A Fighting Chance

20.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead

Well done to everybody who fought hard for Hammersmith last night! The story was that we were up against a very strong side who outgraded us by an average of 21 points per board.

We defaulted one board so were 1-0 down initially, but nevertheless we started promisingly. Adam on top board played the London System and held his own solidly to draw against a very strong opponent.

I played as black against the London System on board two, and adopted Bajrush’s plan against an opponent graded 30 above me – fianchettoing both Bishops, then advancing the central pawns to e5 and d5, supported by the Bishops.

White’s King delayed castling and the central pressure enabled me to win first the b2 pawn, then another on d5. I turned down a draw after 20 moves, trying to simplify to arrive at a “won” endgame. However my opponent avoided exchanges, maximized the power of his white-squared Bishop, and in the 20 minute play-off after move 30 he produced a worrying King-side attack with Bishops, two Rooks, Queen and Knight.

I should have sacrificed the Rook for Bishop to relieve the pressure, but I didn’t see it under time pressure, instead taking refuge in a draw with just a few minutes left on the clock.

The heroes of the evening were Chris and Rich, who were first to finish. I didn’t see the intricacies of Rich’s game but he beat an opponent graded 36 higher than him!

Chris survived a hair-raising period of having to blockade the opponent’s 7th-rank pawn for ten moves or so, finally sacrificing a Knight to get rid of it, but emerging two pawns up to win the endgame.

At that stage it looked like we might win the match against all the odds, since I was two pawns up and Josue was a piece up for a pawn. But Josue’s opponent managed a Rook-infiltration of his second rank, gaining a pawn to create a winning Queening threat, and I got too short of time to force a win.

Then John’s game, which had looked pretty even throughout, ended in a loss against an opponent 25 grading points higher.

David, making his debut on board 8, managed an honourable draw.

So of the games played on the night, we drew 3.5-3.5, but lost 4.5-3.5 owing to the default. A credible result against tough opponents!

Brian.

The “Bajrush” System vs. The London System

A rare treat for you here as our Chairman and “Wiley Old Silver Fox”, Bajrush (183 ECF), provides his analysis of a recent match in which he faced the London System opening.

Having recently attended a training session at the club focused on the London, could Bajrush use the practical knowledge he picked up to his advantage in London League 3?

Find out here.

A “Drawn” Out Battle

09.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead

Last night’s match against Wanstead ended as… another 4-4 DRAW. A scoreline that absolutely reflects just how tight the match was from start to finish. Draws are becoming somewhat of our trademark this season! John Woolley would be proud.

Down to the individual games and it’s some irony that the better my own performance, the less I know about the other ones! I was fixated on my board for most of the night so didn’t get much of a chance to look around. Brian, I’m sure your research could easily point out the correlation here! I’m afraid you’re left with the edited highlights.

The most interesting game appeared to be on Board 3 where Josue sacrificed the exchange in order to crank open the h-file and apply some real pressure. He definitely had the initiative, and it looked like there was a mating net to be found. But alas, the London League insistence on banning the use of Fritz at Golden Lane means that’s sometimes easier said than done, and the crushing blow was never dealt. It doesn’t help when your opponent reveals the 3-move mate after the game, but I suppose that’s why we need that post-match pint in the Shakespeare!

Most of the other games looked really tight, with roughly half going right the distance. Both time and pieces on the board were in short supply. Brian and Adam’s games both looked in the balance in their respective endgames; each team eventually taking a point each. In my own game, I faced the Smith-Morra gambit with the Black pieces. I accepted the pawn in the opening and immediately cursed my lack of book knowledge on these lines. Still, I managed to cling onto the extra pawn, repel his attack gained through initiative, and eventually worked my way into an endgame with the same bonus-pawn intact. When the minor pieces were off the board, I was able to convert.

Good win for Nick on Board 8 as well. Thanks for stepping in at the last minute. Much appreciated!

A decent little result all things considered, and builds on our continued improvement relative to last season. We already have 3 points on the board with nearly half the season still to go!

Lest we forget, we ended with just 2 points last time out. It’s also pleasing to see we continue to fill our boards each week – no penalty points thus far. Looking at the league table below, you’ll see that’s no mean feat!

Thanks,
Dave.

Mad Blitz Part 3

On Monday 6th February 2017 at 7.30pm, seventeen souls – the great & the good – gathered in the hallowed surroundings of Lytton Hall for the third round of our blitz cycle.

This time the ranks were reinforced by three potential new members: Kaan, Alex and Marios. With the addition of James to lower the average age of participants by a good margin! Indeed, I predict James will play a big part in the future of Hammer Chess once his academic studies are put to bed. You read it here first! Not quite the “Future of Rock & Roll” statement assigned to Bruce Springsteen by Jon Landau in 1974, but still…

As usual the chess was fast and furious. There is nothing like 10-minute handicapped chess to bring out the cannibal in the club chess player. It allows the imagination to soar and the entertainment of ridiculous possibilities and moves.

The man everyone was gunning for, and the man with the biggest target on his back, was our WOSF, Bajrush – Chairman and blitz expert. Winner of the first leg and runner-up in the second, he was a marked man. Unfortunately, he had other ideas.

WOSF in action… the crowd looks on

Fischer-like, he mowed down the opposition in his qualifying group, despite having a serious time handicap for every game. He had his business hat on! His place in the knock-out phase never in doubt.

The qualifiers from the other groups were Sheikh, Josue, Matteo, your correspondent, plus the new faces Alex and Marios. The final place was taken by James after a nail-biting winner-takes-all game against Brian.

The knockout phase saw Bajrush, Sheikh, Marios and your correspondent advance to the semi-finals.

Sheikh totally crushed me and deservedly progressed to the final.

Bajrush had his toughest match of the night against Marios. An amazing game ensued. The final position had two Rooks v Queen and a possible perpetual check. However, our WOSF did not panic and saw his way through all the traps to emerge the winner.

The final saw Bajrush triumph again.

In the play-off for third, Marios won well against your correspondent. A great performance on his debut at the club.

Thus, the roll of honour for the night reads as follows:

  • 1st – Bajrush (17 points)
  • 2nd – Sheikh (16 points)
  • 3rd – Marios (15 points)

In the overall race for the Hammer Blitz Champion, the pecking order is as follows:

  • 1st – Bajrush (54 points)
  • 2nd – Sheikh (41 points)
  • 3rd – John White (37 points)

One more round to go and the best three scores for each competitor will count.

Well done to all!

John.

Rapid Play vs The Juniors: Players Needed!!

Dear members, we have a number of exciting rapid play games against our local junior clubs coming up and we need volunteers to play!

For those of you not familiar with the format, it’s two games against the same opponent each evening, one as White and one as Black. Time control is 20 minutes with a 5 second increment per move. We’ll be getting the games graded too, so they’ll all count towards your ECF rapid play grade.

The dates are as follows:

  • 20th February vs Fulham Juniors, starting 6.15pm at Lytton Hall. 10 boards required for this one.
  • 1st March vs SW-London Juniors, starting 6.15pm at St Luke’s Church, West Brompton. 15 boards required for this one.
  • 13th March vs SW-London Juniors, starting 6.15pm at Lytton Hall. Again, 15 boards needed! This will be followed by some training, analysis and insights from Tony Niccoli – should be a good one!

Please get in touch if you’d like to play – John White is the man to contact: john.white49@ntlworld.com

These games follow on from our successful double-header against Fulham Juniors last season. It’s a terrific experience, some of the youngsters are amazing players and you’ll undoubtedly have a fast-paced and action-packed pair of games each night. We need players across all grades, reflecting the varied strength of the youngsters.

Hope to see you there!

Blitz Tourney… Round 3!

Roll up, roll up!! The third round of our blitz competition takes place this Monday 6th February in the hallowed surroundings of Lytton Hall.

Starting at 7.30pm, entry is FREE if you’ve entered either of the previous rounds, else it’s only £1 to enter (and we’ll treat you to a cuppa & some biscuits!).

Casual players are very welcome – you don’t have to be a member to take part. We’ve seen a total of 31 players in the tournament so far, 7 of whom were drop-in players. Over 20 people showed up for the last round and it would be great to see another strong turnout!

Come along and enjoy a night of chess that is raw, maddening and inspirational – but never dull!

Current top 5 standings as follows:

  • 37 points – Bajrush “WOSF” Kelmendi
  • 25 points – John “COYS” Ryan
  • 23 points – John “Luck of the Irish” White
  • 21 points – Robin “the Rooster” Lee
  • 21 points – Tony “the Trainer” Niccoli

Looking forward to seeing you there!

An East End Bust Up!

31.01.17 – London League 3: East Ham v Hammersmith

Hammer 1’s second game of 2017 in London 3 was a bit of a soap opera…

Drama, failure, joy, misery and dogged determination in the face of adversity all played their part in the evening’s entertainment. A perfect mirror of Hammer 1’s journey through the division this season.

The drama was provided by Bajrush, our own WOSF, who had an unbelievably complicated game – what’s new? He confessed afterwards that he was lost at several points, but he kept piling oil on the fire and posing new problems. In the end his opponent cracked and our first win was in the bag.

Our other wins came from Matteo and Safi.

Matteo’s was a case of good old cockney determination. In a seemingly equal position Matteo kept probing, manoeuvring, repositioning pieces and squeezing his opponent. He created a Harry passed pawn and was able to deflect his opponents King whilst his King penetrated the Queenside. The win was secured. This was a welcome return to form for Matteo and should be celebrate along with his first ECF grading of 155!

Safi’s win was the joyous moment of the evening – he displayed great skill to win from an equal position and earn his first victory of the season in London 3. A great performance.

Draws were secured by John Woolley, Jeremy and Josue.

To be honest we should have won all three games although Jeremy confessed that he was lost in at least three points of the game.

To the detail…

John’s game was agreed a draw in a static pawn structure with same-coloured Bishops. Crucially he was a pawn up and I believed he was winning. However, a draw was agreed.

Josue had a won game but fell for a tactic that resulted in perpetual check. In his second game for Hammer he dominated and was cruising to victory. Unfortunately his opponent had other ideas. C’est la vie!

Jeremy’s game was another amazing encounter. In the end he had King and Queen against King and Knight – no other pieces on the board. Unfortunately time was short and he could not force the win. This is (another) one for future training sessions!

To the glorious fallen and the failure & misery part of the evening…

I suffered an appalling loss with complete memory failure – I went wrong at the first move, playing a variation I knew nothing about and am at a total loss to explain why. Definitely early signs of senility.

Orial had a dead certain draw, if not a good shot at a win. One mistake and he was totally on the back foot, even though with opposite-coloured Bishops he still had good chances of a draw. Again, it was not meant to be.

Paul had a tough game against a very awkward opponent. It was a difficult game, and not just on the board. Unfortunately, he had to allow a passed pawn, and with a bad Knight against a good Bishop he was always going to struggle.

The toughest loss was probably Sheikh’s – he was totally winning. The intensity of this game – a King’s Gambit – affected both players, with errors on both sides. Indeed at one stage Sheikh castled through check – neither he nor his opponent picked it up. Later in the game Sheikh missed the fact he was in check and played an illegal move. This was spotted and he incurred a 2-minute penalty.

This definitely threw Sheikh and he was rattled. So, despite being a piece up he contrived to lose very quickly. This was a tough loss and his play deserved so much more. As I have said before, Caissa can be very cruel.

A 5.5 – 4.5 loss was the score on the night. A tough loss and we will have to improve to survive in London 3.

Come on Hammer, the fight for survival is truly on!! Keep the faith!!!

John.

Buddy Up!!!

To tie in with the new ECF grades released today, Hammersmith Chess Club is proud to launch an equally new (and sparkly) scheme to support our members. With any luck we should see collective grades receive a boost too! We introduce our HCC Buddy Programme…

To complement our wide range of in-house training sessions, another useful way to improve your chess is if you have someone to turn to for that little bit of extra support throughout the season. That might be someone who’s happy to review your annotated games, or who can give you a few helpful tips following club tournaments. Obviously, it helps if that person is:

  • A little stronger than you
  • Willing to help (nothing more annoying than feeling you’re bugging someone!)

That’s where our Buddy Programme steps in. We’re looking to pair up willing volunteers who’ll be happy to maintain that 1-2-1 connection across the season. How that pair interacts following the pairing is entirely up to them – we’ll just act as the mechanism to put like minded people together!

What do we need from you? Please let us know – no later than Sunday 5th February – if you’d:

  • Like to offer your services as a Buddy
  • Like to be paired with a Buddy who can support you
  • Or if you’d like to put yourself forward to do both! I hope a number of people will fall into this camp

We’ll be able to confirm pairings on Monday 6th February. Suggest these run until the Summer and then we can review again.

And please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I’m only graded X, I won’t be able to help anyone”. That’s nonsense! The best way to learn is from someone who’s only slightly better than you.

The scheme will be administered by Dave Lambert – please send all replies, comments or suggestions in his direction at davidlambert80@gmail.com

Thanks,
Dave.

An Evening of Roosters and Foxes

26.01.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Streatham & Brixton

Welcome to John Woolley and Rich Wingfield to Division 5, both of whom made their debut for this match. John needs no introduction being the former Thames Valley captain for Hammersmith for many years. Rich is our newest captain for our League 6 Team 1.

As befitting the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, this is the tale of the courageous Roosters and the wily Foxes. Read on to find out who is who…

Out-foxed, or out-roostered?

I guess Board 1’s result could be said to be a grandmaster draw because, after a more move or two (edit: it was 8 moves!), hands were shaken and the draw was agreed. Exit the two top men.

The evening then settled down to a long battle and into the first deadline and nothing happening.

On Board 3, Rich with the White pieces had gained a strong centre, a lot of initiative, and a win looked possible. All of a sudden Black pulled some kind of surprise attack and they were shaking hands, alas. So one Rooster down; the wily fox had struck like lightning.

On Board 2 the two Captains drew up battle plans – their captain lead off with the Queen’s Gambit, while Robin employed a somewhat unconventional King’s Indian Defence, quickly gaining equality with 2 Bishops. Many moves later after the first clock deadline, we see White getting into time pressure, but it was still Queen & Rook and many pawns on both sides, all blocked, only with White having an advanced 6th pawn.

After White forced the exchange of Rooks it looked like he was playing for a draw. However, Black’s Queen was free to go marauding against loose pawns an exposed White King. It was starting to look like a win or a draw by perpetual check for Black.

With the extra 15 minutes on the clock, Black tried for a win and complication. The wily fox had plotted carefully – or perhaps luckily – because perpetual checks would mean the next check would put the Queen off to the side, taking two moves to return to base & guard her King. However, White could post his Queen on h5, threatening mate or winning material.

A better judgement was called for, but sadly ignored this time. Our rooster went down in a thicket of flying feathers, with pawns falling like dominoes and new claws appearing, White promoted a new Queen.

The end was inevitable, perhaps even cruel, and the Hammersmith captain had to resign. A second rooster had gone down to the wily foxes.

On Board 4 we saw Chris Moore playing strategically, his opponent playing equally carefully. Chris, with possible a slight edge in a King and pawn endgame, shook on a draw once the other roosters had succumbed.

Result: Hammersmith 1 – 3 Streatham & Brixton

Finally, kudos to Rich for stepping in at short notice after our redoubtable Board 2 regular David Lambert had to pull out.

Robin.

All Good Things Come to an End

24.01.17 – London League 4: GLCC v Hammersmith

All good things must come to an end, and it looks like our unbeaten run in League 4 is no different. We trail our GLCC match 3-4 behind with a single game adjourned. Orial’s the man tasked to take his game away and come back for seconds, although it looks dubious whether he can salvage anything from his 4-pawn v 4-pawn end-game. Shame, because the game had looked dead even throughout. The win we need seems a long shot (!), so we might have to concede the match this time around.

Regardless of the result in that last one, I think we acquitted ourselves very well against a side who out graded us on nearly every board. GLCC actually lie bottom of the table (P5, L5!) but that appears hard to believe when you look at their lineup. I chatted to their captain before the match and he said that as they’ve got a deep pool of players to choose from, they actively rotate selection to ensure that everyone gets a broadly equal matchup. It’s some sign of our progression in this league that they decided to wheel out the big guns for their match against Hammersmith.

Upper Vestry Hall… the cauldron

First to finish was yours truly. I agreed a quick-fire and charming draw in the French after a sharp tactical exchange meant that most of the pieces were swapped off fighting over d4. Not much to be excited about I’m afraid, but I was satisfied with the half point.

Draws for Nick and Brian followed not soon afterwards. I didn’t get to see much of either game but Nick and his opponent’s (lengthy) post-match analysis suggested a fair result was reached on both sides. Brian felt he had the edge but was cautious of over-pressing for fear of allowing tactical counter play. Good results for both give the relative gradings.

Matt – making his debut in League 4 – was next to finish, being on the wrong end of the first decisive result of the evening. he fell behind to a sharp tactic resulting in a pin on the Queen. Finding himself down a minor piece for a pawn, it was always going to be tough from thereon in. Still, he battled bravely and forced his much higher-rated adversary into an endgame, dodging several potential pitfalls along the way.

Dan secured a respectable draw on Board 8, although it could have been better still as the post-match analysis in the pub confirmed (where all the best analysis happens!). He was a couple of pawns up in his endgame but had to worry about a raiding pawn on the h-file that tied up his King in defence. When his Knight came off the board, his unconnected pawns were not enough to force the win and a draw was agreed.

Not for the first time in a match – and probably not the last either – Robin had the sharpest game of the evening. Open files, advanced Queens, unusual pawn structures – it had the lot! It felt like the game was on a knife edge for a while with one small mistake likely to be crucial either way. It seemed Robin had the momentum but a pawn break by his opponent gave him a dangerous pawn couplet on the 6th rank which took all of his attention to rebuke.

With both players in time trouble, they entered an endgame with very few pieces on the board (though alas, still a Queen!) and plenty of chances for stalemate. Unfortunately for Robin, his opponent kept his cool, dodged the numerous traps on offer and slowly improved his position until the Hammer flag was to fall. Unlucky, but a great game to watch.

Star of the show was John who scored a great win against Francois on Board 4; a real solid competitor. My cursory glances put him a pawn down in the middle game, but he was able to take advantage of the free c-file and penetrate with his Rook for check for good effect. He emerged not only a piece up, but also with the initiative, converting coolly into a victory thereafter.

That now takes John to 3.5 points out of a possible 4 for the season – having a stormer so far!

Next up is Wanstead 3, and a return to Golden Lane. Let’s hope it’s a winning return!
Dave.