Hammer Hodgson Update

On Friday 31st Jan, Hammer Hodgson took on Morley College in London League Division 5. Although we managed to retain our *unbeaten* run, our perfect record of wins was ended as we barely escaped with a 2-2 draw.

Reminiscent of those football matches where one team gets a player sent off in the first 5 minutes, we had begun the evening with high hopes and Morley on the back-foot after defaulting their top board due to a late withdrawal of one of their players. 1-0 to the Hammers.

However, straightforward wins were not to be the theme of the night, as Morley staged an improbably comeback in the remaining games.

On Board 2, Rahulan was having a tricky game, under pressure in the opening after an early attack in the Goring Gambit and then reeling after his opponent uncorked 6.Bxf7, disrupting his Kingside castling, regaining his sacrificed piece and building a dangerous initiative. Showing typical hammer grit, Rahulan managed to trade Queens, fight back and equalise, but made a mistake later in the game. 1-1

On Board 4, Javier, playing his French Defence, had a pleasant positional advantage over his opponent for most of the game, but just couldn’t find the decisive hammer-blow to end resistance. In the efforts to press for a win, he somehow managed to allow his opponent to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This is a story that happens to us all. 2-1 to Morley.

Nick Rutherford on Board 4 played his customary English opening, won a piece with good tactical vision early on, and then never let his opponent back into the game, grinding out a good result. 2-2

It was probably a fair result, as we didn’t fully take our chances, but East Ham have now caught us at the top of the league. Our set of games are likely to be crucial if we want to stand a chance of promotion this year. So, please let me know if you are available in our fixtures across March, April and May.

Our next match is on 19th February against Football Radar. If you haven’t already done so, please let me know if you would like to be considered for those/any fixtures coming up:

  • 19 Feb – Football Radar, Citadines 18:45
  • 4th Mar – Kings Head, Citadines 18:45

Onwards and upwards!
Ken

Other crucial remaining fixtures:

  • 7th Apr – Battersea (Cats), Battersea Labour Club 19:30
  • 6th May – East Ham, Citadines 18:45
  • 27th May – Hackney, Citadines 18:45

 

Lightning Strikes Twice in London Division 4

Quick on the heels of our victory over their 4th team, we visited Metropolitan’s home venue to take on their big brother in the form of Metropolitan 3. The grades were higher but the result was the same: a 6-2 WIN for Hammer.

Full scorecard below; a clean sweep of the top 4 boards, with honours even on the lower boards.

In fairness to Metro 3, they’re a stronger team than they showed on the night and we found ourselves slightly fortunate to out-grade them across the boards, which of course gave us a crucial advantage. Nevertheless, their captain Giovani was extremely complimentary of our team, and wished us well in our promotion charge.

The first five games to finish all went in our favour which meant the match result never looked in doubt. Eddy was the first to finish – not for the first time it has to be said – playing an expansive, attacking game with White creating more complications than his opponent could deal with. He quickly seized material advantage and claimed the win. I think he was just keen to get stuck into some Blitz in the foyer outside personally. Eddy’s on 100% for the team with 2 wins out of 2.

Christof also shares that honour, and is proving a dangerous foe on top board. In this match-up, his pressing forced some passive play from his opponent, allowing a devastating attack to flourish on the king-side. It was too much to hold without giving up significant material, which would otherwise have been enough to secure victory, but Christof preferred a thematic mate instead. Full game here:

The score was further flattered with wins from Liam, Adam and Paul on the higher boards. I didn’t get to see much of the action here, but wasn’t surprised to see them bringing home the bacon for the side; all 3 extremely reliable players who add a lot to the side.

Brian rounded off the victories with what he describes as a swindle in the O’Kelly variation of the Sicilian. Looks legit to me. I wouldn’t mind a couple of those ‘swindles’ coming my way.

The first faller was your captain on Board 8 – easily one of the most frustrating matches I’ve played. My opponent offered me the free capture of a Knight on g5 with the outstretched h-pawn, sacrificing the material for a dangerous attack. After a lot of thought, I took the Knight and calculated I could repel the attack. And that’s exactly what happened, but it burnt a lot of my time, and when I finally emerged unscathed – and it looked like the threat was over – I immediately blundered a crucial pawn completely changing the dynamic of the game (+6.0 to -7.5). Disaster.

Keeping us from the pub at the end was Jon, who found himself a pawn down in a tricky Rook / Pawn endgame. It was tricky, but was one of those that could have been held with a bit more time to think through the complexities. Alas, time wasn’t a luxury in Jon’s favour and his opponent skilfully worked a passed-pawn and that was that. 6-2

A final word for Adam and Eddy who both answered a last-minute request to play, each taking home the full point to boot. It was very much appreciated, and really shows the benefit of having a strong squad who are willing to pull out the stops to help the team.

The result leaves us in 3rd place overall, behind Battersea and DHSS who you have to say have looked impressive thus far. Next up for us is a tricky tie against Lewisham, where we hope our good form can continue. We need a victory there to keep up the pressure.

Long live Hammer.
Dave.

From Zero to Hero…

24 hours in the Chess World of Lord Clueless

“Always look on the bright side of life, always look on the bright side of life…”

In the week that has seen the passing of the comic genius that was Python Terry Jones, the words from the song finale at the end of “Life of Brian” have been echoing in my head.

It is a perfect song to ensure that you sometimes keep all matters in life in perspective, but it is a particularly apt response to the chess curveballs that Caissa can throw at you.

Caissa, that fickle chess God, can bring you so low and then let you soar. 

So, read on for the Clueless version of a Kiefer Sutherland Chess 24 (too many puns – ed).

On Monday night I turned out for Hammer 2 in the Middlesex League against the might of Albany in the heart of Fitzrovia.

Playing board 4 against a wily opponent, Chris Todd (graded 169), I basically played like a patzer. After equalising quite easily against 1.f4 (Bird’s Opening), unfortunately complacency set in and I did not pursue control of the e4 square. I then fell into a pin and dropped a piece. The rest of the game was excruciatingly bad and painful to watch. Definitely not Lord Clueless’s finest hour. Hammer 2 went down 5.5-2.5, with wins for Jeremy and Liam (the latter’s play was outstanding) and a draw for Laurie (particularly galling as his resolute play should have been better rewarded).

Not a great night for Clueless and the Hammer Crew.

The next night saw Clueless at our new venue, the Young Chelsea Bridge Club, with a manic night ahead. We had two eight-board matches, the junior hour and a club night to put on. Plus, the inevitable flow of potential new members, coupled with the teaching debut of the dynamic due of Christof and Jim for Junior Hour.

Christof putting the juniors through their paces at the practice board

A full plate was on for a morose Lord Clueless, who was still angry with his pathetic play form the night before.

This was the biggest night so far at our new venue, with probably 60 people attending, including parents and juniors and a lot to organise.

Redemption can sometimes come from the strangest source and this was the case this night. Our IM Mark did not appear and hence we had a gap on Board One against a very strong Ealing team. In the Thames Valley League the default is 30 minutes. Time was ticking.

Adam, our Secretary, approached me and asked if I would step in – I grabbed the moment.

Before we get to the game, I must pay tribute to my opponent Phil Makepeace – an absolute gent, sportsman, and a credit to Ealing Chess Club. He was generous in his post-match comments, and said how much he enjoyed the game.

My thought process whenever I play somebody who is 200-plus, which is pretty rare, is to take them out of their comfort zone. The premise being that they will crush me in main line theory – they know so much more – hence give them something they have not seen before.

This was the result:

The game was the last to finish, and a time scramble meant that not all the moves are there. In the end I was able to force a draw through repetition. The board at this stage was surrounded by both Ealing and Hammer players, willing both of us on. It was tense.

I definitely missed a win – if g4 had been played in the last few moves recorded, I would have had a decisive advantage. C’est la vie!

The draw ensured Hammer drew the match; Clueless had saved the day. Redemption was assured, and Clueless was the victim of several thank-you pints of beer!

This is the allure of chess – within 24 hours you can go from zero to here – from playing like a patzer to playing like a 200 plus player – that is why I love this beautiful game.

The new ECF grades are OUT!!!

Chess at Hammersmith is a team game. Nonetheless, every player has their own grade based on their own games, and it would be wrong not to take some pride in these as well. These grades are currently updated by the ECF every six months, with the latest coming out last week on January 29th, and a number of Hammersmith players deserve a special highlight:

Our Middlesex One captain Marios Kouis leads the way, gaining 15 points and increasing his grade from 180 to 195. Marios has played across the Hammersmith first teams in the Thames Valley and London League as well as for his Middlesex teams, and currently has 7 game points from 9 games so far this season.

Club stalwart Dan Rugman has been a regular for Hammersmith Hedger so far this season, playing in four of their seven games so far, and six for the club in total. His grade is up 10 to 97, his highest grade yet. Joining him as a regular this season has been Abakar Nasrutdinoff. Abakar has also played six games so far, and his grade has reached 101, a 16 point increase.

Following two wins from three in the 2019 London Summer Chess League, Rauno Jarvinen has been turning out for the Hammersmith first teams and has also gained 10 points, taking him to 182, which is another personal best. At the other end of the age order, one of our youngest members (and newcomer) Cian Ward has shown his strength across eight games for the club so far across the London League, Middlesex and Central London League teams. Despite facing some tough opponents so far, his grade has gone up by 16 to reach 95.

Next up, while not playing too many games for Hammersmith itself in the season so far, Laith Auchi has also impressed and overtaken his brother Taymour, our winner of 2018-19’s most improved club player of the season. Laith is now graded 114, an increase of 18, while Taymour is close behind with a grade of 110. All remains to play for over the remainder of the season here!

The same also holds true for juniors Kumar Banerji (up 15 to 142), Jack Esiri (up 11 to 141), and Kabir Ghosh (up 19 to 107), all of whom I look forward to seeing turn out for more games for the club over the coming months.

Finally, new joiner Will Johnston debuted in the Hammersmith derby in London League Four with a win against club secretary Adam Cranston. After six wins from eight games (and no draws!) he has earned a first grade of 151. This has made a bit of a mockery of his original estimated grades, which were originally 110 and have since been revised to 125!

For anyone wishing to look further, all of the current and past ECF grades can be found on the grading website at http://www.ecfgrading.org.uk/new/menu.php

Best of luck to all Hammersmith players for the rest of the season,

Ben.
Club Captain