Puzzle of the Week #015

After a brief hiatus last week, we are back with a bang – down to business.

As the only response to last week’s puzzle, PaulDead-EyeKennelly takes the plaudits this time – congratulations Paul!

It was taken from Kolb-Schroeder, Nuremberg in 1895. Snipped from the wonderful Van Perlo’s Endgame Tactics.

On to this week’s puzzle – White has just played Rxb7 (so it’s Black to move). Why was that a bad idea??

Back from the Dead in London 4

07.07.18 – It seemed Osiris himself, the Egyptian God of the Afterlife, was watching over us as we came back from the brink against BBCA to score a cracking 4.5-3.5 win on Wednesday night. BBCA raced into an early lead before the Hammer fightback took hold and wins for Tommaso, Blair, Matteo and Ken secured victory.

An invaluable victory against the previously undefeated table-toppers. We’re now firmly back in the chase; it still looks a tall order but we have to count ourselves amongst the pack. My trip to Egypt was truly worthwhile…

We’re 2nd in the table with 4 matches to go – Greater London, Newham, Kings Head and Metro 4.

There were some truly impressive performances, no more so than Tomasso on Board 1, taking down a 175 with some superb attacking chess. An early g4 pawn push, complemented with an early King chase at the expense of material.

Blair was bizarrely challenged to go back to his schooldays and prove his “Rook & King” checkmate skills with more than adequate time on the clock. He obviously hasn’t been studying his form for Hammer this season. Blair maintains his 100% record with 2 wins out of 2.

Matteo’s rediscovered his mojo and is now turning draws into wins, taking control of this match-up early on and pressing home to an endgame with superior pawns and a Knight for a Bishop. There was no way to stop the promotion to a Queen and that was that.

Brian scored the crucial half-point we needed, and has included his game here for your enjoyment:

Playing black against the Sicilian, Brian established a Maroczy Bing in response to relatively passive play. But that all changed on move 9 when he faced a veritable kitchen sink being thrown forward in a kingside attack. Pawn pushes with e4 and h4-h5, two rooks on the f-file, Queen on g4 and a fianchettoed Bishop on b2. Brian swapped both bishops for two knights and advanced his Q-side pawns.

The opposition Queen eventually invaded on the sixth rank to threaten my a-pawn, but faced the counter-challenge of Queen and rook on the 7th threatening to take the a2 pawn and invade the seventh/eighth rank on his side. Eventually his opponent’s Queen became trapped on the Q-side, with no alternative but to exchange queens for a drawn ending of rook & minor piece each, with a totally blocked pawn structure.

The scorecard might have flattered us further on another night. Nadhmi and Gokhan both got themselves into strong positions before allowing their opponents to spoil the party. I’m afraid I didn’t see much of Ben or Ken’s games although I understand a significant blunder effectively ended the latter as a contents.

No matter, the night was ours. Full scorecard below:

The Good, the Bad and the Hammer

GM Lectures, Blitz Tourney, Rapidplay, and many, many games of chess – it has been a busy few weeks on Planet Hammer. We have a few results to update you on, so please read on…

28.02.18 – London League 5: Brixton v Hammersmith

In a scene redolent of countless westerns, there was an ambush last night where the Anvil Boyz were cruelly cut down by the Brixton Gang. Just through the swing doors, in the crowded scene of the Sit or Die Saloon, fist fights, drunken cavorting and knife stabbings were common place, especially at the bar.

Brian & Robin with their post-match analysis

First to go was Ben on board 3. He started humbly, almost modestly, adopting a Hedgehog posture, but quickly gained equality and looked good to win, hoping to surprise his opponent.

But suddenly, with two weapons drawn each – Queen and Rook – Ben fell to razor-edged tactics, and in the dying seconds, Ben succumbed to trickery of the Devil (back row mate, or give up house and home).

In equal measure shortly after, Simon on Board 2 was cut down. Some say it was a Sicilian Stiletto that undid him.

Last man standing was Robin, Anvil Chief Spiceman and bottle washer, who staggered out of the saloon but then stumbled and was carried to the Adjournment Hostelry, where he died, by turns cursing and mumbling.

The next morning three bodies were thrown in the nearest gulch, only the cruel east wind witnessed their burial. In minutes, spumes of snow tendrils covered the bodies.

Only one of the Anvil Boyz lived to tell the tale, top wrangler Brian, who saw the plot and bade peace early on with his counterpart, shaking his hand as he withdrew.

Follows here Brians comments on his game…

“I was black v a 138 opponent who played the Trompovsky Attack (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5). I went ahead with fianchettoing the KB, and he immediately swapped bishop for knight on f6 to double my pawns.

I played c5 in a Grunfeld-style attempt to undermine his central pawns, pressurizing d4 with my QN on f6. He advanced to d5, which cramped my Queen’s-side development and pushed my knight to a precarious e5, but allowed my KB lots of pressure on the long diagonal, supported by Qa5.

He developed carefully with connected knights on c3 and e2, then pushed away my e5 knight with f4, foregoing castling and escaping central pressure by relocating his king to f2.

I threatened to make a break along the e-file, but he solidified the support of his backward e-pawn with rook, bishop, knight and queen. As the queens-side pawn structure had by now become locked, he offered a draw and I accepted.”

Here ends the sorry tale.

Thames Valley March Update

02.03.18 – Last night Richmond was out-graded against Surbiton A by 33 points (162 v 195 average!) but won the match 4.5-3.5! Great result.

As you can see from the table, Kingston have been relegated. Now it’s between Ealing A and Surbiton B for the drop, with Ealing having better chances since they need just one more point from their remaining 3 matches.

I’d like to thank all Hammers who have contributed to our great results this season. We have secured our Division 1 presence with 5 games in hand. So we are in a neck & neck race with Richmond for third place.

Richmond have a better set of fixtures than us, so our home match against them no 16th April is hugely important.

We are also playing in the Thames Valley Cup Semi-Final against Richmond on 9th April, and a win could see us well on our way to being cup winners, since the other semi-final is between Harrow and Kingston!

The good news from a couple of days ago – Kingston and Surbiton B have played their next match and we are clear of relegation! Now we are playing for a better position in the table.

Realistically we should finish 3rd, but anything is possible. Since all the top teams are playing each other and Wimbledon A play Surbiton B twice (first match is on March 15th). Richmond also have to play all the top teams once, including us. We only have one away match against Wimbledon A on 19th March. All our other matches are at home.

So let’s prepare the March stage for the Hammers:

  1. First match on 19th March is away against Wimbledon A, starting 7.30pm
  2. Second match is on 26th March at home to Surbiton A, starting 7.30pm

Please let me know if you’re available!


21.02.18 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Lewisham

“Back in the Saddle Again”

Last week we brought you great news from London Division 4 in the way of our 5.5-2.5 win over promotion hopefuls Lewisham. We can now bring you the full report of the match that puts us back in the hunt at the top of the table.

Brian, acting as captain for the evening, talks us through the action as it happened.

First to finish was Gokhan on board 4. An inaccuracy in his opening line gave him an early advantage and sadly his position didn’t recover. His opponent quickly pushed home his edge to a won game. 0-1 down.

My game was next to finish on board 4. I had white in a c3 Sicilian, where after the pawn exchanges on d4, my opponent played Bb4+ and I ventured a slightly risky Nc3 and Bc4, leaving my e5 pawn vulnerable to his King’s knight. My pin on Bg5 was immediately released with the clever Qa5, exerting double pressure on the c3 knight and threatening a dangerous forking check.

A tense double-edged struggle ensued when I castled out of trouble and took his f6 knight as he took mine on c3. Upshot was a won pawn at the expense of his opened-up kingside pawn structure.

His decision to delay castling proved costly: swapping two pairs of minor pieces, I broke up his central pawn mass, chased his Queen and invaded with a rook via c7. The follow-up queen check on c6 left him powerless to avoid a back-rank mate on move 21. 1-1 and all square.


John was next to finish. He stepped in at the last minute to fill a gap on Board 6, but lost material against a player graded thirty points higher, eventually losing to a crushing attack. 1-2 down.

Charlie’s position on Board 7 looked unfavourable going into the endgame, with his opponent having an extra passed pawn. But Charlie never gives up, and succeeded in swapping off all the pawns to a drawn ending Rook & King v Rook & King. 1.5-2.5

Nadhmi on Board 5 had a complex game where at one stage he was a rook up for three distinctly menacing pawns. Later it was a bishop for two pawns, then an ending of bishop, rook & two pawns v rook and three pawns. Time was tight, but Nadhmi survived the rigors of the clock and emerged with king, bishop, rook and pawn against king and rook, whence his opponent resigned.

At this point the match was delicately poised 2.5-2.5, with Boards 1, 2 and 8 still to finish. Wyatt had been a piece down, but his opponent used a lot time and blundered the piece back again. Wyatt still had to defend against a push of two advanced pawns supported by rooks, but the opponent’s flag fell and Wyatt won on time.

Hammer held a 3.5-2.5 advantage with the top two boards to finish. Both had been tight games played solidly and accurately on both sides, with John White on Board 2 having to defend against minor piece incursions, holding a rook for bishop and knight. But he eventually prevailed after multiple piece exchanges when his opponent overlooked damaging forks with mating threats in a queen & rook ending.

Finally, Matteo on Board 1 invaded his opponent’s 7th rank to force resignation after the tightest strategic game of the evening. A very creditable win for the underdogs!


A Night at the Speelman

26.02.18The hallowed hall of The Anvil last night hosted chess royalty in the form of GM Jon Speelman. A special evening where over thirty Hammerites and guests listened, enthralled and captivated, to the wit and wisdom of a top man and a world-class Chess Grandmaster. The “Beast from the East” may have hit London but we had our Beast from Hampstead to keep us warm. The evening had something for everyone… read on.

First off, a few GM Speelman facts:

  • In 1989 he was ranked #4 in the world, with only some wood-pushers called Kasparov, Karpov and Timman keeping him off the top spot
  • He was a World Championship semi-finalist, losing narrowly to Jan Timman by the odd point
  • He is a writer, analyst, newspaper columnist, excellent company and all-round top bloke

My original brief to GM Jon Speelman was to analyse one of his games, talking us through his thought processes, reasoning and strategy. Needless to say, he delivered way beyond that, and graciously indulged us in a lengthy Q&A session.

For those of you who could not attend, you missed a treat. However, do not despair as all the games, puzzles and analysis are included in this report.

Packed to the rafters for the GM!
GM Jon takes us through a game on the practice board

The evening started with GM Jon laying out what he had in store for us, and supplying the first piece of GM Speelman wisdom on chess.

“I like games that are clear cut – either tremendously violent or logical, like this first illustrative game.”

The first game was a clash between Kramnik and SjugirovSochi 2016. The game is given below with Speelman analysis.

Jon – we are now BFF’s – went through the game encouraging and prompting answers from the audience. No idea or suggestion was too stupid, and all efforts were met with courtesy and listened to… then mostly demolished with logic and good grace.

The game itself is a brilliant example of a top-class Grandmaster, utilising a slightly superior position and giving his talented opponent no chance of counter play.

In particular, Jon enthused over move 24.g3, and as he explained his reasoning for his admiration of this move, uttered the second piece of Speelman chess wisdom of the night.

“If you have a positional advantage, do not press. Improve your position. The likelihood is your opponent will make bad moves”

At this stage of the evening Jon also revealed that he did not count moves when he calculated, he simply pinged!! A counting method I shall try out in my next over-the-board encounter.

Jon then turned to the second game to analyse, and this time he was less modest. It was his classic encounter from the 1989 Brussels Tournament against a certain Viktor Kortchnoi. A case of the unstoppable force meeting the…. unstoppable force. This was a real violent caveman encounter with no quarter asked, or given. As you would expect from two great chess warriors.

Here is the game:

Jon’s observations throughout this game were superb, and obviously heightened by his actual participation. The game goes mental from about move 7, and continues throughout with both GM’s walking a tightrope. The anecdotes about the game and then the final forcing line, were tremendously entertaining, educational and insightful – this was brilliant stuff.

The irony was, Jon confessed this was probably his best game – his “immortal”, but sadly contained a flaw. A rather dodgy character called GM John Nunn approached him immediately after the game and pointed out that if 16.Qc4 had been played by White, then Black had a lost position. How small are the margins between perfection and….. ?

The third piece of Speelman chess wisdom then emerged:

“Play positions you feel happy with. Regardless of material. If you are happy and are playing the game you want, then that is all you need”

The evening then changed tack with two studies being given the Speelman treatment. One an endgame study and one a middle-game fantasy. Both were fascinating and informative – by this stage I could only marvel at Jon’s patience and humour as numerous suggestions from the audience were shouted out. Two problems (with solutions) are given below:

The demonstration part of the evening concluded with Jon taking us through another violent game. This one featured GM Teimour Radjabov (famous for destroying Kasparov with the black pieces in a Kings Indian when he was ridiculously young) and a young, probably talented, upstart called Olexandr Bortnyk. The latter was dealt with harshly for obviously not showing enough respect or deference to the now thirty year old Teimour.

So, for your enjoyment and delight, admire the sheer brutality and the putting-you-in-your-place nature of this game.

After this piece of carnage another pearl of chess wisdom was bestowed.

“When you sit down at the board, you have to be in warrior mode. No half measures – you are there to fight”

The final part of the evening saw Jon doing his version of Question Time. Dealing with toughies such as:

  • What advice would you give kids when facing e4, Bc4 and Qh5?
  • Who will challenge Carlsen for the WCC?
  • When will we have a different World Champion?
  • I play c4, d3, e4… what do you think?
  • If Nakamura was playing you and he went e4, Qh5, what would you say or not say to him?
  • What’s the weirdest thing an opponent has done to you at the board? (One opponent actually laughed at him!!)
  • Who was the most talented player you ever met over the board?
  • What was your chess book collection growing up?
  • What were Petrosian, Smyslov, Spassky etc. like to play against?
  • What did you think of Fischer as a chess player, not as… ?

You can tell by the quality of the questions the Hammerites knew their stuff. By the way, two of the questions have the same answer – Ivanchuk. I leave you to work out what are the questions concerned.

Forty minutes past our official finish time your correspondent brought the evening to a close, and Jon accompanied various disreputable Hammerites to the Albion to carry on the evening. Knowing he had spent the weekend playing the Bunratty Chess festival, I can only admire his stamina.

The afterparty!

A couple of thanks before signing off – a big shout out to both Adam and Mike for helping me setup the furniture.

Also, a big note of thanks to Paul McK (the Prof) who kept Jon’s wine glass nicely topped-up and supplied the wine as well.

However, the biggest thanks go to GM Jon Speelman. An amazing chess player, analyst and raconteur, who can now bask in the added title of “Hammer Legend”.

Normal service resumes next Monday.

Rapidplay – Round VI

Pinch, Punch, First of the Month – it can only mean one thing!! Yes, the next round of our excellent Rapidplay Tournament is upon us.

Round V saw things go mostly to form. Our top pairing saw the game finish in a draw, leaving both players still unbeaten… amazing!! Can anyone topple Bajrush this season??

Further down the order, Ben scored a terrific draw against Pouya. We also saw Super-Sub Wyatt gain a brilliant victory over tournament controller Adam. Great chess!

Finishing positions are really up for grabs at the moment, with the situation changing each month. Lovely stuff.

So to Round VI, where a truly continental struggle sees Matteo take on Marios.

Star performer Ben faces a tough task against young gun Nadhmi, while Yasser tries to get some points on the board against Wyatt – not easy on current form!

The pairings further down the order are very even, so we hope to see some tight games and frantic finishes. Should be a cracker!

As usual, please arrange the location & date of the game with your opponent, and get your results to controllers Adam & Dave  by the end of the month.

Good luck one & all!!