29.05.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Dulwich
Had Hammer found the secret code? And if so, would it help or hinder them? Or had Met’s omertà code held firm? Were many individuals really as ignorant as they professed? Most importantly, does the reader care?
To add further intrigue, the Dulwich captain emailed late on Wednesday afternoon that they would, regrettably, have to default two boards. Had the opposition been nobbled? The PM was consulted on this once in a generation issue, but Mrs. May found herself unable to offer a coherent argument either way.
So to arms: With all eight Hammers finally assembled, time to get down to business. Rauno, farcically on board 8 (he’s a 2200 player) demolished his opponent within the hour. His grateful captain, perhaps unable to withstand the tension of spectating, quickly ushered Rauno, a diehard Gooner, over to a local hostelry to watch the Europa final.
Word came through that wins for Chris, then for Bajrush, two of our greatest heroes this season, had brought the score to 5-0. How many points did we need without being accused of chavish overkill?
Your Chelsea supporting scribe decided it would be more stressful watching the second half than the chess, and sloped back to Citadines. Alas, to be met by a despairing Marios who had just lost a well played game to a one move cheapo. Your captain tried to recall the charm and tact of our previous capo, Captain Clueless, in offering words of consolation. 5-1
Not to worry, soon Carsten appeared, anxious for some beer after a slashing victory. 6-1
What could go wrong with our top 3 men still in action? How many points did we need again? Curse that hapless El Loco and his love of John Le Carre novels.
To be frank, Dulwich’s top boards are strong and were fighting for blood and honour. Soon Ryszard, our leader, staggered out bowed and bloodied, claiming that up to a point he was playing like Alpha Zero. But alas, at the critical moment, the power short circuited. 6-2
The T-Bone Thomas, our relentless iron man all season, fell into a hopeless position on board 2, his opponent attacking like Mischa Tal reborn. 6-3 imminent.
On 3, Tony had been nursing a sizeable advantage through the middle game, but his opponent refused to give an inch. Suddenly, in a moment of, who knows, was it divine inspiration, or a calm assessment of the multifarious tie break possibilities, he offered a draw. Now Tony is not a man who likes to draw. At once his opponent shook hands and Thomas, on seeing this, resigned.
The match was over 6.5-3.5. Why did captain El Loco suddenly look like the proverbial Scotsman who had lost a pound and found a fiver? Were Metropolitan, Wanstead and the LL Committee still not available for comment? So many questions – and not all of them rhetorical.
To the pub. Much mirth and jovial banter. Then the result, as if by magic, appeared on the LL website: Metropolitan 5.5-3.5 Wanstead & Woodford (+1 adjourned).
More beer. And mutual congratulations with Lewisham captain Andy, whose team were also promoted as D4 champions that evening. Three cheers for the inventor of board count, even though he cost us the Thames Valley Cup Final last year!
Allegedly a group of Hammer players were last seen heading off into the night, set to relieve their captain of his last shekels at the poker table. I couldn’t possibly comment. Chess players don’t do that sort of thing do they?
So, the Holy Grail is found. Hammer complete back-to-back promotions and reach London League Division 1 after 57 years trying.
I must heartily congratulate, and of course thank, the 24 players who took part in the campaign. Spartan Hammers one and all, I salute you.
Of course every point is equally valuable, but a special shout out to those absolute diehards: Bajrush, Thomas, Carsten, Sylvain, Paul, Marios and last but not least, our MVP, Mr. Board 1 hat-trick man himself, Chris.
Hearty thanks also to the wider Hammersmith membership and committee for your encouragement, support and advice throughout. And a big shout out to former Captain John, who started this process back in Division 4, and was on hand as “super-sub” on Wednesday. A triumph for team camaraderie and fighting spirit.
First Division, prepare yourself for the Hammer.
El Loco, at last, finally silent.