Blitz Tournament & Training Evenings – Save the Dates!

Happy Easter everyone! As the chess season continues thick & fast, so do the training evenings at the club – please save the following dates:

  • Monday 4th April – Blitz Tournament
  • Monday 25th April – Training & Theory
  • Monday 9th May – Training & Theory
  • Monday 23rd May – Training & Theory

We are pleased to announce that on Monday 4th April we will host a 5-round Swiss Blitz tournament at the club, with time controls between 10 and 15 mins. It should be a great evening of fast, competitive chess! We’ll aim to start at about 8pm, but club will be open as usual from 7.30pm. Content of future training sessions to be confirmed nearer the time.

This will be an open tournament with free entry – non members are welcome to come along and try out their chess skills against our seasoned club players. If you’re not a member and would like to join in, please just drop us an email to confirm your attendance: updates@hammerchess.co.uk

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The chicken on the left played a ‘cracking’ endgame…

If you can’t make a Monday evening at our club venue, we also run a free weekly session at Hammersmith Library (on Shepherds Bush Road, 2 mins from tube station) every Wednesday from 6-8pm. It’s hosted by a player or two from the club with a number of boards, and anyone is welcome to come up and try their hand at a game. The evenings have proven very popular of late, particularly with younger players. It’s a great way to get some hands on experience of the game! We are looking to shortly expand into Shepherds Bush and Kensington Libraries – more on that soon!

Do come along to these events if you can – you’ll be very welcome!

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2016 @ 12:50 pm

A Brief History of Hammersmith Chess Club

Hammersmith Chess Club has been around for a while – since 1962 to be precise. That might seem like the fairly recent past to some of you – perhaps even living memory for many of our members – however for those of us born after 1980 that is, quite frankly, a different era. Up there with pre-history for the millennial generation!

To bear this out, indulge me for a moment while I recount some of the events that happened in Britain in 1962.

  • The Beatles were yet to release an album. Hard to imagine a time before the Beatles isn’t it, but this was quite literally a pre-Beatles era. They had some of their first sessions at Abbey Road in 1962, and released their first ever single (Love Me Do) in October of that year.
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The Mark I Fort Cortina – launched the same year as Hammersmith Chess Club!
  • The Ford Cortina was launched – for the princely sum of £573 you could buy yourself a brand new Cortina! Other motoring options available at that time – the Vauxhall Victor, Hillman Minx (!), and the Morris Oxford Farina.
  • The first ever James Bond film – Dr. No – premieres, with Sean Connery playing the famous secret agent. Glad to see this is still going strong today, albeit without the schhhpeech impediment.
  • Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, and James Watson win the Nobel Prize for their discovery of DNA – the building blocks of life!

I don’t need to point out that mobile phones didn’t exist, nor did the internet, home computers, concorde (now since retired!), Malawi, CD’s, Z-Cars, Steptoe and Son, and England were yet to win the World Cup. I could go on…

My point is, we have been around for a long time, and it’s only right that some of that history is recorded and shared.

Luckily for us our ever-diligent club Secretary, Mike Mackenzie, recently re-discovered a treasure trove of historic material about the club whilst tidying up our equipment cupboard. As long ago as 1967 we were producing a regular newsletter for members. I’d like to share a few snippets and factoids from those fascinating records.

  • The Club first opened its doors on 3rd September 1962 at Westcott Lodge, now a Grade II listed Georgian House. Membership at the time was 22, including John White (made life President in 2012 to mark 50 years of the club) and Peter Martin (a long-time Treasurer and later Secretary of the club).
Westcott Lodge as it stands proudly today
Westcott Lodge as it stands proudly today
  • Hammersmith Borough Council (itself a throwback – now Hammersmith & Fulham Council) helped found the club, starting with an open chess competition in 1961 for which the council provided a handsome cup for the winner. Sometime after that competition, the council met and agreed the formation of Hammersmith Chess Club.
  • It took some time to properly establish the club, and it wasn’t until 1966 that the club elected it’s first President, Lady Herbert. Lady Herbert was well known on the chess circuit at the time and something of a character. She was married to Sir Alan Patrick Herbert, himself a very interesting and erudite man – the club certainly had friends in high places! Membership had by then grown to 35 and cost around 30 shillings (£1.50!) – that’s right, Hammersmith Chess Club even pre-dates decimal money!
  • In July of 1968 Dr. Jonathan Penrose, British Champion, gave a simultaneous display at the club, winning 17 games and drawing 2. His fee was reported as 6 guineas (£6.30 in modern money). Given the level he played at, it is quite impressive that two club players managed a draw against the great man.
Dr. Penrose plays Mikhail Tal in 1960. Full game here.
Dr. Penrose plays Mikhail Tal in 1960. Full game here. It finished as a victory to the British Champion
  • At some point in 1968 our former President John White (back then just a regular member, one presumes) recorded a record 8th-straight victory in competitive chess, a club record! Sadly John is no longer with us, however his long-term contribution and dedication to the club lives on in the annual John White tournament – a handicap rapid play event we hold every Christmas. We were lucky enough to have John’s son present the trophy last year on the inaugural occasion of the re-named event.
  • May 1968 saw the West London Open Junior (U-19) Championship, where several of Hammersmith’s most promising players competed. This included one Peter S Morton. Those of you familiar with the London club circuit will recognise Peter as an ever-present player. He stepped in as acting Chairman for us following John’s death, and is still an active player across the London Leagues.
  • Also in 1968, our U21’s took on the over 21’s at the club. It sounded like a great match, finishing 8-8. Below photos document the event, which also made the local press!
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Pictured in the centre with a beard and holding up the Key, is John White, former life President of the Club
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An impressive result from the juniors considering the youth of some on the team!
  • 1970 saw the club move venue to St. Paul’s Church Hall, Sussex Place, having outgrown the premises at Westcott Lodge. I stand to be corrected, but I believe this is the church that you can see as you pass over the Hammersmith Flyover – the attached conference facility is now a RIBA-award winning architectural gem – oh to have our club nights there now! One wonders how the church and parish felt back in 1961 when the flyover was constructed! A frequent gripe of members at the time appears to be a lack of sufficient heating in the hall!
  • Later in 1970 the club sent a team of seven players to Amsterdam to take part in a triangular match. I wonder how they got on – did the famous coffee shops exist back then??
  • The London Chess Congress Novice section in 1972 was won by a very young Hammersmith player. At just 9 years old, Julian Hodgson also won the Under 10’s prize – a pocket chess set. Julian would of course later go on to become British Champion.
Four times British Champion Julian Hodgson began his illustrious career at Hammersmith
Four times British Champion Julian Hodgson began his illustrious career at Hammersmith
  • Interestingly, around this time there seemed to be a great deal of correspondence chess going on at the club. Hammersmith had a team in division two of the British Correspondence Chess League in 1973-74. In this era of online chess and smartphones, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the British Correspondence Chess Association is still going strong!
  • Dominic Lawson was the opponent for a Hammersmith player in a 1974 game in the Thames Valley League. A famous family name – Dominic is the son of former Chancellor of the Exchequer Nigel Lawson, and brother of T.V. chef Nigella.
  • Later that year, IM Robert (Bob) Wade played a simultaneous at the club, ending with a Q&A on his chess experiences. Bob played numerous times for England and was well regarded as a coach and author. He even helped Bobby Fischer in his preparation for his 1972 match against Boris Spassky. Rather predictably, the first question he got asked: “What was it like playing Bobby Fischer?”
  • At some point around 1975 the club moved venue again, to Blythe Hall. This seems to have gone down very well with the members – much warmer than the church hall! Drunken Knights club get their first mention around this time too. Pleased to say they are still going strong as well!
  • Our chess book library commenced in 1975 too. The first title to be loaned out – “Yearbook of Chess 1969/70”. The library continued through the rest of the decade and up to 1984 when our final title went on loan – “100 Chess Gems”. Good times.
  • The 1980’s are short on detail in the archives, but we do have our first mention of Ken Hedger in 1983, as captain of our third team in the Hammersmith League. Ken is another regular on the London chess scene, and is still an active player today, some 30+ years later.
  • March 1996 the club finally received money through from it’s insurers for rain damage to our boards! The record isn’t entirely clear how this happened but it was very well received! Carsten Pedersen also gets a mention for the first time – Carsten is currently the strongest player at the club.
  • John Wooley took over captaincy of our Thames Valley team in 1998, successfully seeing the team through to promotion to Division 1. John is another stalwart of the club and still plays strong chess in the Thames Valley league today.
Sue pictured in 2013 by which time she had already achieved the WIM designation
Sue pictured in 2013, shortly before she achieved the WIM designation
  • 1999 sees the last entry of note in the archive, but it’s a good one! Our in-house tournament that year was won by Michael Bushill. More notable was the 3rd placed player – CJ De Mooi. You may have heard of CJ – a long-time fixture on the BBC quiz show Eggheads, he’s also appeared on Countdown, Fifteen to One, and numerous other shows, as well as having a successful modelling and acting career! His life is not without controversy too – have a read of his Wikipedia biog here.
  • The late 2000’s saw Sue Maroroa on the books of Hammersmith. Sue has had a distinguished chess career, including earning the title of Woman International Master, with a victory over GM Mark Hebden to her name. She was the strongest player at our club whilst a member.

As you can see, it’s been an interesting 54 years since the club first opened its doors. Times have certainly changed since then, but I wonder if the game itself has changed much in those years? Over the next few weeks we’ll be putting up some of the games from the archive newsletters so we can have a look to see for ourselves. See you soon!

Last Updated: Mar 10, 2017 @ 2:14 pm

Does Playing Chess Make You Sexy?!

This question was posed by my partner Karen in the pub the other night as she watched a friend and I push wood around the board. She definitely thought NOT!!

Is this typical Anglo-Irish prejudice that is reflected by the rest of the non-playing chess community of these islands? Being good at chess in the British Isles does not confer sex appeal.

In other parts of the world chess players are judged as sports people, have endorsements, and are used as models! They are sexy.

It is a universal truth that in these islands no-one ever took up chess in the pursuit of finding their true love. I would also contend that no-one ever took up chess in these islands to improve their sex appeal.

Why?

Sadly, competence in chess at club level never translates into huge amounts of adoring fans, invitations to glamorous parties, members of the opposite sex falling at your feet, or an improvement in your physical appeal. It also does not confer wisdom in the fashion arena.

To use the Jeremy Clarkson vernacular – the image of the club chess player is popularly covered by words such as jumper, pipe smoking, socially awkward, boring, tweed jackets etc. You are definitely viewed as the Austin Allegro as opposed to the Ferrari you think you are.

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After a couple of pints and a chat with Karen, John hit the karaoke …

But the professional chess world gives us Magnus Carlsen and Alexandra Kosteniuk, amongst many others who are both smart, good looking and sexy. Great for them, but sadly it does not seem to trickle down.

With the Oscars season just passed, it is worth looking how Hollywood uses chess. It is overwhelmingly used as a prop to convey intelligence and sophistication. Only once to my knowledge has it been used as the element of seduction [answers please to our Twitter account!]. Surely those two traits are sexy?? At our level… no!

The combination of art, science and life that is chess must be sexy?? Again, at our level… no!

So do the new pursuits of chess-boxing and chess-hip-hop hit the sex appeal scorecard? Good for boxing and hip-hop, but for our chess playing level??…. no!

So sadly I conclude that I reluctantly agree with Karen, Another victory for her! Again!

But I have the final word… Damn the popular majority! Chess makes me feel good, and that alone in my mind makes me sexy!! So there!!

By John White, London League 4 Captain and Sexy Beast.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

Training & Theory – part 3

Our next training session of 2016 approaches on Monday 14th March, held as usual at our home venue starting 7.30pm.

This session will be run by our top-rated club player, Carsten Pedersen. Currently graded at ECF 195, Carsten was the only victor in our recent Simultaneous Match against GM Chris Ward. You can read his fascinating analysis of that game here.

The training will consist of an in-depth analysis by Carsten of three other games from the Simultaneous display, specifically focusing on:

  • Openings – general considerations rather than specific variations
  • Middle Game – tactical and positional themes
  • Endgame

The three games are quite varied so there is a lot to learn – we are estimating around 40 minutes of analysis per game, including questions and interaction. Carsten has put a lot of thought into the structure of the session, so it promises to be an engaging and enjoyable evening for everyone.

The overriding theme of the evening will be to draw out the differences in how a Grandmaster thinks about the game, versus a Club player. As such we think players of any grade will be able to learn and enjoy the evening.

This will be another open session, so Non-Members are welcome to join us. We hope to see you there – just let us know by registering on our mailing list first! 😀

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

Why do I play better against stronger players?

This is a question that keeps many club chess players awake at night – especially if they are graded, like yours truly, between 120-140 ECF.

This is something we have all experienced at some stage of our chess odyssey.

The circumstances when these thoughts appear are often the same. They usually occur after securing a heroic draw against a 180-rated opponent when you had the best of the game. This is then followed by a horrible and deserved loss or draw to a sub-120 graded player in your next match.

How can I play so well and soar so high, then sink so low?

This is the joy of competitive club chess. It allows you to dream and then cruelly dishes out a dose of reality.

This has happened many times to me in my lowly chess career and hence the need to address this question in a public forum.

After sufficient navel-gazing time I have come to the conclusion that the same factors are involved in both games. Obviously you may say, but please let me explain why.

To use an excellent analogy, I will call it the “Leicester City Chess Rules” (LCCR).

Nobody gave Leicester City a chance to escape relegation last season or to win the Premier League this season. Indeed, the odds at the start of this season of them winning the league were 5000-1!

Will LCCR help you outfox your opponents?
Will LCCR help you outfox your opponents?

The rules are not exhaustive and can be expanded:

  • Your frame of mind.  I am playing a 180 – he/she should crush me – so a loss is no disgrace. I play without pressure. Nobody expects me to win, or even draw.
  • Your opponent’s frame of mind.  All the pressure is on them. They have the high grade – they should crush me. I am sawdust compared to their stardust. This can induce a false sense of security and lead to risk-taking. Something they would never entertain against a peer.
  • The time factor.  I have found that the liberating effect of no expectation translates into excellent clock management. You play sensible and logical moves – avoiding at all costs a tactical melee. This means you are often well up on the clock. Time pressure is your high-grade opponent’s problem, not yours.
  • As the game progresses – the effect that a loss or draw has on their grade increasingly comes in to play.
  • The pressure that comes from the results on other boards. This is something that can affect your opponent as other results come in.

These are the five critical factors that influence the course of the game. Unfortunately, they also apply equally – but not so favourably – to your game with sub-120 graded opponents.

  • Your frame of mind.  I should win; I out grade them by 20 points – the win is in the bag. So wrong in every way – Caissa has many ways to dish out a dose of humble pie!
  • Your opponents frame of mind.  They play without fear – they do not know about your 180-graded heroics. I am just another opponent.
  • The time factor.  My clock management is far worse. I spend too much time striving for an advantage – when simple moves would be better. I must and will win. This thought process inevitably results in defeat.
  • As the game progresses, the realisation that you may actually lose increasingly weighs on you. This is compounded by the thought of lost grading points.
  • The match situation.  Your team needs a win – you need a win – this ups the ante and again clouds your thought process and logic.

What conclusions can we draw from this? These are my personal LCCR’s:

  • Play the game not the opponent
  • Every game of chess is the same. There are only three possible outcomes
  • Use a bit of Lasker logic – make pragmatic moves when the position is unclear, not so-called “strong” moves
  • Do not waste loads of time on obvious moves. Avoid time trouble
  • Your grade will take care of itself. The game on the board should be your focus.
  • Finally, play your game, not the match. This may be a Boycott approach but chess is about your game not your teammates. This may be selfish but it will help focus your mind on what you can actually influence. Of course, supporting your team once your game has finished is essential.

Adoption of the LCCR may not make you a better player, but it will give you peace of mind. Playing without pressure means you will play better.

So, do you play better against stronger players?

My answer on balance is probably yes, but the flip-side is that your results against peers tend to remain the same for the reasons outlined above. If you can translate that form against the very strong players to your usual graded opponents then you may be one step nearer to unlocking the mystery of that board game called Chess.

By our London League 4 Captain, John White.

Last Updated: Mar 25, 2016 @ 12:51 pm

Training Day – Part Deux

A reminder – Monday 29th sees our second evening of theory training at the club. It’s another free & open session – non-members are welcome to come along and join in.

Our Chairman, Bajrush (Rated ECF 208 for rapid play!) will be taking us through the following topics:

  • Endgame revision with practical sessions
  • Middle game basics
  • Basic openings & opening theory

Promises to be another valuable session – hope to see you there!

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The Balkan Bootcamp!

We held our first training session of the year tonight – and it was a cracking evening to get us started for the year. Our Balkan wizard at the board – chairman Bajrush Kelmendi – led the session with aplomb, taking a good sized group through the following topics:

  • Basic endgame theory
  • King & pawn endings
  • Pawn on pawn formations
  • Rook and Bishop theory, including the tricky task of mating with a bishop pair

It didn’t end there – that was followed by a practical session on applying some of these themes in a couple of previous games of his.

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Bajrush was aided by our League 4 Captain John White at the demo board. We also had the benefit of a large television & computer for running through the games.

There were plenty of questions and challenges from the crowd, and a couple of moments of levity, mostly involving missing pieces from the demo board which John had managed to squirrel away in his pockets! True magnetism.

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It was a great session – hats off to Bajrush for arranging, and also to John for helping sort out on the night.

Further tips and tactics for endgames can be found here.

Looking forward to the next session – Monday 29th Feb, 7.30pm start. Save the date & do come along!!

Training Day

We are today excited to announce some upcoming training sessions to be hosted at our club venue (directions here) in West London.

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Denzel was looking forward to learning about the French Defense (Classical Variation)

Two of the strongest players at our club, Bajrush Kelmendi and Carsten Pedersen, aided by our training group, will be providing a number of sessions over the next few months to help all players sharpen their tactics and improve their game. These sessions will be open to members and non-members alike (at no cost). Details as follows:

  • Monday 22nd Feb, from 7.30pm – a session focused on Endgames for beginner and intermediate levels. Though even the seasoned pro’s might learn a thing or two!
  • Monday 29th Feb, from 7.30pm – an open session for members to submit topics of their own suggestion. Please contact Bajrush with your ideas for topics and we will finalise details closer to the time.
  • Monday 14th March, from 7.30pm – a session jointly hosted by Carsten and Bajrush in which we will analyse three of the games from the Simultaneous against Chris Ward.
  • Later this Spring, Carsten will host a session on Pawn endings at the club. Details to be confirmed, but we’ll keep you posted!

As mentioned, we’d be pleased to welcome any non-members to the club for these sessions. If you think this may be of interest to you, please let us know your details below and we’ll be in touch:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Oh Captain! My Captain!

By our London League 4 Captain, David Lambert

I’ve only been playing competitive chess for a few years – one season for Denton whilst in Manchester before joining Hammersmith in early 2012. Back then I wasn’t thinking about captaining a team. I was happy to just turn up and play.

I remember having a conversation with my captain one day in the usual post-match post-mortem – I think he may have slipped to a disappointing draw. “Captaining a team takes 10 points off your grade” he chuckled to himself.  How could that be? It didn’t seem that hard – you just send an e-mail a few days before the match asking who wants to play? Then you toss a coin as the match kicks-off to decide colours. Easy…

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Oh David!

I’ve been a captain now for approaching two full-seasons so thought it might be interesting to double-back on that throwaway comment and see if it carries any weight.

I finished the 2014 season on a grade of 127, and at that time took on the mantle of captaining our team in London League Division 4.  It’d be a challenge: our team was likely to be graded in the 140-80 range and yet we’d regularly come up against teams with a 120-130 on bottom-board; a 175 on Top Board wasn’t altogether surprising either. Still, it was about getting games and ensuring that we were able to follow-through on providing league chess for our newer members.

The season was a difficult one – even factoring-in the other matches outside the league, I ended the season on 34%. My Jan’15 grade was 117 and my final-year grade was 121 – a total of 6 points lost like-for-like. But fast-forward a few months and I was back up to 126. All things considered, I’m not sure there’s much in it. The more cynical amongst you may argue I didn’t have that many grading points to lose in the first place!

Still, I wouldn’t say captaining a side is without its challenges. Even in my short tenure, I’ve had to deal with:

  • Team-mates not turning up / travelling to the wrong venue / pulling out with an hour’s notice
  • Team-mates arguing with each other / other teams
  • Opposition captains complaining about one of my players
  • Multiple wrangles with the league over player eligibility
  • Disputes over time controls / weird once-in-a-lifetime rules

Once I’m in the midst of a match, I tend to knuckle down and concentrate on my game – I’m not sure it’s much of a burden. The biggest stress I have is wondering whether my 8 players are going to turn up! That broad smile you see at 6:59pm in Golden Lane, when the last player rolls through the door, that’s a real one!!

Chris Ward vs. Carsten Pedersen (0-1): The Analysis

As the only victor in the recent Simultaneous against Chris Ward, Hammersmith’s Danish wizard Carsten Pedersen has generously provided us with his analysis of that game.

Carsten (top right, furthest board from the camera) mulls over his next move
Carsten (top right, furthest board from the camera) mulls over his next move

The insight is a real treat and makes for a fascinating read. As you might expect from two top players, some of the lines are tricky to follow, though Carsten has done really well in explaining the logic behind them. I’m pleased to say there is even the occasional (semi) blunder in there! A terrific read – hope you enjoy it.