A Busy Gameweek – Middlesex & London 4

A clutch of games for you this week – coming thick and fast as the finish line comes into sight. Read on!

30.03.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Battersea

It was a case of revisiting old rivalries as we faced Battersea in Division 4. On the one hand they’re a great partner club – working with us on the birth of the Summer Leauge, hosting us at their home venue for the El Chessico, and sharing some memorable matchups over the years.

On the other, they’re like a slightly annoying little brother. Trolling us on Twitter, calling themselves “Battersea” when they play in Clapham Junction. Too big for their boots!! This is one with a little bit of extra spice!

We played well, but the bottom-line is that we’re 2-4 down with the final couple of games adjourned for another time. The games are pretty tight but we have winning chances in both so things remain in the balance. To quote Kevin Keegan, I would love it if we got something from the match! Love it!

He would LOVE it!

I sat out the match and spectated from the sidelines instead. This all meant I was able to catch a bit more of the action than I normally manage. Another observation is how slowly 3 hours seem to tick by when you’re just watching. It flies by when you’re in the middle of a game!

Things didn’t start well. We had an early faller on Board 7 as Chris succumbed within an hour. Picking up the Black pieces, Chris allowed an early check which forced him into a slightly cramped defensive position. His opponent played actively, kept up the pressure and managed to win a pawn. An unbalanced position resulted, and thanks to his Bishop being placed on a “stupid square”, a resignation soon followed.

Brian kept up his fine run of form on Board 1, chalking up yet another win. He’s now unbeaten in 8! He initially looked in trouble after being forced to move his King following a check with Bh5, but a locked-down position developed in the middle which meant his centralized King was in no danger. The setup seemed to play into Brian’s hands and he superbly marshaled the pawn chain to his advantage to raise the spectre of a decisive passed pawn.

The next two games contrasted in style but alas, not in the result! John, playing White, played his usual solid positional game and emerged in the early middle game with a respectable position. Ladies’ fingers were on a3 and h3, and we looked in for a long night. John’s opponent sensed a potential weakness in his pawn structure though, and began pushing g/h pawns to challenge it head on. A good tussle followed but John was forced to defend and as we all know, it’s a lot easier to attack than to defend. The breakthrough exposed the King and he graciously resigned.

Robin’s game started unusually quietly. Where was the pawn push?? Where was the sacrifice? We didn’t have to wait long though; the fireworks started soon enough. the pawn break came, creating a wildly unbalanced position. Unfortunately it favoured Robin’s opponent who held the centre with 3 (count them) extra pawns. Not one to give up, Robin brilliantly fought back with a Knight pin, but whilst material was equal, the position was not. Robin’s pieces were not coordinated which made covering all the potential attacks very difficult. A fork on Rook and Queen effectively ended the contest, despite an unsuccessful 10-move hunt for a stale-mate!! 1-3 down.

Josue starred in perhaps the most enjoyable match of the evening, at least for this spectator. The endgame was a bit of a thriller. He looked on the ropes in a Bishop/Rook vs 2-Rook end game, particularly when he was forced to defend a passed pawn one rank from promotion. But he had a passed pawn of his own, which he pushed whilst gaining tempo with discovered checks. The opposition passer was sacrificed with all hands on deck to prevent the coronation of a new monarch. Again, Josue found the right tactic and created a blockade with Bishop and King. Great to watch.

Finishing at the same time was Adam, who also found himself in a Knight & pawns endgame. It looked relatively level to me, but who’s to say what Fritz would make of it. Either way, nothing is easy when you’re short on time. It was the kind of position where you’d want 10 minutes per move, not 3 or 4 for the whole lot! Really unlucky. If the Knights were off the board it might have been a different result.

David P and Marios both have slight edges in their adjourned games, but they’re really tight. Probably best I don’t say too much with the games still going, but I know Marios feels slightly disappointed not to seal it on the night; he had pressure from move 1. David played very well to gain a pawn advantage but his wily opponent defended well. A 127 on board 8 – not too shabby.

 

03.04.17 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Kings Head

The Middlesex League season is drawing to a close. Another fine win last night saw Hammersmith move to a whopping eight out of nine with three to play, and a colossal games score of 56-16.

The games, in reverse board order:

Andy’s opponent played a very strange opening, placing his pawns on d3, e4 and f3 with his Bishop inside the pawn chain. Andy developed a large positional edge before a dubious Knight sac on e4 left his opponent with big chances to get back into the game. Andy continued to develop well though, castling Queenside and creating a dangerous Rook pair on the d-file. After his opponent’s passive Queen retreat to g1, Andy smelled blood! As he brought his pieces in for the kill, White elected to hand back the Knight in exchange for some activity. It was not enough to prevent the onslaught though; White soon resigned with mate-in-5 inevitable.

Kaan chose the English opening 1.c4, with his opponent choosing to adopt the tricky 1… c5 symmetrical variation. A sharp tactical struggle ensued, with Kaan coming out an exchange up. Without too much trouble he put his material advantage to good use, grabbing another pawn and soon the sustained pressure forced resignation on move 23.

A last minute drop-out meant Hammersmith superstar Robin was brought in to do battle. Or so he thought! With no sign of his opponent after 30 minutes, the default was awarded.

Adam’s London System woes this season were set to continue. His opponent chose a King’s Indian setup and castled early, to which Adam responded with h4. The early attack was destined to fail – with the e5 square not available for his f4 Knight, Adam brought it back to h2, where it stayed completely inactive for the next 19 moves! Castling Queenside added to the misery; Black immediately launched a Queenside attack to which Adam had very few pieces available for defence. The position was objectively lost, with at least 3 different ways for Black to cash in. Then the game turned.

Some slow and inaccurate piece-shuffling on Black’s back ranks allowed Adam’s hopeless h2 Knight to become a superstar! An h2-f1-e3-d5 manoeuvre brought it to the best square on the board, where it stayed for 6 moves, before gobbling up the Black Queen that was kindly placed on f4. A very lucky escape!

Disregarding his usual repertoire, Sheikh chose to adopt the classical line of the Scandinavian Defence. He proceeded accurately, developing his pieces in the correct order and blocking off all the light squares. He soon started attacking down the Kingside, and eventually overcame his opponent with a clever Bishop sac.

Yasser opened with the Queen pawn and faced the Nimzo-Indian Defence. Yasser chose the 4.Bg5 Leningrad variation, and soon obtained a positional edge and a strong Bishop pair. As Yasser pushed his pawns down the Queenside, Black’s position became more and more cramped. Soon he was forced to give up a pawn, which did nothing to stop Yasser crashing through and scoring the win.

Paul chose to adopt the solid Berlin Defence, and his opponent was not sure how to react. Several pieces were swapped off and before long Paul was in an endgame, but possessed the superior pawn structure. Paul’s superb endgame skills came into play, and before long he was exerting tremendous pressure on White’s weak spots. He coolly converted this pressure into an outside passed pawn, and his opponent resigned as his position started to crumble.

Pavel scored the only draw of the night, though it was by no means a boring draw. He chose to open with 1. Nc3, the Dunst opening. Play developed sharply, with both players castling on the Queenside and Knights hopping around the board creating lots of threats. Pavel gave up his Bishop pair to kill off one of the Knights, creating an unbalanced position that was difficult to evaluate. After a Queen trade and some interesting tactical shots well defended by both players, they agreed to call it a day.

Kaan and Andy become the 26th and 27th players to play this year, and bring the number of players sitting on 100% to 15!

Three games remain, including two big games against our only remaining title rivals, Hendon Juniors.

Adam.

Puzzle of the Week #003

You are a clever bunch! It didn’t take long for the double-header from last week to be solved, despite the apparent “fiendishness” of the second one. Props to the following individuals:

Adam Cranston – puzzle 2

John White – puzzle 1

For the first puzzle, as Black is threatening mate in one, White has to keep giving check. The theme is smothered mate:

1. Be4+, Rb7
2. Qb8!+, Rxb8
3. Rxa7+ Bxa7,
4. Nc7#

The pin established with the first move means the Knight can’t be taken. This is a very old composition, by the Syrian Phillip Stamma, first published in his “Essai sur le jeu des echecs”, 1737! Later translated into English as “The Noble Game of Chess”.

Puzzle 2 – quite simple:

1. Qxh2+ Kxh2
2. Rh7+ Qh5
3. Rxh5#

A bit of drama with a Queen sacrifice, but mate is then unavoidable.

So to this week’s puzzle – quite a good one, if I say so myself.

White has just played Rh2-h3 with the plan Rg3 followed by Bxh6. Why was that a bad idea? Black to move and win!

Same as usual – solutions in the comments please! Good luck!

Chess Master At the Local – 29th April

We are very excited to announce that Hammersmith will be hosting the next round of the ECF’s “Chess Master at the Local” initiative on Saturday 29th April, centred around Lyric Square in Hammersmith town centre.

GM Jon Speelman

The initiative sees a top chess professional – we have secured the services of GM Jon Speelman for the day – come to a local community in order to help raise the profile of the game through events with the public & local clubs.

We’re also delighted to say we’ll be joined by the inspiring young chess talent Lateefah Messam-Sparks. With a rating of 170, Lateefah is a rising prodigy of English chess.

We are running the day in conjunction with mental health charity MIND, to help raise funds and publicity for their excellent work.

 

The exact details of the itinerary for the day are to be finalised, but we have proposed a rough schedule as follows:

  • 10.30am – 4pm: Public “chess challenge” – HCC club members take on all comers for a small fee (donated to MIND). If the public wins, they get their money back
  • 11am – 12am: “Chess Swap” for local youngsters, run by Phil Ehr
  • 12 noon – 1pm: An open chess lesson by Grandmaster Jon Speelman
  • 1pm – 2pm: Simultaneous vs GM Speelman
  • 2pm – 4pm: “Elite” Simultaneous vs GM Speelman

It will be a great opportunity to spread the word about MIND & the club too – we’ll be handing out leaflets about both, and the Juniors club for any youngsters.

To achieve this, we need volunteers – this is where you come in!!

Whether you help us set up for the day (from about 9am!), or can pledge a few hours playing games against members of the public, or you’d like to help out with the activities with youngsters – whatever you can offer, we need manpower!

Please get in touch with John White (john.white49@ntlworld.com) to let us know. It will be a huge and historic day for the Club and the Community, and your participation is enormously valuable!

In other news…

We have fewer than 5 places left for the Simultaneous vs GM Chris Ward at the club on Tuesday 4th April. Details here if you’d like to sign up for the bargain price of £3 per board!

We have been cordially invited to the 28th International Chess and Games Festival – Czech Open 2017, taking place 13th – 30th July in Pardubice, Czech Republic. More information is available here: http://www.czechopen.net/en/news/

 

Return of the Grudge Match (vs. Battersea)

28.03.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Battersea

In our return match versus Battersea, we outpointed them with a delta of 17 points!

But first let me say that Kaan Corbaci debut’d this match and had a shocker of a win defending with the black pieces against a straight-forward Guico Piano, his opponent fell for a pawn and his Queen was lost with a Kaan (Knight) fork. Congratulations to Kaan!

Brian played the white pieces against the Sicilian defence, using the O’Kelley variation to achieve a Maroczy Bind. From the middlegame onward, the position reduced to a Rook and minor piece endgame, but Brian had superior pawns, his opponent having blocked and isolated pawns. Brian piled on the pressure, with his Rook and Knight dominating an inferior Rook and somewhat bad Bishop, and the position somewhat blocked.

Through some confusion, his opponent allowed his clock flag to drop without making his first 30 moves, so he lost on time. But Brian was able to demonstrate a winning advantage to his opponent afterwards.

John Wooley achieved a creditable draw early on.

My game was a disaster waiting to happen, after I thought I had trapped my opponent’s Queen with a poisoned pawn. But it wasn’t to be, alas, the Queen escaped and I was down 2 pawns, but then getting into time pressure, I lost the endgame (expletives deleted!!).

Still, we won the match 2.5 – 1.5. Congratulations to the team!

Robin.

A Season of Two Halves

23.03.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Lewisham

You’ve probably heard the cliché “a game of two halves”, well I think we need a new cliché for our loyal band of warriors in Division 4 as we look set to embark upon our “season of two halves”!

As luck would have it, our first few games pitted us against the lower graded teams – and we certainly scored well there. But you can probably guess what that means – most of the big boys still lie ahead!

The key task now is to step up to the plate and take down some of the big dogs. Remember what happened when David fought Goliath!

Yeah, well, that was all very good in the Old Testament but things played out slightly differently in our hallowed theatre of Golden Lane as we face Lewisham.

We went down fighting but unfortunately couldn’t prevent a narrow 3.5 – 4.5 defeat. Top performance though; we ran them right to the wire and I was proud of the guys who turned out for Hammer, giving away around 10 grading points per board on average.

The night started pretty sweetly with fine wins for Marios and Brian on boards 1 and 2. Marios made short work of his opponent despite rocking up 15 minutes late. The art of intimidation obviously one of his strong suits. That, and a supported pawn on the 7th. His opponent was no slouch either – Mr. Stewart is averaging almost 180 for the season.

I managed to catch Brian’s game just as the hammer came crashing down. BD’s Rook came marauding forward and pinned the Queen to the King. The instinct to immediately take must have been a strong one… before realizing that immediately setup a Knight fork on the unhappy royal couple. The instinct to lean forward and offer a hand of resignation followed promptly. 2-0 up.

The next few to finish were all draws – Josue, Rich and yours truly. Fair to say we had attacking chances in all 3 but had to settle for half a point apiece. Rich was probably closest to finding the win, forging a really strong position before a momentary lapse allowed Gokhan back in and a draw was agreed. Very charitable considering Gokhan was a member of our own ranks last season! We were now 3.5 – 1.5 up.

That’s seven games for Rich in Division 4 this season. He remain unbeaten with 3 wins and 4 draws, a record that perfectly mirrors that of Brian. They’re currently neck and neck in the stakes to be this season’s MVP.

So, just a single positive result from the remaining three games would see us take something from the match, but alas, that final half-point wouldn’t come.

Losses for John, Adam and finally, Ken, meant we ended the evening with nothing to show but a few hard-luck stories and empty pint pots in the Shakespeare.

Despite sitting next to John I didn’t see much of his game, but hopefully it’s some consolation to learn that his “e130” opponent is actually averaging 167 for the season. Small matter of 6 wins out of 6.

Adam’s run of bad luck in Division 4 continues – maybe it’s something to do with me. He faced the unconventional 1.b3 and was forced to make early concessions following a mis-step in controlling the c-file. He battled back only to fall foul to a sharp tactic causing him to lose a minor piece with little in the way of compensation. An honorable resignation followed soon after.

Our final faller was Ken. I took up watching at one of the more unusual endgame positions I can remember in a while. Completely open, 3 passed pawns, at least 4 pawns en prise. The challenge was knowing what to do – attack or defend? Take a pawn and go for the win, or defend and try to consolidate? Ken chose to go for broke, but as the saying goes, discretion is sometimes the better part of valour. His opponent ended with a passed pawn in the centre supported by a Bishop – it’s destiny was clear. Unlucky.

So a defeat, but a very honorable one at that. And I think it’s worth noting this is the strongest 2nd team we’ve ever assembled in Division 4.

The future’s bright; the future’s Hammer.

Dave.

Puzzle of the Week #002

The results are in – they’ve been checked, double-checked, scrutinized to death, and independently verified. We can now proudly announce that the Winner of our first Puzzle of the Week is….

Matteo Bezzini

Well done Matteo!! Full puzzle and solution below. It was a great puzzle to start with, and easy to overlook Black’s pawn on the g-file, poised for promotion.

Solution: 1.Be6+ Kh7 2.Bg8+ Kh8 3.Bb3+ Kh7 4.Rxb7+ Kh8 5.Rb8+ Kh7 6.Bg8+ Kh8 7.Rxb1, then mate is inevitable.

This week, we bring you two puzzles – the first of which is fiendishly tricky and may take you a while to figure out.

The second is a little more straightforward.

It’s White to move in both, and the target is Checkmate. As always, first to leave the correct solution takes the plaudits – good luck!

Puzzle 1 – fiendish!
Puzzle 2 – a little easier!

 

Bishop Training – Monday 27th

Ladies & Gents – owing to a fixture change next week, we now have a free night at the club on Monday 27th March.

One of our top players, Marios, has kindly volunteered to run a training session on opposite-coloured Bishops, starting from about 7.30pm. It’ll be useful to players of any strength, but in particular will introduce thematic thinking around how to use Bishops – definitely going to be useful for those under 130 who’ve not had much coaching before.

No need to pre-register or even let us know – just turn up if you fancy it. Non-members also welcome! See you there.

 

GM Chris Ward Simul – Last Chance!

Dear members, we still have some spaces available for the Simultaneous against GM Chris Ward next month at the bargain price of £3 per entry. Full details below:

  • Date: Tuesday 4th April
  • Time: 7pm start
  • Venue: Lytton Hall (our home venue)
  • Boards: 25
  • Entry: £3 per board
  • Contact: John White to confirm your spot

If there are any spaces left by close of play we will be offering this out to our friends at other chess clubs, and the chess-playing public at large.

If you want to guarantee your spot, please drop John White an email right away: john.white49@ntlworld.com

 

Puzzle of the Week #001

Ladies & Gents, fire up those chess computers and dust off those practice boards – we’re launching a Puzzle of the Week!

This is strictly for fun only – no prizes for getting it right, other than a swelling of pride in your performance and the unyielding respect from your fellow Hammerites.

To get things rolling, we start here with a  puzzle from 1900, of “intermediate” difficulty. White to move – have a think, and leave your solution in the comments. We’ll announce the winner in our next Puzzle of the Week post!

Good luck!!

SW London Junior Chess Challenge

The might of Hammer took on the very different challenge of SW London Juniors in a double-header this month.

The format of the match agreed was two nights of chess – one at the home of the Juniors, and one at the home of Hammer – Valhalla, as we like to call it.

Played over as many boards as possible with each pairing playing each other twice on the night – once as Black, once as White.

The time control was 20 minutes to start, plus 5 seconds increment per move. All games will be graded and thus the participants would achieve a Rapidplay grade.

Before relaying the events of both nights, I feel I must first comment on the SW London Juniors and our Hammer Club.

The Juniors is an impeccably run club – the two Tony’s who masterminded the birth of the club and run it have established a culture that is friendly, welcoming and safe. The coaching is top-class and the discipline and behavior of their young charges is equally impeccable. Please check their website out: www.swchess.co.uk

As for my club, Hammer, I am proud to say that over twenty members rose to the challenge and met their young foes over the board, displaying great grace, patience and a will to win. There are very few clubs where senior chess players would put themselves up for this kind of match. But our club did, and that says a lot about the club culture and commitment to the future that Hammer Chess has embraced over the last two years.

Ok, enough of the slaps on the back for all concerned – let us review the actual chess!

The first match was held at SW Junior HQ, situated near Earls Court. The date was the 1st March. Thirty-one games of chess were played in total and the big people triumphed 20.5-10.5. The chess was so frenetic I was unable to keep track of my fellow Hammerites as the pieces flew round the boards.

Tony gives the Juniors some last-minute advice

One thing about playing children is that they have no fear, they relish the challenge of bringing down an adult, they play at speed, and boy do they love attacking! The top-tip is to remember that defence is something they have yet to learn, so a controlled, aggressive approach is always the right way to approach such games.

Unfortunately, this does not always work and Marios on board 1 was facing defeat in a prepared line of the Scotch – indeed, he was objectively lost in every sense. Unfortunately for his young opponent – but fortunately for Marios and us – he missed a back-rank check mate.

This was a definite wake-up call and showed that these young people could play; and play very well. This was the only game Marios played – but what a game! I know for a fact that he analysed this line very extensively after the game – he will not be caught again.

The rest of the results were as follows:

  • There were two wins clocked up by Jay, Orial, Adam, Enkh-Ochir, Des, Andy, Kaan and myself
  • Honours were split for Anda, Chris and Ken – one win apiece
  • The double-doughnuts were Robin, Danny and Shaun. Indeed, Robin lost to a young man with the same surname. The new Lee is on the block!!
  • Somesh had one loss and a draw

Although the score line seems one-sided, I can assure you it was not!

The return leg took place on the 13th March at Valhalla, and Hammer this time had an idea of what we were facing. The feel-good factor from the first encounter meant that we tried to get twenty boards out. Have to say, SW Juniors delivered, whilst Hammer had to default a few boards.

Valhalla; just how the Vikings remember it

The result was a good win for Hammer again, but the SW Juniors played outstandingly well and went down fighting. However, the march of time is relentless and these juniors are increasing their strength at an alarming rate. I am not sure in a year’s time Hammer will triumph again.

I hope all who took part enjoyed the evening – I know I certainly did.

My funniest memory of the evening was the sight of Jay, Ken and myself sitting on the blue kiddy chairs to play our games! I had enough sets, boards and tables, but did not think we would ever fall short on the chair count! Please note for future reference: we only have about 32 chairs!

Once again, thank you to the two Tony’s, the SW Juniors, and the Hammer Heroes – we will repeat next year!

John.