A Blue Monday

First up, a couple of reminders for you – Monday 18th (tomorrow!) marks the first of our FREE beginner lessons at the club, starting at 6pm.

ECF registered trainer and Hammer legend, Tony Niccoli, will be hosting the session. It is 100% totally FREE, generously supported by the Chelsea FC Foundation, and is aimed at beginners and those returning to the game.

Anybody and everybody is welcome, so if you fancy a bit of top-level instruction on the wonderful game, just come on down. We are ridiculously excited about this initiative, and would love the local community to get involved – please spread the word!

Following that session, we then have TWO home matches in the Thames Valley league starting at 7.30pm, so we are asking anybody who would like to continue playing casual chess to kindly decamp to our ‘overflow facilities’ at the The Albion public house, on Hammersmith Road. We’ll have some boards setup there to cater for you.

If you do want to stick around at Lytton we will need to enforce a strict total silence policy throughout the duration of the matches, please.

Come next season, we’ll be running all home matches on Tuesday nights so our Monday’s will be free for casual chess & events, however we need to accommodate some home games on Monday for the remainder of this season, so we appreciate your help in making Lytton a great environment to play tomorrow night.

Thanks for your support!

11.03.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Kingston vs. Hammersmith

The night the match might well have gone south, the Battle of Castagnaro March 11th 1387, was weighing heavily on my mind as I journeyed to the storied township of Kingston and a 14th Century pub. Read on…

The Battle of Castagnaro, 1378

That, and the troubling news in parliament, nothing was very propitious… But chess players are made of sterner stuff and must endure, right?

First to finish was our esteemed John White on board 3, whose opponent got up quickly, shook hands with John and left the room. John White smiled ruefully and mouthed a (grand master) draw.

10 minutes later Olivier Vigneron on board 5 finished, his opponent with the white pieces got a piece doubly pinned to the white king, and that piece was trapped. She resigned. First blood to Olivier, congratulations! Score 0.5-1.5

Meanwhile Eddie on board 6 had reached a commanding position, with an impressive 5 man pawn chain, and the ending was coming soon enough with the win! 0.5-2.5

Brian Dodgeon had reached a somewhat drawish looking position, but was a pawn up. With great precision, he converted this to a nice win! Well done! We’re lucky to have Brian; he is very much in demand to play on Hammersmith teams. 0.5-3.5

Brian’s game is presented here:

I was looking at some analysis with Brian, and missed what was happening on board 2. Nadhmi Auchi, with the white pieces, had a fine middle-game with lots of play, or so I thought, and his opponent’s king in contrast looked vulnerable to back row shenanigans (critical double-edged tactics). Apparently under clock pressure, and I missed all this, there was a sudden denouement, when after a series of swaps, a surprising counter tactic emerged, a piece was taken that meant Nadhmi was material down… and he resigned. Bad luck! 1.5-3.5

A couple of minutes later, seeing the match was already won, Paul Kennelly and Ivan Gorgiev stopped play, with adjudication requested. Overnight, Ivan was to email his resignation. Paul’s three connected pawns and two rooks looked to be winning against 2 pawns and 2 rooks.

A match in two halves, top boards halved 1.5-1.5, as is customary; lower boards carried the day with 3 wins! Now our 3rd win in a row, we are looking good and have probably staved off relegation.

Robin.

East Devon 44th Congress – or my chess rebirth after 44 years

Christof B., new Hammer member, gives an account of his first over the board chess tournament for nearly half a century. This is a fascinating article with a great outcome. 

In his own words, read Christof’s modern chess odyssey.

With the Brexit date decided a year ago (I mean my personal Brexit, my last working day in corporate life being 29th March 2019), I had contemplated to resume a very early passion; CHESS.

How do you do that, not having played for a club or in a tournament for 44 years?

The Jersey International 1975 was my last one where I was lucky enough to finish joint 3rd, way ahead of a 9 year old Nigel Short.

Well, I tried playing against a computer (quite demotivating), read a few books, one of which “The Rookie” gave me some ideas, and I intend to play lots of competitive games. Playing in a  club is a must, and I was lucky to join the best one in early 2019, but unable to commit to weekday games until April.

I needed to find out about my level of chess fitness, or whatever is left from a long, long time ago. Thus, the East Devon Congress was a fitting trial, by coincidence its 44th event, so it must have begun life just when I had retired.

This one was a tight 2-day format with more than 120 players in 3 sections. Saturday is tough with three 3.5 hour games, plus 2 more on Sunday, but it is very worthwhile to attend. The venue is the Corn Exchange in the centre of Exeter, and the event is flawlessly organised.

 

Since I did not have the slightest clue about my current strength (grading was introduced after I had retired from chess), I registered myself in the Major section. To my annoyance, the organisers had added the informal 100e grade from the Hammersmith website to my name in the list of players, all of which were between 125 and 154, making me look a somewhat odd wannabe!

I immediately realised a visible change from four decades ago: then most players were old, now most are young – at least seen from my perspective. My opponents ranged from 13 to 71, both among the highest graded.

Well, the first game finally came, and I felt the same excitement building up as 44 years ago, sitting among the 120+ players, hearing the noise of 60+ clocks ticking, and my heart jumped to 180 (I hope my ECF grade will follow suit) when I realised the chance of winning a competitive game for the first time in 44 years. What a feeling!

Not so much like a Rookie, but like a Phoenix rising from the Ashes. And it was not so much the winning sensation as it was when I was young, it was the enjoyment of playing each move, like in the creation of an art object by two people.

Long story kept short, I added another win in the second round, then in round 3 the top-seeded player was waiting for me on Board 1, another new sensation for me, and I won as well. I was as pleased about how the game was played by both sides – see below:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bf4 c6 4.e3 Bf5 5.f3 Is this variation still part of the London System, with a knight on c3 and not f3, and with a pawn on f3 and not c3? Anyway, the typical feature of “my” London variation is for White advancing pawns on the king side and in the center and for Black the same on the queen side.

e6 6.g4 Bg6 7.h4 h6 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bd6 10.Nge2 Qc7 11.Bxh7 Nxh7 12.Qd3 Nd7 13.Bxd6 Qxd6 14.e4 Qe7 15.e5 b5 16.a4?
The whole idea of blocking the black pawns with a4 is ill-advised. White should ride out the Black attack on the queen side and focus on opening some lines on the king side. The engine sees a small White advantage after 16.f4
and even allows White long castling! The follow-up in the game with the white knight moving to a2 and b4 and the closing of the pawn structure there with 22.c3 helps Black. The only benefit is of psychological nature in drawing Black’s attention (too much) to the queen side, but that is not a good advise for a strategic decision.

b4 17.Na2? Ng5 18.Ng3 c5 19.f4 c4 20.Qe2 Nh7 21.a5 Nb8 22.c3? b3 23.Nb4 0-0 24.0-0?! The white king might be better protected in the center on e1 or d2. Without short castling, White can much quicker double its heavy forces on the g-file and at a certain time push the pawns.

Rc8 25.f5 Qg5 26.Rf2 Qh4? 27.Kg2 Nc6 28.Na6! Qe7 29.Nc5 Ng5 30.a6? Nd8 31.Qe3 Rab8 32.Raf1 The f-pawn should be pushed immediately, with clear White advantage.

[ 32.f6 Qe8 ( 32…gxf6 33.Rxf6 Qf8 34.Nd7 Qg7 35.Ra5 Nc6 36.Rxd5 exd5 37.Nf5 ) 33.fxg7 Kxg7 34.Rf6 Rxc5 35.dxc5 Rc8 36.Raf1 Qg8 37.Qf4 Rc7 38.Ne2 Kh7 39.Nd4 ]

32…Rb5? This is losing valuable time. The music plays on the other side.33.f6 Qe8 34.Qf4? First, this is against the principle of pushing with the Queen behind the Rook(s) and not in front. Very concretely however, immediate 34.fg allows beautiful continuations with decisive White advantage. I would invite to self-think along the lines after 34.fg Kg7: stated below.

Admittedly, I used the engine after the game to prove the correctness of fg. Obviously I did not see the forcing lines on the board, just before time control and 1 or 2 minutes left (until move 36).

[ 34.fxg7 Kxg7 35.Rf6 Rcxc5 ( 35…Qg8 36.Nd7; 35…Qh8 36.Nxe6+ ) 36.Rxh6 ]

34…Rcxc5 35.dxc5 Ra5? 36.fxg7 Qe7? This proves that it is much more difficult to defend than to attack. An attacker might lose an advantage, the defender the game. Qe7 loses directly (if White plays it right), but as the engine shows, the alternative Kg7: still leaves a big White advantage after 37. Ne2 with the intention to exchange first the knights on f3 and then the queens on g5. 37.Qf6! With time control over and with 15 minutes for the rest of the game, there was some quality time to think. And it still looked beautiful, the Black king to be imprisoned on g8 and so many attack avenues available. But, still so many possibilities to go astray

Qf6 threatens Qh6: and Qh8 mate. Qf6 however only works in combination with the next move and the further sequence which was needed to be seen, otherwise the re-taking on f6 with the rook as best in previous moves would have come more naturally to me. This is a great position for calculation training and for finding mating patterns. Which one is followed through depends on Black’s moves. The sequence played in the game is just one of many possibilities, one more beautiful than the other. I do not want to spoil this experience by showing what the engine proposes.Qxf6 38.exf6!!

The black position looks bombproof, the pawn structure intact and the knights protecting the elements of the pawn chain. Yes, the Black King is imprisoned on the last row, but the access for White rooks is blocked where you see, the barrier e6 over-protected by a pawn, 2 knights and the rook on a6. And still, danger lurks from the White knight on g3 with its potential to jump all the fences, and e6 will be the weak spot to fall.

Rxa6 39.Re2! threatening Nf5 and mate follows. Nh7 preventing 40.Nf5 because of Nf6. 40.g5! keeping the prison lock f6-g7 intact. hxg5 41.h6 adding another lock h6-g7. Nc6 42.Rxe6! Nxf6 43.Rfxf6

1-0

 

Another win in round 4 and I was already a full point ahead of the rest, was assured of 1st prize and had to explain that I really had nothing to do with the estimate 100, that I would have been quite happy with just an UG.

In round 5, after only 10 moves, I saw a nice scenario to force a draw but my opponent decided differently and so I had to fight it out, taking more risks and winning this as well, making it sole 1st place for a Hammersmither.

What can I say, sorry for the e100 (but then, as an ungraded player i could only cash in the value of the 3rd prize!).

I apologise that I cannot write about the Open (serial winner IM Jack Rudd came first, FM William Claridge-Hansen second) and the Minor sections of the East Devon Congress, but I was completely absorbed in the great congress atmosphere, and my own rebirth experience after 44 years retirement.

This is my list of opponents and their grades:

  • R1 with B: Rob Woolacott, 142 win 0-1
  • R2 with B: Michale Wickham, 148 win 0-1
  • R3 with W: Andrew Di-Vetta, 154 win 1-0
  • R4 with B: Adam Hussain, 150 win 0-1
  • R5 with W: Colin Sellwood, 153 win 1-0

The Major section was for grades 125-154 – I scored 5/5 for clear first place.

A Hat-trick of Reports

Can Hammer 1 continue their quest for an unlikely promotion to the top table of London League Chess?? And will the Middlesex and TV teams manage to turn their seasons around??  Read on to find out…

  • London League Division 2
  • Middlesex Division 2
  • Thames Valley Division 2
27.02.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Wanstead & Woodford

“If at first you don’t succeed, hide all evidence that you ever tried”
– David Brent.

In recent weeks the growing momentum generated by our run of London League victories has been accompanied by classic quotes from Greek heroes Leonidas and Achilles. We’ve used the immortal Che line “Hasta La Victoria Siempre” as a call to arms. I have invoked the sporting genius of Bill Shankly and Eric Cantona.

But comrades, I cannot lie to you. Even after a week of reflection, this horrible performance and result against Wanstead remains raw. I think we must take David Brent as today’s inspiration!

As usual, the 48 hours before the match featured a number of call offs. The recurring theme of the season. As ever, I am indebted to those who stepped in at the last minute, or came late directly from work. None more so than Captain Clueless, arriving at the board directly from an exhausting trip to Dublin. The Hammer team spirit remains indomitable.

So to the match. We had a comfortable grading advantage of 10 to 20 points per board. Alas, we all decided to choose this evening to play our worst games of the season. For example, I defended a dull game okay, then blundered a pawn in one move. Paul was just unrecognisable. Others agreed early draws, or struggled to equalise.

Only Bajrush with his customary tactical trickery, and Marios who played an excellent game in the classic style of the legendary Soviet World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik, managed to win.

Marios’ game is presented here, with his commentary below:

“1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3! (This leads to unique positions that most opponents don’t know how to handle.) 4…d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 b6 7. e3 O-O 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. Ne2 c5 11. O-O Nbd7 12. Ra2 (Useful waiting move in this system if Black attempts c4 then g4 followed by Ng3 is thematic)12… Rc8 13. Ng3 cxd4 14. cxd4 Re8

15. Qe1! (Guards the weak squares, supports a4-a5 on one side with ideas of Nf5 – Qg3 on the other what more can you expect from a single move?)15… Nf8 16. a4 Ne6 17. a5(Provoking the one-mover)17… Nxd4 18. Bb2 Nc6 19. Nf5 Ne7? (simply losing) 20. Bxf6 gxf6 21. Qh4 Nxf5 22. Bxf5 Rc4 23. Qh6(accurate!) Qc7 24. Bxh7+ Kh8 25. axb6! (playing on both sides Ra7 is useful in some lines since his Queen can’t leave the 7th) 25… axb6 26. e4? (Allows the stubborn Qc5+ and Qf8 the right plan to bring the rooks in the attack is Bf5+ followed by g4 and Rg2)26… dxe4?? 27. Bxe4+ Kg8 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Bxb7   1-0

Amazingly the win comes in the opposite flank. “

Still, it came down to the last two games. 4.5-3.5 ahead with two easily won games, the baying Hammer pack surrounded the boards hoping to soon get to the pub to celebrate a lucky win, rather than the abject performance.

It was not to be.

Jeremy’s opponent, who was clearly too weak to understand when one should decently resign, was the beneficiary of a Queen as Jeremy’s flag was about to fall. A time management refresher course beckons…. ? :o)

Finally, John, despite his heroic efforts and his captain’s tetchy insistence, could not squeeze a win from the rapidly diminishing material. So it ended 5-5, a result which reduces our previously sporting change of promotion to a rather remote theoretical possibility.

We may beat Cavendish, but I doubt any other teams will offer much resistance to Imperial College or Metropolitan.

We shall soon see.

Jim.

Tough Times on the Middlesex Division 2 Sector Battlefront

After the miracle of Valentines Day, Captain Clueless was hoping that some semblance of balance had been restored in this very competitive and tough division.

Sadly, the last days of February brought a huge reversal of fortune and resumed the pattern of 2019 results.

There are no excuses to be offered… except that within a period of 10 days (in reality 8 days if you take into account the weekend) Hammer had to field 11 teams plus the journey to Hendon is a tough old schlepp after a day of work. Adding to the negative side, Captain Clueless had to take personal leave at the critical moment. This all added up to a lethal cocktail of pure trouble and adversity.  

For once, Captain Clueless can only say a big thank you to the warriors who turned out for the Ealing 1 match on the Monday, and the five heroes who made it to Golders Green on the Thursday to face the toughest of tasks.

The results were to go as expected when you take all things into consideration.

A 6-2 loss away to Ealing and a 7.5-0.5 away loss to Hendon 4.

The bright spots in this pit of misery and woe are as follows:

  • The most welcome debuts of Amaya and Edward in Middlesex 2. I hope they are not too down hearted by their respective results.
  • Jonathan scoring the only win against a tough team – great result against a 160.
  • Rauno in his debut easily holding a very strong player to a draw.
  • Brian scoring the half-point at Hendon

There is no way to sugar coat the bitter pill – Hammer 2 Middlesex are in a dogfight.

We need to score plus 50% in our five remaining matches to secure the prime objective to retain Division 2 status – this is a critical time, and I need all Hammers to answer the call and step up. If Captain Clueless, let alone any other Hammer Captain, asks you to rally to the cause, then please do so without hesitation. This is vital and I urge you all to answer the Call to Arms!

Here is the worrying situation in Division 2:

Hammers – answer the Call of Mother Hammer!

Clueless over & out!!!!

05.03.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Hammersmith vs. Hounslow B
The Grudge Match v Hounslow B – underdogs win 5-1 Hallelujah!

This match in TV division 3, Hammer B and Hounslow B, was our first home match, and perhaps the fighting spirit and the urge to excel from the other two matches being held at Lytton Hall spread through the packed room and helped dispel any pre-match nervousness.

Welcome to nearly everyone who debuted this team this season: Chris Moore, Ed Goldman, Olivier Vigneron and Jakub Wirecki. Veterans Nadhmi and Matteo (boards 1 and 2) rounded out the very new team.

For the first hour I was encourage to see even positions with quiet manoeuvring for advantage, pretty well on every board; some tactical possibilities would emerge. First to finish was Eddie on board 4 with the black pieces our newest and most congenial club member, followed quickly by Matteo, who came in fashionably late and left early with a nice win. Way to go, Matteo! Would that we could all emulate that!

Nadhmi was pretty even, but towards the end he duped his opponent with a Greek gift and then won a piece and the game soon after.

Our Kuba on board 6 was fighting on against a sleeper, an unrated player playing like a 120 rater, who slowly ground him down. Unlucky. Score 3-1.

On board 3 with the white pieces, Chris (126) has supplied his game narrative of a razor edged match against a 136 opponent:

“I opened with the Queen’s Gambit, which my opponent declined. I put my white-square bishop on d3 while he put his on b7. Seeing a threat I wanted to avoid I moved my knight from f3 to e5 quite early, and following that with a pawn on f4 I ended up being over-extended for the mid-game. The black queen soon went to d5, threatening checkmate and I decided to move my knight back from e5 to f3 to defend. Momentum was with black.

However, a few moves later black missed an opportunity to go a piece up, as he captured a bishop on a1 before removing the defending rook with check.

Time pressure was starting to affect black, and he also seemed agitated which I took to mean he thought he’d missed an opportunity but only later guessed it would be the exchange error I just mentioned.

Soon queen and a rook each were the only pieces on the board, with black having a passed-pawn. However I’d managed to get my queen on the back rank to harass the black king. Black tried some traps to get a back rank mate but after dodging them and then giving my king some space by playing h3, I was able to get both pieces attacking the passed pawn while black had taken his eye off that ball.

With that threat gone and black’s flag about to fall, I put the game beyond doubt after a fork from my queen left his rook with insufficient defenders. Black resigned”

Olivier had reduced to two solid pawn islands and lovely posted knight on d5 against a scattering of weakish pawns and a landlocked bishop. Congratulations for gaining the win with technical mastery over weak pawns.

For your viewing pleasure, here are Matteo and Olivier’s games:

“I was black in a Caro Kann Advanced variation. If white doesn’t attack with 5.Bb5, loses initiative and Black can attack successfully the pawn structure” 

“I am a pawn up from the opening (gifted by my opponent). I played a dubious move with Ng4?! on move 12, which he was unable to capitalise on as he only played passive defensive moves for most of the middle game.

His 22nd move Ne3+? gave me a winning endgame which I thought I played accurately but many paths would have ultimately led to victory given the size of the advantage.”

Conclusion: this win brings us to 2 wins in 5 matches, so we still have a way to go to stay in the division. Would that we can keep this up. We were lucky to have Chris this time, who is going from strength to strength.

 

Hammersmith Chess Club in the Community

One of the major drivers in the success and transformation of Hammersmith Chess Club has been its willingness to engage with the Hammersmith community and use chess to promote something positive in Hammersmith – it is enshrined in our constitution.

With that in MIND (subtle pun), the club is pleased to announce one new and one old initiative to help us fulfill that GOAL (another subtle pun). Please read on…

Working with Chelsea FC – Starting 18th March 2019

We’re delighted to announce that Chelsea FC have agreed to sponsor five 1-hour chess lessons at Hammersmith Chess Club, on five consecutive Mondays, starting on the 18th March 2019.

Lytton Hall -aka The Anvil – has been booked, and the courses will start at 6pm.

These will be aimed at introducing and re-introducing members of the local community to our brilliant game. Hammer member, and ECF-registered trainer, Tony Niccoli, will be running the lessons. He’s a dab hand at teaching the game, with plenty of experience ranging from juniors to adult regulars, and these are sure to be popular!

Watch this space – the social media campaign starts now. It will be totally open with no pre-booking, and is something Andrew Ducille – senior inclusion officer at the Chelsea FC Foundation – wanted to happen. Hammersmith are grateful to him and Chelsea FC for their support.

Whether this will change any football loyalties remains to be seen, but if it helps Hammer members look for the Chelsea result with a more positive view, we’ll be delighted.

Hammersmith MIND Day – Saturday 11th May 2019

For the third year in a row, Hammersmith Chess Club will be bossing Lyric Square in the heart of Hammersmith from 10am-4pm on Saturday 11th May. This is a chess jamboree as we get members of the public to play chess and at the same time raise funds and spread the word for a worthy cause that directly helps the people of our community.

In the past two years we have raised nearly £1,200 for Hammersmith MIND and we are going to add to that total this year.

The format will be the same as previous years, but there may be some special appearances from our new football partners… watch this space!

We’ll be recruiting members later this month to volunteer their time to help this enterprise. So put it in the diary! It’s a great day out and hugely social – the Albion pub and social chess beckons!!

Puzzle of the Week #028

It was back in January that we presented our last puzzle. As is the way, Charlie was in there first, but he didn’t get the right solution this time.

Plaudits go to Jon S, with the following line:

1…Bxe3! (Bxc3??, Nxd5 Kxd5, gxh4= as black has the wrong bishop)
2. Kxe3, g4!
3. gxh4, gxh3 (or hxg4, h3) and in both cases the pawn promotes.

A nice little game taken from the 2014 Qatar Masters, Karthikeyan-Eljanov.

On to this week then, taken from a 2015 NCL game, no less – Black to move, answers in the comments: