2018-19 Rapidplay: Round III

Festive greetings to you all! And thanks to everyone for getting your games played in time for Round II of the Rapidplay Competition.

Congratulations go to Andy on this occasion, who scored the only upset of the round!

With only four players left on 2/2, round three pits the leaders against each other. Four players are half a point behind on 1.5, and there are some juicy-looking pairings throughout the list:

The deadline for Round III is Monday 28th January. Please arrange your games ASAP and enter the details into the fixtures spreadsheet.

Good luck!

Adam & Dave.

A Hammer’s Tale at the London Chess Classic

Ryszard, aka “Breslau”, took part in the Weekend Open this year at Olympia. Here, in his own words, is the tale of his journey.

Spoiler alert – he got joint-first place and should have won – he deserved it!!

The first round was on Friday evening. I got to Olympia early straight after work and had a meal before the game. No beer – so already huge sacrifice. I was ready for the first game.

So, it starts with an 1800 chap. He played a Slav where I always exchange usually with great results because I do not know anything else. However, I decided to try something else this time. Not sure about 6.g3, already maybe not so good and just leading to a draw after Na6 7.Bg2 Nb4 8.O-O Nc2 and repeating moves. So, I realised I needed to go crazy. After move 11 he is already doing very well but makes bad decision 12…Bd6 – one of those naive move many players would play. 12…Be7 and maybe not even enough compensation for white. Life after Bd6 was beautiful for me!

Maciol, Ryszard (2121) – Cherupalli, Ramprasad (1846)
10th CSC London Chess Classic (Olympia), 14.12.2018


Second round after magic eggs and bacon from host Cluelesss. This one I struggled the most with. I do not know how to play black – I played 1….e5 for the first time in a long game I can remember. 5…Nge7 is not so good setup. I was not expecting he plays e4 as it was not what he played in games available online.

But ok it is chess and you need to defend sometimes. Move 15.Nd4 ed4 16.Bf4 was more principled and I would really suffer without any counter-play. But even in the game it is bad. I believe his mistake was 22.Ne7 after which it should be a draw (I have not checked with computer so may be wrong). 22.Re5 Be5 23.Re5 and it is very tough for me – close to lost.

After this I slowly outplayed him as I ensured I kept more time on the clock and he still believed in the ghosts of the great position he had. This is following Socko’s chess advice that time is the most important factor.

Donati, Michele (1962) – Maciol, Ryszard (2121)
10th CSC London Chess Classic (Olympia), 15.12.2018


Saturday afternoon I got IM and board 1:

Move 12 was critical for both sides – Be7 just blunders a piece. Qe8 is only one move that allows a defensive but still solid position (the computer agrees). Qc8 has been played in the past but black is already under pressure – research showed black is lost in all but one game I found online.

This followed a game from Kramnik-Kasparov in their WCC match. That game was Bg5 not Qe2 on move 10 and the queen landed on b3 then Re1 with a quick sacrifice on e6 though not winning. However, Kasparov couldn’t hold the pressure in such position.

Maciol, Ryszard (2121) – Horton, Andrew P (2397)
10th CSC London Chess Classic (Olympia), 15.12.2018


And I am now sharing first place with 3 people.

To the Sunday games.

My morning game – started with another rubbish French but I finished checkmating my opponent 🙂 9…Qc2 is really dodgy, do not do it at home 😉 I need to work on openings one day…

Walker, Nicholas P (2135) – Maciol, Ryszard (2121)
10th CSC London Chess Classic (Olympia), 16.12.2018


And the last round was real fun – unfortunately I did not execute when I had the chance!

A lot of really great lines behind the scene! I should have gone for a quick 9.b4 after dodgy 7…Nc6 and 8…Na5. But the point is that I wanted a quiet game with a small edge as the draw gives shared first, just didn’t want unbalanced material and he thought for a couple of minutes and I didn’t. I kept time advantage for the whole game but the game was not quiet!! Computer thinks it is equal until 27…Bd7. 27…h4 is the move, recommend to study it for a while without computer which we both did during the game! Move earlier 26…b3 is what I was expecting with the forced draw, again far from obvious until you see a few moves further. Recommend to study for yourself!

Then it is winning in style for white after 27…Bd7?. I just blundered a piece in move 35 (Qb4 and Ne5 are just winning with Ne5 forcing checkmate or big losses).

I get a piece back next move and funny enough position is just equal. I offered a draw at the right moment as he needed to calculate huge amount of lines and accepted it with 1 minute vs 7 minutes on the clock.

Maciol, Ryszard (2121) – Kalavannan, Koby (2328)
10th CSC London Chess Classic (Olympia), 16.12.2018

Hope you enjoyed!!

Toasting a great result!


A Middlesex Mullering

Christmas Bust-Up at The Anvil – The Muswell Hill Gang ran out of the Wild West of London

The Muswell Hill gang mounted a daring raid on Mother Anvil last week, and were met with Fire and Hammer. Yes, the Middlesex Division 2 circus was back on the road last night with a round 3 clash between our clubs.

Hammer has started well in this Division and Captain Clueless wanted to notch up another good performance before the Christmas break.

Now I know this is the season of goodwill and peace on earth is what we all should be embracing, but when it comes to competitive chess, this is a step too far for Hammerites!

So, would it be “The Nightmare Before Christmas”, or a “Miracle on 34th Street” scenario??

The Hammer Heroes in Board order:

  • Marios aka “Zues
  • Chris aka “Sydney” or “Showbag”
  • Paul aka “Dead-Eye
  • Jeremy aka “Brexit
  • Sheikh aka “Pandit
  • Matteo aka “The Suit
  • Charlie aka “Sorted
  • Simon aka “Bond

Hammer got an early Christmas present when Muswell forfeited boards 7 and 8 mid-afternoon. Frustrating for Bond and Sorted, but the two of them still turned up to support the team. True Hammerites to the core!!

On Board One, Zeus was playing like a God should – he had snaffled the exchange and seemed to have everything under control. Unfortunately, his opponent was a Prometheus in sheep’s clothing and got some central passed pawns rolling. Zeus struggled to halt their relentless march but the pieces or fates were aligned against him and he had to resign.

Hammer pegged back to 2-1.

Board Two saw Showbag, not only in his Christmas jumper, but also in crisp form. Just a very well-played game by our man and here for your seasonal delight is the game:

 Chris had put Hammer 3-1 up.

Dead-Eye was the last to finish on board 3 and although a pawn down in an endgame, pressured his opponent on the clock. This was a fantastic demonstration of nous and chess experience in action. He literally willed the win and in the words of Picard – he made it so.

Watching Dead-Eye in action is fascinating – he summons amazing focus and willpower to every struggle. He is totally immersed in the moment and is the epitome of Hammer Chess.

Hammer cruising at 4-1.

Board 4 was Brexit territory. Our version – unlike real life – is in superb form this season. He is currently 3-0 in individual games so far – could he make it 4-0? The answer was an emphatic yes – he won at a romp – with a strategy of building pressure on the c and d files and winning material. He is definitely on the road to rediscovering his best form.

Hammer over the finish line 5-1: victory secure.

Pandit on Board 5 was involved in one of those games where he had an edge but deft liquidation by his opponent allowed him to secure a draw. Frustrating for our man, but he still kept the scoreboard ticking over. Hammer 5.5-1.5 ahead.

Finally to the Suit, who has a window to play a lot of chess. He is currently on garden leave and hence not subject to the demands of Italian banks or financial markets. He is able to enjoy his chess without serious distractions.

Basically, he massacred his opponent – he was a rook up early on and from there on in it was simply a matter of conversion. This he duly did and delivered another point to the Hammer side.

A decent win that gives this pleasant match card, and very satisfactory table:

Hammer currently at 83% and heading into Christmas in fine fettle.

There will be tougher challenges ahead, with Harrow, Albany and Hendon encounters in January, but captain Clueless is content and ready for the dietary and alcohol excesses of the Festive Season.

Part One of the Middlesex 2 Odyssey is done and dusted – roll on Part Two.

Hammer 2 Middlesex Division getting it done. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all.

Captain Clueless.

The Action Keeps Coming

Hammer Major in London Division 5

Question: Are Hammer suffering from an Arsenal, Wenger-variation, December fall-off in form? It has been a tough month so far – particularly this last week. So, could the Major team reverse the trend?

A good result last week for the Hammer squad in Division 5, with a 2.5-1.5 win against a strong Hackney team. With a team scraped together in the last 24 hours, the Hammers rose to the occasion.

Nick playing on board 4 was out graded by 15 points but achieved equality comfortably and was never in trouble – hostilities were brought to an end fairly quickly. A point shared.

Javier, one of our newest members and making his debut in the London League, played a very controlled game demonstrating really good control in the middle-game. He forced his h-pawn through and snaffled his opponent’s bishop in exchange. He then found a really nice simplification sequence that left him a passed-pawn up, and certain victory. Unfortunately, his technique faltered and he allowed a stalemate. It was simply inexperience that robbed him of a deserved victory. He will get stronger, all the ingredients are there that will ensure he will be a great addition to to Hammer ranks. Both teams locked at one point a piece. 

Shiraz had a fascinating game where his central pawn majority was offset by a black queen-side majority. In a frantic closure of the game, both promoted a pawn with Shiraz getting the queen check in first but with only two minutes on the clock. His opponent, despite having 20-plus minutes on the clock, continued to move at lightning speed.

Shiraz held his nerve and then had to deal with an illegal move from his opponent!!

I have never seen what occurred before in a rated chess game, and it is testament to the part nerves play in chess. Shiraz checked the black king which was on b7, with his queen on d7. The Hackney player moved his c6 pawn backwards to c7 to block the check!!

Fortunately, I had finished my game and was able to intervene and resolve things – the clocks were stopped and Shiraz gained two minutes on the clock. However, Shiraz wisely took the draw in a position that could easily have gone wrong, especially with just four minutes on his clock. Teams tied at 1.5-1.5.

I had a game where I equalised very quickly then decided to probe – a bit of Speelman-think was behind my strategy – fortunately my opponent made an error with 24.Qc3 allowing me to win a piece with Bd4. Interestingly, this happened immediately altering making me a draw offer – I think he thought the position was a dead draw and switched off. A fortunate win, but I will take it. 

Here is the game:

This win takes us to joint second place with four games played. 

Captain Clueless (delighted to hand back the team to Rich).

Strikes and Gutters in London Division 4

Sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes the bear eats you. Such was the case as we succumbed to a disappointing 3-5 defeat to Streatham in London Division 4. That’s a bummer, man.

A disappointing night all round, particularly as our opponents were forced to “mark it zero” on Board 8 before we rolled. But it just felt like it was going to be one of those nights. Chances came and went, with several matches slipping away due to individual blunders. Hard to take, but it’s all part of the game.

Pavel’s was perhaps the clearest example. Rampaging into a clearly winning position early on with Black, menacing through the Kingside defence and up two pawns, before leaving his Queen en prise. It happens, but it’s still a sickener.

Matteo and Simon’s matches played out in similar fashion. Bold attacks that promised much, but the defender found enough resources to survive and suddenly the attacks fizzled into positions where we were simply material down. I felt on another day we might have won both, but that’s just, well, ya know, like, my opinion, man.

Our final faller of the evening was Kostis, who miscalculated a minor piece exchange in the middle game, leaving him 3 points down and scrambling to remain in contention. He ploughed on valiantly, but it always looked an uphill struggle.

Adam once again proved to be “The Dude” though, claiming our solitary victory of the night with another fine win on Board 4. He’s throwing rocks this year. Check out his game here. It felt comfortable watching form afar…. but…

Brian and Sheikh notched up our final tallies with each scoring solid draws. In truth, they both probably had the edge throughout their encounters. Sheikh’s match was even throughout in terms of material, but it was the Hammer man who did all the pressing. A sound defensive display ensured the point was shared. Brian grabbed a pawn advantage with a thrusting attack and held it until the endgame. His opponent’s central two-pawn charge gave him plenty to think about as the clocks ticked down.

That’s it from my lot for 2018, but we’ve got a packed agenda in January so make sure you bounce back from all those mince pies refreshed and ready for action. Looking forward to it.


The Christmas Blitz!

The Big Hammer Question This Weekend – What is the most important date in December?

Yes, the intellectual bar has been set pretty high, but for true Hammers the answer is the 17th December. Why, you may ask?

It is the last club evening of another momentous year for Hammer Chess.

The Hammer Blitz tourney starts – the Hammer equivalent of the Royal Rumble in the WWE. This is real caveman chess and a sight to behold. 

Reigning champ, Tony “The Surgeon”, plying his strong blitz trade last Summer

This is the first leg of our annual blitz tournament, with current champion Tony “The Surgeon” Niccoli defending his title against all comers. The threats are many: Wily, The Great Dane, T-Bone, Aramis…… Pickle, Clueless…. the list is endless.

The rules are simple:

  • First, you gotta be in it to win it.
  • Only the two best results from each of the three tourney’s count. In other words, if you play all three, you maximise your chances of being crowned champion.
  • It is a time handicap tourney, so if you are graded lower you may have up to 8 minutes to play the entire game, against the 2 minutes allocated to your higher-rated opponent.
  • This year, after a serious review of the scoring system, the following points will be awarded: First place: 1 point, Second place: 2 points, and so on. The overall winner of the competition will be the Hammer with the lowest score from the two tourneys that count. This will eliminate different entry numbers from the equation. 
  • I would like to think (4) was my idea, but Ben – captain of LL Hammer 4 – is the source!
  • Hopefully it will be a Swiss Tourney, depending on Adam having the software available.
  • It’s FREE for all Hammer Chess members

We will also be presenting some prizes on the night, plus major announcements on a raffle and all the activity to come in 2019.

So come and enjoy the last chess hurrah of 2018!

If you cannot make it on the 17th, then on behalf of all at Hammer I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy and Prosperous 2019.

Dispatches from the Battlefront – Middlesex Division 2 Sector

Unquestionably, in my mind, the greatest musical genius to come out of 8 Mile Detroit is one Marshall Mathers, aka Eminem – in 2002 he released the album “The Eminem Show”, his fourth studio album. One of the tracks was “Without Me” and in homage I start this report with a verse from that song with huge apologies to the great man.

“Guess who’s back, back again,
Clueless’s back, tell a friend”

Yes, Captain Clueless, former erstwhile and hapless commander of Starship Hammer 1 LL Division 3, has returned to leadership duties. He has been re-assigned to the Middlesex front and has taken control of Hammer 2 Division. Captain Pickle has taken over Hammer 3 but has handed over a superb, battle-hardened and focused squad. They not only achieved promotion last year, but won the Division, and have started with a victory in the first skirmish against the fearsome Metropolitan One.

Last night saw the second battle encounter – an away fixture at another tough nut – Albany 1. They have form – last year they inflicted only one of two defeats on the Hammer 1 LL team – they definitely know chess!!

As is traditional, each team member will be designated a nickname/codename for this season. To be honest, it is for life… The Hammer Heroes, in board order:

  1. Chris Skulte – aka “Sydney” or “Showbag
  2. Tommaso – aka “Forza
  3. Paul K – aka “Dead Eye
  4. Jeremy – aka “Brexit
  5. Sheikh – aka “Pandit
  6. John – aka “Clueless
  7. Nadhmi – aka “The Gift
  8. Izzy – new member and future star – “The Money” – why, you may ask? Basically, because he is a graduate of LSE and he is up there with Tommaso and Matteo in the sartorial elegance department. In other words, he is in the 1% of chess players who know how to dress.

Please note Clueless was a last-minute substitute for MatteoThe Suit“, as he had to call off.

To the games:

Board 1 saw Sydney taking on a tricky opponent. This player always turns up between 20 and 40 minutes late and then proceeds to confuse and outplay his opponent by moving at lightning speed. This was the fate that befell Thomas T-Bone last season and hence Clueless imparted this intel to Sydney. Did he listen – probably not. Despite having a very  heavy dose of man-flu, Sydney, after a slightly dubious opening, played a Harbour Bridge of a game – it was of the Grand Design variety. Hammer 1-0 up and here is the game for your enjoyment:

Board 2 the Forza playing white had a difficult night. His opponent kept the position closed and did not allow the open positions that our man thrives on. His opponent seized the control of the open b-file gradually and slowly built the pressure – it was tough and very methodical. Although the force is strong in Forza, there was little he could do. Albany had made it 1-1.

Board 3 now and Dead-Eye taking on a very technically correct opponent. The position ended up in a K and P ending with his opponent holding an extra pawn. Dead-Eye tried everything to prevent him from realising the advantage but ultimately had to give ground and the point as well. Hammer down 1-2.

Eyes turn as they do in these Brexit times to our own version of Brexit – our Jeremy – our Brexit is the superior version with ideas galore and a totally pragmatic approach. He does not need an attorney-general – he finds his own way. Playing an opponent graded 20-plus points higher, he took the game to his opponent. He found a way and scored a great win – he is 3-0 for the season and pushing his grade back up to where it belongs. Here is the game:

All-square at 2-2 and things were getting tense. So, using author’s license I am going to skip the encounters of Pandit and Clueless for the time being.

Board 7 saw The Gift in imperious form and a beautifully-played game – his chess is definitely maturing and developing rapidly. His was the first game to finish and out Hammer on the scoreboard. Hammer now 3-2 ahead and confidence was growing.

Middlesex debutante IzzyThe Money” was on the money in taking on a wily campaigner in the form of Steve Sonnis, a player whose 129 grade conceals a lot of chess knowledge and skill. The Money played like a seasoned veteran and was never in trouble and comfortably secured the draw. Hammer on the verge, 3.5-2.5 up.

Clueless then chipped in with a hard-fought draw, employing his usual tactic of getting his opponent out of his opening repertoire and forcing him to rely on his own resources. The game ended in a multiple minor-piece and pawn ending, with both sides going for the win. With time running out, a draw offer was made by my opponent and with less than two minutes on my clock, was quickly accepted. Hammer now at 4-3.

A half match-point guaranteed – could be the full point.

All eyes turned to Pandit, who had been on the back foot for most of the game, however a rash time-trouble move by his experienced opponent allowed him back in. In a flurry of moves and with both flags about to fall, his opponent forced a checkmate. Hammer had just missed out.

The match was drawn 4-4, a result Captain Clueless would have taken at the start of the night. A great performance from the team and yet another demonstration of the steely resolve that Hammer teams are displaying this 2018/19 season.

Clueless over and out, and roll on next Monday – I leave you with the current table:

And Finally…

Firmly in the Trevor McDonald tradition, here is a seriously entertaining game from Ryszard’s match against Kinds Head 1 in Division 1 of the Middlesex League… enjoy!

Puzzle of the Week #026

We’re back – and straight to business.

Paul “Dead Eye” Kennelly takes the plaudits for last time with the following sequence: 1. Bg4+ Kd6 2.Bxe5+ Kxe5 3. Qb2+ Kd6 4. Qh2 Kc5 5. Qc7 and mate.

An interesting game from the 2016 Baku Olympiad, Indij v Cruz.

On to this week’s offering, where White has been rather cavalier with the little guys but in return has a substantial lead in development, and the black King is not looking good! How did white decide the game to his advantage? Answers in the comments pls: