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: