In 2019, Hammersmith introduced two new internal tournaments, with a handicap scoring system, allowing players from all levels to compete and have fun playing ECF graded over-the-board games. At least, that was the original idea until COVID-19 struck the world, and it became challenging to play OTB chess.
At that point the tournament rules were relaxed to allow online games to count for the tournament while not being ECF graded. This has enabled Hammers to continue playing in those tournaments during the lock-down period.
On June 30th 2020, the 2019 season was officially closed and we can now announce the winners.
Hammersmith’s Junior Hour tutor, YouTube star, and 2020 Club Personality of the Year, Christof, shares some selected highlights from his diaries over the last four months.
My Corona Diaries
On 25th of February, Corona shows up for the first time in my diary notes. There are worrying reports about increasing numbers of infections and deaths from the virus in Korea, to where my wife has planned a trip in three weeks time. We agree to postpone the trip until the end of Summer, observe how Korea deals with the situation and wonder whether similar measures would be possible to adopt here in the UK.
Chess becomes increasingly affected by Corona. In early March, I participate in a weekend Congress in Exeter. Last year, I had been a returnee to chess and surprisingly won the Major Section there. This year, I play in the Open section (finishing joint 6th), but that is not the only difference – people are allowed to not shake hands before or after the game. Allowed to abstain, not required to do so, well that sounds harmless. But does the virus travel via the palms, or in the air? Even today, I still remember the hot breath of my opponents, two feet away, for 20 hours over 3 days…
During the Congress I receive an email from FIDE informing me that the Amateur World Championship for which I was nominated to play in April on Crete, is postponed for half a year. Well, that now starts to affect my daily life.
I had endured a rigorous training program for the past three months and there were just three more weeks to go until the big event and before resuming a normal life again. How will I be able to keep up that energy level for another six months? Well, being in principle a positive-thinking person, I convince myself that I should be lucky to be healthy, with numbers of virus infections and deaths quickly starting to increase in the UK. But read on.
Club life changes in early March. It soon becomes clear that over-the-board chess will disappear for some time, and that club members are looking for alternatives. In a club which never sleeps, there are so many people with lots of ideas, enthusiasm, and some with time (including me, not having to prepare for my Crete tournament anymore), and a lot of new activities are organised. It seems chess has never been more diverse and vibrant.
Lockdown starts, but for me as a pensioner there are not many changes in the daily routine. Okay, no pubs, fine dining and cultural events anymore. No day trips to the country, all international travel cancelled, but otherwise even more chess than before – not too bad!
News about Brexit is replaced by news about Corona. Worrying news. Death rates spiralling out of control, the government obviously indecisive. I cherish the health and social care workers. And then comes my own personal encounter with the health crisis.
One morning I wake up with never before experienced excruciating pain (though my wife reassuringly tells me it will be nothing compared to labor pains) and I have to call the emergency services.
Dry cough or similar symptoms? No. Fever? No. Periods of unconsciousness? Not yet. Well, then they cannot send an ambulance, sorry – the NHS has to be protected.
After some time the GP answers my calls, delivers a remote diagnosis and prescribes me some medicine. For two weeks I live on drugs before I am back to normal.
Some afterthoughts remain and I cannot forget the pictures of the PM boastingly shaking hands in Corona-infected hospitals when I diligently restricted myself to elbow-checks with my chess opponents, and we both fell sick during the same days a month later. And I will not forget whose responsibility it was and is for the underfunding of the NHS.
Social life goes on during the next weeks in lockdown, but no, not as some privileged politicians do. Gatherings now take place via Zoom, be it in normal chats or in highly sophisticated cocktail hour groups. Discussions circle around health issues (mostly my older friends) and economic worries (the younger ones). Political discussions with family and friends abroad compare the different national approaches to the crisis. I tell them, being a chess player I believe in post-mortem, an exercise where you learn from mistakes by going through the finished game together with your opponent. While the term may currently be inadequate, I express my hope that one day such an exercise will be done on Corona, because I dream of a life after lockdown and definitely do not want to have to repeat this experience.
And now, 15 weeks after my first Corona diary entry, my 3-month Carlsen-style beard shaved off, close to start of Summer, it feels more like Spring is beginning, everything re-awakening. Discussions are intensifying about resuming regular chess activities, not only in other countries which have already overcome the crisis, but even in the UK. I feel anxious.
Hammers – as many of you will already be aware, we sadly lost one of our own recently when long-standing player and stalwart John Woolley passed away. He will be greatly missed in the world of London Chess, having been an active player on the circuit at various clubs for many years.
Fellow Hammer and long-time friend of John’s, Carsten, offers us a fitting tribute.
John Woolley: A personal Appreciation
I no longer remember when I first met John, but it must have been late Summer or Autumn 1995 when I joined Hammersmith after a few years away from chess. We became regulars in the same teams for the next 20+ years, most of them with John as captain of the Thames Valley team.
As is thankfully still the case, we usually socialised after matches in a local hostelry, and we were also both in groups where a few of us would occasionally meet up outside the club to play some blitz and put the world to rights, so over time I think I came to know John quite well.
He was instantly recognisable – a thin man always in a jacket, a size too large, shirt whatever the weather, and an overall slightly dishevelled appearance giving a somewhat eccentric impression.
However, behind the exterior was a keen mind with a wide range of interests, and our conversations ranged well beyond chess, usually including discussions about whatever book I was reading, exhibitions John had been to (there were many!), films he’d seen (he had a love of arthouse cinema), politics (left!), football (Arsenal!) or any other topical issue of the day. We didn’t always agree – in fact often we did not – but it was always stimulating and frequently gave me a different perspective, which I appreciated. I hope I did the same for him.
Saying all of the above, we of course primarily met through chess, where John’s contribution to Hammersmith Chess Club was substantial.
As mentioned, he was Thames Valley captain, a league he felt a strong affiliation with – for many years a committee member, and a regular for other teams as well as being a very frequent club night participant. One of the reliable regulars every chess club needs.
Checking the ECF grading list I see that John’s grade when we first met was consistently in the mid-150’s, roughly equivalent to 165-170 today. Somehow I remember him as stronger than that.
In a sense, he was. John had a classical positional style and quite a strong aesthetic view on how chess should be played correctly.
This gave him a somewhat impractical attitude to competitive chess, and as a result he got swindled more often than he should have been, especially in time trouble. This, combined with a propensity for premature resignations – especially if he felt he’d messed up a good game – and draw offers, meant that his practical results were always below what they should have been purely based on his chess ability.
These traits got more pronounced in his latter years, and his results declined in line with that, but for those who only know him from this period, he was more than you saw.
I must also mention John’s absolute honesty and insistence on always doing what he felt was the right thing to do, and his expectation that others would reciprocate. This sadly on occasion was to his detriment.
At an away match at Harrow, John’s opponent was playing on in a stone-cold theoretically drawn ending, clearly trying to flag John who was down to his last couple of minutes while his opponent had plenty of time. John was murmuring under his breath, clearly unhappy, and the Harrow captain, Nev Chan, was standing next to the table also not looking happy.
Eventually John’s flag fell, and Nev immediately asked “John, why didn’t you offer a draw? I would have immediately accepted it as a section 10.2 claim, as our player clearly wasn’t trying to win by normal means”. John’s response was along the lines that it didn’t occur to him, he was too upset by his opponents unsporting behaviour.
John didn’t say so, but I think another factor may have been that his opponent was an irrelevant pawn up, but classic good manners in that situation dictates that the player with extra material should offer the draw. This is undoubtedly what John himself would have done.
Of course, to him, chess was more than a competitive game – it was a lifelong passion with an appreciation of the aesthetics and history of chess.
As I sadly don’t have one of John’s own games to show, I will invite you to play through a game he several times mentioned as one of his absolute favourites, played by his great idol Tigran Petrosian, to get a feel for his chess ideals.
Petrosian – Botvinnik, 5th game, 1963 World Championship match:
Being a member of Hammersmith Chess Club is not only about playing chess – there is much more to it. We have many groups of interest ranging from culinary ideas, lifestyles, philosophical discussions and much more. One of those groups is for keen runners.
Hammer’s runners share a WhatsApp group and a Strava team, and they try to keep fit together, particularly during lockdown times!
On Saturday June 6th, a small squad of Hammers – Adam, Chris, Raluca, Benji and Nadim – ran a virtual relay Marathon. Every runner covered 10.5km, so that the total distance summed up to more than the official Marathon distance (42.195km).
The beauty of that event is that it came as a good way to break the Covid-19 social isolation – whilst adhering to the required social distancing – and it was one of the first physical club member meetings organised since the lockdown started back in March.
All the runs were synchronised to converge at the same point in Kensington Gardens at 5pm. It was with great joy that the runners finished their runs together and met in real life in the park! Everyone felt that life is getting back to normal again, despite the lack of handshakes or hi-fives.
Kishan, who did not run on the day, joined the gathering with a generous serving of support and delicious snacks and drinks.
Everyone enjoyed the event and hoped for many more, if it was not for the British weather that cut the after-run gathering a bit shorter. Everyone is now eager for the next event, hoping it takes place on a more sunny day!
Before talking through my battle with “Ginger GM” Simon Williams, I will start by discussing my background in chess. I do this to outline how an ex-130 rated player (currently 106) might think as they work through a game in a highly uncomfortable position they have never seen before, against much higher-rated opposition.
Lots of my club peers probably go through the same kind of feeling during certain games of chess. I do this to point out the obvious: feeling uncomfortable at times is an unavoidable part of chess – the trick is to accept and embrace it!
I learned to play chess when I joined my school chess club at the age of 11, and my 14-year-old self made it to 130 level, from where I stagnated with no coaching and no plan. I continued to play actively through university and during my first years of work. However, work combined with some life events led me to all but give up chess at 30, for the best part of a decade.
Then, my childhood friends Aidan and Mark helped me back into chess. A plan was hatched to learn the same openings as they were, ditching my beloved e4 as white and Sicilian as black, for things I had never played before. The reinvention of my love of chess had begun. While I have hardly played in England, i have made recent annual trips to Bunratty with my friends to enjoy a break for socialising and chess.
I’ve now been a member of the mighty Hammer for about 18 months. I joined after a combined effort from John White and Mark (of Cork Chess Club) that got me involved in the Keith Arkell Simul at the tri-club meeting with our Dutch and Irish friends in London in Summer 2018. I hope to play many more matches and get back into over-the-board chess, and while I have had a few outings, work has conspired against me at various points.
Still, I am delighted to be involved with a great club that has a strong beating heart of committed players and great team spirit, and I hope to continue playing in future…. but for now we are in lockdown and with no over-the-board chess.
Since lockdown I have been continuing to play on Lichess, and my outdoors cycling has been swapped for cycling in the shed on my indoor training, where I have regularly combined exercise with watching YouTube chess videos, particularly when I find ones focused on openings I play.
On one such occasion I stumbled upon some videos by Simon Williams of ‘Ginger GM’ notoriety, which I found instructive and entertaining. I had seen Simon play at Bunratty and knew he was famous for a love of pushing ‘Harry’ and ‘Gary’ whenever possible. I appreciate good attacking chess and like this style, so when the invitation to play Ginger GM in a simul came up, I felt I had to give it a go. I have played in about half a dozen simuls over the years, and lost all except one – a draw with Peter Wells while I was at university.
So, the scene is set…
1. e4, g6 2. h4
So, already Simon demonstrates his love of Harry… this is not something I have ever faced before. Objectively speaking, 2.h4 must be an inferior move and black should be able to at least equalise. Practically speaking, it is entirely a different matter!
I know that when an opponent attacks on a wing, it is often good to counter in the centre, and so…
2…d5! 3. h5
I felt 3…gxh5 was obviously bad. 3… Bg7 doesn’t feel quite right here either – I felt I had to take up the offer of a central pawn and play for activity.
4. hxg6, fxg6 5. d3, Nf6!
Taking the pawn would just help white achieve his aims. I have to continue to play actively. I am a pawn up but can see how easily white can attack if given half a chance!
6. Nc3, Bg4
Again playing for activity above all else, development of a piece with tempo felt logical.
7. Be2, Bxe2 8. Qxe2
Simon may have made a slight mistake here as Ngxe2 seems more useful development.
8…exd3! 9. cxd3, Nc6 10. Nf3, Nd4
Both Bg7 and Qd7 are also good here. I simply wanted to continue to develop with tempo where possible and felt piece swaps help me more.
11. Nxd4, Qxd4 12. O-O, O-O-O!
I had committed to this with my 10th move. The position is sharp, but black is doing well.
13. Nb5! Qb6
White’s 13th is not the computers best move, but Simon seeks to create complications and attack against a lower-rated opponent. 13… Qd5 may well have been my best option.
14. a4, a6 15. Be3, Qe6
Black is better, but the position is very sharp.
16. Rfc1, Nd5?
A mistake by me. White’s 16th is not the best, I should have taken up the challenge with 16…axb5! For example: (i) 17. axb5 Qe5 18. d4 Qd6 19. Ra8+ Kd7 20. Ra7 Rb8 21. Qc4 Nd5 and white has nowhere near enough for the piece. Or (ii) 17. Bf4 Qxe2 18. Rxc7 Kb8 19. Rxe7+ Ka7 20. axb5 Kb6 21. Rxe2 Nd5 and black is fine. I respected my opponent too much, I trusted that my GM opponent has serious threats. I saw how sharp taking the piece was and didn’t manage to calculate out those variations to safety. Spending a bit more time thinking here may well have yielded dividends for me!
17.Nxc7 was white’s chance to gain the advantage. I was working about this move once I had played Nd5.
Not 17…Kb8? when 18. Nc6+ bc6 19. Ba7+ wins the Queen.
18. Rc5 Nxe3! 19. Fxe3 Qb6
I was looking at this and at 19…Bh6, and immediately wished I had played the latter: it develops with threats, connects the rooks, and is just a good move! …Qb6 mistakenly focuses on his threats, rather than generating my own.
20. Rac1 c6?!
20…Qxa7 is okay for black but after 21. Rxc7+ Ke8 there is still a lot of hard work to do.
21. Qg4+? e6!
White would be better playing 21. Nxc6 bxc6 22. Rxc6 Qxc6 23. Rxc6 Kxc6 but black should still win if he can complete his development without dropping a piece. This mistake is understandable as white has been under immense pressure to try and find threats.
The above point, with hindsight, reveals much to me about mistakes in my thinking as a (hopefully) improving club player. My main learning from this game is that feeling uncomfortable in this open position is absolutely okay, but it meant I did not realise at the time quite how strong my position actually was and how much pressure white was under.
The position is assessed by our silicon friends as better for black almost entirely throughout this game. It is right to feel uncomfortable, but I needed to also recognise that my position was better, and work to dissipate white’s short-term threats, then take my opportunities as they emerge.
The fact it was a GM on the other side of the board perhaps clouded my judgement, led me to worrying too much and giving him too much respect in some of my move choices! I have nothing to lose and everything to gain in a game like this, and should play as such!
22. Nxc6 Bxc5!
The point of …e6. Now white is in big trouble.
23. Ne5+ Ke8
e8 felt like the right square, to stay away from as many checks as I can.
24. d4 Bxd4
24… Rxd4 25. exd4 Bxd4+ 26. Kh1 Bxe5 is better as white has a resource after Bxd4.
White could have played: 24. Rc6!! Bxe3+ 26. Kh2 Qxc6 27. nxc6 Rd6=
25… Rxd4! 26. a5
26. Rc8+ is met by 26…Rd8+!! However, now black has a big threat:
31… Rf8+ is also good e.g. 32. Nf3 Qf1+ 33. Ke3 Qd3+ 34. Kf2 Qd2#
32. Kg2 Qf1+! 33. Kh2 Rd2+ 34. Qe2 Rxe2#
Looking back over the game I am pleased with my fighting spirit, and while I made mistakes, I was delighted to take the tactical opportunity I was presented with! My first every victory against a GM, 31 years after I learned how the pieces move. Here’s hoping I can do it in a real over the board match one day!
I think Simon ended up with 11/15, so well done to the other three Hammers who took points (I’d love to see those games too), and a big thanks to Simon for his fun approach to the simultaneous. I have promised him a beer when he visits our club when we are all able to meet face-to-face again!
Simon broadcast the simul on his Twitch channel – you can re-watch here (starts at 7 minutes in):
Hammers, I must first apologise for the delay in this report – Covid-19 appears to have affected the creative bent of Lord Clueless. Am I alone or does everything seem to require so much more effort?
Plus, there is so much you can report on when the match is live and OTB – online reporting requires an even more vivid imagination and possible the use of exaggeration and hyperbole. Tactics that possibly power fake news.
To brighten up this report I am going to incorporate Matrix film references to describe the Titanic struggle between the two leading chess clubs in London – Hammer, and those South of the River upstarts – Battersea. How many can you spot?
Please post your answers in the feedback.
With the impact of the Coronavirus it was almost inevitable that the third leg of El Chessico would be an online event. The chess world has adapted and morphed to embrace the internet matrix and the neo world. The question is – could we exceed online the 30 boards we played OTB in the last El Chessico?
The answer was an emphatic ‘yes’ – 38 boards to be precise – to decide the destiny of the fabled El Chessico trophy.
After extensive discussions with Aldo, we decided each board would play a mini-match with two games – one as white and one as black – with a time controls of 25mins plus 10 sec increment.
The terms were set, the date agreed – would the neo Hammers take down the Smithy Batter boys? Read on…
First, the tale of the tape – through the match matrix:
Yes, a Hammer win – by a seven-point margin, and yes, we retain El Chessico, and more importantly, the bragging rights. Was it ever in doubt?
I have to pick out some gems here:
Thomas winning 2-0 against a future British Champion
A classic trinity of 2-0 wins for Marios, Sylvain and Moritz (the latter against a top English junior)
Other 2-0 stars include Kabir, Laith, Robin and Mr. Smith
There were a couple of metacortex default 2-0 wins for Georgios and Cian. Their reputations, without a doubt, cowering their opponents into freezing and essentially doing a white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
However, every Hammer contributed to this outstanding victory – we were in red pill mode and digitally rained down an appropriate chess lesson to our frenemies.
El Chessico is safe and continues to reside in its natural home – with Lord Clueless content and focused on non-Nebuchadnezzar dreams and the road to Chess Zion.
The world, even in lockdown mode, is in a better place, and order has been reaffirmed in the chess world.
We are excited to let you know that Hammersmith Chess Club now has a YouTube channel. You can find it in the navigation menu at the top of this page, as well as via the following link: Hammers on YouTube.
We have already uploaded 7 videos, due to the outstanding support, great effort and ingenious initiative coming from one of our top Hammers, Christof Brixel. Many thanks, Christof! You will notice that our public channel currently has two main series:
Hammer Junior Hour, which includes 6 videos summarising our regular Junior Hour Session, with season 1 currently focusing on the analysis of some of the great games in the history of chess.
Hammer Endgame Series, focused on specific types of endgames. Our first video on rook endgames is currently available on the YouTube channel via the following link.
We also have a couple of longer, premium videos exclusively available to Hammer members, which can be accessed by contacting a member of the committee:
The Jobava London System
AlphaZero – the more human program
We are currently working on other videos, including an analysis of Jon Ludvig Hammer vs Magnus Carlsen (2003), another rook endgames video, and a Junior Hour “Basics” video.
Please keep an eye on our channel and subscribe to receive updates on all the newest videos.
I would like to use this opportunity to say that Hammer YouTube is the channel of our members and we hope to provide content that reflects the incredible diversity within our membership.
We hope the channel will become a reflection of the different backgrounds, cultures and interests that came together and shaped our club.
We have many ideas with regards to the future development of our community’s YouTube channel, but we would also like to welcome your ideas and expressions of interest! Please view below a few suggestions on how you could contribute to the channel:
Hammersmith Simul Nights: Volunteer to report or comment on one of our exciting simultaneous exhibitions and let’s showcase together one of our club’s very popular activities.
Are you strongly supportive of a specific chess style or maybe a certain opening? Do you believe blitz games could be key to growing as a chess player? Do you disagree and prefer long chess games instead? Everyone with an opinion on chess is welcome to join our CHESSbate series, a mix of chess and debate where you present your arguments on your opponent’s time. The clock is ticking so this is not an activity for the faint-hearted.
This is something for our Cooking Experts! Feel free to send us photos or video glimpses of your delicious food and even recipes. Would be great to collect some of your ideas with regards to suitable recipes for chess players.
Are you a fan of chess quizzes and other creative party games where chess is ever-present? Let us know how you and your friends have fun and we will include it in a ‘Top Chess Party games ideas for Hammers and Friends’ video.
Are you interested in a specific chess-related sector? Help us understand why you love this sector or teach us more about it in one of our ‘Hammers how to videos’. Some topics you might want to consider: “How to teach chess to children”, “How to improve your chess”, etc.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me at email@example.com if you wish to become a contributor to our YouTube videos. Any ideas, brief videos, audio recordings and/or photos are welcomed.
Dear Members, the club’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is approaching – this year it will be held on Monday 1st June, and with due consideration to the Covid-19 situation, will be a Zoom meeting.
The Committee gives notice that the following Committee members will stand for re-election:
Chairman – Bajrush Kelmendi
Treasurer – Matteo Bezzini
Secretary – Adam Cranston
Club Captain – Ben Rothwell
Webmaster – Andy Routledge
PR & Events – John White
Auditor – Nadim Osseiran
No Portfolio – Chris Skulte
Diversity Officer – Currently vacant, but the Committee recommends the membership accepts an application from Raluca Stroe for this position.
Any member who wishes to submit a motion for the meeting, or to stand for a committee position, should do so at least 30 days prior to 1st June – that is, 2nd May.
In both cases, a motion or nomination can only be submitted by a fully paid up member of the club, and must be seconded by another fully paid up member. Both will be subject to a Committee recommendation and vote at the AGM.