The Epsom Double-Header

A couple of months ago Andy, aka Spider, brought to my attention the activity of the resurrected Epsom Chess Club, under the dynamic leadership of Marcus and Ravi they were making all the moves in all the right directions. They were a club setting out to do things the right way.

An email conversation took place between Clueless and Marcus and a match was arranged with a home and away leg. Mortal combat under the guise of spreading new friendships and camaraderie, it was really about putting the upstart back in their place as far as Hammer was concerned. It would be over eight boards and the combined score of the two matches would determine the winner and bragging rights.

The Thames Valley Division 1 champs and LL 1st Division royalty against the minnows of the 4th Division of the Surrey League.

 A classic David vs Goliath confrontation of 3rd round FA cup proportions (think Hereford vs Newcastle 1972) – check this video out the pitch, the tackles, the sideburns and the fan invasions…….truly football from another era.

Would Hammer falter like Fulham born Malcolm MacDonald and Newcastle United?

Read on to find out……..

The first leg took place at the home of the upstart – a superb pub in Epsom – the Rising Sun – on the 15th July.

The match was drawn 4-4 with the Epsom team putting in a superb performance despite the Hammer top boards consisting of Carsten, Jim and Christof – the rest of the team was no slouch either with Andy, Ben, Ken, Kostis and Clueless. No matter despite the best endeavours of the Hammer crew the Epsom team matched it.

Webmaster Andy bites his nails as Epsom’s youth contingent pose serious problems

Epsom are definitely a club that punches above their weight!!

The second leg was held on the 9th of August at Sambrooks Brewery – this time surely Hammer would triumph with ease – our territory – in a spiritual home from home.

The Hammer team saw the usual Hammer beer suspects in -Carsten, Chris S, Jim, Marios, Adam, Clueless, Charlie and Eddy – serious firepower – surely this line-up would deliver victory.

In the end it turned out to be a very tense match with all games decisive – and although Hammer won 5-3 it could have gone either way.

The scary thing was Hammer were beaten on all three top boards with various mishaps occurring.

Carsten had a beer moment and left a piece en-prise – he made a fight of it but in the end could not get the perpetual he was playing for. A tough loss.

Chris S just had one of those smelly positions that was basically devoid of counter play, and in the end, Marcus gradually ground him down. Sydney needed beer to ease the pain. Hammer at 0-2!!

Jim had a totally equal position indeed possibly with a slight edge – spurning a draw offer and playing for a win in true Loco style.

In a time scramble he ended up walking into a checkmate in the centre of the board – this was really hard on Jim and he was totally frustrated with himself. The scoreboard moved on 0-3.

Hammer hopes turned to Marios – a bit of Zeus inspiration was desperately needed. Like the God he is- he duly delivered – Hammer now at 1-3 – the fightback was on.

Adam playing his favourite London system snaffled a pawn but was left with his bishop and rook pinned by the opposition rook. He was totally passive with his opponent missing the chance to get his king to f3 and start gobbling up the Pickle pawns. Fortunately, Adam’s opponent did not play that and Adam freed himself of the pin and smoothly converted. Hammer fighting back at 2-3.

Clueless on board 5 had an adventurous game with his opponent trying to solve the development problems that afflicted his QB and QR – in the end he could not find the answer with Clueless sacking a pawn and penetrating with his rooks and knight. Picking up the exchange on the way. For once he played a controlled endgame and made it 3-3.

On boards 7 and 8 Charlie and Eddy duly delivered -as my game was a bit intense, I did not see how they got on – however they both delivered victory – basically saving Hammer blushes and winning us this encounter 5-3.

This was a great event and thoroughly enjoyed by all and safe to say the analysis carried on in the Asparagus.

I must thank Marcus and the Epsom team for two great nights of chess and wish them all the best in the new season. For any chess lover in that part of Surrey this is the club to join.

Not your usual match venue! | photo: Epsom Chess Club

I must also thank Sam and the team at Sambrooks Brewery – to any beer connoisseur out there this is a must visit – they are just the best – plus the Junction is a damn fine-pint. Check them out – https://www.sambrooksbrewery.co.uk/

Hammer is now 4-0 in club match challenges – with Battersea (two Chessico encounters), Bury St Edmunds and Epsom met and beaten – who will dare to challenge us next?

Clueless – mine’s a Junction please – signing off

Bunratty & Dunkirk in 2020!

The Bunratty Chess Challenge 2020

My fellow Hammers, I am putting this out early. As you know, the club has purchased as a thank-you gift to our retired secretary Mike Mackenzie, a week in Ireland and participation in the Bunratty Chess festival.

I am writing this piece to implore all of you (I am an optimist!) to sign up for the Tourney as well – Hammersmith has huge historical links with Ireland and Bunratty is the premier chess tourney in the Emerald Isle. Read on…

The Bunratty Chess Festival 2020 runs from the 19th – 21st February with four rated sections – check out their website for full details: www.bunrattychess.com

The event has obtained mythical status and recent attendees have included Nigel Short, Mickey Adams, Luke McShane and the Ginger GM himself, Simon Williams.

It is a huge chess event and an amazing social one – this is a once in a lifetime experience for a normal chess player – although Jim (Loco) and Chris (Sydney) are returning for a second time. This promises to be one of the chess highlights of 2020.

I have booked my flight and hotel room already – Shannon airport is just down the board – and the whole tourney takes place in the Bunratty Castle Hotel.

No introduction needed

I also have another motive in bringing this to your attention.

In February this year Karen and I lost one of our closest friends at the age of 44 – she was just a great person unfortunately cursed with an auto-immune disease that destroyed her liver. A liver transplant was necessary. Alas, she was never well enough to receive a liver, or ill enough to be given one. The organs are so scarce the medical authorities have to be so selective. A real-life Catch-22 situation.

I have been in contact with the Liver Trust organisation and want to use the event to raise money for them and honour the memory of our friend and her husband. I will be getting sponsorship for the event (individual and corporate) – so for every half-point I score, a donation will be made.

The Liver Trust have been very helpful and the Bunratty organisers have given permission for a pull-up to be displayed at the event.

If you want to get involved in the trip and wish to fund raise at the same time then please contact me – I know Chris (Sydney) is encouraging the Celtic Tigers to take part.

The irony of using a chess event with a huge alcohol bent to raise money for the Liver Trust is not lost on me.

I urge you all to join Mike and I at this special chess event.

John (aka. Clueless).

The Kings Head Annual Jolly to Dunkirk

Next year’s annual Kings Head trip to Dunkirk will revert back to the usual Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend of 22-25 May 2020.

The French players of Cappelle are looking forward to hosting those intrepid travellers again!

It is also worthwhile noting that it will be immensely special to be in Dunkirk on that particular weekend as it is the 80th Anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.

Even more significantly (some might say!!), next year is also the 40th anniversary of the first Anglo-French-Railways-Dunkirk chess match!

We are hoping as many people are able to come as possible. Further information can be found here: http://www.khcc.org.uk/autumn2017/cappelle.html

As usual, the trip is being organised by the indomitable folk at Kings Head – if you wish to register your interest, please get in touch with Seljon.selcox@ntlworld.com – full details, including logistics and likely costs etc., will follow in September.

 

The Hammer Crew Does Wroclaw – a Classic Tale of a Silesian Vendetta

[Authors note – any resemblance to real people or actual events in this report is purely coincidental]

Yes, with the regular chess season done and dusted, Hammer took to the road again. The 2019 road trip destination was the beautiful Polish town of Wroclaw, in Silesia. This is one of the highlights of the year, with Hammer enjoying the chess delights, local food and culture, and making new friends.

Home to great chess clubs, chess players, seriously good beer and close to the birthplace of our Ryszard – legendary Celtic Tiger and Hammer, and chief conspirator in helping Clueless get the show on the road.

Contact was made with Artur, the Don of Wroclaw Chess Club, who was given a choice he could not refuse – acceptance of the Hammer invasion. Hammer were making a territory grab and moving in on his manor. A bold statement of intent – this was a mission critical to the expansion of the Hammer Family and its ruthless Boss, Godfather Wily. The turf war was on.

The Hammers make themselves comfortable in the Town Square

The Hammer crew consisted of some hardened veterans and enthusiastic newbies – Godfather Wily had assembled an imposing bunch and issued new gangster codenames:

(v = veteran, n = newbie)

  • Bajrush – Godfather Corleone (v)
  • Ryszard – Psychokiller (v)
  • Chris S – Bonecrusher (v)
  • Carsten – Iceman (n)
  • Paul K – Dead-Eye (no change there for the veteran)
  • Adam – Hammer & Sickle (v)
  • Dave – Capo (n)
  • Andy – Stinger (v)
  • Nadim – Consigliere (n)
  • Clueless – Scemo (v)

A formidable posse you will agree. On the Saturday we were joined by our friend and Celtic Tiger, WGM Klaudia Kulon.

The city of Wroclaw is simply stunning with an incredible range of architecture, amazing food and beer – indeed, all that any Hammer could want.

Stunning Wroclaw!

The Airbnb accommodation was superb and very central – Artur was a top guy and did his best in difficult circumstances.

He had one major problem – the HQ of the Wroclaw Mob was undergoing renovation and was way behind schedule. The fact is, there is a dearth of tradesmen in Poland at the moment – I wonder where they could all be? Despite his best and considerable efforts, the chess playing activities had to be curtailed from their original design.

In the end the Hammer crew played a blitz tourney on the Friday evening, overcoming amazing transport challenges, and then a rapid game on Saturday at the home of another chess club. This allowed more time for beer and enjoying the delights of the city.

The Hammers assembled in the main square, called Market Square, for lunch on the Friday. Immediately noticeable was the price difference in beer from London – you definitely got 50% more for your pound – this obviously got the Hammerites in the right frame of mind. My particular favourite was 4Hops – a porter that tasted like treacle and at 14% was truly spectacular.

The group split up and explored the city before assembling to get an Uber down to the blitz tourney. This was in the suburbs and for some reason we could not get an Uber anywhere – fortunately in the end we made it, and joined a FIDE-rated blitz tourney.

The Hammers took on the locals in a brave – but futile – FIDE blitz tourney

Maybe it was the beer, but even our blitz king Corleone had issues and on the whole the Hammer filled up the bottom places – Scemo and Consigliere bringing up the rear. A tough chess baptism. I have to say the majority of our opponents were very talented juniors and played fearless chess. I think only Bonecrusher and Iceman retained any dignity on this occasion.

The Hammers quickly retreated to the city centre to drown their sorrows in more beer. The town itself was alive and one story that summed up the weekend was Psychokiller on his way home at 5am, was able to stop from breakfast. It really is a live-wire town.

The following day (Saturday) the Hammers indulged in various tourist activities – with Capo and Iceman checking out the 360 Panorama exhibition of the Battle of Raclawice – a critical battle in 1754 for Polish independence.

The cultural delights of Wroclaw old town
The striking central Market place
Cathedral island – simply beautiful

The rapid chess match took place in the evening at the home of the Hetman chess club – this again was FIDE rated and played in a superb club room with a huge chess library, trophies a-plenty, and excellent tables and sets.

On behalf of Hammer, Scemo presented a chess badge to each of our opponents and gave a book detailing the history of the Polish Centre in Hammersmith as peace offerings.

This was revenge time – unfortunately our opponents had other ideas – Bonecrusher and Psychokiller won, but for the rest of us it was a tale of woe. Sickle and Capo had fascinating games that could have gone either way – unfortunately not our way. Hammer had lost the turf war but had made new friends. Several consolation pints were consumed to ease the pain and cement the friendship.

Club Hetman
These guys knew a thing or two about chess…
Sorrows well drowned, along with Artur – local legend!

The Sunday was devoted to a visit to the largest and most magnificent castle in Silesia – Ksiaz Castle – organised by Psychokiller – ancestral home of the Hochberg family, one of the wealthiest in Europe. An hours’ train ride away, the Hammer crew all recovered from the previous night of drowning sorrows, and enjoyed a fabulous time in stunning sunshine.

First stop was a restaurant to indulge in a serious piece of Polish Cuisine – Pierogi – unleavened dumplings with various fillings and either boiled or friend. Washed down with beer, these were wonderfully delicious and very filling.

This was then followed by a visit to the Botanical Gardens of Palmiarna, and then a walk to the Castle.

Beautiful Ksiaz Castle!

Psychokiller had organised a guided tour and we were very forcibly reminded of the huge British connection in the form of Princess Daisy (nee Cornwallis-West) an English socialite of the Edwardian period who married Hans Holberg and bared him three sons.

She really was the heart and soul of the Castle and led a fascinating life.

In the end a lot of the wealth was squandered and the Nazi’s took it over and started a huge excavation under the castle. What was planned is a matter of pure speculation as the architectural plans were destroyed – the prime theory centres on it being prepared for Hitler as his final headquarters – there were at least 6,000 labour camp workers forced to work on the project. A modern mystery.

The weekend was thus concluded with some Hammer staying on for an extended break. There was a minor crisis when Bonecrusher et al could not get into their apartment to rescue their luggage – but fortunately all was resolved.

On behalf of Hammer I want to thank Wroclaw and Artur for a superb weekend of great camaraderie and entertainment – I thoroughly recommend that you visit this beautiful city.

John – Clueless – Scemo.