Dear Members, as part of our training programme this season we have massively upped our game with the addition of Tony Niccoli to the roster. Tony is an ECF-registered trainer, and a top English player (198 standard/203 rapid), and he’ll be taking two more training evenings – in March and April.
Ahead of that we’re equally excited to announce that Monday 23rd January sees our next in-house training session. Hosted by our Thames Valley and London 3 Captains, Adam Cranston and John White, we’ll be analyzing games at the demo board and providing tactical and strategic insights and advice. You’re invited to submit games to Adam by 7pm Friday for inclusion in the session.
Finally we can also confirm our own Danish Dynamo, Carsten Pedersen, will be hosting a training session in May. Carsten has long been one of our top players (192 standard) and is highly skilled with his analysis and insights, with a very accessible and engaging presentational style. His session will be a great finale to this years programme.
Full details below – make sure you save the dates!
Another double-header of updates for you this evening – we are a busy lot!
16.01.17 – Thames Valley League – Kingston v Hammersmith: Good News at Last!
At 10.25pm on the 16th January 2017 hostilities were ceased and a temporary truce declared. Seven games decided and one sent off to the adjudication office. The score is nicely balanced at 3.5 points each.
The adjourned game in question is Adam’s. Confidence is high this side of the Thames, however it is not over till it is over. More on that later…
Hammer’s TV team were playing Kingston at their new – and very nice – venue, the Druid’s Head, in the centre of the Market Sq, Kingston-Upon-Thames.
The Hammer Heroes of the night were undoubtedly our boards 1 & 2, Carsten and Bajrush, facing opponents graded well above them, the boys came through in style.
Carsten calmly and logically refuting an exchange sacrifice and emerging in a dominant position. Avoiding a good many Knight forks his h-pawn (“Harry”) was the hero. As GM Simon Williams would say, “Harry just wants to be a Queen!”. In this game, his wish came true!
Our Wily Silver Fox (WSF) had an amazingly complicated game with controlled chaos on the board… as usual. At one stage he was a pawn down but with a dominant position and a Rook on the 7th. Time pressure played its part, and we all know there is only one winner when time is short. Our WSF duly delivered.
Two great victories!!
The draws were secured by Brian, Jeremy and Paul. These were not soft draws, but at no time were the Hammer boys in trouble.
The losses were suffered by Pavel and your correspondent.
This was Pavel’s first taste of defeat for Hammer, and from what I saw, in a very complicated and double-edged encounter. He will be back… watch this space.
My own game was one of two halves. To be honest, one long half and one so short it does not merit the designation “half”. My opponent and I just made the time control (30 moves in an hour), and this was one part of the game. In the first half I had to tread a fine line and avoid numerous tactics. I managed to achieve equality and was starting to assume the initiative.
Then I blundered – leading to immediate loss. The second game I have done this in a row.
No player minds losing when you have been outplayed, but to blunder and lose instantly is not something you can easily entertain. Hopefully I have learnt from these painful losses.
So the match depends on the result of Adam’s game. Playing his preferred London system, and utilising smart tactics, he has a position where he’s a pawn up with a passed Harry pawn waiting to pounce.
Worst result Hammer can achieve is a draw. The most likely result a win. A great performance as were again out graded across all boards.
Hammer TV are on the scoreboard.
Rejoice one and all.
17.01.17 – London League 3 – DHSS v Hammersmith: Up & Running – a Great Start to 2017!
The news you have all been waiting for in 2017. Not the UK Brexit strategy (still waiting!), nor the Trump Presidency, and not even the winner of The Voice.
Hammer 1 won for the first time in Division 3 of the London League!
Read that last sentence again – this time slowly and carefully. Breathe it in, digest it, enjoy it… and most of all celebrate it!
Last night Hammer beat DHSS 6.5-3.5 despite defaulting our first game of the season.
Yes, Hammer 1 have broken their duck and are now truly engaged in the fight for Division 3 survival.
We did not need a Sam Allardyce to guide us – all we needed was to trust in our ability and hope for a slice of luck that has been absent for us all season. Last night we got it right and were on the right side of the result for the first time this season.
It may be said that your correspondent is prone to hyperbole from time to time, however on this occasion I believe it is fully justified. The Hammer Heroes rose to the challenge and delivered a great morale-boosting victory.
To the nuts & bolts of the clash…
The evening did not start well – Orial got delayed at work and we had to default on board 9. This, coupled with Matteo and Bajrush arriving well after the clocks started – your captain’s nerves were frayed! Indeed, I was like a jack-in-the-box; constantly out of my chair and unable to relax and concentrate on my game.
Things went wrong at first with Matteo playing his worst game of the season, quickly going a Rook down through an oversight. He embarked on a desperado attack which was efficiently repelled by DHSS captain David Gilbert. All of a sudden Hammer were 2-0 down and staring relegation in the face.
Things started to turn when John Wooley gained a draw with the Black pieces. A foothold in the match had been achieved – something to build on.
Cometh the hour, cometh the men… and those men were the four stalwarts of Hammer Chess – Bajrush, Paul, Jeremy and Sheikh. They may have won many games for Hammer over their years of service, but never have four victories been more vital, or more welcome. They shed the weariness of years and played like demons.
Paul was the first to finish – under sever pressure he played beautifully to negotiate his way through all the difficulties to secure Hammer’s first win of the night.
Bajrush stared with a 20 minute deficit. By the end of the game his opponent had 4 seconds left, while our WSF (Wiley Silver Fox!) had over 30 minutes. A study-like endgame resulted in victory. Hammer had their second win.
The score was now 2.5-2.5.
Next up was Sheikh. IN a game where he always had control, he emerged into a single Bishop endgame two pawns up. Avoiding any stalemate traps, he forced the way through calm, logical play. The third Hammer win of the night.
Jeremy now decided to join the fun, playing a brilliant game. He always held the initiative and forced the win through a tactical sequence. These situations always happen once positional dominance has been achieved. The ending was almost Carlsen-esque in its beauty. One for the website, definitely.
The score was now 4.5-2.5 in Hammer’s favour.
Josue playing his first game for Hammer, had a very symmetrical game that always seemed destined to end a draw. This was duly achieved – a solid start to his London League career.
Your correspondent’s game was also drawn. To be honest, I did not cope well with the absence of Orial and the late arrivals of Bajrush and Matteo. My brain was elsewhere and I decided that a pragmatic approach of not trying to force the win, was the best way of dealing with the situation. That, coupled with the importance of the outcome of the match definitely resulted in my first case of Captain’s nerves. Definitely not a pleasant experience.
The score was now 5.5-3.5. The win was secured.
The last game to finish was Adam’s. The sight of the whole Hammer team standing or sitting to watch the conclusion of the game was an added pressure for Adam. You could almost feel the collective will power urging Adam on to victory.
Turning down a draw and negotiating all before him, he finished in great style and secured a deserved victory.
A great night and the beers in the pub tasted very sweet!
I have never felt more proud of the boys and hopefully this will be the springboard for the rest of the season.
A double-header of match reports for you this evening, chess fans! Read on…
12.01.17 – London League 5: Battersea v Hammersmith
In round 5 of Division 5, Battersea were at home to Hammersmith, where a prognostication of a close match couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a depressing night that started off with snow showers and blistery cold wind, which had us shivering outside in the dark in huddled masses, whilst the door key man was yet to show!
Illness was to reduce Battersea to an absent Captain, and nearly took out the Hammersmith captain too, who had himself a long weekend bout with a sore throat and other flu-like symptoms.
The first to finish was Chris Moore on board 4. Chris with the White pieces opened with the Scotch Game, a very double-edged opening that can reward the attacking chess style. It was soon apparent that White was positionally secure with good attacking possibilities. Chris pressed home his attack and his opponent was lost. Congratulations to Chris on a cracking win!
Next up was Robin Lee on board 3 who had the Black pieces. After a quiet opening a small inaccuracy by White afforded a tiny crack in his fortress. Black launched his Bishop on a hapless h3 pawn, but the Bishop couldn’t be retaken due to a fork of King and Queen by Blacks Knight on e4. This opened up the King to attack and reoffered the same Bishop for another pawn sacrifice (technically it had nowhere to fall back to), Black obtained a dangerous edge.
The game reduced to an endgame with Black having two extra pawns & active pieces on both sides, and White having loose, isolated pawns. After a Knight fork of the White King and Bishop, White gave up.
David Lambert with the White pieces on board 2 had a quiet game that eventually reduced down to an endgame position of two pawn islands of 3 and 3 for David, against 3 and 2 for Black, both with supporting Kings in the middle. The Kingside pawns were mirror images of each other.
It was a textbook finish, with David pushing the majority 3 pawns on the Queenside and creating a passed pawn on the a-file. This was then sacrificed at the opportune moment and David’s King walked over to munch 2 pawns at leisure. Black had no choice but to resign.
A classic win by David a la Steinitz School of chess – beautiful structure with incremental advantages being gained slowly. I remember watching rugby and seeing the ball being passed along with an overlap on the attacking wing – beautiful to watch as the extra man scores! I’ll have to ask David if he played rugby. Yes, chess mirrors rugby!!
On board 1 Brian had a very dangerous attack going on an unshielded King in the corner with open files and ranks, it looked like a clear win for Brian, with his opponent’s Queen and King seemingly skewered by a Rook. Analysis will have the last word, but a draw was agreed, the match being already won.
Result: Battersea 0.5 – 3.5 Hammersmith
Happy New Year Indeed!!
12.01.17 – Middlesex League: Harrow 2 v Hammersmith
Fresh off the back of their decisive victory against the first team, Hammersmith were back in West London for the second week running to play Harrow 2.
Our team had changed considerably – with Carsten, Bajrush, Paul and Pavel all rested, Jeremy was promoted to Board 1 and Ken Kwabiah made his debut on Board 7.
Although we weren’t expecting our opponents to put up too much resistance, it was somewhat disappointing that they weren’t able to field a team anywhere near as strong as the team they sent to us in October. With the bottom three boards ungraded and only one board over ECF100, it was plain sailing for the most part.
Jeremy trapped his opponent’s Queen in the opening, forcing an early resignation. Orial obtained a dominant position early on, and squeezed his opponent positionally into concession.
Congratulations to new members David, Ken and Matt on boards 6, 7 and 8, all of whom made easy work of their young challengers.
Adam made a pig’s ear of his winning Kingside attack, and wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for a lucky piece-winning tactic as his opponent broke through on the Queenside.
John Wooley had a slow start, getting nothing out of the opening, but after his rival blundered a pawn he smoothly simplified to a won endgame.
The only disappointing result of the night was John Ryan’s loss on Board 5. John was pressing for a win a pawn up, when out of nowhere his opponent’s Knight landed on e4. On this square it became a monster, threatening checks, forks and material gains in all directions. John had no choice but to give up his own Knight for a pawn, promptly succumbing under the multiple threats from Sir Lancelot.
Result: Harrow 1 – 7 Hammersmith
We now have a long wait until our next game against Harrow 1 on 27th February at home, where a win would all but seal a promotion spot.
Ken became the 23rd different player to play for the team so far this season, and joins a group of 12 players on 100%!
05.01.17 – Middlesex League: Harrow 1 v Hammersmith
A very Happy New Year to you all – welcome to 2017!
It couldn’t have been a tougher start to the year for Hammer in the Middlesex League. We were up against league favourites Harrow 1 away from home.
Losing our board one and in-form Carsten through illness in the morning was not a good start. However, the rest of the team proved they were up to the challenge in spectacular fashion.
We were impressed to see digital clocks on all of the tables – less impressed that our hosts didn’t know how to set them (!), leaving us puzzled and frantically hitting the buttons until we found a suitable setting.
It soon transpired that our hard Christmas opening preparation was to pay off. Everyone on the team plays a fine game, and at no point did anyone look to be losing. We ended the night with five wins and three draws – a fantastic result given we were matched for grades across the boards.
Special mentions to Bajrush, Pavel and Matteo, who all made their debuts for the team this season, bring the player count up to an impressive 22 different faces over five matches.
Next week we play their second team at the same time, and at the same venue, where a performance half as good would all but seal another big victory!
The last hurrah of 2016 Hammer Chess took place last night at Lytton Hall. Twenty-one souls turned up to enjoy a night of fighting, no quarter given, 10-minute blitz chess!
The cream of Hammer Chess: Tony, Carsten, Bajrush, Paul, Sheikh amongst many other Hammer stalwarts turned up to take on one and all.
There were new faces present – Iqbal, Ayman, and Ibrahim from Café Nero and three potential new members Josue, James and Ken. All dreaming of taking the prize of Hammer Christmas Blitz Champion and securing points in the race to be overall Hammer Blitz champion 2016-2017.
What followed was a night of high quality blitz chess played at times with breathtaking speed!
The first round saw four groups in an all-play-all double-header arrangement, with the top two from each group going forward to the knock-out stage (a bit like the World Cup, in a way…).
The usual Hammer suspects in the form of Tony, Carsten and Bajrush, not with some slight hiccups along the way, secured their passage. They were joined by Sheikh after a three-player playoff. The rest of the qualifiers were made up of the Café Nero trio of Ayman, Zafar and Ibrahim. This left one place to fill to complete our quarter-final lineup. Displaying great composure and good chess, Josue triumphed to secure the last place.
The quarter-finals saw Carsten, Ibrahim, Sheikh and Josue bite the dust.
The semi-finals were gripping affairs with Bajrush beating Ayman in a truly amazing game with both players on the edge for most of the game. In the end, Hammer’s wily old fox held it together and secured the win.
In the other semi-final Tony won a two-minute playoff after two closely contested drawn games. This was a case of experience and nerves winning the day or night!
The final between the two was a nail-biting affair with Tony – material down – mounting a huge attack on Bajrush’s King. The pressure told and Toney emerged a Rook up but several pawns down. Game over you would have thought, but those of us who have played Bajrush over the years in blitz know it is never the easy.
This was again the case and a tense finish ensued with Tony finally winning by checkmate with seconds left on his clock. It was a great match to watch and Tony emerged as the deserved winner!
Some other comments on the evening for your consideration – Great performances form debutants Ken, James and Josue. Hopefully they will all join the club in the New Year.
John Ryan and Robin Lee both had solid performances to remember.
We welcome Pavel, Tony and Liam as fully paid-up members – Team captains please note they are now available for selection for your teams!
The secret of Tony’s success was to step off a plane from Estonia and hare it over to the club to take part. Unbelievable performance in the circumstances!
Your correspondent, to his total surprise, was presented with the Hammer (better) version of SPOTY – Hammer personality of the Year!
Finally the night was further enhanced by the provision of liquid refreshments (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) by our Chairman Bajrush with accompanying snacks. Much appreciated by all and a big Thank You to our Wily Old Fox of a Chairman.
As they say… That’s all for 2016, folks!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all! See you in 2017!
The most daring raid since Kramnik stormed Castle Kasparov at the Riverside Studios, took place on Monday in West London. A heroic bunch of Hammer’s finest took on the “street” chess players in Cafe Néro just off Kensington High Street.
The Hammer crew consisted of Paul “dead-eyed” Kennelly, Tony “the surgeon” Niccoli, Phil “no way” Ehr, Orial “the wiz” O’Caithall, Dave “eye, eye” Pearson, Nick “flick” Rutherford, and John “no idea” White. Reinforcements came in the shape of Pavel and hopefully new member Josue.
Hard to imagine a more intimidating sight than the Hammer Posse walking into contested turf. Our aim: to own the manor.
The chess was pretty bloodthirsty and direct. This was great fun and new friendships were formed. This is the joy of chess – it is a common language.
Part one of the evening complete, four of us in the shape of “no way”, “no idea”, “the wiz” and Josue headed over to the Albion for a more serious kind of refreshment.
We ran into Les, a past member of Fulham Chess Club and an excellent chap all round. Some good beer and ropey chess were on the menu but all was well in the world.
The raid went well and hopefully things will happen as a result.
The final act of the evening was GM Keith Arkell also enjoying a pint in the Albion coming over for a chat. A perfect end to a West London Chess odyssey!
08.12.16 – London League 3 – Wimbledon v Hammersmith
The last LL3 match before Christmas took place at the hallowed hall of Golden Lane. Our opponents were Wimbledon 2 and they were not in a giving mood.
The narrative of the night strikes a familiar theme to those who have read the chronicles of LL3 Hammer this chess season. So close and yet so far….. again!! As ever, the devil was in the detail.
The night did not start well – Bajrush had to pull out but luckily Robin Lee stepped in at the last minute. On top of that we were out-graded by an average of 18 points per board.
In essence the match came down to two critical games where Hammer contrived to snatch a defeat and a draw from the jaws of victory. This was really hard to take, particularly for the two Hammer heroes involved – Adam and Safi.
Adam’s opponent was our Yasser – the irony is that Yasser plays for us in the Middlesex League and Adam is his captain! Adam played an outstanding game achieving an overwhelming position both materially and positionally.
Unfortunately he had consumed too much time on the clock and a scramble ensued. These are always a nightmare to play especially when you know you had a won game just a few moves earlier. The reversal of fortune affected Adam and the loss became inevitable. To be honest it was daylight robbery, and a couple of consoling pints in the Shakespeare did not ease the pain. It was chess at its most cruel!
On another day Adam would have converted.
Safo, on the Black side of an exchange Lopez, played so inventively and was two pawns up in a won endgame Unluckily he fell for a tactic and a subsequent perpetual check. I felt for Safi because he played so well and was coasting to certain victory. Another case of daylight robbery.
The glorious defeated were Matteo, Sheikh, John Wooley, and Robin.
The latter three had games they probably wish they could quickly forget. Sometimes you just have those nights and the lads have to put it down to that. They shall return in 2017 better and stronger!
Matteo should have drawn but he pushed hard for the win. It was one of those situations where one is so focused on victory that your sense of danger goes south. Another half-point disappeared!
The three winners of the night were Paul, Orial and my good self.
Paul played so solidly and won in good style. He really is coming back into his best form.
Orial had an amazing game that resulted in a time scramble but he held his nerve and triumphed in grand style. A really good victory.
As for me playing a la Karpov I totally strangled my opponent. Up to move 45 all was good and I should have closed the Kingside up and then played on the Queenside. My biggest personal chess challenge is translating positional superiority into victory. This transition is one I struggle with. However, with a 40 minute deficit on the clock my opponent was under severe time pressure and blundered in a probably drawish position. After the Adam and Safi results I was just glad that Hammer were on the right side of a result!
Overall a loss was the result – the scoreboard does not lie. However, on another night and if Santa had been in a more generous mood, Hammer would have won 6-4.
You win some, you lose some. On a personal note I want to wish all my chess fighting Hammer colleagues a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Ladies & Gentlemen, SAVE THE DATE – the second round of our club Blitz tournament takes place on Monday 19th December at our home venue.
For those of you with a sharp memory, you’ll recall that the first round in September saw a whopping 17 members show up, with points awarded depending on overall finishing positions at the end of the evening. The current roll of honour looks as follows:
Winner – Bajrush (17 points)
Runner Up – David (16 points)
3rd (Joint) – Brian, Matteo (15 points)
5th (Joint) – Chris, John W, John R, Robin (13 points)
9th – Sheikh (9 points)
10th – Giovanni (8 points)
11th (Joint) – Paolo, Matt (7 points)
13th (Joint) – Ken, Rich, Danny, Mike (5 points)
17th – Phil (1 point)
With a further two rounds to go before prizes are awarded there is quite literally everything to play for! Entry is entirely free, and you don’t even have to be a member – can’t say fairer than that!!
In other news, our London 5 team played last night. Continue reading if you’d like to know how they got on…
06.12.16 – London League 5: Kings Head v Hammersmith
In our fourth match of the season we came up against the old and venerable Kings Head club. Despite the result, we accounted well for ourselves despite being out graded by up to 30 points over three boards.
I saw little of any game apart from my own. David playing black on top board lost a minor piece early on and did well to hang on for so long. It was a courageous effort and he managed to post double Rooks along the a-file, but alas it was all in vain and the inevitable checkmate occurred.
I had the White pieces on board 2 and started with an outrageous opening that was able to exert some pressure against an uncastled King. My opponent defended well though. Eventually pieces got swapped off, Queens and opposite coloured bishops emerging, the game became locked and a draw was offered, which I accepted.
Nick on 3 playing a Kings Indian defence, unfortunately fell to a Knight fork of King and Rook. Against a veteran of the Kings Head Club, and former captain no less, there was no shame in the defeat.
Andy built up a strong centre after a rapid development, and then defended stoically in the face of a sustained counter from his wiley opponent. After swapping pieces he entered the endgame with a slight positional advantage, only to lose it all & resign after blundering his Rook. Bad luck!
01.12.16 – London League 4: Metropolitan 3 v Hammersmith
It’s normally a tough selling job finding cause for celebration in a drawn match, but that was certainly the case when we tied the score at 4 points a piece against Metropolitan 3. We’d salvaged a draw against their 4th team in our last match-up so we looked to be up against it as we stepped-up against their “big brother”.
In terms of paper-grades our opponents outranked us by over 10 points a board. But as any scholar of the game knows, matches are played over 64 black and white squares. They’re thankfully not decided by a pools panel who consult the ECF database!
The heroes of the night were Andy, Robin and John, each clocking-up victories against their higher-graded opponents, and each a great example of dynamic attacking chess.
Andy swept aside his opponent with a well-calculated kamikaze Bishop attack on their advanced h3 pawn. It was soon curtains with Queen and Rook waiting in the wings.
Robin looked under the cosh in a wildly open position, with roughly one minute left on the clock for both players. But one inaccuracy later, and Robin left the board beaming having delivered check-mate. A real lesson for anyone about remaining calm as the seconds tick away.
John’s win was built on a strong positional plan around pawn structures and how best to leverage to his advantage. Well, that, and a marauding Knight with fork opportunities at every turn. His opponent resigned a whole piece and 3 pawns down. Impressive stuff.
Brian had clearly been inspired by the final match of the World Championship between Carlsen and Karjakin! Taking his lead from that match, he agreed a draw in record time, but still with lots of “spaghetti on the board”.
The less said about my game, the better. I was two pawns up but under time pressure allowed a back-door perpetual check. No shame, but still felt like it represented a missed opportunity.
Details of the other games are sketchy at best – though I do have a near-perfect recollection of the buzzer noise that sounded every 5 minutes to let someone into the venue! I’m reliably informed that Orial’s opponent has an unbeaten run lasting 5 years, though I can’t swear to how many games he’s played in that time.
Special mention to David Pearson who made his debut for the team – better luck next time! – and to Dan Rugman who stepped in to cover a last-minute withdrawal. Ruggers, consider yourself the first name on the team-sheet next time.
So, lots of positives to take forward. We’re unbeaten after 4 games, there’s lots of competition for places, and we’ve already racked-up more points than we did in the whole of last season. Genuine progress! As a result we find ourselves in the “Europa League” spot, breathing down the neck of the top 4.
I think we all deserve a little break after all that, and as luck would have it that was our last game before Christmas! Enjoy the down time, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We go again in January!