The Covid-19 Chess Diaries Pt.II – My Son, Chess, and Me

A Diary from the Lockdown Vault

13th March – We were a bit worried when the school started to warn us that it may close any day, given the situation. They even sent helpful guides of how to login to Microsoft Teams – not very useful for me, a tech phobe, but Kumar seemed fine with this.

16th March – I was working away in a corner of the London Library when the message flashed: “the School will close immediately for the duration… please pickup your son from school.”. I leave the accumulated books on the table and hurry to the school, where parents have started to gather. Westminster is closing even before Boris could get to it…

18th March – All schools closed in England, but classes for a few hours in the morning will continue for the next week… until Easter holidays kick in.

19th-20th March – The first few days, new WhatsApp groups are formed between parents; funny videos are circulating amongst all of us.

The social distancing has started. Kumar thinks this is an early Easter Holiday – he’s playing cricket with himself in our shared office space, paper flying all around. London Library closed; Chatham House closed; I can’t escape!!

21st – 22nd March – Sunny weekend, someone sends a photo of crowds in the parks, but we are following strict social distancing. Kumar’s mum is from Barcelona and terrible news from Spain makes us ultra-cautious.

And it’s not funny any more. Local Carluccio’s at South Ken closes down – so many memories of happy lunches here on Sundays.

Kumar is getting stir-crazy – how long can one play Monopoly? Kumar plays FIFA against his friend online; he hasn’t played real chess in 6 months (too much homework, and a sudden passion for squash and tennis at weekends), but decided to give it a go on chess.com blitz, but it seemed the Chinese side might have gone slow, not many connections.

24th March – I remember that there is Junior Hour online at Hammersmith Chess Club with Christof! Kumar eager to join. His interest in chess has revived! After piano on iPad, classes on Microsoft Teams, we now have another platform: Zoom for Christof! Kumar has a great time – speaking to real people, rather than anonymous players on chess.com

Christof mentions the Hammersmith Training website, and that many more sessions are being setup by Jim. Well, Jim and Paul McKeown were the very first people that Kumar ever played with when he started chess at Fulham 4 years back. My earlier Indian Chess with Kumar doesn’t count – no castling, no en-passant, no stale-mate, no double-move by pawns in first move…

26th March – Jim’s session well attended – the More Gambit against the Sicilian.

Kumar is totally hooked on the Chess sessions. He has done another one with Christof on young Carlsen, training with Jim, a couple of online Simuls, and booked for more on Sunday and planning to play for Tony (another of his former coaches) against a German Juniors Team – he will be busy the next few weeks! His interest in chess has come back, and I can go back to my books!

Thank you Hammer Online!!

 

With thank to Kumar’s father, Lokhi, for the brilliant writeup! If you’d like to share your story of the lockdown, drop us an email: updates@hammerchess.co.uk

Hammer Online – Code of Conduct

Hammers – with the blossoming of our online presence, we must also acknowledge that the virtual game presents different challenges compared to the face-to-face game.

Words and actions can be made with less though for your opponents – or interpreted differently; distractions are much easier to come by; and the opportunity for computer or book assistance is ever-present.

Thankfully, most online chess platforms offer sophisticated anti-cheating software, but for the avoidance of doubt we expect all Hammers to abide by the following Code of Conduct when participating for the club in online games, tournaments, or other activities. And we will take appropriate action if any individuals do not.

Hammer Online – Code of Conduct
  1. Respect your opponents & other online participants, and treat them no differently than you would in a face-to-face game.
  2. Avoid using foul, abusive or upsetting language in any chat channels or online meetings.
  3. Whether you win, lose or draw, be gracious at the end of your game.
  4. Do not cheat – do not use computer assistance, book assistance, or any other form of outside help in your game.
  5. Strive to do your best for the club whenever you play for us online.

 

We trust that all our members already abide by these simple steps, and we look forward to continuing with our hugely successful programme of online events.

If you have any queries, please get in touch.

The Hammersmith Chess Club Committee. 

Hammer Online – Upcoming Events

Hammers – chess continues to flourish at Hammersmith, even during these troubled times! Our online activities have expanded and we are seeing a huge take-up for the games, training and other events – it’s been a fantastic response!

Please ensure you join our WhatsApp group to stay up to date on the latest details – contact us if you’d like to be added.

Here’s a taster of some of the events coming up:

  • Friday 3rd April, 8.45pm – Classic Games by World Champions (Training)
  • Saturday 4th April, 5.30pm – ‘How Good is your Chess’ Quiz
  • Saturday 4th April, 8pm – London Club Team Battle
  • Sunday 5th April, 6pm – Simultaneous display with FM Bob Eames
  • Sunday 5th April, 7:45pm – Banter Blitz – Tony Niccoli vs Chris Skulte
  • Monday 6th April, 6pm – ‘The Gambit Guru’ series – FM Bob Eames takes us through the Chigorin Defence to the Queen’s Gambit
  • Tuesday 7th April, 6pm – Junior Hour with Christof Brixel
  • Tuesday 7th April, 7:30pm – 4NCL Online Round 1 – Celtic Tigers
  • Wednesday 8th April, 7.30pm – Round III of the Corona Cup
  • Thursday 9th April, 7.30pm – Simultaneous display with GM Keith Arkell
  • Friday 10th April, 7:05pm – Club v Club game against Lübeck Chess Club
  • Saturday 11th April, 8pm – London Club Team Battle
  • Sunday 12th April, 7:30pm – Simultaneous display with Fedja Zulfic
  • Monday 13th April – El Chessico v Battersea Chess Club (note: re-scheduled!)

Please note: In order to regulate attendance and help with organisation, we do ask that you register for these events first – this can be done in the WhatsApp group, or by contacting us ahead of time.

If anyone has any other ideas or suggestions for things we can organise, we’d love to hear from you! Events continue to be added all the time so please keep in touch to ensure you don’t miss out.

Enjoy your chess :o)

Chess After Brexit

Breaking News: Hammersmith Chess Club issues invites for newly-created Yellowhammer Cup this evening

Brexit is back in the news, and how! We learned about a revolutionary new idea from the ECF, which was initiated after a meeting between PM Boris Johnson and Nigel Short, Vice President of FIDE and outspoken Brexit opponent – though he is aligned with Boris in his critique of Theresa May “the only person who has ever lost by three-fold repetition”.

Johnson insists that the domination of the continental powers over the development of chess regulations during the past few centuries must be halted, and that Britain will take back control of the game.

Chess historians will know that the rules of chess changed dramatically in the 15th century, owing to Spanish influence. Bishops were no longer restricted to one square at a time, with the rules changing to permit them multiple squares per turn. As a consequence, the Germans still call the Bishop “runner”, and the French even call it a “fool” – quite the sacrilege! The continental domination continues to this day, with the international federation taking a French abbreviation, FIDE.

A joint statement from the ECF and the UK Sports Minister on the matter:

“Now it is time to take back control, starting with the Knight. As with other pieces, it has been mistreated in various European languages, mostly called ‘horse’ or ‘rider’, occasionally ‘vaulter’. Over hundreds of years of continental regulations it was permitted to move 2 squares in any direction, and 1 square perpendicular. The complexity is not a problem, infact many English love that – look at our non-metric systems, the game of cricket, or our 3-digit ECF rating system. 

However, we do object to the disrespect shown to the traditions of Knighthood. We demand that players can choose to execute a Knight jump once OR twice per move. All other light and heavy pieces enjoy this liberty, even lowly pawns have a double-move option on their first move. 

The Knights would thus once again become the central pieces on the board, outshining the ‘fools’ and ‘runners’ of the board. Golden times lie ahead.”

The rule change would generate thousands of new jobs for very high-skilled workers, a most welcome political benefit. It is said that more chess books are published than books of all other games and sports combined – and most of those are opening books, which would have to be re-written, providing employment for many years to come.

Middlegames will become so complex that we dare not even consider it yet, and endgame theory would explode. Mate with two Knights is not only possible, but probably quicker than with two Bishops. The difficult Knight & Bishop mate becomes a beginners exercise, and two Knights would outshine even the Queen. Wow!

The ECF is currently gathering support from other chess ruling bodies. The Welsh Chess Union has indicated tentative support, on condition the ECF recognises the Welsh origins of Caissa, the chess Godess. The Scottish federation is proving trickier – pointing to their long(er) tradition of chess history as demonstrated by the Isle of Lewis figures. Scottish support now rests on these pieces being returned from the British Museum, to the National Museum of Scotland.

The ECF will also need to garner international support. Already the ECF is looking to sacrifice its 3-digit ratings, and adopt the 4-digit FIDE system. That however, is something which may ensure the ECF fails in this bid – opponents to the change have gently pointed out that it’s more likely we’ll see miles replaced by kilometres, before this change is implemented.

FIDE representatives have responded to rumours of the proposal as a “poisoned knight sacrifice”, and a “Trojan chess horse”. Plenty of work is still to be done!

As for Hammersmith Chess Club, having diversity in our DNA we are open to all forms of change in the game, proven by our recent response to the Coronavirus outbreak. To keep up this momentum, we will be organising the world’s first tournament under these new rules – provided lichess finishes updating their servers in time (the recent weekend outage was a test-run).

Starting this evening, April 1st at 7.30pm, online at lichess.com we will inaugurate the YellowHammer Cup. Named, of course, in honour of the UK govt’s no-deal Brexit planning, there is a chance the Prime Minister will personally join the game, following his recent success at hosting a Zoom cabinet meeting. If not as a player, as a true Kibitzer.

Visitors are of course welcome, but if you want to play you have to be a member – see here for joining details.

Good luck!

The Covid-19 Chess Diaries – Lord Clueless Reflects

When you reach 60 years of age, things start to stop working properly (not that!!), so you have to work harder to keep them going.

The body starts to get lazy and sometimes painful – knees in particular – the powers of recovery take longer to kick in, and what was effortless previously, requires serious application and time.

In some ways it’s the mirror image of the lockdown we are all facing at the moment – life is limiting your choices – so you have to work harder to make things happen. 

This requires a huge alteration in mindset and a definite step-up in motivation.

In the chess field I need to radically re-assess my options…

Ok I am gonna say it – I really miss over the board chess (this is the purest form of  chess combat), the team camaraderie, the verbal banter and most of all the social side of club nights. Hammer is a huge part of my life – both socially and from an organising point of view.

There is a big, gaping chasm.

Suddenly, I have to embrace the new ways of working and socialising at chess. What were the nice to have extras – WhatsApp, email, and online – have become the new mainstream. No choice if I want to get my chess fix!

The biggest problem is to wean myself off bullet chess (2min + 1 second increment) – up till now I have had no patience for longer play online – it feels like a pointless waste of time. I have to accept longer time limits and get on with it – that is going to be so hard.

I guess I am an old reactionary – I just want to look my opponent in the eye – there are so many tells at the chess board. The psychological battle is tangible and real. It is not lost in the internet either.

This may be the second biggest struggle of the lockdown for me.

The social side of chess has also gone AWOL – the sad thing is nothing can fill that void. That is such a painful loss. I miss the banter with Sorted, Pickle, Sydney… all of you.

The sad fact is there are a few Hammers who are now cut off.

However, two positives…

  • Being able to watch the chess24 stream on the 2020 Candidates, and that has been incredible. With the rest of world sport in limbo or shutdown – chess is still going at the highest level. (edit: as of this morning, that too has been shut down!)
  • My chess.com puzzle rating has gone over 2300 for the first time.

Is it time to upgrade to membership and ditch the freebie version?

On the personal side, both Karen and I are working from home.

The trouble for Karen as a CBT therapist is that most patients want face-to-face treatment. That option on the NHS ended last week. She is having to conduct sessions by phone – just not the same, and a different skillset is required.

My digital Pharmacy TV business is very active – our screens are carrying Government and personal adverts about combating Covid-19. My pharmacy clientele is on the frontline of this pandemic fight, and struggling to cope with the workload and keeping safe at the same time.

Lord Clueless gets to grips with the latest technology

This fight against the Covid-19 virus is like a chess game – the struggle is never over until it is over. You have to change strategy at times, and then maybe a tactical opportunity will present. There is sacrifice and loss in this battle – do not forget you have to protect the health workers on the frontline – our Kings. If you lose your King, you lose the battle.

Hammers, we will get through this but we must all do our bit – please remember 8pm this evening, and join the public show of support for our health care workers.

Over the board chess is not dead, it is just in a temporary coma.

Hammer will be back but for now we have Hammer Online – a big shout out to Adam, Christof, Andy and Jim (aka Pickle, Der Vader, Spidey and El Loco) they have so stepped up. (Round II of the Corona Cup continues this evening at 7.30pm – details will be posted in the WhatsApp!)

To IM Peter Roberson who did a sumul online for Hammer members – just brilliant.

Hammers, hold the faith, stay safe, and I will see you when all this has passed.

John.

A small request…

Hammers – we are keen to hear the ‘lockdown’ stories of other Hammer members. If you have a  story to share please get in touch: updates@hammerchess.co.uk, and we will post it on our website!

Hammer Online – Save the Dates!

Hammers – as we continue to break ground with how our club operates in these strange times, here’s a quick summary and reminder of some fantastic events that are coming up.

Be sure to keep an eye out for further details on the HammerTime WhatsApp group – and if you’re not yet part of the conversation, get in touch so that we can add you!

Junior Hour & Club Nights

First up – our Junior Hour, and regular Club Nights will continue most Tuesday evenings as before, only hosted online as a Zoom meeting! You just need Zoom account, a reliable internet connection, and ideally a webcam to participate. Full joining instructions will be posted in our club WhatsApp group.

Both sessions will be hosted by an experienced Hammer, and we’ll rotate where possible. Club Nights will focus on themes, games, and the occasional competition.

A Zoom session from this week – Hammer’s thinking hard!

Our Calendar has the full schedule of what’s coming up – please note: the next TWO Tuesday evenings will see us take part in club v club challenge matches, but normal Club Nights will resume after that!

Challenge Matches

We have a whole series of online games against other clubs coming up, starting this Saturday 28th as we partake in a London Club Team Battle! Details are sketchy at present, but it’s going to be a fast & furious melee of chess action – keep an eye out for further details, and please sign up for a lichess account if you want to take part!

Tuesday 31st sees us rekindle our friendship with the Dutch masters of EsPion chess club, in Amsterdam. After a highly successful pair of visits, we continue to cement our bond with this online club v club game, starting 7.45pm. Not to be missed!!

Friday 3rd we take on the Hanseatic might of Lübeck chess club. Avid readers will know we had to postpone our Summer trip to this stunning medieval city, however you can’t keep a good club down – and we will take on the club next Friday, starting 7pm.

Tuesday 7ththe big one, el grande saucisson, not to be missed – the fourth instalment of El Chessico, and yet another chance for Hammersmith to Lord it over South London upstarts, Battersea, in the ongoing battle to be London’s Premier Club. We say it’s a battle – in reality it’s become a procession. Will Battersea pull something out of the bag this time? It’s gonna be big…

Online Coaching Sessions

Some of our more creative members have been hosting online coaching sessions (again, via Zoom meetings). So far, they’ve been extremely successful & are likely to continue as the ‘lockdown’ shows no signs of being a short-term measure.

The best way to get involved is via our WhatsApp group – please get in touch if you’d like to be added, or otherwise receive details about these sessions!

Looking Ahead…

The situation continues to evolve daily, and we’re learning what works best with each session that we host, so stay tuned for future plans. And if you have any ideas that we could adopt, or are keen to host a session or other online activity, please just get in touch – we’d love to keep the chess going during these trying times!

Stay safe, keep your distance, and look after each other!

https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

Hammer goes Online

With the world going into lockdown, and the club closing its doors to over-the-board play, chess is very much alive at Planet Hammer.

We are moving all of our activities online, and that began with a simultaneous exhibition yesterday, from our German superstar, the one and only, Christof Brixel…

Covid-19 Simul Series – Part 1

After experimenting with a few platforms, lichess was chosen as the most user-friendly app for conducting a simul. Play kicked off at 6pm sharp, when four juniors – Andrew, Cian, Laith and Zain, put their chess skills to the test. The time control was 30 | 30, with Christof needing to play all four games in that time.

GM John Emms was lucky to escape with a draw vs. Christof in their recent match in the London League

He did not go easy on the youngsters – crushing them with a resounding 4-0 scoreline.

At 7:30, the adults were up. This time Christof had 12 opponents to take on, still with just 30 minutes on the clock (2:30 per game). With white on all boards, Christof saw this as a chance to put his 1. d4 2. Nc3 3. Bf4 Jobava London System under the microscope.

lichess’s simultaneous exhibition feature uses a smart algorithm to pick the most pressing game (from a time perspective) for the exhibitor to focus on

Again, he played excellently, but this was a different kettle of fish. He ended up with an impressive score of 7.5/12 (+7=1-4), following up by sending each entrant a detailed analysis of their game. What a legend!

We’ll no doubt be holding more simuls over the coming weeks, so be sure to follow the club on Twitter and Facebook to find out when they’ll be played. We’ll also be maintaining a scoreboard to log the best challengers, with a fantastic prize to be presented to the highest scorer at the end of the lockdown (perhaps a 4 pack of Andrex?).

1= Andrew Cuff (1.0)
1= Cian Ward (1.0)
1= John White (1.0)
1= Moritz Reuter (1.0)
5 Kostis Nikolis (0.5)

Please get in touch if you’re a first-teamer keen to take on the challenge. Rumour has it that IM Peter Roberson may be conducting the next event, with double points available to anyone who posts a result!

And now for an important message from Lord Clueless…

El Chessico – the 2020 Corona Edition

Hammers, the challenge is on – but online – we are arranging this year’s El Chessico against Battersea online.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak we cannot play this event over the board. So, after consultations with the frenemies we want to see if we can do it online. Read on if you want to take part.

There is a long and noble history of chess matches being played in a different way – here are a few from the past.

  • The 1945 radio match between the USSR and the USA – which gave notice to the world of the Soviet Union’s 25-year domination of world chess. The Soviet Union winning 15.5-4.5
  • The 1946 radio match between the USSR and Great Britain – again another dominating win for the Soviet Union by the same score.
  • At a tournament level, Bobby Fischer, due to the US embargo on Cuba, played the 1965 Capablanca Memorial in NY and had his moves transmitted by telex to Havana where his moves were played at the board by Jose Raoul Capablanca Junior.

So, we are following a well-trodden path by chess legends.

I am looking for 30 plus Hammers who want to take part in this unique event.

Hammersmith have won every El Chessico ever to have been played – could this be Battersea’s year?

So, if you want to fight for Hammer, win and retain the trophy and bragging rights then please email Lord Clueless on john.white@healthpoint-europe.com (please note change of email).

Next up we have an incredible offer from one of our top players – Jim “El Loco” Stevenson…

Corona Coaching – Exclusive to Hammer Members

In this post Coronavirus landscape, and having plenty of free time on my hands as the schools abandon chess classes, I would like to take the opportunity to offer free coaching/ training to my fellow Hammers who are interested in adding 30 ECF points to their grade, while studying chess in a fun but serious way.🤣

Possibly by Skype, as we must respect governmental and club directives on social distancing etc, but also in very small groups for those who are corona negative, and place trust in their own good judgement and common sense precautions.

If there is sufficient interest, probably in separate sections of U160, U130, U100 to provide the most appropriate training.

Absolutely free to all Hammer members, the only requirement is a willingness to open your (chess) mind and to try your best! If this is of interest you can contact me on jimovsky23@gmail.com.

With a grade of 193, and years of experience under his belt, only a fool would decline Jim’s most generous offer

And finally, on to our series of online blitz tournaments to see you breeze smoothly through quarantine…

The Corona Cup – Round 1

Hammer now has two online clubs you can join:

Last night we trialled a Swiss tournament on chess.com.

Unsurprisingly, with most of the world’s population under lockdown, their servers were under a very heavy load. Of the 11 entrants, 3 players lost their connections and got booted out. IM Peter Roberson came out on top, with Tony Niccoli a point behind.

lichess’s servers seem to be coping a little better, so will be used for the first round of our Corona Cup. This will be a 2-hour battle arena, exclusive to Hammer members, in which you’ll play as many 5-minute blitz games as possible within the allotted time. If you want to play more games, or are confident you’ll thrash your opponent, you can “go beserk”, halving the time on your clock in exchange for bonus points if you win!

This will take place at 7:30pm on Friday 20th March, and you must join the lichess Hammersmith Chess Team in order to play. If you don’t quite make it for the start, you can still join, but you won’t have as much time to score points.

Again we’ll be maintaining a scoreboard over the entire series, with scores handicapped slightly according to January ECF grades (exact method tbd).

Please get in touch if you have any questions.

Adam

Coronavirus Update – Please Read

Dear members,

As the UK Government has now formally moved to the ‘Delay’ phase of the Coronavirus Pandemic, we would like to share the following update from Hammersmith Chess Club:

  • We regret to inform members that all face-to-face chess activity at Hammersmith Chess Club is suspended as of Monday 16th March.
  • Teams will no longer participate in league fixtures (most leagues have already suspended fixtures), and we will no longer hold club nights on Tuesday evenings.
  • Please do not attend Club Nights until further notice.
  • Note – captains will be in touch regarding a small number of games this week where we have not yet agreed with our opponents to suspend the match. Please ensure you look out for any emails, and if you are in any doubt about a fixture this week, you should contact the team captain.
  • The situation continues to evolve and when we have a more substantive update to share regarding the eventual completion of suspended league fixtures, and the re-convening of club nights, we will do so.
  • Our Summer trip to Lübeck has been cancelled after discussions with Lübeck chess club. If you have already booked flights and/or accommodation, we recommend contacting your airline or hotel for advice.
  • Please continue to review & follow the official government advice:

https://www.gov.uk/government/topical-events/coronavirus-covid-19-uk-government-response

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

  • We will shortly be announcing some online and app-based initiatives to allow members to continue playing chess whilst minimising the risks during this period.
  • This has been a difficult decision, and one that has not been taken lightly, however we must prioritise the health & wellbeing of our members given the current circumstances.
  • Stay safe, look after each other, and if you have any queries please get in touch: updates@hammerchess.co.uk

Hammersmith Chess Club Committee

Lord Clueless goes Hammering in Bunratty

Sometimes you take a while to get round to doing stuff you want to do – life just gets in the way. That’s just life.

It has always been a desire of mine to enter a chess tournament and get a real idea of my chess abilities. I think you can be lucky in one-off games or the weekly league chess match – but to play six long games of chess in under two days leaves no room for lady luck.

Early last year, Hammersmith Chess Club raised funds for our club legend and retiring Secretary, Mike Mackenzie and his long-suffering wife Merceda (only joking!!), to go to the Bunratty Chess Festival 2020, for Mike to take part and then spend a week with family in Cork. At the same time, Karen and I lost an extremely close and dear friend to liver disease and I wanted to do something to make sense of what was a terrible situation.

In a moment of rare clarity, I realised that I could enter the Bunratty Challengers event, fulfilling a chess dream and life goal, and use that event to raise money for the Liver Trust. I would use my contacts in the business, pharmacy and chess worlds to raise funds.

The idea was born and took shape. I was to be joined by two of the best of Hammers – Chris “Sydney” Skulte, and Adan “Pickle” Cranston (please note the deliberate misspelling of Pickle’s christian name).

The Liver Trust were amazing and very supportive. T-shirts, wrist bands, leaflets and a gifting page were setup in our friend’s name.

The sight of Mike, Adam, Chris and I proudly wearing our Liver Trust T-Shirts was something to behold.

The Bunratty organisers, from the committee to the sponsors, were hugely supportive – indeed the chess festival contributed £100 to the fund. 

There are many more people to thank, but that will come later. Onto the chess…

I have been to Bunratty twice in my life, last weekend and back in 1974 on a family holiday as a 14-year old. My memories are pretty vague from that first visit but the castle and a working village seem to figure prominently in my mind. Plus, I am pretty sure we ate in the Bunratty Castle Hotel.

This return trip was an eye-opener – the roads, the hotel, Dirty Nellies and just the sheer  beauty of the country is overwhelming. The one thing that has remained unchanged is the kindness and welcome of the Irish people. As part Irish and with a large family in Tipperary, Ireland is one of my favourite places on earth. This is my idea of heaven.

For the past 27 years, Bunratty has become known as a chess Mecca with an international tournament that has obtained legendary status. Running four sections, the Masters section has attracted such luminaries as Nigel Short, Michael Adams, Jon Speelman and Peter Svidler. It is a unique tournament played in the Bunratty Castle Hotel.

I accompanied Mike and Merceda from London to the hotel on the Friday morning 21st February. Our rooms were not ready but they put a priority tag on them and we retired to the bar. The first beer was drunk and the weekend had started. We were joined by Adam and Chris as they arrived and the beers kept coming. This was definitely a case of Dutch courage on my part, with the first round due to kick off at 8pm. Nervous times.

Mike and Merceda, enjoying the Craic!

I have to confess that probably way too much beer went down. This was then followed by the “bright idea” of doing a gym session, sauna and swim, in an effort to sober up. However, sustenance was needed to reinforce recovery and the delights of “Dirty Nelly’s” called to us. A legendary ale house that is a must-go – check it out: http://www.durtynellys.ie/

I, indeed we, were ready for the Hammers to strut their chess skills and take Bunratty  by storm.

Round One vs Ciaran Marron, rated 1621

I was off the mark – this was such a relief. I had held my nerve. It was not pretty chess, but getting the win boosted my confidence.

I missed many opportunities but the mantra was a win is a win.

Cue more celebrations, of the ale kind, that went on to 2am in the morning. Having been up since 4am this was probably overdoing it. The Bunratty Craic is really something though. GMs and Its mixing with us wood-pushers. The sight of the Ginger GM taking on all comers at blitz in the bar was just brilliant.

Round Two vs Jana Solomatina, rated 1522

The kick-off was 9.30am in the morning. This was one of those games where not a lot happens. My junior opponent was a very correct player and will undoubtedly be a strong player of the future. However, she lacked aggression at crucial moments and also consumed too much time.

The chess engine Stockfish reckoned I did OK. I was just glad to be 2-0. I also discovered that drinking a lot of water during a chess game seems to improve my concentration and play. A curious discovery but entirely due to excess alcohol consumption the previous day. Here is the game:

Round Three vs WGM Diana Mirza, rated 1939

Things were starting to get interesting – this round saw my playing on board 2 and my game would be transmitted live. These were heady times. Incidentally, it is beyond me why the London League has not adopted this, as it is a great way to promote our brilliant game.

The downside is that it exposes you to the commentary of your peers and superiors – in the case of Hammer, that’s fine, as the banter on the WhatsApp group testifies to.

My opponent was the third-strongest women in Ireland, with a WFM title and by a considerable degree a notch higher than my two previous opponents. Her ECF equivalent would be 165.

Playing white, I opened with my usual e4, which as Jim “El Loco” Stevenson says is the only move. She hit me with Philidor’s defence. An opening that has given me problems in the past. I was soon floundering for a plan and decided to sac a pawn for complications.

A typical Clueless solution – however, she saw much further than me. In no time I was two pawns down facing two bishops and a knight vs two knights and a bishop. These were grim times – but I am a Hammer and Celtic Tiger stock, and we play to the end. Eventually an opportunity arose and I played a clever tactic, which ended up winning the Bishop.

Further liquidation then occurred and I was left with two knights and King, versus a long black King. I then played on for 30 moves trying to checkmate my opponent. Somewhere in my Clueless brain I thought that was possible. This was embarrassing to say the least. However, deep in my memory banks, from when I was a kid, I read a chess book by RF Green called “Chess” (original!). I swear that it had a two knights checkmate in it – or was it some other ancient tome. The memory definitely fades with the passing of time.

Anyway, it finally sunk into my thick head that I could not win this against a competent player. It would need an eejit of Clueless proportions to help facilitate a checkmate. Curiously if I had left the last black pawn on the board there was a chance of a win.

So, first I would like to unreservedly publicly apologise to Diana for the 30 plus moves I made her endure and state categorically it was purely done out of ignorance and not stupid stubbornness.

Here is the game:

I was now on 2.5/3

Although feeling great about my chess, my physical condition  was poor – fuel was needed. Durty Nelly’s again proved the perfect refuge – the next round was starting at 7.30pm.

Round Four vs James McDonnell, rated 1945 (ECF 156)

At last a fellow Londoner was the opponent. He is a member of GLCC and only five years ago was rated 184 – he is now down to 156. The chess oracle that is El Loco informed me after the event that he was a former Ulster Champion.

My only frustration is that I lost my scoresheet, so I cannot give the game, especially galling as it was probably my most interesting game.

Again, I was on a live transmission board and playing black. After a mix-up in the move order on my part, I am definitely pleading the 5th on that (Chess amendment 5 – the effect of late nights, lack of sleep, and alcohol) we entered a mainline Sicilian Najdorf.

My opponent played a 5.Qf3 version – I responded by getting  a knight onto e5 and delaying castling – indeed I played the whole game really well. With my opponent showing visible signs of frustration and not being able to find a suitable plan other than trying to hack his way through.

In the end my position was overwhelming with my b-squared knight indulging in a really nice tour around the board – the last move would have been Nd4 which was crushing.

My opponent lost on time in a position that was very awkward and devoid of counter chances.

Just to mention the time controls for Bunratty are 90 minutes plus a 15 second increment per move – so generally the games are around 3 hours long.

I had moved to 3.5/4 and was definitely in the mix for a prize.

Once again, we answered the call of Durty Nelly’s and enjoyed a serious drinking session – the atmosphere was great – there is something about chess players getting together – the camaraderie and the craic is infectious.

When it closed, we retreated to the bar at the hotel and to be honest I do remember about 3am thinking it’s a 9.15am start in the morning, you have to shower and pack… and check-out… before commencing play. I remember leaving Mike and Merceda and staggering off to my room. Again, perfect Bunratty etiquette but definitely not ideal chess preparation.

Round Five vs Peter Cofolla, rated 1909 (ECF 161)

Yet again I was on a show board – this was something I could definitely get used to.

Playing white, I played e4 – he replied c5. I took a moment and decided this was the moment to play the Makepeace-Clueless variation – named in honour of my esteemed past opponent from the Ealing-Hammer encounter in the TV Division One game last month.

This game represented a huge missed opportunity on my part when I got the sequence wrong on move 17 – I should have played BxB, followed by Nf6+ with a clear advantage as I win the exchange and have control of the d-file. I missed it, and realised my error a couple of moves later, then followed up poorly with Rd6 and Rad1, losing the a-pawn. Completely overlooking returning the rook to a1.

I had missed my opportunity to go 4.5/5 and be in with a shout of the top prize. To be honest, it was lesson learned again, that if you do not compose yourself after realising your error, you are likely to make another error. This was frustrating as the rest of the game I was grovelling to hold the position which I eventually did.

Still, 4/5 was not bad. Here is the game:

Round Six vs Eetu Tiiva, rated 1895 (ECF 159)

The second Finnish player I have played in my life – Rauno, fellow Hammer and Tiger was my first, and then only casually.

My fourth appearance on a streaming board definitely seemed OTT. Although I wrecked the whole process when I slapped my clock after playing a move and it died. The rest of the game had to be played without move relay.

To be frank this was not the most exciting game with the battle for control of e4/e5 and neutralising white’s expansive queenside play the main themes.

By this time, I was running on an empty tank with thought processes laboured and even indulging in totally farcical possible variations. To be frank I was glad to get a draw and finally conclude the tournament. The relief was palpable.

Here is the game:

Summary

This was an amazing experience where you, as a standard wood-pusher, are playing feet away from world-class chess players (Nigel Short, Simon Williams, Keith Arkell and Matt Turner). In a real way there is a sense of you are all equal and tackling Bunratty together. It is an experience I will never forget – the tournament is brilliant.

An exhausted John (aka Lord Clueless) takes it all in with the obligatory beer

I urge you all to play this special tournament just once in your life.

So, in no particular order my thanks and gratitude go to the following:

  • The Bunratty organisers, who have created a totally unique tournament that so reflects the Irish character and approach to life. Plus they made a generous donation to the Stephanie Liver Fund.
  • To Mike, Merceda, Chris and Adam – the Hammer posse – the best of companions and the best of people. All of them embody the Hammer spirit in spades.
  • The British Liver Trust for their support and help – the T-shirts and wrist bands went down a storm.
  • The chess genius Simon Williams, the Ginger GM, who has mentioned the Stephanie fund on his Facebook page. His generosity and time spent playing all-comers in the bar was something to behold.
  • Uwe and his friends from Germany who were really a huge laugh and tolerated my bemused looks at the fact I was undefeated.
  • To all my sponsors – the friends, family (English and Irish) and the Chess players – the chess community is a generous and outward-looking one.
  • To my Karen, who allowed me the chance to do this and encouraged my in every way.
  • Finally, to the very sadly missed and incomparable Stephanie, whose early tragic death gave me the impetus to try and make something happen that could create some good out of the terrible darkness. Chess can bring some light.

If you would like to contribute to the find, here is the link: https://tribute-funds.everydayhero.com/uk/stephanie-kennedy-our-friend

Stephanie Kennedy – 23rd May 1974 to 21st February 2019
Wife, daughter, and the best of friends.

John.

Coronavirus Update from Hammersmith Chess Club

Dear Members,

As the spread of the Coronavirus continues to make headline news around the world, we wanted to confirm the position at Hammersmith Chess Club, and request that you follow some simple steps to keep yourselves and other members safe.

  • The Club remains open, and club nights will continue as planned until further notice. There is no specific UK government advice to avoid gatherings at this stage, and as such our Tuesday Club Nights will continue as planned. – We will advise if this changes
  • All League matches remain in the calendar and will go ahead as currently planned. – We will advise if this changes

Please note the following important advice:

    • Please continue to follow the current government advice on hand washing – use warm, soapy water to wash your hands more regularly. Particularly important after you have been on public transport, before eating, or if you have sneezed, coughed, or otherwise touched your face. Washroom facilities are available at the club, and you should ensure this advice is followed at Club Nights.
    • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough and sneeze, dispose of used tissues straight away, and then wash your hands.
    • Handshakes before games are no longer required, however please be courteous to your opponent, e.g. wish them a good game.
    • If you have cold or flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, shortness of breath, or otherwise feel unwell, please do not attend a club night or match until further notice.
    • If you have recently travelled from or via the following countries/regions, please do not attend a club night until further notice & follow UK govt advice on self-isolation: Hubei province in China, Iran, Northern Italian areas in lockdown, South Korean areas in lockdown.
  • If you have recently travelled from or via the following countries and are experiencing any cold or flu-like symptoms, cough, fever, or shortness of breath, please do not attend a club night or match until further notice & follow UK govt advice on self-isolationChina, Italy, South Korea, Iran, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand

Further useful advice and information can be found here:

https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public

The safety of our members, and the UK-wide effort to slow the spread of the virus, are our primary concern. We respectfully request that you abide by these steps until further notice, and we thank you for your patience.

If you have any questions at all, please get in touch: updates@hammerchess.co.uk

The Committee of Hammersmith Chess Club.