The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 8: London Minor

Hammersmith 6 is a team for developing players and future superstars. With a grading restriction of <ECF125, our team provides a friendly atmosphere to get exposure to competitive chess, particularly for our junior players looking to take the next step. Despite a tough start to the season, we have seen some fine individual performances. This is very pleasing, and with a reasonably heavy schedule during January and February, there is much to look forward to.

Game 1: Hammersmith 6 vs Hammersmith HEDGER – Grudge Match

The season kicked off with a bang; a hometown derby against our compatriots in the Minor Division. There was some great chess played all around, followed by some friendly post match beverages. A 1-3 loss was unfortunate; however, Hammer was the winner on the night. Great games from Rahulan, Zain, Dan and Nadim.

Game 2: Morley College vs Hammersmith 6 – Schooled at the College

Our trip to Morley College was a tough outing. Perhaps, given the Friday evening schedule, our minds were already at the bar! Cian was the hero of the night, salvaging a nice draw against a solid opponent. Props also to Robin in what was game of the night. A bold exchange sacrifice gave Robin a massive kingside attack. Unfortunately, Robin’s strong opponent defended well and won an endgame. A great game to watch.

Game 3: Battersea vs Hammersmith 6 – Revenge is a dish best served WARM!

Just two weeks after their glorious (and highly touted) victory over Hammersmith Hedger, we travelled south to Battersea to avenge our Hammer comrades. If you follow the press, you’ll know our friends across the river were rather pleased with their efforts against Hedger (a little too pleased, some may say…)

So in true Hammer style, we gave it to em. Hell hath no fury like a Hammer scorned. Great win on top board from Charlie Sturt who went up a piece early and closed out an endgame that was tricky, despite the material advantage. Game of the night goes to Kabir, playing the strong and experienced Leon Watson. The game started quite slowly with Watson playing the Canal Attack against Kabir’s Sicilian. After some manoeuvring, Watson made a mistake and gave up a costly centre pawn. Watson fought back well and almost equalised, before allowing Kabir to trade off queens and enter a winning king and pawn endgame. Impressive stuff from Kabir. Cian was also highly impressive in his loss; a three hour marathon that drew quite a crowd at the end. A great effort from both young fellas, who are set to become very strong players indeed.

Game 4: Wimbledon vs Hammersmith 6 – A narrow miss!

This was our first game when we out graded our opponents and unfortunately we could not capitalise. Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap and acknowledge good play. Wimbledon played well and we lost in a close one 2.5-1.5. Another strong win from Charlie, who is stringing together a good season on board one. This capped off our year, with our final game rescheduled to March. 

This has been a great start to the year for everyone who has played. I look forward to seeing more people strut their stuff for Hammer 6 in the Minor Division next year. We are a relaxed team, with a focus on fun and improvement (although, don’t get me wrong, we love to win!). I encourage anyone who is keen for a game to come to the club and get involved. We have a busy schedule next year and will look to give as many people games as possible. Happy new year to all and I will catch you next year


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 7: Middlesex Second Team

As 2020 draws near, the Hammersmith 2nd team in the Middlesex League should look back positively at 2019 following a positive start to the 19/20 season.

The Middlesex 2nd Division brings forward teams with a wide breadth of opposing strength. This can range from players with 200+ ECF grade to those of below 100. It can make it difficult to set up teams to play against some of these teams, however, a good Hammer is known to play above their perceived grading strength when faced with extreme opposition,

Having finished in second last position in the 18/19 season, we were able to avoid relegation courtesy of the 3rd team being promoted from Division 3. In order to prevent such a calamity from reoccurring, strong early performances would be required. Thankfully we have, so far, achieved it.

To add to the positivity, this has occurred whilst still providing opportunities for all Hammersmith members to play against strong opposition. To date we have been able to field 20 different players across the 4 matches we have completed.

Match 1: Hammersmith 2 vs Albany 1 (3.5 – 4.5 Loss)

Our first match of the season was against the team I would make 2nd favourites for the Division. Despite the narrow defeat, we were able to compete on equal terms with Albany, which set the tone for our other matches.

It was very pleasing to see strong performances from our debutants Laurie and Will.

Match 2: Willesden 1 vs Hammersmith 2 (1.5 – 6.5 Win)

This match was against a team which achieved promotion from Division 3 in the 18/19 season. It was a match I had targeted as a win, and the Hammersmith team delivered with aplomb.

Confident performances on the top boards from Christof and Paul helped the team deliver a strong win.

Match 3: Hammersmith 2 vs Hendon 2 (1.5 – 6.5 Loss)

The less mentioned about this match the better!

In my opinion Hendon 2 are the strongest team in the division, and this is demonstrated by the team they were able to bring to an away match at Lytton. Props to Will for achieving our solitary win.

Match 4: Hammersmith 2 vs Metropolitan 1 (4 – 4 Draw)

This match coincided with the London Chess Classic, which unfortunately made many of our regulars unavailable for the match. However, it gave other Hammers the opportunity to step up and they did so, emphatically.

Despite being out graded on every board, strong wins from Yasser at the top of the order; and Jakub and Jeremy lower down helped us achieve a deserved draw with a strong Metropolitan team.

From these 4 matches we are still lower down in the table. However, the table remains tight and the manner of our performances this year only builds on my confidence for the coming year.

Roll on 2020!


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 6: London League Second Team

As captain of our second team in London Division 4, it feels slightly odd writing a mid-season review so early in our season. A strange quirk of the fixture-list has meant we’ve only played two matches so far, with the latest being a full two months’ ago!

So, consider our progress thus far a mere amuse bouche, before we indulge in a veritable feast post-Christmas.

We started the season with a much tighter-than-it-sounds 5.5 -2.5 WIN against our Hammer 3 compatriots. Enjoying an advantage of around 30 points a board, it perhaps should have been a routine win on paper but in practice it was anything but. Tense struggles abound across the board-order and a couple of notable scalps taken down.

Next up was a difficult 3.5-4.5 LOSS to Athenaeum. This time our opponents matched us board-for-board and it truly could have gone either way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and we were narrowly edged out. Athenaeum will be one of our main rivals for promotion this season and it’ll be no surprise to see them up near the table of the table when June rolls around.

Our early pace-setter is Brian Dodgeon who’s scored 100% from his 2 matches this season. He also ably stepped-in to captain against Athenaeum which I was forced to miss, so many thanks for that, Mr D.

I can’t wait to get our campaign started in 2020, and know we’ll grow stronger as we approach the business end of the season. We’re well capable of being promoted this season and that should remain our aim as a team. Let’s make a confident start in January’s double-header against Metropolitan (3 and 4) and then we can see where we land.

Hammer 2 have never been hungrier for success. Let’s make 2020 a year to remember. Another wafer anyone?


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 5: Hodgson

Hammersmith’s ‘Hodgson’ team is named in honour of the late George Hodgson. George was father to current Hammer – Jeremy Hodgson, as well as the legendary attacking Grandmaster Julian Hodgson, who was a member of the club in the 70s.

The team plays in the London League ‘Major’ division. We provide competitive club chess against opponents usually ranging between 90-150 ECF which is the upper threshold. I took over the captaincy this season and am keen to add more regular players to the squad so any new members of the club, please get involved!

So far this season, due to having to rearrange one fixture, we have had two matches – in Oct and in Dec – which has meant our start to the season has begun somewhat leisurely, we have won both matches fairly easily.

Our season started with the game against GLCC whose venue is located in the back of a beautiful church just off Holborn. Despite a small pre-match challenge as one member of the team unfortunately had to drop-out at the last minute due to illness, we managed to win 2.5 – 1.5 overall despite the default. Of note was a good win by club stalwart Charlie Sturt on board one who would have made the GingerGM proud by playing both h4 and g4 as he launched a fierce king-side pawn-storm in a Caro-Kann. Another win by myself on board two with a mating attack in a Nimzo-Indian alongside a solid draw by Nick Rutherford on board three managed to secure us the win.

Yours truly in serious time trouble as I try to calculate an attack.

Cavendish were next up. Brian Dodgeon on board one led from the front in true Hodgson fashion defeating his opponent in ten-moves using the dangerous O’Kelly Sicilian! Brian kindly annotated his game which is presented below.

1-0 to the Hammers. A couple of solid positional games by myself on board three winning with my trusty Nimzo again; and, Nick Rutherford on board four who played a very patient manoeuvring endgame to win in the English opening despite some controversy which must have been very distracting as his opponent made a complaint about him noting his moves down prior to making them!

Nick causing mischief as usual.

In the end, good sense prevailed as I had a quick chat with the opposing captain and Nick and the game continued without any further issues. 3-0 to the Hammers. On board two Charlie had a more difficult game against the Cavendish captain missing a tactic, and then sacrificing a piece for counter-play before succumbing at the end. However in the end a comprehensive 3-1 victory.

In the New Year, Hammer Hodgson has a very busy fixture schedule with games coming thick and fast, so please do get in touch in response to emails if you are available to play!

Have a fantastic Christmas!


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 4: London League First Team

As the start of our much anticipated debut season in London League Division 1 drew ever near, I was faced with the typical captain’s conundrum. How could I strengthen the team in order to give us that essential bit of extra clout at the top without alienating my team mates, or worse still, infringing Hammer’s noble Corinthian ethos on recruitment?

You know how you wait for an hour, and then three buses turn up at the same time…so no sooner had I recruited IM Tom Rendle, thanks to Chris’s extensive contacts and the recent successful Celtic Tigers / Grantham Sharks collaboration in the Battersea Summer League, than Tom suggested his friend IM Peter Roberson would also be interested in joining us.

Just as we were catching our breath on that double coup, IM Mark Kvetny wandered into the Albion one summer evening, played a few games of blitz and got chatting, and promptly decided we were the club for him, rather than Battersea. Well they say IMs combine excellent judgement with uncanny intuition…

Add to that our recent recruits Fedja and Christof and we had five great additions to our already excellent squad.

And so to arms….

Match 1 (02/10/19): Hackney 3.5 Hammersmith 6.5

A tough start against one of the stronger established sides. This year, to keep my reports within reasonable bounds, I will not describe each individual game in detail, but refer you to the attached match cards.

Frustratingly, I had to miss the match due to illness, and I also had to pull in three substitutes at fairly short notice. It mattered not. Adam stepped in, and apart from performing captaincy duties with aplomb, also pulled off an important late swindle.

Solid wins from Peter, Thomas, Marius, Nadhmi and Adam, along with draws for Tom, Mark and Sylvain gave us a surprisingly comfortable victory. A very pleasing start.

Match 2 (16/10/19): Streatham & Brixton 4 Hammersmith 6

After our opening success we had some fun on Twitter at Battersea’s expense, gently “bragging” about being top of the League.

So could we prove our opening result was not just a fluke? Up against another heavyweight in Streatham, we unleashed what might be the strongest team we have ever fielded: Three international masters and an average grade of 205.

Fine wins for Tom, Mark (see later for details from both games), Bajrush and Sylvain, along with draws by Thomas, Carsten, Fedja and myself saw us clinch another great result. Perhaps even Battersea and the mighty Wood Green were now starting to take notice of the newbie upstarts?

Match 3 (06/11/19): Richmond & Twickenham 3 Hammersmith 7

Was this a stylish contemporary reinterpretation of the legendary 1960 European Cup Final: Real Madrid v Eintracht Frankfurt? As our three musketeers did the heavy lifting just like Puskas, Di Stefano and Gento, the way was left clear for us to demolish the opposition on the bottom four boards.

Wins for Mark, Carsten, Fedja, Sylvain, Marios and myself gave us a hat-trick of wins. Alas, just as we were building up some momentum, this concluded our fixtures until we resume vs. Athenaeum in the new year.

It is worth noting that these three wins came against very well established, solid first division clubs. They finished third, fourth and fifth respectively last season. And in all honesty we were not troubled by any of them. It seems our new recruits added to our regular stalwarts give us considerable strength in depth.

So we stood proudly at the top of Division One well into November, though we have now been overtaken by clubs who have played more matches pre-Christmas. The question is, what can we achieve this season? Clearly some Herculean battles lie ahead, and we are not yet ready to challenge Wood Green, but certainly the battle to be “Best of the Rest” should prove quite tasty provided we don’t fall victim to injuries, suspensions and dodgy VAR decisions!

Thanks to everyone for their support and heroic Spartan performances, and to Carsten for selecting a range of interesting pubs for our post match debriefs. Now, let’s see if you can find the best continuations in these fine games by Mark, Carsten and Tom.

Quiz Q1: S. Ledger (Streatham & Brixton) v M. Kvetny

Mark writes:

“A couple of moves earlier I had ruined a winning position, and now it’s basically an easy draw for white.”

Mark, perhaps recalling the notorious 1st Game between Spassky and Fischer, boldly followed Bobby in capturing on h2. In that game Boris won a tricky ending after g3, after trapping the bishop for two pawns. The question is, should white answer 1… Bxh2 with 2. g3 here? What should the result now be? Provide some analysis. Does White have a better reply?

Quiz Q2: C. Pedersen v C. Bates (Richmond)

Carsten writes:

“I have just played Rc1. what happens if black tries to swap of a set of rooks with 1… Nb5? Sadly he saw it and played 1… Rg8 instead.”

White clearly has a strong initiative. At first I thought 2. Qd3! with an evil pin and threats of Qxb5 and back rank mates was best. E.g. If 1… Nb5 2. Qd3 Rb8 3. Nc3 Nc7 4. Nxd5! exd5 5. Qxf5! with carnage was best. But alas the computer move 2…Nc5 giving up a piece drags it out a bit. Can you find Carsten’s witty and more elegant solution?

Annotated Game

Tom has kindly annotated his win vs Phil Makepeace of Streatham & Brixton – a fine example of attacking chess at its best.

Quiz Answers
  1. “1…Bxh2 was my last trick. If he just goes 2.Kd3! ignoring the bishop it should be a draw in a couple more moves. Instead he took the bait and captured the bishop with 2.g3? which, somewhat surprisingly, turns out to be a win for me” (Mark)

    Can you find the line which then wins for black?

  2. Carsten laconically gives (after 1… Nb5) 2. Qa4. Can you see why?


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 3: London League Third Team

Hammersmith’s third team in the London League play in Division Four, aiming to provide competitive games to a large and rotating squad and to have fun at the same time. Our opponents usually range from 90-150ECF, and new members are most welcome to put their names forward.

So far this season, sixteen different players have been involved in three games, where we have won one, drawn one and lost one, leaving us in a solid mid-table position. That is not the full picture though, as our squad of relatively low graded players have beaten the expectations (and their opponents!) and claimed some impressive individual results.

Our season started with the club derby against the second team, who are aiming for promotion. Despite this, we took them to the wire and nearly derailed their plans in the first match! The result was in the balance towards the end, but ended in a 5.5-2.5 loss overall. Of note two were two debutants, with Will Johnston scoring a win on board four against club regular Adam Cranston, and Cian Ward on board eight almost achieved a result against opposing captain David Lambert before succumbing at the end. Both look like strong players to watch going forward, belying their current grades.

Dave has slightly overextended and young Cian will come very close to exploiting the weaknesses

Athenaeum were next up. Going into this match we were outgraded and outnumbered, with one board defaulted due to a late drop-out, and Jakub Wirecki kindly filling in on the day and preventing a second default. Athenaeum are a strong side, and won the fixture 6-2 last year. Despite this, a series of strong games led to a 4-4 draw overall, with Hammers Rahulan, Izaan, Jonathan and Ben all scoring wins against opponents graded some thirty points above them, while Charlie Sturt on board two fought a near-winning game as well (you win some, you lose some). At least half of the team stayed until the end and then some, with further analysis of our games carrying on afterwards at the local pub.

The final game of the season so far was a 5-3 victory over Greater London Chess Club. Despite some pre-match organisational difficulties, with a few players arriving late, the result was a solid win. Cian carried forward his earlier form with a draw that could well have led to a win, while Yazhou Jiang, Benji Portheault, Will Johnston and Robin Lee all recorded wins as well. The match ended with some late controversy in the final game on board five, with Hammer Charlie Sturt taking issue with his opponent’s timekeeping. Thankfully this was ironed out by both captains, and with the match won with the score already standing at 4.5-2.5, a gentleman’s agreement resulted in a draw being agreed here.

After Christmas we have a busy January and February, not just for the third team who have four games, but for the club as a whole as well (, so please do get in touch and reply to your emails from the various captains, and we hope to see you playing in the New Year.

Merry Christmas!


The Big House Chess Match

In a joint initiative from both Battersea and Hammersmith chess clubs, a match was organised on Saturday 5th October inside HM Prison Wandsworth, one of the UK’s largest prisons, against the prisoners.

This is a great way for us chess players to support and give back to our community. After all, isn’t chess all about improving by learning from our own mistakes?

Hammers Kostis and Nadim joined a few other Battersea members and represented our club in the Big House Chess Match.

Rivalry aside, Hammersmith and Battersea are unified in the mission to spread our great game far and wide

The preparation of the event was spotless, and great effort was put into the organisation. With thanks and support from the prisons education department, the men inside the prison even prepared colourful bespoke chess boards, board numbers and score sheets all specially designed, printed and laminated for the occasion.

Finally, the universal language of chess was spoken and everyone enjoyed a few rapidplay games. All abilities were represented on both sides, and some endgames got very tense and spectacular but no matter who won the games, the biggest benefactors were both chess and the community.

The participating prisoners enjoyed the event so much and were very thankful throughout. As one of them said, it was a great occasion to have a morning “outside the prison”.

We hope that this initiative will continue, and that in the future more Hammers will have the occasion to participate.

Whether behind bars or not, chess will continue to be a great way to simply bring people together.


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 2: Central London Juniors

Five years ago, Hammersmith Chess Club had 23 members. We now have 108 members, including 23 juniors.

I’m delighted to announce the first ever report from our first ever junior team, expertly captained by chess-mum extraordinaire – Ekaterina MacLeod.

New to the club and Central London League, Hammersmith Junior Team has shown real gut and determination right from the start of the season.

We started with just 11 players in the team – all with relatively small ratings but great desire to play and improve our chess. Our youngest teammates: Alex, Zain and Cian have shown true sportsmanship and resilience – they faced really strong opposition from Kings Head 2, Streatham and our adult counterparts from Hammersmith. Conall is the man of the season – having not missed a match, after a slow start, he fought hard and brought the team 3 points on board 2. Jack and Kumar played beautifully and scored vital points for the team on board 1. A special mention goes to Jakub and Abakar who always help out when the team needs them. I remember a tough match and well deserved draw between Jakub (100) and his opponent from Pimlico 4 who was rated 114. Abakar (85) grew stronger by the match finishing the season with a win against a 116 rated opponent from Kings Head 2.

Our young stars represented the club in European Youth Championship in Estonia recently and showed great results – we congratulate them on their amazing performance in this tough and prestigious tournament.

Conall, Laith, Taymour and Nadhmi celebrate Hammersmith’s latest El Chessico victory

Currently in 3rd position with 2 wins, 3 draws and 2 losses, Hammersmith Junior Team has everything to fight for in the second half of the league.

We welcome new members to the team and hope that they will enjoy playing with us in Central London League.


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 1: Hedger

The eagle-eyed among you may have noticed fewer match reports on the website this season compared to last… it’s time for that to change!

Captains have been busy writing bumper reports for the festive season. With 13 teams, we’re in for a treat! (I’m pessimistically expecting only 12 reports)

So sit down beside the fireplace, pour yourself a mulled wine, bite into a mince pie, and enjoy part one – the adventures of our “Hedger” team in the London League minor division.

It’s nearly Christmas, and this is the time captains do their mid-season reports. The Hammersmith Hedger team is in the 9th place of the table of the Minor section of the London Chess League, and anything can happen in the rest of the season, particularly the good side of anything. So let’s give it a good go in the new year and climb the ranks of this table!

The increasingly popular “minor” division

More importantly,

We can all call ourselves chess improving players in this team. We are not afraid of tough games, we are not afraid of losing and we are here to become better at the game. Like the Sunday football amateurs, we may not always offer the most spectacular game, but we are there week in week out on the muddy pitch offering our best play.

Even when sometimes other clubs go and bloat their small victory on social media, it doesn’t matter because we do our best, give it a good challenge and continue the improvement process. Sometimes we are the winners but in those cases we do behave on Twitter!

Sometimes nice surprises happen, and the games are spectacular. For example I remember the match against Battersea when our player Anastasija was able to offer a spectacular endgame, and from a rather inferior position she held very well, and took the half point while at least ten people holding their breath were standing around the board following every move of this fantastic endgame.

For every player in the Hedger team every game is breath taking and spectacular at least in the eyes of the two opponents themselves, and that’s what chess at improvement level is all about!

Another important thing to mention this season is how much depth a great club like Hammersmith can provide to a team like ours. The Captain job can be stressful enough at times, particularly when you need to recompose most of the team within twenty four hours from the match as things happen to everyone and sometimes they have to cancel. In those cases, Hammers stood up for the team and we were always able to find the right players despite the exclusivity rules within the London minor chess league preventing the same person playing for two different teams in the same season.

Moreover, I unfortunately had to miss a couple of games myself as captain this season due to unforeseen circumstances, and I am so grateful to Dave for his help providing fantastic captaining on those nights, coming early and staying till the end supporting every player in the team.

To all chess improving players out there in London, I would like to invite you to join our club and in particular the Hedger team. Joining a chess club is the best way to improve at chess, and don’t be afraid of playing league games, you will see, soon you will be playing very spectacular chess and you will enjoy it.

Best seasons greetings to all!


GM Keith “Hammer” Arkell

Plagiarism has a long ignoble history in chess, stretching from hundreds of years ago to the modern day. So, I feel no shame in utilising the timeless genius of Jane Austen and paraphrase her with the following quote:

“I rejoice in the superiority of our connections”

Hammer is fortunate to have Grandmaster Keith Arkell as a member of our club. I know how much that means to him and how enthusiastic he is about what the club has achieved and the direction it is going in.

Every December after the conclusion of the London Classic he always takes part in a simultaneous against Hammer members. This year , he went one step further, he took on twenty plus members and the next night debuted in the Middlesex League – for some reason playing on Board One???!!!!!

This is a brief report on those two evenings.

The simultaneous involved him taking on 23 Hammers and scoring 20 wins and three draws.

Say cheese

From beating Thomas (T-Bone) and Christof (Der Vater) to the Hammer Youth of Zain and Alex he was relentless – three hours of total concentration – that means he spent, on average, 8 minutes on each game. That is pretty awesome.

The three draws were achieved by Claudio, potential new member Vasil and young Cian.

Claudio played accurately and was the last to finish – showing his customary tenacity and stubborn qualities. He survived the famed Arkell endgame technique and was rightly praised by Keith in the Albion post-mortem.

Vasil – had an amazing game- I hope to bring you the game later. At the end Vasil was a Queen and Rook up (indeed he had two queens on the board) forcing Keith to play for a perpetual. Superb play.

However, without doubt the stand-out performance of the evening came from 8-year-old Cian Ward who displayed all the fighting chess qualities endemic in the heart and soul of every Hammer. He played so solidly and so well- maybe Keith could have won but Cian never gave up.

The highest praise was forthcoming from Keith for this performance – enjoy!!

The night ended inevitably in The Albion where Keith shared his thoughts on the Arkell endgame (King, Rook and Bishop vs King and Rook with no pawns), recent tourneys he had played and his chess books. A brilliant end to the evening.

The next day, his 13th day of chess in a row, he turned out to play for Hammer against Muswell Hill in Division 1 of the Middlesex League. His opponent was Mike Healey (ECF217) and a familiar face to many Hammers.

Celebrating the end of a gruelling week

Here is the game, annotated by the man himself. The final position is completely lost and a classic example of a Good Knight vs a Bad Bishop.

On behalf of the whole of Hammer – I wish to thank Keith – and wish him a most Merry Christmas and all the best in 2020. 

We look forward to next year’s encounter – revenge is already in the air!

Lord Clueless