Hammer Firsts Vs Kings Head Bangers Round 4 – The LL Online

Lord Clueless with more dispatches from the battle front of LL cyber chess world.

Hammer Firsts went again last week with local rivals Kings Head in the firing line. There are no easy matches in this League.

Another tough at the office.

The team featured three Hammer stalwarts. Chris Skulte on Board 1, Christof on Board 2 and Jonathan on Board 4. The newbie and making his debut in the competition was Krasen (Chris) Dimitrov on board 3.

Like last week before I go to the match report were you able to identify Week 3’s concealed chess figure…It was the unique and controversial figure of Robert J Fischer… another true genius of the chess board. In this week’s report another historical figure lays hidden. The clues are once again in bold and please enter your answers in the feedback option.

So to the match…

First, the result– our first loss with a 1.5-2.5 score line – this was such a close match with four amazing games to look at – I know I have said before but if the runes had fallen right, the play of your four Hammer heroes would have been rewarded with a match win. But Caissa can be cruel…

As usual we will go in board order – Board 1 for Hammer was the immense talent that is Chris Skulte – aka “Lord Hurricane” and in total win or die mode. This was a fascinating game where Chris missed a draw against a strong opponent in a really complex battle. He was also subjected to the John Sargent commentary treatment on the livestream. I think the Hurricane was not at his best but as usual never gave up. Here is the game.

Chris is a serious lover of German beer – both Adam and I can testify to that after the Stuttgart beer festival last year. I reckon a few were sunk by our man after this tough encounter.

Hammer 1-0 down but who ever said the French exchange is as dull as ditch water??

On Board 2 – Christof aka “Der Vater” played an amazing game with time playing a huge part in the outcome. How he held the position at the end was testament to his skill. I have never seen two more powerful white knights. Many a player would have cracked but Christof is made of Hammer steel through and through. Did he really take 27-year break plus from chess?

The game is just fascinating.

Hammer on the scoreboard but still trailing by a point.

Next up was Chris D, against an opponent who took me to the cleaners two years ago in a Middlesex OTB encounter, Conor has drawn and beaten titled players in a long, and distinguished chess career. How would he deal with the new boy?

Chris joined the club under two weeks ago and was anxious to play. After a few blitz games against Lord Clueless which he emerged a 2-1 winner – Lord Clueless decided Board 3 was the right level for him to start his online LL odyssey.

What followed was a brilliant tour de force from Chris and a thoroughly deserved win on his debut in just 27 moves. As a result of this performance I assign him the nom de guerre “The Bolt”.

This was great to watch with Bd5 a nice touch – enjoy.

Hammer at 1.5-1.5 and back in the fight.

The last match was going to determine the match point – over to Jonathan.

Maybe I am alone but I have noticed a much more aggressive edge to Jonathan’s chess in this tourney. He is much more in your face and let me nut ’em mode than I seem to remember from our OTB encounters (do you remember those?).

This game was all about striving for the initiative – he had a tough opponent in the form of Colin Mackenzie and neither player backed away from playing critical moves. Jonathan kept pouring oil on the fire and never backed offthis was total chess combat. Sadly, he was always one move away from getting the win his imaginative play deserved – but this game was testament to his fighting spirit and his new approach. What a game.

Hammer were beaten but did not go quietly into the night. This was a worthy fight and maybe on another night we could have sneaked it.

The current table looks like this:

Still a lot to play for.

Clueless is a proud Captain and is looking forward to the next bloodthirsty encounter.

Lord Clueless in good mental health.

Christmas Comes Early at Hammer – The Dutch Match

The gauntlet has been thrown down by our good friends at Espion in Amsterdam. They want to take us on in an arena tournament on the 17th December 2020.

The details are being worked out but I need 20 Hammers, maximum, willing to defend our honour. Games will probably be 10 mins plus 5 second increment, using lichess’s “Team Arena” format.

Please email me on jdrw9591@gmail.com to register your interest asap.

This will be a great evening of online chess and a nice chess wind down to the Christmas break.

Lord Clueless

Hammer Firsts v. Petts Wood and Orpington: LL Online Round 3

Lord Clueless with the third instalment of dispatches from the virtual battlefront.

Hammer Firsts were again in action Wednesday last week against the force that is/was Petts Wood and Orpington (PWO). Previous PWO line-ups had shown a couple of players above 200-grade on the top boards with two very decent 150 plus players on boards 3 and 4.

A really tough challenge for Hammer.

Another week – another line-up – with Ryszard and Christof stepping up to the plate again, Adam answering the call and Lord Clueless finally making his season debut.

Before going to the match report were you able to identify Week 2’s concealed chess figure…? It was Jose Raoul Capablanca... a true genius of the chess board. In this week’s report another historical figure lays hidden. The clues are once again in bold and please enter your answer in the comments!

So, to the match…

First, the result – yet another draw – this is definitely a Petrosian start rather than Tal-like from the Hammer firsts. Solid and dependable, as against outrageous.

To be honest I think Hammer dodged a bullet here with the Clueless default win securing the draw. However, two of the actual games were full-bloodied encounters with no quarter given with Christof and Adam displaying true Hammer grit.

Ryszard had a Petrosian draw, I cannot hold that against him as he has played a lot of online chess recently and he also had black. Indeed, this was the most unlike Ryszard game I have ever looked at. His natural style is keep fighting, striving for the win and eschewing any draw offers. 

That said he was black and your first job is to equalise – which he had nearly achieved, so a smart draw against a tough opponent.

Board 2 saw Christof playing white in a truly complex battle that ended up being across the whole 64 squares. Whoever said the London System is dull really needs to look at this game. This was Christof striving so hard to win and walking that very fine line between disaster and glory.

Enjoy this no-holds-barred encounter:

With time running down rapidly on the clock, Christof took the offer of a draw. The end position is almost study-like and if blitz was an option, I think the game would have continued. The result could have gone either way, there were many possibilities. This was definitely reminiscent of a 1967 Leonid Stein game where anything could have happened and did happen!

However now at 1-1 and with Lord Clueless being awarded a default win, and not being allowed to play his usual Najdorf Sicilian, all eyes turned to Adam.

Playing White, Adam played his usual London System opening – however, this game went very tactical, very quickly. This was another game that went tactical very early on and in this situations one mis-move can cause a calamity – alas for Hammer it was Adam who cracked first. However, this is a game worthy of analysis as there was so much play on the board.

Adam fought to the end and I am just gutted having answered the call he could not gain the win his play deserved. Clueless is and was very grateful.

So, we arrive at the familiar score of 2-2 and a third draw for Hammer Firsts.

This leaves us mid-table with perennial rivals Kings Head next up on the 18th November.

Once again Lord Clueless implores all Hammers to get involved in the LL Online – this is a competition that is trying to be different and offers something new to all players.

Lord Clueless.


Chess amid Covid-19: The stories no one tells: Part 1

“Proudly serving the capital since 1886” and faced with a worrisome pandemic, the London Chess League Committee has developed a separate online competition which kicked off on Wednesday 21 October, on Tornelo.

I had the chance to first meet some of my potential rivals on Tuesday 20 October, on Zoom, when FIDE Arbiter and Organiser Adam Raoof hosted a pre-tournament platform test session. As the great International Master Zoltan Sarosy continued to play chess online even after his 100th birthday on 23 August 2006, it was both heart-warming and inspiring to witness quite a few Senior players joining the Online London Chess League.

Using a tablet or their personal computer, many have managed to join correctly and rather swiftly both the test platform for that evening and Zoom, unlike myself who ended up on the wrong page, staring blankly at the participants list for the first round on Wednesday. The test session has not gone as smoothly as the organiser would have liked, but the more Senior players in the group provided feedback until the very end, facing several problems ranging from poor internet connection, insufficient battery on their tablet, to server issues on the chess tournament test platform.

Their patience, boundless energy and enthusiasm have been contagious. Already tired after a couple of very busy days at work, I was not planning initially to stay behind for any chess games and only joined the session to get accustomed with the Tornelo platform. Witnessing such perseverance, it only took moments to forget about the tiredness felt and to express my interest in being paired with someone for an actual match.

That evening represented food for thought, as it made me question how accessible are online tournaments in general to Senior players, especially as they might be the only option one has to continue playing competitive chess amid Covid-19.

It took place not long after Archie Bland’s article in the guardian on “Chess cheating crisis: ‘paranoia has become the culture’” had been published. The ongoing debate about ‘computer doping’ and whether anyone should even consider playing competitively online was distressing from the very beginning of lockdown. This pleasant experience, one night before the Online London Chess League commenced, slightly changed the manner in which I perceived and prioritised current challenges faced by the chess world.

Credit: YouTube / Archie Bland / Guardian Media
Online Chess cheating, the new barriers

There is no secret that cheating in chess has been an increasing concern globally, as multiple tournaments decided to move forward with a new online format. Prestigious competitions such as the Online Nations Cup have already implemented substantial measures to diminish the likelihood of online cheating and identify such unethical behaviour, including a request to all players to be visible on cameras at all times accompanied by a set of technical guidelines on the resolution of one’s webcam and speed of one’s internet connection. Everything from lighting to peripheral equipment has also been covered in the aforementioned requirements.

Other competitions such as the European Online Chess Championships have adopted a milder approach, only asking the top 16 players to be on camera – with audio also on – on Zoom.

While certain online competition requirements may be considered reasonable, I feel uneasy thinking about IM Zoltan Sarosy – who took his game online, buying his first computer at the beautiful age of 95. I tried to visualise the IM amid this pandemic when online cheating surged, having to comply with current regulations and install the latest version of Zoom. Would he have have known what “a resolution of at least 360p” means? Would “a download speed of at least 25 Mbps with a latency (or ping time) of 100ms or less” make any sense to him or to anyone without some IT knowledge?

In the midst of a crisis, it is easy to forget the people who might have spent their entire lives infatuated with chess, the ones who might now coach us, the ones who took on a role in your local chess club maybe post-retirement and are doing a wonderful job at supporting the chess community, the ones who are likely to be less tech-savvy as a big chunk of their lives was devoid of the technology we boast about nowadays.

Apart from inspiring me to write this article, I thought the London Online Chess League preparations were alright. Using Zoom, while recommended, is not mandatory in this tournament. International Arbiter Adam Raoof is overseeing the matches and any cheating suspicions should be signalled to him, more so when there is reasonable evidence as well. The Tornelo platform test organised prior to the first round of the tournament was efficient in identifying some of the issues players come across and solving these in due course. The platform is a simple and very straightforward one, which also makes it more accessible to a wider range of chess players.

Everything considered, I have some questions for the potential readers:

Questions for any ‘cheater’:

Who taught you chess? Do you know that an increase in online cheating will lead to tougher anti-cheating measures? ‘Tougher’ does not mean tougher only for cheaters, it means tougher for the entire chess community.

Have you ever thought that some of these measures, such as the use of a camera and always being visible on video, might prevent a specific group from participating in and enjoying online competitive chess?

Is your reputation, the family/social circle/peer pressure or any other justification you might find for the act of cheating, worth the price? Are you aware of the extensive meaning ‘price’ has in this context? It could include someone suddenly questioning their goals in chess. It also includes someone whose lifelong passion was chess, now being unable to attend a future online tournament as the old tablet his grandson bought does not comply with the requirements of that competition.

There would be no need for these measures – or even stricter ones in the future – if cheating would not be a growing concern.

Are you creating new barriers to chess? How can you contribute to the chess community?

Questions for any ‘organiser’:

Are your online chess tournament official regulations or terms & conditions encouraging diversity? Is your tournament platform user-friendly?

Are you creating new barriers to chess? How can you contribute to the chess community?

Questions for any ‘chess player’:

Why are you playing chess? What does this shift to online chess during the Covid-19 pandemic mean for you? Do you love chess or only over the board chess, and are your current choices reflecting your answer to this question?

How concerned are you about online cheating? Have you shared these concerns with your team captain, coach if any, arbiter, or all of the aforementioned?

Are you aware that not reporting genuine concerns might only encourage further unethical behaviour? Have you stopped to consider the effect of spreading unfounded rumours, not only on the subject of your rumour, but also on the target audience? This target audience will not be able to support you in carrying out an investigation as the tournament arbiter would.

Does your wish to play on a more complex online platform, with a wealth of add-ons, trump having access to a straightforward & simple to use platform that caters for the needs of a wider poll of chess players? The attractiveness of an online platform is not directly proportional to the quality of its anti-cheating mechanisms.

Are you creating new barriers to chess? How can you contribute to the chess community?

Raluca Stroe.
Hammersmith Chess Club – Diversity Officer


Post-script: IM Zoltan Sarosy

I found this 1964 game between, at that time, Zoltan L. Sarosy and IM Lawrence Day at the Canadian Open very interesting. I hope you enjoy it:

Hammer Firsts vs London Terminators – Round 2

Hammer Firsts went again last week against the mercenary lineup of the London Terminators. Lord Clueless presents his second report.

A different lineup for the Hammer crew this week, with debuts in this league for Ryszard, Carsten and Jeremy. How would they fare?

Last weeks hidden film was “Wargames” – this week a historical chess figure will be hidden in the report – the clues again will be in bold font. Answers please in the comments! 

So, to the games…

First, the scorecard – indicating another 2-2 draw for Hammer.

As usual the devil is in the detail. I genuinely believe Hammer should have won this match with Christof losing due to an error, and Carsten under time pressure missed a win that his logical and resolute play merited.

Ryszard did very well to draw his game which for a long while was quite double-edged, with our man striving to make something happen on the board and probably over-reaching in his determination to score the full point. Judge for yourselves, here is the game:

Ryszard’s style definitely does not entertain compromise – he always strives for the advantage by direct combat. In so many ways his style is similar to Lasker, particularly in the Moscow 1925 tourney.

It was great to have him back in the Hammer colours.

Carsten’s debut in this year’s tourney was truly memorable and produced the game of the match. This was truly a marathon with thrills, spills, errors, and recoveries on both sides. It was a total roller-coaster.

The first 16 moves were blitzed out with both players familiar with the line. Carsten, aka “The Great Dane”, felt very comfortable and strategically outmanoeuvred his opponent. When this happens on the chess board, tactical opportunities always arise. His play to this point was crystal-clear and reminiscent of a great world champion of the past.

The problem was – could he translate his material and positional advantage into a deserved victory? The factor complicating this was time and this contributed massively to him missing out on a win but undoubtedly allowed the incredible finish that followed.


Match score 1-1.

Board 3 saw Christof fall into a “Tarrasch-trap” of the 1914 variety – where he moved the wrong bishop. This was a simple oversight and just a bad day at the office. It happens to us all.

I have to say Christof is the ultimate team and squad player – he always makes himself available and responds very quickly to emails. This was a total aberration. Here is the game…

Hammer down 2-1.

All eyes turned to Jeremy, aka Brexit, returning to action for Hammer for the first time in 9 months. I was so glad he decided to participate – he is Hammer through and through and generally spurns online chess. After some fast talking a few coffee mornings, he agreed that the setup John Sargent, in conjunction with Adam Raoof, had devised was the best possible scenario for online chess.

Yep, Brexit was back and it was like he was never away. He played a great game with a fantastic finish and definitely employed the Speelman doctrine of playing waiting and provoking moves to induce errors from his opponent. The denouement was most pleasing.

I was truly delighted and it was most assuredly a get the cigars out moment. Here is the game.

The win made the match score of 2-2.

So, two matches and two draws, and a solid start and an indication to me that elusive win is just round the corner. Thank you to our four players.

Our next game is against another new team – Petts Wood and Orpington. It is time we got our first win.

Finally, can you spot the hidden chess player?

Hold the faith – the power of Hammer will shine through.

Lord Clueless.