A Whole Lotta Hammer

“Not a Whole Lotta Love from Hammer 1 on Valentine’s Eve”

Welcome to the next rollicking installment of the Starship Hammer 1’s 2018 odyssey and it’s one-season mission to boldly go to Division Two of the London League.

Captain Clueless Log – Star Date 13/02/2018 – Hammer 1’s crew have beamed down to the planet of the Citadines to encounter a strange alien species called the Metropolitans. There is definitely a Gallic/Germanic flavour about this world, with our match taking place in the Berlin room.

The Hammer Landing Party consisted of, in board order:

Thomas, Chris S, Jim, Paul McK, Tommaso, Pavel, Jeremy, Sheikh, Paul K, Clueless and Charlie. A team of old and new faces – indeed, if you go back just over two years only Jeremy, Sheikh, Paul K and I were Hammer crew members. The times – they are a-changing!

We out-graded our opponents on average by 25 points a board – although this was exaggerated by Thomas’s estimated grade. Thus, applying Pavel (Spock) logic, the result should not have been in doubt. This time the logic was not misplaced.

Despite missing the great talents of Zeus (Marios), Wily (Bajrush) and Paul McK (Prof) the Hammer gauchos were not going to be distracted and like the consummate professionals they are, the only dish on the menu was victory.

Chris S (Sydney or Show Bag) was fast out of the blocks. I know he is under huge pressure at work, with the added addition of personal stuff to deal with; indeed, he asked me if I could find a substitute for the match. I reluctantly told him I could not.

To his eternal credit and demonstrating dedication beyond the call of duty, he turned out. He took all his frustration out on his unfortunate opponent and romped to a quick and deserving victory. 1-0 Hammer.

Next up saw Jim (Loco) dishing out the punishment. I remember seeing his black b pawn landing on b2 and pawn mopping-up operations in full flow. Basically, it was a Bannockburn of a game and his opponent was duly routed and sent home to think again. Hammer flying at 2-0.

To the first reverse of the night with Sheikh, as black facing a Nimzovitch-Larsen setup from his opponent. If you ever contemplate playing this opening I refer you to the classic Larsen-Spassky encounter of 1969 as a cautionary tale. It certainly put me off playing 1.b3 for life.

This was one of those encounters when according to Stockfish Sheikh was +2.82 and cruising to victory. He then decided to finish off his opponent a la Spassky in the above-mentioned encounter. Alas, he left a bishop en prise and sadly went down in flames. A definite case of defeat being snatched from the jaws of victory. Hammer pegged back to 2-1.

Next up were Pavel (Spock) and your correspondent Captain Clueless.

Pavel playing black won the exchange with a nice rook pin, unfortunately his King was denuded of pawn protection and the draw was the smart and pragmatic move to make.

Clueless’ game followed a familiar pattern to all his games post-Christmas. A move mis-order as black, after resolute opening play in a c3 Sicilian, left him on the back foot. Fortunately, a tenacious fightback and good defence equalised the position and he was glad to accept the draw offer with only a few pawns and one rook left on the board. Hammer holding at 3-2.

Next up was Tommaso (Forza) who played the attacking game of the evening. Sacking a pawn as white in a Petroff opening, he gained hyper-accelerated development. With Black’s King trapped in the centre of the board he even indulged in a Queen offer – sadly refused by his uncooperative opponent – to force victory. A brilliant game and I suggest you study it carefully and learn. Hammer surging ahead 4-2.

Our second reversal of the night saw Thomas (T-Bone) have an off night. In desperation he sacked a knight on h3 to force complications, perpetual check, or for his opponent to go wrong. To be frank it was simply a bad night at the office and I should know having had so many myself. Hammer, still without clear blue water, 4-3 ahead and the tension rising.

Cometh the hour, cometh the men.

Yes, in our hour of need up stepped Charlie (Sorted or Kiev), Paul K (DeadEye) and Jeremy (Brexit).

Charlie, overcoming debute nerves for Hammer 1 and a lastminute.com SOS call from Clueless, played flawlessly. He basically was hoovering up pieces whilst maintaining a positional grip. It was a masterpiece of slaughtered chess. The only disturbing aspect was that his opponent continued to be tortured without throwing the towel in. Hammer now on the brink at 5-3.

Paul K (Dead-Eye) is in imperious form this season, and this night was no exception. Playing white and facing a passive opponent in a French Winawer variation, he was seemingly strategically won after 15 moves. He had buried black’s white-squared bishop, commanded 70% of the board and just needed to find a tactic to prise the position open. Black was reduced to meaningless moves. In the best traditions of Dead-Eye chess he found the way and the resignation came swiftly after. 6-3 Hammer.

Finally to Jeremy (Brexit), last to finish and even then, it is an adjournment. However, unlike our politicians Jeremy gets stuff done and sorted. He repulsed a speculative attack which saw him gain a knight for two pawns. The game resembled a Kings Indian standard king side attack. The problem was black over-reached. Jeremy consolidated his position and then cut off counter-play. In the adjourned position he has a monster passed-pawn that should settle matters in fairly short order.

The Hammer Starship heroes then beamed into the Wetherspoon’s pub on Kingsway to celebrate and bask in their victory. A perfect way to end the evening.


London League 5:  Greater London v Hammersmith – 16.02.18

Tuesday the thirteenth hardly seemed propitious, but read on…

Unfortunately Tuesday and 13 are considered unlucky . By coincidence  Constantinople fell on Tuesday, May 24, 1453 to the Ottomans. Even worse  the sum of the (year) date added up to 13  1+4+5+3=13.

Like the Romans of old, we should really study the entrails or read the latest weather report before entering battle.

The coin toss was lost, the match was duly lost 0.5 to 2.5, with one game being adjourned. Our venerable opponents were hosting a division 5 match in the storied, almost medieval, location of Upper Vestry Hall in Little Russell Street.

Top board saw our newest campaigner Shiraq Suntook with the black pieces emerging from the opening nicely with a seemingly strong position.  This however led to complicated middle game tactics and we saw our first loss. 0-1

On board three the Hammersmith captain, also with the black pieces, defended against the English opening.  White invested energy in early tactics, launching his queen and winning the h7 black pawn, but the white queen was nearly trapped and King was as yet uncastled. Black retaliated with multiple forced  exchanges In the centre, then a black queen  forked the  exposed King and hapless rook on A1.

That  should  have been that,  black was the exchange up, having 2 rooks and minor against one rook and 2 minors. and the end game started. But our wily opponent was made of stern stuff or more importantly nice unweakened pawn,and launched an increasingly vicious knight and bishop against the black king with scrappy loose pawns all over. After losing a piece in an unguarded moment through a knight fork, black went a piece down and  black had to resign. 0-2.

On board two,  our exciting new campaigner Dipender Gill was having a quiet positional game with the white pieces but getting  20 minutes behind in the clock. As the deadline approached Dipender launched a possible mating attack on the 8th rank but black launched his queen on the Dipender king, forcing  his king out of his fortress.

Our most exciting game was culminating in a M.A.D (Mutually Assured Destruction) scenario playing out, where both kings became  exposed . Queens, rooks  and minor pieces were king hunting, and no holds barred.  The King  was  being checked two or three times, as if being led out to execution, but no final coup de grace. Instead a pause and someone grabbed a loose pawn. First us, then them. Eventually Dipender’s opponent studied the board for nearly 15 minutes,  found nothing but repeated checking and so draw agreed. Bad Luck there! I thought I saw a Dipender win, but only analysis can reveal that.

Late in the match, I saw on board 4 veteran John Ryan ready to launch a final and very interesting attack on his  opponent’s king fortress, with the centre blocked and hardly anything being captured so far . The question was how to push g and h pawns to the 5th and beyond but the game had to be  adjourned. The game had a lot of play on both sides, but the match was already lost, sadly.

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