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 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 Pandit – Zeus 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)