Livin’ on a Prayer

A bumper update awaits – with the latest from across the club this week, including: A mid-season update on our Sister club the Celtic Tigers, a match report from the Middlesex League against our West London rivals…. West London, and the latest round of the Hammersmith RapidPlay League!

Celtic Tigers: Half way there, and livin’ on a prayer

Celtic Tigers (Hammersmith’s partner in the national league) has just completed the third week of the national league (aka 4NCL). It currently has a team in the first and fourth divisions of the national league. To learn more about the 4NCL, have a read here.

Division 1 progress (rounds 1-6 of 11)

We entered this division as the bottom ranked team in the competition, and have since gone on to beat 3C’s, and Blackthorn Russia, both teams with an average rating >2300 (FM level), or roughly 215 ECF.

In the latest weekend rounds 5-6, we were playing the 6th and 7th ranked teams, with us only requiring 2 points to make the championship pool and qualify for Europe, where we will be playing teams filled with the top 20 players in the world! Amazing!!

To strengthen the team, we welcomed 11 year old Marc Andria Maurizzi to the fold, from Corsica. That’s right, 11 years old! With a FIDE rating of 2250 he is higher rated than world champion Magnus Carlsen at that age. Definitely one to watch. Here is his Sunday game, where he easily dispatched a 193 ECF – Murray Smith:

Unfortunately we lost the Saturday match 3.5-4.5, and drew Sunday 4-4. This meant that even though we are currently 4th, a likely loss in the final round means our destiny relies on the match between the 7th and 8th placed teams at the moment. So in division 1, we are now livin’ on a prayer! All will be decided on the 16th March, where we hope the Sharks can win or draw against the 3Cs.

Division 4 progress (rounds 1-6 of 11)

This is the newest team to the Tigers roster, allowing a nice progression point for Hammers that want to compete on the national level. This year, players like Adam, John, Charlie and Bajrush have all stepped into the ring to test their skills against the best in the 4 nations.

We are currently ranked 12th out of 38 teams, with a respectable 2 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss. To get promoted we need to win at least 4 of the remaining 5 rounds, so it’s an upwards slug ahead, but definitely possible.

Here is an analysis video from Tiger Jacques on how to create fireworks against the Petroff:

t.co/yhOSQiQ6t4

If you have any questions about playing in the 4NCL, get in touch with Chris Skulte, who manages the team. If there is enough interest, we might expand to a 3rd team next season. Kostis is already begging for this!

More will come out in the next edition of the ROAR – the official newsletter of the Celtic Tigers, available here: https://www.celtictigers.club/newsletter

Until then, keep on having fun! :o)
Chris.

13.02.19 – Middlesex Division 3: West London vs. Hammersmith

Last Wednesday, the Hammer 3rd team were in action in the Middlesex League. We hopped on bikes, buses and trains, venturing two miles West along King Street to be welcomed by the grand interior of Chiswick Town Hall. Our opponents on the night were West London, a chess club matching Hammersmith for history, but lacking the forward-thinking ideas needed for a modern club to blossom.

As a captain, it’s a big relief when everyone shows up! In this regard Hammer were flawless: the whole team were ready and raring to go at the agreed start time, despite only one of our hosts being present. With several Hammers recently becoming auto-nominated for the firsts and seconds, we had a refreshing mix of players.

  • The old guard: Robin and Ken
  • The experienced junior: Andrew
  • Four new members this season: Jonathan, Olivier, Jeremy and Liam
  • One brand new member playing her first game for the club: Soumya

As the opponents trickled in and their team sheet appeared, it was clear we’d be up against it. West London’s board 1 to 5 were all experienced 160+ players. From there, there was a substantial drop off, but five points would be enough for them to win. The room was arranged across four tables – I’ll start at the bottom.

On board 8, Ken played a long tactical game with mating threats for both sides. In time trouble, his opponent was always one tempo up, forcing Ken to concede material in an attempt to defend. In the end the pressure was too much and Ken resigned.

Liam, on board 7, was somewhat surprised to receive a blundered knight on move 3. From here it was plain sailing – his opponent refused to resign, instead heading for a hopeless ending a piece down. 1-1

Board 5 saw Jeremy looking for his first win for the club – it was not going to be easy as he was massively out-graded. With black in a queen’s pawn game, Jeremy was slightly premature in developing his light square bishop, falling victim to a typical Qb3 motif, with a double attack on d5 and b7 that was impossible to defend. His opponent made no mistake in converting.

To demonstrate the difference between the two teams, Robin’s opponent on board 6 was a full 32 grading points weaker than board 5, yet still had 24 points on Robin. Robin was not to be intimidated though. He refused to let his opponent castle, sacrificing a pawn to plant a delicious knight on c5 and later d6. A vicious attack ensued, and Robin scored a convincing win. 2-2

Jonathan’s fine run of form continues. Here he played impeccably against the opposition captain, graded 172, going a full pawn up with little in the way of compensation. Here his opponent offered a draw, and Jonathan reluctantly accepted. It was definitely the correct decision given the opponent’s strength.

Olivier was sitting next to Jonathan and ready to do battle. On move 13, he made the totally understandable decision to weaken his king to maintain a material balance. However, this ultimately proved to be his downfall. The correct decision was to sacrifice a pawn, opening up the position and activating Olivier’s bishop pair – a long term strategic plan that’s not so easy for us mere mortals to find.

So the team were 3.5-2.5 down, with just Soumya and Andrew left to face the top two West London players. The conference table they sat across was four feet wide and rather tall, meaning that neither player was afforded a bird’s eye view of their army. Both generals fought very bravely at the one dimensional board, but were ultimately slain. Soumya’s game was a strange closed Sicilian, clearly a pet line of her opponent, who knew exactly how to get the most out of it with the white pieces. I have no doubt both Soumya and Andrew will be pushing for first team selection in the near future.

Final result 5.5-2.5

Despite the loss, the league table is looking good for Hammer. Most teams still have half their games remaining, so it’s too early to start dreaming of promotion just yet.

Adam.

Hammersmith Rapid League – Round IV

The penultimate round of the 2019 Hammersmith Rapid League once again threw up some intriguing fixtures – a top of the table clash, a pride of hungry lions hoping to find a nice meal in Hackney, and a tasty local derby.

Would the destiny of this year’s title be settled and would matters carry on to the final week? Read on and find out…

Hackney vs. The Lions

I think the Lions have been the unluckiest of the teams in this year’s league. They have played consistently good chess and have been unlucky not to have points on the board. That theme continued tonight.

Despite drawing the first rubber 2-2, the greater experience of the Hackney crew meant there was no tasty meal.

I must mention Tianyou Xu here – a great performance on taking down the wily Hackney captain Brian, 2-0.

A great result from Hackney, 5-3:

Football Radar vs. Tony’s Tigers

This was a top of the table clash that was meant to settle the destiny of the title At moments it looked like there would be a decisive result.

Alistair and Nadhmi swapped points on top board, and the same for Daniel and James on board 2.

Taymour has been in great form recently but he met his nemesis in the form of Radar’s Michael – an excellent 2-0 win for the Radar man.

Laith – the other third of the Auchi nation, and devoted Tiger, nailed it. A great 2-0 win made sure that the match was drawn and the title would not be decided until the final week.

Hammersmith vs. Battersea

“So, we meet again Mr Battersea” (a touch of Ian Fleming to spice things up) – yes, the latest derby match between these erstwhile frenemies took place on the evening. There have been so many clashes with out noisy neighbours this season, and it pains me to say that Battersea have definitely been holding the upper hand. Could Hammer reverse that trend in the Rapid League match up??

For a while matters looked promising – 2 points a piece after the first round with all to play for, but that solid iron man, Darius, scored a 2-0 win against Hammer hero and captain Kostis. The other matches were halved and allowed Battersea to shade it with a 5-3 win.

Hats off to Battersea – after their first-round defeat to the Radar team they have come back strong and are still in the mix for the title.

For Hammer, the league has been a story of so close, but so far – but shall be back!!

So with four of the five rounds complete, this is how the land lies:

The destiny of the title lies in the hands of the Crazy Gang – if they beat Hackney then nobody can catch them. However, if they slip up, either Battersea or the Tigers could sneak through and pinch the title.

things are coming nicely to the boil with three teams in for the title and all to play for.

The final round lineup reads like this:

  • Football Radar vs. Hackney
  • Battersea vs. Tony’s Tigers
  • Hammersmith vs. Tony’s Lions

The “Winter Break” now kicks in, and the final round will be played on the 2nd April – till then folks, live long and prosper.

John.

The Hammer of Love

Hammersmith’s 2017 Reporter of the Year, and Thames Valley captain, Robin Lee, takes us through last week’s away trip to the outer-reaches of West London, followed by the latest dispatches from the Middlesex 2 battle front, courtesy of 2018’s Reporter of the Year, John White. All rounded off with some details of this year’s Czech Open. Do read on…

11.02.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Maidenhead vs. Hammersmith

First to finish was Javi on board 5, his French Defence taking the point, so score 1-1 and balancing our default: we were short one player. Javi has definitely improved his openings in the last month.

This was quickly followed by Kostis on board 4, with a dogged anti-Sicilian leading to a stranglehold on the black king. This Kostis exploited, and soon enough came the win with blitz style finish, and score 2-1.

Your captain on board 3 with the black pieces meanwhile, dug in, facing an unknown 1.e4 2.Bc4, that my opponent thought was called the Bishop’s opening. It just didn’t compute. I tried to make it a Scotch Game, maybe equalising. After some to and fro, black attacked the white king with a diamond cutting tool, two bishops scything down on an ill-protected king.

White dipped his king, in view of the inevitable rook and queen coming to deliver checkmate. Score now level-pegging at 2-2.

I turned to watch board 1 and saw John White a queen up. It was fascinating, watching our top board with a queen, rook and minor tackling two minors and rook. A very comfortable situation, as John encroached on the opposing king, having only to diffuse the danger of two advanced, linked pawns in the centre. Yes, the win was inevitable, score 3-2. I thought I saw a smiling Cheshire cat, sitting on the window sill in the room.

John’s game is given below, with additional commentary beneath:

10. 0-0, 0-0 – Atrociously played opening – was trying to tempt an early e5 and retreat my knight back to g8, to get him totally out of his book – he didn’t bite.
19. f4, exf4 – White throws away advantage, I gain the upper hand, the new reality, to which he doesn’t adjust, common to chess players of all strengths.
24. Be2, Ng6 – I make space for my Queen on g3 and also float another piece towards his king.
27. Rg1, Re5 – partly psychological – gains a huge error but his time trouble makes me opt for this move, followed by 28…Nxh3
37. Re1 Qf3+ – the rest is mopping up and simplification

Meanwhile on board 2 John Goodacre was coincidentally battling a junior in blitz style, with knight, king and pawns versus knight and king. In contrast to John’s sedately played game, it was all fire and smoke on the other board. I thought I heard a groan, as the junior came to the last minutes on his clock, with John G almost an hour up. Possible he just signed or made the wrong move on a theoretically drawn position. Unlucky. So it ended 4-2.

John G later commented, “these teenagers… are a bit sharp. I am usually better tactically than positionally, so their strength is the same as mine. I was rusty… but he was under a lot of pressure, and he could calculate.”

Definitely things to ponder there, thankfully we had a win.

Maidenhead was a long schlep getting there, but we were flying back on empty roads. The Albion beckoned us as we reached terra firma, the whole Hammer crew – Adam, Chris and Carsten – and Monsieur Cornette welcomed us back. Charlie, Wyatt and David were doubtless celebrating over in Holborn; they knew our win thanks to WhatsApp. Yeah, we were a tight crew, bonded by our chess camaraderie. What’s not to like?

I think this was fortune smiling on us this time, possibly only a small uptick in our seasons’s poor performance. Who can say?

14.02.19 – Middlesex Division 2: Metropolitan vs. Hammersmith

A Valentine’s Tale of Extreme Valour

Believe it or not there are times when even Captain Clueless is lost for words. This is one of those times, but then it would make for a very tedious report regarding the heroic rearguard action fought by the Hammer crew this Valentine’s day past. This was epic stuff, against all odds and a firm reminder of the enduring spirit of Hammer Chess Club. Hence, this report is full of hyperbole and slight exaggeration. Definitely not fake news, but shall we say slightly embellished.

First of all, this skirmish was fought on the day of love – a touch choice for anyone – the love of your God (Caissa) or the love of your beloved (Valentine). Surely they are one and the same and nobody should ever have to choose. I leave you to reflect on that.

Non-playing captain Clueless had to make an early exist – I am afraid the love for Karen or possibly the potential ire of Karen, made my decision inevitable. Dave and Adam stepped into the breach.

The Hammer heroes in Board order 1-6: Marios (Zeus), Paul K (Dead-Eye), Jeremy (Brexit), Matteo (The Suit), Nadhmi (The Gift) and Adam (Pickle).

On boards 7 and 8 we had one new Hammer, and one veteran Hammer.

Navarone (“Nav”) was making his league debit and hence in time-honoured tradition a nickname is designated – he will be known as “VR” – in tribute to that most brilliant batsman Vivian Richards (a true sporting hero of mine).

Board 8 saw Dave Lambert making his debut fora  team I captained. My memory may be failing (definitely) but I think this is the first time it has happened in 4 plus years. All I can say is – he is one of Hammer’s finest and will now be known as “Toffee” – in honour of his beloved Everton and his resilience at the chess board.

Things did not start well – VR got deleted and had to default. Toffee moved up to board 7. Zeus and the Suit were delayed by work and the vagaries of the District Line, and arrived 30 plus minutes late. Add in the fact that the Metropolitan Chess Club is harder to find than any integrity in Donald Trump, made it a stressful time for Clueless. The clocks were ticking, Clueless’s BP was going North, and Karen was waiting… Valentine was not happy.

All I can say is the team performed heroically to a man.

I was still in the building when Toffee agreed a draw, Zeus and the Suit had yet to arrive. This was totally solid stuff from Toffee – playing the white side of a Sicilian Dragon, he was never in danger and was an exchange up but with vulnerable pawns. A draw was a wise decision. Hammer 0.5-1.5 in arrears.

With Zeus and the Suit in situ, Clueless made his exit – worried, anxious and apprehensive – we were out-graded on average by approximately 10 points a board and we were 30 minutes plus down in two games on the clock. These were dark times.

There was a news blackout in the Clueless bunker, and then suddenly via the wonders of that modern-day carrier pigeon, WhatsApp, at 9.16pm Captain Toffee reported a famous victory. Hammer had seized the day and had won by 4.5-3.5!!!

This was just sensational stuff.

Wins from Zeus, Dead-Eye and Brexit – the Hammer vets leading the way. With solid draws from the Gift and Pickle – added to Toffee’s earlier draw, saw Hammer nose it.

I have asked for some PGN’s but so far only Zeus – as a good God should – has delivered. He was as usual completely scathing of his effort with such comments as “I blundered three pawns for no real compensation…”. Personally, I think it was a Petrosian-like masterpiece – here is the final position with our man/God as white:

The one thing that can be said is this result has done us no harm in our quest to retain Division 2 status – a testimony to the spirit of the team and their true fighting nature.

Clueless salutes you.

Here are the match card and latest table for your delight:

Czech It Out

Yes, we went there. Anyway, the 19th International Chess Festival Series – Czech Tour 2019/2020 and the International Czech Open, have both recently been announced – what could be better than some Summer chess in the heart of Europe?

Dates and locations are as follows:

  • 16th March 2019 – Prague International Chess Festival
  • 28th July – Czech Open, in Pardubice
  • 9th August – Summer Prague Open, in… Prague
  • 17th August – Olomouc Chess Summer
  • 15th September – Sunny beach Open, in Bulgaria

Terrific tournaments, with sections for all levels of players, inc. the amateur patzers, so if you fancied combining your Summer hols with some Chess, here’s how you do it:

http://www.czechtour.net/news/

http://www.czechopen.net/en/news/

 

Solid as a Hammer

The combined might of Hammer has been experiencing something of a collective Purple Patch this last couple of weeks. Read on to find out about some more cracking results:

  • London 2 vs. Kings Head
  • London 4 vs. UCL
  • Week 3 of the Hammersmith Rapid League
06.02.10 – London League 2: King’s Head vs. Hammersmith

Although on paper this match might have seemed straightforward – our opponents had already lost seven of their eight matches this season – as a former King’s Head man myself, I know that you dare to underestimate such a strong and renowned club at your peril.

And as I suspected, they turned up with a much strengthened team in a late bid to avoid the drop. When one sees experienced, formerly 200+, players such as Connor O’Shaughnessy and Rik Thomas on the middle boards, you know you are in for a bare knuckle fight.

Before the match, the Hammertime WhatsApp banter made jovial reference to the need for a demonstration of the Spartan “come and take it” attitude. And thus it transpired…

I think I may have inadvertently created a monster. Chris seems to have taken a distinct liking to top board, and is clearly in no hurry to vacate the hot seat. Another neat Sicilian miniature followed, presented below for your enjoyment with Chris’s lucid notes.

13.f5 was a mistake – I was impatient and wanted to open up the centre. I felt I would have pressure for the pawn [Jim: Seems natural and fine to me]
[Jim – 17.Bf4? this allows…Be7, and…0-0! better 17.bg5 when the plausible 17…Bd6?? allows 18.Rxf7! Kxf7, 19.Rf1+ mating shortly]
17…Qd4? was a big mistake, allowing me to activate a number of pieces and point everything at his King.
By move 20 he had only 2 minutes for 10 moves, so I was looking for 2-3 move tactics that would make him pause and rethink. Playing 21.d4 I saw that the natural 23…Rc8? fails to a neat tactic. (Try and find it!).
When you are a little worse, or down a pawn, always keep pressure and initiative, and you will have a good chance to fight back into it.
[Jim – a nice game. 25.Bf6! is even more sadistic]

On board 2, Thomas was engaged in a fierce time scramble, where his extra pawn was compensated by his strong opponent’s initiative and clock advantage. Draw agreed.

Engrossed in my own game, I did not get to follow much of the play on boards 3 to 5. Bajrush, so often our match winner this season, went down, while Sylvain and Marios recorded solid draws.

The match was getting more tense with each passing minute. On six against my Richmond Juniors colleague Rik Thomas, I ventured a couple of risky moves in my favourite Grünfeld and twice briefly stood very badly. A difficult endgame finally tilted in my favour as the clock ran down. A satisfying win, and important in edging us ahead again. Check out the gory details below.

11…Qh5?! is dubious, the natural 11…Qa5 gives near equality but is to lifeless for such a critical match.
15.Qxh5? a lucky escape. The sneaky 15.Qe1! Threatening Bd1 and eyeing the loose Na5 sets black near insurmountable problems.
19…e5! This is way too sharp. 20.Nf6+ Kg7, 21.Nd7! Rxd7, 22.Rxd7 Be6, though tricky, clearly favours white.
30.Nh3? Time pressure takes its toll, the N is strong and secure on g5. Later 33.Ng5! holds while 33.Kf3 and 34.Ke4 though natural, loses. Rik has long been a strong player. I was satisfied with my endgame play.

A short draw by Pavel on board 9, and a heroic, but ultimately unsuccessful rearguard action from Kostis on ten, left the match tied at 4-4 going into the final moments.

Jeremy, on board 8, kept a firm grip on his earlier advantage, steering a well played game to victory in the endgame.

So, all eyes on Paul on board 7. A fluctuating struggle seemed to be won for us, and Paul also had a vital extra minute on his clock. Alas, his opponent’s dogged resistance began to eat away at Paul’s time advantage. A Hammer loss on time seemed inevitable, until his opponent, with 12 seconds left versus 5 seconds, albeit in a hopeless position, offered a draw. Thankfully Paul had the presence of mind to accept, sparing his team mates a collective coronary. We’ve all been in such tense positions and know how logic often falls by the wayside.

So as the dust settled, Hammer had won the match 5.5-4.5. Perhaps a little fortunate, but undoubtedly a critical point in our season. We now need to make the most of this reprieve in the crucial upcoming matches.

Many thanks to everyone for a tremendous effort. Particularly Jeremy and Kostis for stepping in at the last minute and performing so admirably.

Jim.

The current standings in Division 2:

11.02.19 – London League 4:UCL vs. Hammersmith

Ancestral Voices Prophesying Waraka a trip to UCL

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-burning tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

With echoes of Coleridge chiming in our ears, we faced University College London in their home citadel. That all-too-familiar bastion of higher education – the Rugby Tavern pub close to Holborn.

The room smelling of un-tempered bellicose spirit, mild dread, and salt & vinegar crisps. Here, the Mongol spirit of fallen heroes would be summoned to contest our learned foes on equal footing.

We stared blankly into the abyss of a 30 ECF point deficit per board.

It was time.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and Hammer were not to be outdone, fighting bravely to hold our rivals to a 4-4 DRAW. The Great Khan would have been proud.

This wasn’t a night for weak, apologetic chess, with all 8 matches proving decisive one way or the other.

The triumphant Cherbi were Charlie, Dave, Wyatt and Nick, each taking down their higher-rated opponents. But surely there was no better performance than Wyatt. Drafted into the fray only hours before battle, he ably took down his man in double quick time, ushering a humble thumbs-up as he emerged from the board.

Nick took advantage of his opponent’s ‘casual’ approach to time management, ramping up the pressure as his time slowly ticked away. Oblivious as his flag fell, it was a small matter for the Hammer man who continues his fine form since the Summer.

Proving it’s not only UCL boys who can leverage the benefits of academic advancement, Charlie’s been doing some studing of his own, veritably imbibing the sweet liquor of Nimzowitsch’s masterwork, My System. It paid dividends as he entered a seemingly even endgame, but our friend zugzwang was to scream into view, ensuring Charlie commanded the centre, and thus the game. Beautiful takedown.

Your captain benefitted from an overly aggressive pawn push in the opening which allowed an e4-e5 counterthrust. With the Rook now under attack, material loss was inevitable, an advantage that persisted into the endgame. The game is presented here.

Our fallen heroes numbered 4 – Tommaso, Matteo, Brian and Paul. Their bodies burned away on a pyre of leaden ash, their souls ready to return to fight another day. Tommaso reached an endgame with Bishop and pawn vs. Rook and pawn. Tricky to defend, but even more so when you have 15 seconds left, and you’re facing down a 200 ECF. It wasn’t to be – the extra seconds may have counted as the post-match analysis suggested a draw may have been lurking in the mire.

Matteo and Paul had nights I suspect they’d rather forget. Paul confessed to never having gotten going, stumbling into unfamiliar territory against the London System, and Matteo was left to rue what could have been after reaching a promising +1.0 position against his much higher graded opponent.

I’ll leave you with Brian and his most unfortunate loss. Again, time played a crucial role here – the material advantage was there, but it’s hard to close out when time is short. Brian has also kindly annotated the game with some of his post-match thoughts.

We ride again on Tuesday 19th against Greater London. More of the same please…!!

Dave.

The Division 4 table:

Hammersmith Rapid League – Round III

Another cracking night of chess action – with Battersea manoeuvring themselves into contention, The Crazy Gang remaining undefeated, and Hammersmith finally getting off the mark.

Yes, the midway point of the 2019 Hammersmith Rapid League is starting to take shape, as we approach the business end of the tournament.

Hackney vs Battersea

After a first-round hiccup the Frenemies are back with a vengeance. With a winning score line of 7-1, with no draws against Hackney. Tremendous performance from the team – here is the scorecard:

Great credit to captain Gregg – the team are now serious contenders.

Football Radar vs Tony’s Lions

In some ways the Lions have not had the rub of the green in this tournament, and that trend continued against the 100% Radars.

The match card does not tell the full story and the win could have gone either way – this was edge of your seat stuff – or is it that these kids are just damn good?

This was a close encounter but plaudits to the Radar lads who kept focused and keep on winning.

Hammersmith vs. Tony’s Tigers

Both teams had much to gain from victory here – Hammersmith to get on the scoreboard, and the Tigers to maintain their 100% records. Something had to give – who would blink first?

Hammer Captain Kostis shuffled the pack and gave season debuts to Ben and Jakub. The Tigers were men down with no Nadhmi and Connall available they had to call up the reserves.

A tight match was the outcome but some highlights – Ben despite being a piece down in one game still won. Nick Rutherford went 2-0 and Taymour with outs.

So, at the midway point the cross table and league table are given below. Round 4 was up this Tuesday, with many things on the line – watch out for that report soon!

Will Football Radar be halted in their tracks? Can Battersea maintain their form and push for the title? Have the Tigers peaked too soon, and will the Lions get a break? Will Hackney find their mojo? Is the Hammer revival or real?

All these questions and more will be revealed after Round 4 -stay tuned!

The Best of Frenemies

05.02.19 – London League 4: Battersea vs. Hammersmith

The sixth round of action within London Division 4 pitted Hammer 2 against old frenemies Battersea. You know the drill: call them out on Twitter for anything, but still enjoy supping their cheap beer.

Well it wasn’t to be this time. After a fiercely contested battle, we were edged out in a 3-5 DEFEAT. Still, take a look at those grading differences! Full credit to the team who fought against a grading deficit on every single board.

The heroes of the evening were Andy, John and Matteo, each bringing home the full point.

Andy with the black pieces, wrestled down 137-rated Derek Harvey, making light of the near 50 point grading gap. Holding his own throughout, he was well-positioned to take advantage of some ill-considered moves by his opponent to steal the win. As is his custom, he was one of the first to finish. His quick-fire victory is presented here:

John triumphed over Vic Ramsey on Board 2 using a very clever tactical combination. Sacrificing material, he willingly gave up his Queen for a Rook and minor piece, but his dark-squared Bishop was beautifully placed, and dominated his opponent’s chances of withstanding further losses. Watch the magic unfold here:

Matteo, who for a long time was a knight down for two pawns, managed to advance his connected c-d pawns menacingly enough that his opponent sac’d the piece back to get rid of them. Our man then won another pawn with his opponent in time trouble, expertly shepherding his rook’s pawn home with his king and rook, whilst guarding against relentless rook checks.

Ken deserves an honourable mention for producing a devastating attack against his opponent graded over 40 points higher, but the game was always very double-edged and needed lots of thought. Ken was always behind on the clock, and despite having doubled rooks and Queen bearing down on his opponent’s King-side positions, the opponent managed enough threats with Queen and minor pieces on Ken’s King to create real difficulties in wrapping up by move 36. Unfortunately, Ken lost on time with both clocks hovering close to the edge.

Nadhmi held his own against an opponent whose January grade is 172, keeping his k-side pawns moving despite the opponent’s q-side pawn majority, which eventually proved decisive, when Nadhmi had to sac a piece to avoid a pawn queening.

Alas, the subtleties of the other games were lost in the usual melee of trying to concentrate on your own game!

Huge thanks to Brian for captaining on the evening. He also provided much of the match report you’re reading here. Much appreciated!

We go again on Monday against University College London. Another tough match in store!

Cheers,
Dave.

The Hammersmith League 2019 – Round II

Round II happened at Mother Anvil this past Tuesday. There were big questions in the air.

Could Hammer get back on track against the Crazy Gang??
Could the Lions overcome our frenemies at Battersea??
Would the Tigers have their wings clipped by the Hackney Posse??
The answers would be forthcoming…

In contrast to Round I, the second round provided two decisive results and one heroic comeback. The chess was bloodthirsty with only one draw in the evening, out of 24 games.

To the matches then.

Tigers vs Hackney

This was an odd match because the Tigers waked it 8-0 with default win being the real hero. Hackney were a no-show due to a variety of factors, but the rules are the rules. The Tigers win 8-0, the game card is predictable.

Final Score: Tigers 8 – 0 Hackney

Hammersmith vs Football Radar

The Hammer boys ran into a determined and dogged Football Radar Team. After drawing the first round 2-2, things looked hopeful for the Hammer crew. Unfortunately, the Radar gang had very different ideas. A painful 4-0 sweep occurred giving a 6-2 win to the Football Radar.

Excellent performances from Adam and Michael who went 2-0 against Jonathan and Wyatt. Kostis and Nick rescued the only wins for Hammer.

A stellar performance from the Crazy Gang.

Final Score: Hammersmith 2 – 6 Football Radar

Tony’s Lions vs Battersea

Both these teams needed a win – that was clear. Who would triumph??

Battersea had to default Board 2, which made their task even harder. The first round ended in a Lion’s win by 2.5-1.5, with a great win from Connall and a fighting draw from Raman seeing them through. However, in a great fightback Battersea won all three active games in the second round to sneak a tight win 4.5-3.5.

A tremendous fightback and great credit goes to skipper Gregg, who went 2-1 and kept his teammates focused.

Final Score: Lions 3.5 – 4.5 Battersea

So after Round II the cross table looks like this:

And the standard league table looks like this:

Roll on Round III, on January 29th!

A Theresa May of a Fortnight

Read on for a January update from the Middlesex Division 2 team, followed by a super writeup on our top team in London Division 2, with bonus games to play through – very worth your while.

We also have the February pairings for our Rapidplay competition, and a few friendly reminders of some upcoming events!

A Theresa May of a Fortnight on the Middlesex 2 Battlefront

Yes, hostilities resumed for Hammer 2 on the Middlesex battlefront with the first three skirmishes of 2019. The question was, could Hammer carry on the excellent start – 2.5/3 – and not only cement our position in Division 2, but actually entertain thoughts of promotion to the top flight.

From the headline to this report I think you can conclude that things did not go as well as hoped. I ask you to read on with some trepidation…

The Hammer opponents for the month were:

  • 14th January – Albany 1 at The Anvil
  • 17th January – Harrow 1 at Harrow
  • 28th January – Hendon 4 at The Anvil

Hammer 2 were full of post-festive cheer, and were ready for the Albany challenge. The team consisted of, in Board order: Paul KDead-Eye“, JeremyBrexit“, SheikhPandit“, Clueless, BrianThe Hat“, CharlieSorted“, SimonBond” and IzzyThe Money“.

Suffice to say we were out-graded on average by 21 points a board, and the memory of the fighting draw we achieved away in November was a distant one. Here is the match card:

The hero of the evening was Dead-Eye, who won an excellent game against a very tricky opponent. here is the game and thoughts at various critical stages. I would say it is worth comparing with the Chris Skulte game from the away fixture in November. Both are excellent examples of attacking chess.

1. d4 d5 2. Nf3 Nf6 3. e3 Bf5 4. Be2 e6 5. O-O Nbd7 6. c4 Be7 7. Nc3 c6 8. c5 generally when this is played against me I attack it immediately with b6 and a5.but it never seems to come out right, so tonight I left it.
h6 To tuck the B if necessary.

9. b4 Qc7 10. Bb2 O-O 11. Rc1 Bh7 12. Qa4 e5 13. Rfd1 e4 14. Nd2 Rfe8 I wanted to get my N on d7 into the game. Also Nf8 is one of those moves that always make me feel comfortable. Larsen said you will never be mated with a N on f8. That’s good enough for me.

15. b5 Nf8 16. Nb3 Bf5 I like this move, my B was doing nothing on h7 so I got it to a more active diagonal.

17. h3 Bd7 18. Qb4 N6h7 19. Nd2 f5 20. a4 Bd8 21. Qb3 Nf6 22. Ra1 f4 23. exf4 Qxf4 24. Nf1 Ng6 25. Ne3 up till now the engine says the game is equal but with this move it gives Black a plus. Bc1 is much better for White. Qg5 26. Kh1 Qf4 The engine says Bc7 is best but I was worried my Q was in danger of running out of space also it is attacking f2 so he must react. 27. Kg1 Bc7 Now I am almost +2.  28. g3 Qg5 29. Bc1 Bxg3

Now White can resign. 30. fxg3 Qxg3+ 31. Ng2 Bxh3 32. Bf1 Ng4 *white gave up.

Pandit and The Money came in with fighting draws to account for the other point. The latter fighting back from a piece down.

For the other Hammers it was a grim night with my own game being particularly grisly.

A tough 6-2 loss at home was a reality check.

In the same week we travelled up to Harrow – a real schlep but I am proud once again as Hammer fielded a full team. Serious kudos to the team members.

The line-up was as follows: ChrisSydney“, MariosZeus“, Paul KDeadEye“, JohnClueless“, BrianThe Hat“, CharlieSorted“, AdamPickle” and debutante Jon.

In time honoured tradition, I designate the nickname “G&T” to Jonathan. Not all of you know, but he was the winner of the bottle of Dutch Gin when our friends from Espion visited us last June.

Again, out-graded and playing in a chilly hall, my advice to all Hammers is to wear warm clothes if playing there at the height of Winter, plus bring along a thermos flask of coffee.

Harrow are an excellent chess club, but I plead that you address the temperature and refreshment issue!!

Having got that off my chest, I have to say that was no excuse for what occurred. This was a definite case of a double-hangover week – one of those weeks that are best forgotten.

The final score was 6.5-1.5, with the top three boards securing draws whilst the rest of us went down in flames – despite all  boards fighting to the bitter end.

The third battle of the front saw us take on Hendon 4 at The Anvil. A moral-raising victory was never more needed. Captain Clueless went for experience and called in the heavy troops.

In Board order, the lineup: ChrisSydney“, MariosZeus“, JimEl Loco“, YasserTellit“, PaulDead-Eye“, JeremyBrexit“, NadhmiThe Gift“, and CharlieSorted“.

As non-playing captain I should have been able to give an excellent insight to the games, unfortunately I was involved in a life and death struggle with Bajrush in the club internal rapid tourney!

However, from what I saw, Sydney had a brilliant win against a very talented opponent – I think GM Simon Williams comment when he beat Magnus aged 10 – best meet them early in their chess career – is applicable here. His opponent has an immense amount of talent.

Zeus is recovering his best form – a really nice win against a very tricky opponent, putting Hammer at 2-0.

Jim and Yasser had solid draws with neither in trouble at any time. Hammer cruising at 3-1.

Dead-Eye with excellent play and ignoring certain comments from his opponent, secured victory number three with his usual accuracy. This pushed Hammer to 4-1.

Victory was secured by “The Gift” – playing an awkward opponent who would not resign, despite facing a lone K vs. a K and R scenario. Signs here of his growing maturity and mental toughness. He is true Hammer granite. Hammer at 5-1.

Lastly to Brexit and Sorted. They both had tough losses and both fought all the way but, alas, on the night their opponents held firm.

So, a 5-3 Hammer win, but this is subject to a steward’s inquiry – this is due to the nominated players issue in the Middlesex Leagues – so this card may change. I will keep you updated.

The current table looks like this:

So, a true Brexit-May rollercoaster ride of a month on the Middlesex front and matters yet to settle, like real political life. This Captain stated in his goals that securing Division 2 status was the first objective, and I believe we will achieve this. However it will require commitment from the whole squad.

Captain Clueless – over & out.

30.01.19 – London League 2: Hammersmith vs. Ilford

Our London League fixtures are coming thick & fast, this being the third in a series of six during a busy January and February period.

Our opponents Ilford, at one time a major London club, have had their problems this season, including defaulting an entire match. With a large grading advantage on almost every board we were solid favourites, and in the end the match panned out much as expected.

The fabled ‘Yellow Jersey’ of Hammer board 1 has seen quite a few owners this season. Carsten, Thomas and Bajrush have all defended Hammer’s honour with great distinction.

Tonight the job rested on the shoulders of one of our more promising young players ;o), Sydney Showbag himself – Chris. As the game below demonstrated, he was keen to put down a marker with a neat win in under 20 moves. A couple of instructive tactical points, with mate in 4 at the end should black recapture… gxf6. The jersey is now his to lose, as they say!

On board two, our Great Dane Carsten ran into some sharp opening preparation and went down in flames. It happens to even the best of us occasionally. Of course, Carsten’s role extends well beyond being just a top board stalwart, and following last week’s pleasant after match trip to the Princess Louise, this evening he introduced us to the excellent Holborn Whippet pub in the appropriately named nearby Sicilian Avenue.

On three, Thomas provided yet another example of his powerful controlled aggressive style, wrapping up the point nicely after the time control.

On board four, even Bajrush’s tremendously wily ingenuity and fighting spirit could not break down Ilford’s most solid player. A draw with bare King’s eventually resulted.

Sylvain displayed his customary precise play to win a very smooth game with the popular closed Italian Game on five.

On board six, Marios continued his recent welcome return to form with a well played King’s Indian, totally outplaying an opponent seemingly aiming for a draw from move 1.

My own game on seven was straightforward. Marios had played my opponent in Monday’s ill-fated Middlesex League Match vs. Hendon, and in two minutes flat he showed my how badly his opponent had played a Bird’s Opening as white. So when my opponent uncorked a Leningrad Dutch as black, I just followed Marios’s recipe. See for yourself below. 1.Nf3! rather than my usual 1.e4 hackery was intended as modest tribute to the retiring former World Champion, Kramnik.

Paul on eight recovered from the sight of his opponent playing Bf1-b4!! in the early opening, imposing an iron clamp on his opponent and rounding off with a display of crisp endgame technique.

Pavel on nine started with an aggressive English Attack against the Sicilian. His opponent defended well and reached a better endgame which Pavel was unable to save, despite valiant efforts.

Charlie, who has recently become such a key member of the team, showed his customary great tenacity and fighting spirit battling back from an awkward position as black in a French. His determined attitude to get a vital point for the team, turning down a draw when a pawn down in the endgame, was admirable. Nice work mate!

So it ended 7.5-2.5 to the good guys. There seemed to be a slightly strained atmosphere from our opponents for whatever reason, but the important thing is that we got the job done without fuss. The battle for promotion looks like going right down to the wire.

Jim

Rapidplay – February Pairings

January’s pairings in the Rapidplay are now all complete – full results card below. Some big upsets here, with Wyatt, Taymour, and Yingqi all beating higher graded opponents, and John scoring an impressive draw against top seed Bajrush.

Unfortunately in this round we had to award two walkovers and one double default because players did not arrange their games.

Please arrange your games in the first week of the month & enter details into the fixtures spreadsheet!

Tony is now the only player left on 100%, and he’s got the black pieces against last year’s winner, Bajrush, in a game that could prove to be crucial for the final standings.

Here are the full Round 4 fixtures – games to be completed by Thursday 28th February! Good luck.

And Finally… Some Friendly February Reminders!
  • Raffle – don’t forget to sign up for the fundraising, prize giveaway that is the Hammer/Celtic Tigers raffle! There are still tickets available, and the chances of winning a prize are ridiculously high. Read the full post here!

Contact Chris Skulte to make your purchase, before it gets opened out to the wider chess community: chrisskulte@gmail.com

  • Poland Trip – our Summer excursion this year is to beautiful Wroclaw, in Poland! We’ll be lining up against the famous Wroclaw Chess Club, and enjoying the cultured surroundings of a stunning, medieval city in central Europe.

Friends & partners are also welcome to join. If you’d like to take part please contact John White for further information: john.white49@ntlworld.com

  • GM nights – We have not one, but TWO Grandmasters visiting the Anvil in the coming months, to spread the good word, and impart some of their lifetime of knowledge and stories to the Hammer faithful.

First up is 2016 French Champion, GM Matthieu Cornette on Monday 11th February. Please contact John to reserve your spot: john.white49@ntlworld.com

  • Member Profiles – you might have noticed a new page on the top menu. We now have a selection of Member Profiles featured, as part of our drive to widen our recruitment! If you’d like to be included, drop us a line: updates@hammerchess.co.uk

When Will I, Will I Be Famous?

We can answer that!

Yes, in some very exciting news Hammersmith Chess Club has been contacted by a production company who are working with Channel 5 in the UK, and are seeking some willing participants to take part in filming for a documentary focused on bridging the generational divide.

Interested? Then read on…

The show will be a 4-part series, involving a senior citizen being paired with an 18-22 year old over the course of a few days, to see what they can learn from each other, and understand a bit more about each other’s lives.

Filming commences at the end of February, and the production company are looking for active participants, over the age of 65, with a story to tell, and a willingness to participate with today’s youth!

Having spoken to the producers, we’re offering it out to the Hammer faithful – what an opportunity to promote the club, and spend an enjoyable few days making television! It will be London-based, you’ll be well looked after, and you’ll get on TV!

If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, or you know someone who would be interested, please drop us a line – updates@hammerchess.co.uk – and we’ll put you in touch with the producers.