The Rockhammer is born!

Last summer we launched the Sledgehammer internal tournament to create plenty of opportunities for Hammers to play internal graded slow games. We also have regular rounds of internal blitz tournaments counting towards a blitz title over the year. Something needed to be done in internal rapidplay land, and therefore we have decided to create Sledgehammer’s little brother – The Rockhammer!

Basically this is another handicap based tournament, where everyone can play everyone else in both black and white over the season. The default time control is 30 minutes plus 15 seconds increment, but when both players agree, they can play from 15 to 30 minutes, from no increment and up to 30 seconds increment per move. Here’s a link to the full set of rules.

To make things simple, we will consider that all players registered for the Sledgehammer are also registered for the Rockhammer. The contact lists for both tournaments will be merged, as well as the the regular communications to the players which include results and contact lists, however the standings for the two tournaments are separate.

Finally, if someone wants to register for the Rockhammer and the Sledgehammer, please send an email to

So let’s get started, and contact your opponents to put those rapidplay games in your diaries!


And we’re off!

The chess season is well and truly underway! We have three reports for you, courtesy of PR Officer John White.

Round One of the Hammer Blitz Tourney Cycle

Yes the opening round of our blitz cycle took place this past Monday at the Anvil. This is one of the most awaited events of the club year where even the most lowly chess devotee can take down one of the big names.

Defending champion Chairman Wily was there to see off the competition and retain his title. But the competition would be stiff with T-Bone, The Surgeon and a host of junior talent to face.

Seven rounds of no quarter given blitz would answer all questions.

Hammer also played host to two visitors from Lubeck Chess Club…Andrea and her son Fabian.

As usual Secretary Pickle was in charge and did a superb job with the pairings.

Your reporter Lord Clueless was reduced to the role of casual observer.

Without fanfare here are the results with some notable performances amongst them.

Pos Name Score
1 Thomas Bonn 6.5
2 Kishan Pattni 5.5
Tony Niccoli 5
Conall McBrinn 5
Bajrush Kelmendi 5
Andrew MacLeod 4
Charlie Sturt 4
Eddy Goldman 4
Moritz Reuter 4
Fabian Schnell 4
Laurie MacKellar 3
Taymour Auchi 3
Amaya MacDonald 3
Nadim Osseiran 3
Zain Patel 3
Georgios Vazouras 2
Dave Lambert 2
Ljubomir Koncar 2
Cian Ward 2
Adam Cranston 2
Andrea Schnell 1
Chester Short 1
Neil Arora 1
Anastasija Royce 1


What the final table demonstrates is that reputation counts for nothing in this format.

Round One say new Hammer Laurie (aka Supermac) take down Wily…an excellent performance.

Round Two saw the Clash of the tourney between the T-Bone and The Surgeon. I reckon they played a 120 plus moves each in 10 mins. This equates to the clock being hit every two seconds.

The Surgeon had a won game but the sheer will-power of T-Bone saw him triumph on time. A phenomenal game.

Outstanding overall performance of the evening must go to Conall who scored 5/7 for a superb third-place tie.

Indeed all the juniors Amaya, Zain, Cian and Taymour scoring well. Hammer’s future is in very safe hands.

So Round One is done and dusted with the pride of Marianne T-Bone winning by a clear point and taking an early lead in this year’s tourney. A real dominant performance.

To all other Hammers remember it is your best three scores that count out of the five cycles. So even if you have missed this opening night you have four more attempts to register results.

Just remember you have to be in it to win it!!!

Hammer’s Night at the Club Oscars

Yes the most important chess award ceremony of the year preceded the opening round of the Hammer Blitz Tourney.

Hosted by our own Chairman Wily this is the occasion where Hammer honours, publicly, it’s heroes and heroines.

It was a great occasion and once again demonstrated how youthful the club is becoming.

Long may it continue!!!

2018-2019 Players of the Season

Thames Valley 1 – Tony Niccoli

 Thames Valley 2 – Matteo Bezzini

 Middlesex 1 – Bajrush Kelmendi

Middlesex 2 – Paul Kennelly

Middlesex 3 – Liam Fleming

Middlesex 4 – Ben Rothwell

London League 1 – Chris Skulte

London League 2 – Nadhmi Auchi

London League 3 – Robin Lee

London League Major – Andrew Macleod

London League Minor – Taymour Auchi

Most Improved Player of the Season – Taymour Auchi

Hammer Overall Player of the Season – Jim Stevenson

Winners in the Hammersmith Rapid Play Tournament

Open Section – Tony Niccoli 6/7

Rooks Section – Nadhmi Auchi 4.5/7

Bishop Section – Kostis Nikolis 4.5/7

Knight Section – Ken Kwabiah 4/7

Chairman Wily also had the pleasure to confer book prizes to all our juniors who have made an outstanding contribution to our Club and represented their country – Amaya MacDonald, Alex Royce, Zain Patel, Cian Ward, Conall McBrinn

A really great ceremony and all our winners are to be roundly congratulated.

Conall collects his award before going on to tear up the blitz tournament
Hammer 2 kicks off in Middlesex 2

Yes the Hammer boys were at it again in 2019. Our opening fixture at the Anvil was against Albany -tough opposition at anytime.

Captain Jonathan put the team together but could not be there due to work commitments so asked Lord Clueless to take charge.

Fortunately, despite many Hammers not being able to play he picked a team of fighting gauchos.

New Hammers Laurie and Will were given their debuts and a nice mixture of youth and experience made up the rest of the team.

Due to a slight mix up Brian “The Hat” was a no show but luckily Christof by the miracle of modern transport was able to deputise (he flew in from Munich!!)

Lord Clueless had the cunning plan of playing Christof on board 2 instead of himself.

Then Chairman Wily asked if he could have Christof for their tough opener against Richmond in the TV. Clueless graciously conceded and the match got underway, with Clueless  a late substitute on board 4.

Keep up with me please..

The Hammer team lined up as follows and in the time honoured tradition the assignment of nicknames is also accorded. Lord Clueless thanks to his recent elevation to the peerage bestows the following

  1. Laurie  aka “Supermac”
  2. Liam  aka ” An fear ciúin”
  3. Pavel  aka “Spock”
  4. John aka “Lord Clueless”
  5. Eddy aka ” Edgy”
  6. Benjamin aka ” Soie”
  7. David aka “Toffee”
  8. Will  aka ” Banksy”

I also designate the following nickname to Christof…”Der Vater”.

Yes I have used Irish, French and German nicknames to emphasise the diversity of our amazing club.

To the match… outgraded on average by 29 points a board Hammer faced an uphill struggle. Luckily we are built of stern stuff and we were determined to punch above our weight.

The first game to finish was Spock where showing real “enterprise” he sacked a piece for two pawns plus preventing the black king castling. This was great tactical chess with his opponent one step away from disaster all the time. In the end the Albany man defended accurately and was relieved to take the draw.

Edgy on board 5 also drew but held the initiative throughout a full-blooded contest. He reckoned he missed a win..but by any reckoning a superb result as he was outgraded by nearly 40 points. Hammer at 1-1.

Supermac had a tense struggle… playing white, in an endgame two pawns down, with a rook and opposite coloured bishops. Laurie showed the fighting spirit inherent in all Hammers. He manoeuvred his passed pawn to a6 where it tied down his opponents bishop and then used his king and rook aggressively to prevent any progress from his opponent. A truly brilliant rearguard action. Hammer tied at 1.5-1.5.

Soie on board 6 making his debut unfortunately lost… I did not see the game but he is a most welcome addition to the Hammer ranks. Better luck next time. Hammer trailing…

Next to finish was Lord Clueless playing black in a Bb5 Sicilian. These lines though can be quite dull with white having an edge but in reality hoping for a black mis-step. If you want to see a masterpiece in this line check out the classic Ivanchuk-Kasparov encounter from Linares 1991.

Clueless played a quiet opening, definitely the influence from my 4NCL experience last year, plus following a touch of Speelman wisdom… wait for your opponent to make a mistake… they will.

Hammer at 2.5-2.5… the fight was really on.

Next up was Toffee on board seven against a familiar opponent… Howard from Battersea… but playing for Albany in the Middlesex.

As always Toffee went down fighting. Despite a knight for a rook exchange down he made Howard fight for the win.

Hammer down 2.5-3.5.

All eyes turned to Banksy making his debut on board 8 against an experienced 149 opponent. This was great to watch with the Banksy snaffling an early exchange and then breaking through a wall of pawns across the board. This was the performance of the night and an outstanding win. Afterwards he was reflecting on how different OTB chess is to its online brother.

There is more artistry to come from Banksy… where will he strike next?

The last game to finish was Liam (The Quiet Man) playing an opponent who over the past three seasons when playing Hammer has lost to Clueless, beaten T-Bone and lost to Showbag. A real roller coaster of results.

Liam’s play in the last six months has come on leaps and bounds… he is a tough opponent to beat and plays really solid chess.

This was a really tense game with action all over the board. Liam strived to hold the line but in the end his opponents greater experience won through. This was a tough loss especially after the fight our man had put up. Really unlucky.

So a Hammer loss 3.5-4.5… the strange thing is it felt like a victory… with a lot of big guns returning I think Hammer are well set for Middlesex 2 this season.

Clueless delighted to be handing back to Captain Jonathan… the fight is on.

Diversity at Hammersmith – a Homage

Hammersmith has strength in diversity, and we draw our members from well over 20 countries, reflecting the rich, multicultural city in which we’re based.

One of our new members, Christof, has not only brought some superb chess to our club, but also a love of diversity. He’s penned a wonderful homage to our multinational membership, in the form of an imagined consultation match vs. our near-neighbours, Battersea! Please enjoy…

John: Chaps, against Battersea, I’ll be your Captain by default, and we are all white in our first match.
Wyatt: Next match we will be All Blacks.
Charlie: Let’s be English and start with c4.
Paul: No English please! What about d4 and Queen’s gambit?!
Rubinder: Fine with d4, there are so many Indian variations.
Ryszard: d4 is okay, we might get the Polish defence.
Eddy: The common name for that line is Orang-Utan, and the politically correct name would then be the Malaysian/Indonesian defence.
Ryszard: Let’s not argue and play 1.b4, then we have Polish for sure.
Adam: Noooooooooo! Against Battersea it is e4!!!
Chris: Breaking News: Adam and e4!
Jim: All the most discerning players start with e4.
John: Hear ye, the word which the Lord (Clueless) speaketh. e4 it is.

Hammersmith: 1. e4
Battersea: 1… e5

Sylvain & Thomas: They don’t like the French!
Carsten: Nor the Scandinavian!
Rauno: Nor Caro-Kann with the Finnish Variation.
Ken: Nor the Hippo, the politically correct name being African Defence. We should petition for official recognition.
Bajrush: What a pity, we will not see the Yugoslav attack.

Hammersmith: 2. Nf3
Battersea: 2… Nc6

Pavel: Too bad, I would have liked to play against the Russian.
Jim: Now let’s play d4, Scotch!!
Tommaso: No, bishop c4, Italian!!
Javier: Take it easy amigos, vamos a la playa and go mainstream with Spanish.

Hammersmith: 3. Bb5
Battersea: 3… Nf6

Christof: Oh no, the Berlin wall again!

Hammersmith: 4. 0-0
Battersea: 4… Nxe4
Hammersmith: 5. d4
Battersea: 5… Be7

Phil: the best Canadian player used to play that.
Chris: Nd6 is better. Top-ranked Australian players use it.
Phil: Agreed. Our Caruana prefers Nd6 as well.

After 20 more moves, the Berlin Wall is destroyed, Battersea overcome and Hammersmith wins the game.

Marios & Kostis: We got some divine help from the Greek goddess Caissa.
Rhys: Caissa is not Greek! She is an invention by a Welshman.
Nadim: By the way, did you know that the game made its way to Europe in the 7th century via Lebanon?
Jon: And it did not end in Europe. Look at the new chess elite from China!
John: Soz Hammers, have to be paternalistic now: has everyone paid their membership fees??

Tooling Up for an Assault on London Div 1

It only seems like yesterday that we won promotion to the top flight of the London League for the first time in our club’s history – we now take our place alongside the great teams of the city in Division 1 for the 2019-20 season.

However, Hammersmith Chess Club does not stand still!

We could never be accused of resting on our laurels, and in that vein we are delighted to announce two titled players joining the roster this year, as we step up our preparations for life at the top table! Please join us in welcoming:

Hammer 1 captain, JimLocoStephenson says:

“I’m delighted to welcome two of England’s strongest young IMs into the Hammersmith fold, and look forward to having them on our London League team in our debut season in Division 1.

Peter and Tom both have a wealth of international experience which will give Hammer a real presence on our top boards.

Many thanks to our very own wheeler-dealer-extraordinaire, Chris ‘Showbag’ Skulte for his persuasive skills in bringing the two IMs on board following the successful collaboration of the Grantham Sharks and the Celtic Tigers in the recent Battersea Summer Chess League.”

Watch this space… !

New Horizons – Hammer Junior Hour Starts @ 6pm, 30th September!

First, a quick bit of history – when Hammersmith Chess Club was inaugurated in 1962, a thriving junior section was seen as key to the new club’s success. This was duly implemented and paid huge dividends – a certain 4-time British Champion GM Julian Hodgson began his chess journey at Hammersmith.

The juniors section, circa. 1965!

However, over time the initiative stalled, along with the club – and by the early 2010’s we would be fighting for our very survival.

Fast forward to 2015 – a new Committee was elected with a mandate to transform the club, and part of the vision was to reboot the Junior section. It has taken us four years, but we are now ready to launch for the next generation of Hammers!

At 6pm on Monday 30th September 2019, the opening night will kick-off! We have lots of ideas how to make this work, but also need Hammers to step forward and help with the sessions.

I have always adopted the philosophy that us, the current Hammer members, are merely the custodians of Hammersmith Chess Club – our primary role is to hand the club onto the next generation as a vibrant and forward-thinking organisation.

So, Hammers, do your duty and get involved – Hammersmith expects! 

Contact John if you’d like to help:

Blitz Tourney & Prize Giving – October 7th

The first round of our season-long Blitz tourney starts on Monday 7th October. It’s the third year of the competition which, in a gripping finale last year, saw our Wily Chairman, Bajrush, take the honours yet again in a thriller of a final round!

Monday 7th also marks our prize-giving ceremony at Lytton Hall, celebrating the best performances of the last 12 months, including…

  • Player of the season for each team
  • Biggest rating improvement
  • Personality of the Year
  • and much more…

Don’t miss it!

The New Season Awaits…

Hammers – it’s almost time!

The opening fixture of the new season awaits us this coming week, as our new Central London League team takes on the mighty Streatham & Brixton.

Brace yourselves – there’s an awful lot of chess coming up over the next few weeks & months! With the exception of our three Middlesex teams, all fixtures have now been agreed and can be found on our calendar. Please familiarise yourselves with the dates & fixtures, check your calendars, and make space in your schedule!! – team captains will be in touch to confirm match lineups very shortly.

And remember – it’s up to you to let the captains know when you want to play.

If you don’t reply to their emails, you’re unlikely to make the team!


Central London Chess Congress – 1st to 3rd November

Imperial College will be hosting the Central London Chess Congress in early November. It’s a five-round tourney with open and grade-limited (140 ECF) sections, held over 3 days, with some serious cash prizes on offer.

Checkout the full details on their website:

Your County Needs You!

If weekday chess across multiple leagues isn’t enough to satisfy your chess appetite, Middlesex County are looking for new recruits.

Their weekend games against other local counties are played at a much slower speed, allowing plenty of time to make deep calculations and play a high quality game.

There are several grading divisions: Open, u180, u160, u140 and u120, as well as junior teams. More information is available on their webpage:

If that sounds like something you can get onboard with, please contact our Club Secretary Adam ( who’ll put you in touch with the relevant captain!

Return to Lytton Hall & Membership Fees


Our return to Lytton Hall is nigh – 16th September – and the start of the 2019-20 chess league season follows shortly afterwards – an exciting nine months await. Fixtures will shortly be added to our Calendar.

Lytton Hall – a postmodern masterpiece

This is going to be one of the most momentous seasons in the 57 years of Hammersmith Chess Club.

These are some of the highlights:

  • Thames Valley Division 1 CHAMPIONS – defending our title
  • London League Division 1 debutants – the first time in our history in this Division!
  • Two teams for the first time ever in the Central London League, including our first Junior team
  • We are fielding 12 teams across all competitions this year
  • New captains (see below), a new Club Captain (Ben Rothwell), and special events
  • El Chessico – against those noisy neighbours from South of the river!
  • A new internal club competition – the Sledgehammer!
  • Junior section starting at the beginning of October
  • And lots more to be announced…. watch this space

As your new Treasurer, it is incumbent on me to remind you of the following:

  • Please pay your membership fees by 30th September 2019 at the latest, otherwise our team captains will not be able to pick you.
  • Please pay your ECF membership by the same date, otherwise our team captains will not be able to pick you.
  • And, most of all, ENJOY your chess!

Membership rates are unchanged from last year, and can be found here.

Payments can be made as follows:
Hammersmith Chess Club

Matteo – HCC Treasurer, aka “The Suit

The HCC Captains Roster

With 12 teams to cater for, there have never been more opportunities to play chess at Hammersmith. Our ever-expanding appetite for the game means we’ve had to juggle our captains slightly this season, and can now announce the full lineup:

You’ll recognise most of the names, but in any case they will shortly be reaching out to all eligible members when fixtures are finalised, so keep an eye out for the emails.

It’s up to you guys to make sure you make yourselves available when the captains are arranging teams – if you don’t respond to their emails, they won’t know if you’re available, and so you won’t be picked. The early bird catches the worm!

Please join us in welcoming our new captains this year – and thanks to everyone for stepping-up and taking on the challenge!

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 –

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:

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:

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 – 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.