Hammer Hodgson Update

On Friday 31st Jan, Hammer Hodgson took on Morley College in London League Division 5. Although we managed to retain our *unbeaten* run, our perfect record of wins was ended as we barely escaped with a 2-2 draw.

Reminiscent of those football matches where one team gets a player sent off in the first 5 minutes, we had begun the evening with high hopes and Morley on the back-foot after defaulting their top board due to a late withdrawal of one of their players. 1-0 to the Hammers.

However, straightforward wins were not to be the theme of the night, as Morley staged an improbably comeback in the remaining games.

On Board 2, Rahulan was having a tricky game, under pressure in the opening after an early attack in the Goring Gambit and then reeling after his opponent uncorked 6.Bxf7, disrupting his Kingside castling, regaining his sacrificed piece and building a dangerous initiative. Showing typical hammer grit, Rahulan managed to trade Queens, fight back and equalise, but made a mistake later in the game. 1-1

On Board 4, Javier, playing his French Defence, had a pleasant positional advantage over his opponent for most of the game, but just couldn’t find the decisive hammer-blow to end resistance. In the efforts to press for a win, he somehow managed to allow his opponent to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. This is a story that happens to us all. 2-1 to Morley.

Nick Rutherford on Board 4 played his customary English opening, won a piece with good tactical vision early on, and then never let his opponent back into the game, grinding out a good result. 2-2

It was probably a fair result, as we didn’t fully take our chances, but East Ham have now caught us at the top of the league. Our set of games are likely to be crucial if we want to stand a chance of promotion this year. So, please let me know if you are available in our fixtures across March, April and May.

Our next match is on 19th February against Football Radar. If you haven’t already done so, please let me know if you would like to be considered for those/any fixtures coming up:

  • 19 Feb – Football Radar, Citadines 18:45
  • 4th Mar – Kings Head, Citadines 18:45

Onwards and upwards!

Other crucial remaining fixtures:

  • 7th Apr – Battersea (Cats), Battersea Labour Club 19:30
  • 6th May – East Ham, Citadines 18:45
  • 27th May – Hackney, Citadines 18:45


Lightning Strikes Twice in London Division 4

Quick on the heels of our victory over their 4th team, we visited Metropolitan’s home venue to take on their big brother in the form of Metropolitan 3. The grades were higher but the result was the same: a 6-2 WIN for Hammer.

Full scorecard below; a clean sweep of the top 4 boards, with honours even on the lower boards.

In fairness to Metro 3, they’re a stronger team than they showed on the night and we found ourselves slightly fortunate to out-grade them across the boards, which of course gave us a crucial advantage. Nevertheless, their captain Giovani was extremely complimentary of our team, and wished us well in our promotion charge.

The first five games to finish all went in our favour which meant the match result never looked in doubt. Eddy was the first to finish – not for the first time it has to be said – playing an expansive, attacking game with White creating more complications than his opponent could deal with. He quickly seized material advantage and claimed the win. I think he was just keen to get stuck into some Blitz in the foyer outside personally. Eddy’s on 100% for the team with 2 wins out of 2.

Christof also shares that honour, and is proving a dangerous foe on top board. In this match-up, his pressing forced some passive play from his opponent, allowing a devastating attack to flourish on the king-side. It was too much to hold without giving up significant material, which would otherwise have been enough to secure victory, but Christof preferred a thematic mate instead. Full game here:

The score was further flattered with wins from Liam, Adam and Paul on the higher boards. I didn’t get to see much of the action here, but wasn’t surprised to see them bringing home the bacon for the side; all 3 extremely reliable players who add a lot to the side.

Brian rounded off the victories with what he describes as a swindle in the O’Kelly variation of the Sicilian. Looks legit to me. I wouldn’t mind a couple of those ‘swindles’ coming my way.

The first faller was your captain on Board 8 – easily one of the most frustrating matches I’ve played. My opponent offered me the free capture of a Knight on g5 with the outstretched h-pawn, sacrificing the material for a dangerous attack. After a lot of thought, I took the Knight and calculated I could repel the attack. And that’s exactly what happened, but it burnt a lot of my time, and when I finally emerged unscathed – and it looked like the threat was over – I immediately blundered a crucial pawn completely changing the dynamic of the game (+6.0 to -7.5). Disaster.

Keeping us from the pub at the end was Jon, who found himself a pawn down in a tricky Rook / Pawn endgame. It was tricky, but was one of those that could have been held with a bit more time to think through the complexities. Alas, time wasn’t a luxury in Jon’s favour and his opponent skilfully worked a passed-pawn and that was that. 6-2

A final word for Adam and Eddy who both answered a last-minute request to play, each taking home the full point to boot. It was very much appreciated, and really shows the benefit of having a strong squad who are willing to pull out the stops to help the team.

The result leaves us in 3rd place overall, behind Battersea and DHSS who you have to say have looked impressive thus far. Next up for us is a tricky tie against Lewisham, where we hope our good form can continue. We need a victory there to keep up the pressure.

Long live Hammer.

From Zero to Hero…

24 hours in the Chess World of Lord Clueless

“Always look on the bright side of life, always look on the bright side of life…”

In the week that has seen the passing of the comic genius that was Python Terry Jones, the words from the song finale at the end of “Life of Brian” have been echoing in my head.

It is a perfect song to ensure that you sometimes keep all matters in life in perspective, but it is a particularly apt response to the chess curveballs that Caissa can throw at you.

Caissa, that fickle chess God, can bring you so low and then let you soar. 

So, read on for the Clueless version of a Kiefer Sutherland Chess 24 (too many puns – ed).

On Monday night I turned out for Hammer 2 in the Middlesex League against the might of Albany in the heart of Fitzrovia.

Playing board 4 against a wily opponent, Chris Todd (graded 169), I basically played like a patzer. After equalising quite easily against 1.f4 (Bird’s Opening), unfortunately complacency set in and I did not pursue control of the e4 square. I then fell into a pin and dropped a piece. The rest of the game was excruciatingly bad and painful to watch. Definitely not Lord Clueless’s finest hour. Hammer 2 went down 5.5-2.5, with wins for Jeremy and Liam (the latter’s play was outstanding) and a draw for Laurie (particularly galling as his resolute play should have been better rewarded).

Not a great night for Clueless and the Hammer Crew.

The next night saw Clueless at our new venue, the Young Chelsea Bridge Club, with a manic night ahead. We had two eight-board matches, the junior hour and a club night to put on. Plus, the inevitable flow of potential new members, coupled with the teaching debut of the dynamic due of Christof and Jim for Junior Hour.

Christof putting the juniors through their paces at the practice board

A full plate was on for a morose Lord Clueless, who was still angry with his pathetic play form the night before.

This was the biggest night so far at our new venue, with probably 60 people attending, including parents and juniors and a lot to organise.

Redemption can sometimes come from the strangest source and this was the case this night. Our IM Mark did not appear and hence we had a gap on Board One against a very strong Ealing team. In the Thames Valley League the default is 30 minutes. Time was ticking.

Adam, our Secretary, approached me and asked if I would step in – I grabbed the moment.

Before we get to the game, I must pay tribute to my opponent Phil Makepeace – an absolute gent, sportsman, and a credit to Ealing Chess Club. He was generous in his post-match comments, and said how much he enjoyed the game.

My thought process whenever I play somebody who is 200-plus, which is pretty rare, is to take them out of their comfort zone. The premise being that they will crush me in main line theory – they know so much more – hence give them something they have not seen before.

This was the result:

The game was the last to finish, and a time scramble meant that not all the moves are there. In the end I was able to force a draw through repetition. The board at this stage was surrounded by both Ealing and Hammer players, willing both of us on. It was tense.

I definitely missed a win – if g4 had been played in the last few moves recorded, I would have had a decisive advantage. C’est la vie!

The draw ensured Hammer drew the match; Clueless had saved the day. Redemption was assured, and Clueless was the victim of several thank-you pints of beer!

This is the allure of chess – within 24 hours you can go from zero to here – from playing like a patzer to playing like a 200 plus player – that is why I love this beautiful game.

The new ECF grades are OUT!!!

Chess at Hammersmith is a team game. Nonetheless, every player has their own grade based on their own games, and it would be wrong not to take some pride in these as well. These grades are currently updated by the ECF every six months, with the latest coming out last week on January 29th, and a number of Hammersmith players deserve a special highlight:

Our Middlesex One captain Marios Kouis leads the way, gaining 15 points and increasing his grade from 180 to 195. Marios has played across the Hammersmith first teams in the Thames Valley and London League as well as for his Middlesex teams, and currently has 7 game points from 9 games so far this season.

Club stalwart Dan Rugman has been a regular for Hammersmith Hedger so far this season, playing in four of their seven games so far, and six for the club in total. His grade is up 10 to 97, his highest grade yet. Joining him as a regular this season has been Abakar Nasrutdinoff. Abakar has also played six games so far, and his grade has reached 101, a 16 point increase.

Following two wins from three in the 2019 London Summer Chess League, Rauno Jarvinen has been turning out for the Hammersmith first teams and has also gained 10 points, taking him to 182, which is another personal best. At the other end of the age order, one of our youngest members (and newcomer) Cian Ward has shown his strength across eight games for the club so far across the London League, Middlesex and Central London League teams. Despite facing some tough opponents so far, his grade has gone up by 16 to reach 95.

Next up, while not playing too many games for Hammersmith itself in the season so far, Laith Auchi has also impressed and overtaken his brother Taymour, our winner of 2018-19’s most improved club player of the season. Laith is now graded 114, an increase of 18, while Taymour is close behind with a grade of 110. All remains to play for over the remainder of the season here!

The same also holds true for juniors Kumar Banerji (up 15 to 142), Jack Esiri (up 11 to 141), and Kabir Ghosh (up 19 to 107), all of whom I look forward to seeing turn out for more games for the club over the coming months.

Finally, new joiner Will Johnston debuted in the Hammersmith derby in London League Four with a win against club secretary Adam Cranston. After six wins from eight games (and no draws!) he has earned a first grade of 151. This has made a bit of a mockery of his original estimated grades, which were originally 110 and have since been revised to 125!

For anyone wishing to look further, all of the current and past ECF grades can be found on the grading website at http://www.ecfgrading.org.uk/new/menu.php

Best of luck to all Hammersmith players for the rest of the season,

Club Captain

Removing the Monkey in London League Division 4

Hammer 2 were recently back in action as we defeated Metropolitan 4 by a score of 6-2 in the fourth tier of the London League. The Hammer crew had been forced to wait almost 3 months for the encounter, a cruel twist of the fixture calendar meaning no games since October.

The score looks comfortable on paper, but full credit to the Metro team for giving us a few scares along the way, making light of their grade disadvantage as they did so. Full match-card as follows:

Heading into the match, your captain on Board 7 and newcomer Daniel on Board 8 were desperate for a win. Equipped with that rare ability to steal a defeat from the jaws of victory, both were on what can politely be called ‘challenging’ runs of form. Fortunately both ended the night as victors but in very different fashions.

Daniel kicked things off in whirlwind style on Board 8 with a win in 10 moves. Having only recently turned his skills to standard-play time controls, this was his first win for the club, taking advantage of several opposition missteps to force an early submission. After finally having overcome the bad luck omen of sitting next to his ailing captain on Board 7, Daniel stayed and patiently cheered on the team for 2 hours plus. A brilliant attitude that encapsulates what the club is about. 1-0

My win came after far more positional manoeuvring. It looked destined for a draw for much of the game, before a tactic enabled a pawn to be snaffled for free in front of the King, levering open the monarch’s defence. Very relieved to take the full point. 2-0

Charlie on Board 6 had a moment of aberration, lapsing into autopilot and quickly moved his knight twice in the opening. We were now out of book (any book) by move 2! It didn’t look pretty when we replayed in the pub afterwards, but actually the mistake also seemingly baffled his opponent. No advantage was gained until a further misstep allowed a centralised queen with several threats and attacking changes. What followed was a typical double-edged game where Charlie bravely fought and created complications before he finally succumbed.

I’m afraid I didn’t see as much of the action on the top boards as I would have liked, such was the head-down nature of my own game. However, all 5 remained unbeaten, with good wins for Christof, the ever-reliable John, and Jeremy, marking his first match for us this season.

I’m delighted to be able to present two of those games here for your enjoyment.

Christof, as white, taking the full point:

And Brian, also as white, playing a solid draw and continuing his strong start to the season:

Next up for Hammer 2 is Metropolitan 3. We’re set for a tougher challenge there but I’m sure we’ll raise our game for the occasion.

Long live Hammer!

As Promised – A Hammer goes Close

As promised in my report on our annual GM Keith Arkell simultaneous – I bring you the game from ultra-new Hammer, Vasil Velichkov, and GM Keith – this was the second of the draws from that superb evening.

Vasil played a massively impressive game – a Nimzo-Indian variation – that had Keith deep in thought and definitely on the back foot.

Hammer Captains please note Vasil has serious skills and will be a valuable addition to the Hammer ranks – I am going to rate him at 120E but he plays at a higher level.

Why don’t you judge what his rating should be from this very exciting game against Keith – Vasil played White.


Some game.

Lord Clueless over and out

The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 8: London Minor

Hammersmith 6 is a team for developing players and future superstars. With a grading restriction of <ECF125, our team provides a friendly atmosphere to get exposure to competitive chess, particularly for our junior players looking to take the next step. Despite a tough start to the season, we have seen some fine individual performances. This is very pleasing, and with a reasonably heavy schedule during January and February, there is much to look forward to.

Game 1: Hammersmith 6 vs Hammersmith HEDGER – Grudge Match

The season kicked off with a bang; a hometown derby against our compatriots in the Minor Division. There was some great chess played all around, followed by some friendly post match beverages. A 1-3 loss was unfortunate; however, Hammer was the winner on the night. Great games from Rahulan, Zain, Dan and Nadim.

Game 2: Morley College vs Hammersmith 6 – Schooled at the College

Our trip to Morley College was a tough outing. Perhaps, given the Friday evening schedule, our minds were already at the bar! Cian was the hero of the night, salvaging a nice draw against a solid opponent. Props also to Robin in what was game of the night. A bold exchange sacrifice gave Robin a massive kingside attack. Unfortunately, Robin’s strong opponent defended well and won an endgame. A great game to watch.

Game 3: Battersea vs Hammersmith 6 – Revenge is a dish best served WARM!

Just two weeks after their glorious (and highly touted) victory over Hammersmith Hedger, we travelled south to Battersea to avenge our Hammer comrades. If you follow the press, you’ll know our friends across the river were rather pleased with their efforts against Hedger (a little too pleased, some may say…)

So in true Hammer style, we gave it to em. Hell hath no fury like a Hammer scorned. Great win on top board from Charlie Sturt who went up a piece early and closed out an endgame that was tricky, despite the material advantage. Game of the night goes to Kabir, playing the strong and experienced Leon Watson. The game started quite slowly with Watson playing the Canal Attack against Kabir’s Sicilian. After some manoeuvring, Watson made a mistake and gave up a costly centre pawn. Watson fought back well and almost equalised, before allowing Kabir to trade off queens and enter a winning king and pawn endgame. Impressive stuff from Kabir. Cian was also highly impressive in his loss; a three hour marathon that drew quite a crowd at the end. A great effort from both young fellas, who are set to become very strong players indeed.

Game 4: Wimbledon vs Hammersmith 6 – A narrow miss!

This was our first game when we out graded our opponents and unfortunately we could not capitalise. Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap and acknowledge good play. Wimbledon played well and we lost in a close one 2.5-1.5. Another strong win from Charlie, who is stringing together a good season on board one. This capped off our year, with our final game rescheduled to March. 

This has been a great start to the year for everyone who has played. I look forward to seeing more people strut their stuff for Hammer 6 in the Minor Division next year. We are a relaxed team, with a focus on fun and improvement (although, don’t get me wrong, we love to win!). I encourage anyone who is keen for a game to come to the club and get involved. We have a busy schedule next year and will look to give as many people games as possible. Happy new year to all and I will catch you next year


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 7: Middlesex Second Team

As 2020 draws near, the Hammersmith 2nd team in the Middlesex League should look back positively at 2019 following a positive start to the 19/20 season.

The Middlesex 2nd Division brings forward teams with a wide breadth of opposing strength. This can range from players with 200+ ECF grade to those of below 100. It can make it difficult to set up teams to play against some of these teams, however, a good Hammer is known to play above their perceived grading strength when faced with extreme opposition,

Having finished in second last position in the 18/19 season, we were able to avoid relegation courtesy of the 3rd team being promoted from Division 3. In order to prevent such a calamity from reoccurring, strong early performances would be required. Thankfully we have, so far, achieved it.

To add to the positivity, this has occurred whilst still providing opportunities for all Hammersmith members to play against strong opposition. To date we have been able to field 20 different players across the 4 matches we have completed.

Match 1: Hammersmith 2 vs Albany 1 (3.5 – 4.5 Loss)

Our first match of the season was against the team I would make 2nd favourites for the Division. Despite the narrow defeat, we were able to compete on equal terms with Albany, which set the tone for our other matches.

It was very pleasing to see strong performances from our debutants Laurie and Will.

Match 2: Willesden 1 vs Hammersmith 2 (1.5 – 6.5 Win)

This match was against a team which achieved promotion from Division 3 in the 18/19 season. It was a match I had targeted as a win, and the Hammersmith team delivered with aplomb.

Confident performances on the top boards from Christof and Paul helped the team deliver a strong win.

Match 3: Hammersmith 2 vs Hendon 2 (1.5 – 6.5 Loss)

The less mentioned about this match the better!

In my opinion Hendon 2 are the strongest team in the division, and this is demonstrated by the team they were able to bring to an away match at Lytton. Props to Will for achieving our solitary win.

Match 4: Hammersmith 2 vs Metropolitan 1 (4 – 4 Draw)

This match coincided with the London Chess Classic, which unfortunately made many of our regulars unavailable for the match. However, it gave other Hammers the opportunity to step up and they did so, emphatically.

Despite being out graded on every board, strong wins from Yasser at the top of the order; and Jakub and Jeremy lower down helped us achieve a deserved draw with a strong Metropolitan team.

From these 4 matches we are still lower down in the table. However, the table remains tight and the manner of our performances this year only builds on my confidence for the coming year.

Roll on 2020!


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 6: London League Second Team

As captain of our second team in London Division 4, it feels slightly odd writing a mid-season review so early in our season. A strange quirk of the fixture-list has meant we’ve only played two matches so far, with the latest being a full two months’ ago!

So, consider our progress thus far a mere amuse bouche, before we indulge in a veritable feast post-Christmas.

We started the season with a much tighter-than-it-sounds 5.5 -2.5 WIN against our Hammer 3 compatriots. Enjoying an advantage of around 30 points a board, it perhaps should have been a routine win on paper but in practice it was anything but. Tense struggles abound across the board-order and a couple of notable scalps taken down.

Next up was a difficult 3.5-4.5 LOSS to Athenaeum. This time our opponents matched us board-for-board and it truly could have gone either way. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be, and we were narrowly edged out. Athenaeum will be one of our main rivals for promotion this season and it’ll be no surprise to see them up near the table of the table when June rolls around.

Our early pace-setter is Brian Dodgeon who’s scored 100% from his 2 matches this season. He also ably stepped-in to captain against Athenaeum which I was forced to miss, so many thanks for that, Mr D.

I can’t wait to get our campaign started in 2020, and know we’ll grow stronger as we approach the business end of the season. We’re well capable of being promoted this season and that should remain our aim as a team. Let’s make a confident start in January’s double-header against Metropolitan (3 and 4) and then we can see where we land.

Hammer 2 have never been hungrier for success. Let’s make 2020 a year to remember. Another wafer anyone?


The Twelve Reports of Christmas – Part 5: Hodgson

Hammersmith’s ‘Hodgson’ team is named in honour of the late George Hodgson. George was father to current Hammer – Jeremy Hodgson, as well as the legendary attacking Grandmaster Julian Hodgson, who was a member of the club in the 70s.

The team plays in the London League ‘Major’ division. We provide competitive club chess against opponents usually ranging between 90-150 ECF which is the upper threshold. I took over the captaincy this season and am keen to add more regular players to the squad so any new members of the club, please get involved!

So far this season, due to having to rearrange one fixture, we have had two matches – in Oct and in Dec – which has meant our start to the season has begun somewhat leisurely, we have won both matches fairly easily.

Our season started with the game against GLCC whose venue is located in the back of a beautiful church just off Holborn. Despite a small pre-match challenge as one member of the team unfortunately had to drop-out at the last minute due to illness, we managed to win 2.5 – 1.5 overall despite the default. Of note was a good win by club stalwart Charlie Sturt on board one who would have made the GingerGM proud by playing both h4 and g4 as he launched a fierce king-side pawn-storm in a Caro-Kann. Another win by myself on board two with a mating attack in a Nimzo-Indian alongside a solid draw by Nick Rutherford on board three managed to secure us the win.

Yours truly in serious time trouble as I try to calculate an attack.

Cavendish were next up. Brian Dodgeon on board one led from the front in true Hodgson fashion defeating his opponent in ten-moves using the dangerous O’Kelly Sicilian! Brian kindly annotated his game which is presented below.

1-0 to the Hammers. A couple of solid positional games by myself on board three winning with my trusty Nimzo again; and, Nick Rutherford on board four who played a very patient manoeuvring endgame to win in the English opening despite some controversy which must have been very distracting as his opponent made a complaint about him noting his moves down prior to making them!

Nick causing mischief as usual.

In the end, good sense prevailed as I had a quick chat with the opposing captain and Nick and the game continued without any further issues. 3-0 to the Hammers. On board two Charlie had a more difficult game against the Cavendish captain missing a tactic, and then sacrificing a piece for counter-play before succumbing at the end. However in the end a comprehensive 3-1 victory.

In the New Year, Hammer Hodgson has a very busy fixture schedule with games coming thick and fast, so please do get in touch in response to emails if you are available to play!

Have a fantastic Christmas!