple. The instinct to lean forward and offer a hand of resignation followed promptly. 2-0 up.

The next few to finish were all draws – Josue, Rich and yours truly. Fair to say we had attacking chances in all 3 but had to settle for half a point apiece. Rich was probably closest to finding the win, forging a really strong position before a momentary lapse allowed Gokhan back in and a draw was agreed. Very charitable considering Gokhan was a member of our own ranks last season! We were now 3.5 – 1.5 up.

That’s seven games for Rich in Division 4 this season. He remain unbeaten with 3 wins and 4 draws, a record that perfectly mirrors that of Brian. They’re currently neck and neck in the stakes to be this season’s MVP.

So, just a single positive result from the remaining three games would see us take something from the match, but alas, that final half-point wouldn’t come.

Losses for John, Adam and finally, Ken, meant we ended the evening with nothing to show but a few hard-luck stories and empty pint pots in the Shakespeare.

Despite sitting next to John I didn’t see much of his game, but hopefully it’s some consolation to learn that his “e130” opponent is actually averaging 167 for the season. Small matter of 6 wins out of 6.

Adam’s run of bad luck in Division 4 continues – maybe it’s something to do with me. He faced the unconventional 1.b3 and was forced to make early concessions following a mis-step in controlling the c-file. He battled back only to fall foul to a sharp tactic causing him to lose a minor piece with little in the way of compensation. An honorable resignation followed soon after.

Our final faller was Ken. I took up watching at one of the more unusual endgame positions I can remember in a while. Completely open, 3 passed pawns, at least 4 pawns en prise. The challenge was knowing what to do – attack or defend? Take a pawn and go for the win, or defend and try to consolidate? Ken chose to go for broke, but as the saying goes, discretion is sometimes the better part of valour. His opponent ended with a passed pawn in the centre supported by a Bishop – it’s destiny was clear. Unlucky.

So a defeat, but a very honorable one at that. And I think it’s worth noting this is the strongest 2nd team we’ve ever assembled in Division 4.

The future’s bright; the future’s Hammer.


Puzzle of the Week #002

The results are in – they’ve been checked, double-checked, scrutinized to death, and independently verified. We can now proudly announce that the Winner of our first Puzzle of the Week is….

Matteo Bezzini

Well done Matteo!! Full puzzle and solution below. It was a great puzzle to start with, and easy to overlook Black’s pawn on the g-file, poised for promotion.

Solution: 1.Be6+ Kh7 2.Bg8+ Kh8 3.Bb3+ Kh7 4.Rxb7+ Kh8 5.Rb8+ Kh7 6.Bg8+ Kh8 7.Rxb1, then mate is inevitable.

This week, we bring you two puzzles – the first of which is fiendishly tricky and may take you a while to figure out.

The second is a little more straightforward.

It’s White to move in both, and the target is Checkmate. As always, first to leave the correct solution takes the plaudits – good luck!

Puzzle 1 – fiendish!
Puzzle 2 – a little easier!


Bishop Training – Monday 27th

Ladies & Gents – owing to a fixture change next week, we now have a free night at the club on Monday 27th March.

One of our top players, Marios, has kindly volunteered to run a training session on opposite-coloured Bishops, starting from about 7.30pm. It’ll be useful to players of any strength, but in particular will introduce thematic thinking around how to use Bishops – definitely going to be useful for those under 130 who’ve not had much coaching before.

No need to pre-register or even let us know – just turn up if you fancy it. Non-members also welcome! See you there.


GM Chris Ward Simul – Last Chance!

Dear members, we still have some spaces available for the Simultaneous against GM Chris Ward next month at the bargain price of £3 per entry. Full details below:

  • Date: Tuesday 4th April
  • Time: 7pm start
  • Venue: Lytton Hall (our home venue)
  • Boards: 25
  • Entry: £3 per board
  • Contact: John White to confirm your spot

If there are any spaces left by close of play we will be offering this out to our friends at other chess clubs, and the chess-playing public at large.

If you want to guarantee your spot, please drop John White an email right away:


Puzzle of the Week #001

Ladies & Gents, fire up those chess computers and dust off those practice boards – we’re launching a Puzzle of the Week!

This is strictly for fun only – no prizes for getting it right, other than a swelling of pride in your performance and the unyielding respect from your fellow Hammerites.

To get things rolling, we start here with a  puzzle from 1900, of “intermediate” difficulty. White to move – have a think, and leave your solution in the comments. We’ll announce the winner in our next Puzzle of the Week post!

Good luck!!

SW London Junior Chess Challenge

The might of Hammer took on the very different challenge of SW London Juniors in a double-header this month.

The format of the match agreed was two nights of chess – one at the home of the Juniors, and one at the home of Hammer – Valhalla, as we like to call it.

Played over as many boards as possible with each pairing playing each other twice on the night – once as Black, once as White.

The time control was 20 minutes to start, plus 5 seconds increment per move. All games will be graded and thus the participants would achieve a Rapidplay grade.

Before relaying the events of both nights, I feel I must first comment on the SW London Juniors and our Hammer Club.

The Juniors is an impeccably run club – the two Tony’s who masterminded the birth of the club and run it have established a culture that is friendly, welcoming and safe. The coaching is top-class and the discipline and behavior of their young charges is equally impeccable. Please check their website out:

As for my club, Hammer, I am proud to say that over twenty members rose to the challenge and met their young foes over the board, displaying great grace, patience and a will to win. There are very few clubs where senior chess players would put themselves up for this kind of match. But our club did, and that says a lot about the club culture and commitment to the future that Hammer Chess has embraced over the last two years.

Ok, enough of the slaps on the back for all concerned – let us review the actual chess!

The first match was held at SW Junior HQ, situated near Earls Court. The date was the 1st March. Thirty-one games of chess were played in total and the big people triumphed 20.5-10.5. The chess was so frenetic I was unable to keep track of my fellow Hammerites as the pieces flew round the boards.

Tony gives the Juniors some last-minute advice

One thing about playing children is that they have no fear, they relish the challenge of bringing down an adult, they play at speed, and boy do they love attacking! The top-tip is to remember that defence is something they have yet to learn, so a controlled, aggressive approach is always the right way to approach such games.

Unfortunately, this does not always work and Marios on board 1 was facing defeat in a prepared line of the Scotch – indeed, he was objectively lost in every sense. Unfortunately for his young opponent – but fortunately for Marios and us – he missed a back-rank check mate.

This was a definite wake-up call and showed that these young people could play; and play very well. This was the only game Marios played – but what a game! I know for a fact that he analysed this line very extensively after the game – he will not be caught again.

The rest of the results were as follows:

  • There were two wins clocked up by Jay, Orial, Adam, Enkh-Ochir, Des, Andy, Kaan and myself
  • Honours were split for Anda, Chris and Ken – one win apiece
  • The double-doughnuts were Robin, Danny and Shaun. Indeed, Robin lost to a young man with the same surname. The new Lee is on the block!!
  • Somesh had one loss and a draw

Although the score line seems one-sided, I can assure you it was not!

The return leg took place on the 13th March at Valhalla, and Hammer this time had an idea of what we were facing. The feel-good factor from the first encounter meant that we tried to get twenty boards out. Have to say, SW Juniors delivered, whilst Hammer had to default a few boards.

Valhalla; just how the Vikings remember it

The result was a good win for Hammer again, but the SW Juniors played outstandingly well and went down fighting. However, the march of time is relentless and these juniors are increasing their strength at an alarming rate. I am not sure in a year’s time Hammer will triumph again.

I hope all who took part enjoyed the evening – I know I certainly did.

My funniest memory of the evening was the sight of Jay, Ken and myself sitting on the blue kiddy chairs to play our games! I had enough sets, boards and tables, but did not think we would ever fall short on the chair count! Please note for future reference: we only have about 32 chairs!

Once again, thank you to the two Tony’s, the SW Juniors, and the Hammer Heroes – we will repeat next year!



A Fast & Furious Night At Golden Lane

14.03.17 – London League 3: Hammersmith v Hackney

Hammer 1 rolled into the Barbican last night determined to continue the drive to consolidate their Division 3 status. In the way were Hackney 3, also caught up in their own relegation struggle. This was a true six-point game, to quote the football parlance.

On paper Hammer 1 had the strength in depth and a healthy advantage grading-wise. However, matters are never that simple; holding all the aces still means you have to convert them.

In short, Hammer 1 came through this contest in fine style with a 6.5-3.5 win. We are now on 3.5 match points and almost on the verge of safety and thus retaining our place in Division 3 of the LL!

To the runners and riders (my only Cheltenham metaphor, I promise!):

In reverse running order, boards 10 and 9, Orial and Matteo respectively, secured solid wins without ever being in any real danger. Hammer were on their way.

Boards 8, 7 and 6 saw Josue, Safi and Sheikh all take draws to keep the points ticking over. Again, the draws were all pragmatic and in light of the way the match was moving, entirely sensible. This was a night where the match result was everything.

Boards 5, 4 and 3 saw myself and our new member Marios, plus Jeremy, step up. Well, to be entirely honest Jeremy and Marios did – I on the other hand, was away with the fairies!

Marios won in fine style against a Benko gambit and coaxed the error from his opponent, whilst Jeremy also took advantage of a blunder to secure his win. He felt he was lucky – my own view was that he was due some fortune after some of his mishaps earlier this season. Remember, the mantra is a win is a win! Plus their two wins secured the match.

As for myself, I contrived to play a totally wrong move order in a Sicilian Najdorf – fought back, achieved equality, relaxed and then blundered. I think my chess brain is frazzled at the moment, and skiing can not come soon enough.

Our boards 2 and 1 saw the reliable due of Paul and Bajrush in play. Bajrush finished his game first and was the epitome of the WOSF and a man in a hurry. Whilst Paul, fatigued from his exertions the previous evening where he triumphed in an adjourned game from a Thames Valley match vs Richmond, played his worst game of the season. Just one of those nights.

Just some asides to put a bit of colour into the evening…

Josue is now sporting a white-bleach-blonde set of hair which is dramatic to say the least! He foolishly made a bet that Barcelona would not come back against PSG with a friend. Guess what happened, and guess what the forfeit was?

Sheikh agreed a draw in the adjourned game against his Surbiton A opponent without hostilities being resumed. This spared us the humiliation of an 8-0 whitewash and all in, team Hammer owe him a huge debt of gratitude! We bow before thee, Sheikh!!

The match was played at a rapid rate and we were all out of Golden Lane, including Hammer 5, who were also on duty, well before 10pm. Is this the fastest time ever for clearing Golden Lane with all games completed?

I firmly believe that with the addition of one or two players, such as Pavel and AN Other next season, we will be strong challengers for promotion. Part One of the master plan is nearly complete with the goal of Division 3 retention all but achieved.

However, rest assured, there will be no let up from me for the final three matches. A top-half finish is achievable.

Finally, as captain of this excellent bunch of soldiers, my thanks.


Royal Bloodshed!

14.03.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Kings Head

We were up against it last night, facing Kings Head – top of the League and the clear favourites to win the game, but nothing was certain. No quarter was given and Hammersmith did not succumb without a struggle.

Handshakes all round as the match gets underway

On Board 1, Brian Dodgeon with the Black pieces got to defend against a ferocious 3 pawns abreast attack in the centre – did someone say a Maroczy Bind?? After an exchange or two, there was a Knight fork against King and Rook, so Brian ended up a Rook down, capitulating soon after. Bad luck!

Board 3 saw David Lambert getting to an equal position with two Bishops and Knight on both sides, and symmetric pawn positions. An early draw was agreed soon after Brian’s loss on top board.

Board 4 saw our winningest player, Chris Moore (4.5 out of 5 matches so far this season) go two pieces down but still making a fight of it. In the endgame his opponent – who out-graded Chris by 15 points – had both Bishops and Rook buried behind jammed-up pawns, but got into time difficulties. So it looked for a while as if a two piece deficit could be ignored. Sadly the game was lost when the Rook and Bishops finally emerged.

Our hero of the match was John Woolley on 2nd board, who had a might nice English opening, and both sides looking very solid. Suddenly, John launched a pawn break in the centre, which caused an exchange of several pieces. This led to John’s Rook pinning an undefended Knight against the Queen, and the win looked good. Somehow though, John’s opponent managed to wriggle out and a draw was agreed. John looked close to winning – better luck next time!

All things considered, not a bad result against a strong side.


An Early Bath at Morley College

10.03.17 – London League 4: Morley College v Hammersmith

What a difference a year makes. It was only 12 months ago we made the trip to Morley College for the final game of the season, rooted to the bottom of the league and desperately in need of a win to avoid picking up the League’s wooden spoon.

I’m pleased to say this season has brought happier times; buoyed by an intake of enthusiastic new players, we’ve more than held our own in the division and I’m pleased to have a different problem – deciding who to pick or leave out when we’re oversubscribed for games.

All smiles at the start of the evening

Whilst the backdrop is different, I’m delighted to confirm our match result appears to be heading the same direction! We triumphed last season, and we look set to do the same this time round, leading 4-2 with two games scheduled for adjournments. Robin’s match remains in the balance but mine looks pretty positive (Fritz has it +10.0!).

The match itself was pretty, well… odd. We started with a default; their board 8 was a no-show. We played our games under near constant chatter from the walk-ins and late arrivals. And then we ended the evening by being kicked out of the building by security whilst several games were still going. Fine if it’s a slow play, but mine was Quick and designed to finish on the evening. Bizarre!

Under the circumstances, I confess I didn’t get to see much of the other games, so then just a word of acknowledgement to our winners. John got back into winning ways with a great result on Board 2. He appeared to be being edged in the middle game but the position was fairly complicated, and a series of quick-fire errors meant before long his opponent’s Queen was no more. That was the end of that.

Rich ground down his opponent with heavy pressure pivoting around a pawn on the 7th, drawing a broad smile from his opponent when the hammer finally fell. I think he knew he was done long ago but battled on bravely for the sake of his team. Fair play.

Down to business

The final victor of the night was David Pearson, who calmly chalked up his first win in Division 4. Very well done. I asked Adam what had happened and he was equally perplexed having watched some of it – “I don’t know. It seemed to be pretty even with loads of pieces on the board and then bang… a few moves later he’d won”. You’ll have to show us that trick next time around, David. Worth sharing!

The great week for Hammer seems to be extending into a fortnight! Long may it continue.