Bunratty & Dunkirk in 2020!

The Bunratty Chess Challenge 2020

My fellow Hammers, I am putting this out early. As you know, the club has purchased as a thank-you gift to our retired secretary Mike Mackenzie, a week in Ireland and participation in the Bunratty Chess festival.

I am writing this piece to implore all of you (I am an optimist!) to sign up for the Tourney as well – Hammersmith has huge historical links with Ireland and Bunratty is the premier chess tourney in the Emerald Isle. Read on…

The Bunratty Chess Festival 2020 runs from the 19th – 21st February with four rated sections – check out their website for full details: www.bunrattychess.com

The event has obtained mythical status and recent attendees have included Nigel Short, Mickey Adams, Luke McShane and the Ginger GM himself, Simon Williams.

It is a huge chess event and an amazing social one – this is a once in a lifetime experience for a normal chess player – although Jim (Loco) and Chris (Sydney) are returning for a second time. This promises to be one of the chess highlights of 2020.

I have booked my flight and hotel room already – Shannon airport is just down the board – and the whole tourney takes place in the Bunratty Castle Hotel.

No introduction needed

I also have another motive in bringing this to your attention.

In February this year Karen and I lost one of our closest friends at the age of 44 – she was just a great person unfortunately cursed with an auto-immune disease that destroyed her liver. A liver transplant was necessary. Alas, she was never well enough to receive a liver, or ill enough to be given one. The organs are so scarce the medical authorities have to be so selective. A real-life Catch-22 situation.

I have been in contact with the Liver Trust organisation and want to use the event to raise money for them and honour the memory of our friend and her husband. I will be getting sponsorship for the event (individual and corporate) – so for every half-point I score, a donation will be made.

The Liver Trust have been very helpful and the Bunratty organisers have given permission for a pull-up to be displayed at the event.

If you want to get involved in the trip and wish to fund raise at the same time then please contact me – I know Chris (Sydney) is encouraging the Celtic Tigers to take part.

The irony of using a chess event with a huge alcohol bent to raise money for the Liver Trust is not lost on me.

I urge you all to join Mike and I at this special chess event.

John (aka. Clueless).

The Kings Head Annual Jolly to Dunkirk

Next year’s annual Kings Head trip to Dunkirk will revert back to the usual Whitsun Bank Holiday weekend of 22-25 May 2020.

The French players of Cappelle are looking forward to hosting those intrepid travellers again!

It is also worthwhile noting that it will be immensely special to be in Dunkirk on that particular weekend as it is the 80th Anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.

Even more significantly (some might say!!), next year is also the 40th anniversary of the first Anglo-French-Railways-Dunkirk chess match!

We are hoping as many people are able to come as possible. Further information can be found here: http://www.khcc.org.uk/autumn2017/cappelle.html

As usual, the trip is being organised by the indomitable folk at Kings Head – if you wish to register your interest, please get in touch with Seljon.selcox@ntlworld.com – full details, including logistics and likely costs etc., will follow in September.


The Hammer Crew Does Wroclaw – a Classic Tale of a Silesian Vendetta

[Authors note – any resemblance to real people or actual events in this report is purely coincidental]

Yes, with the regular chess season done and dusted, Hammer took to the road again. The 2019 road trip destination was the beautiful Polish town of Wroclaw, in Silesia. This is one of the highlights of the year, with Hammer enjoying the chess delights, local food and culture, and making new friends.

Home to great chess clubs, chess players, seriously good beer and close to the birthplace of our Ryszard – legendary Celtic Tiger and Hammer, and chief conspirator in helping Clueless get the show on the road.

Contact was made with Artur, the Don of Wroclaw Chess Club, who was given a choice he could not refuse – acceptance of the Hammer invasion. Hammer were making a territory grab and moving in on his manor. A bold statement of intent – this was a mission critical to the expansion of the Hammer Family and its ruthless Boss, Godfather Wily. The turf war was on.

The Hammers make themselves comfortable in the Town Square

The Hammer crew consisted of some hardened veterans and enthusiastic newbies – Godfather Wily had assembled an imposing bunch and issued new gangster codenames:

(v = veteran, n = newbie)

  • Bajrush – Godfather Corleone (v)
  • Ryszard – Psychokiller (v)
  • Chris S – Bonecrusher (v)
  • Carsten – Iceman (n)
  • Paul K – Dead-Eye (no change there for the veteran)
  • Adam – Hammer & Sickle (v)
  • Dave – Capo (n)
  • Andy – Stinger (v)
  • Nadim – Consigliere (n)
  • Clueless – Scemo (v)

A formidable posse you will agree. On the Saturday we were joined by our friend and Celtic Tiger, WGM Klaudia Kulon.

The city of Wroclaw is simply stunning with an incredible range of architecture, amazing food and beer – indeed, all that any Hammer could want.

Stunning Wroclaw!

The Airbnb accommodation was superb and very central – Artur was a top guy and did his best in difficult circumstances.

He had one major problem – the HQ of the Wroclaw Mob was undergoing renovation and was way behind schedule. The fact is, there is a dearth of tradesmen in Poland at the moment – I wonder where they could all be? Despite his best and considerable efforts, the chess playing activities had to be curtailed from their original design.

In the end the Hammer crew played a blitz tourney on the Friday evening, overcoming amazing transport challenges, and then a rapid game on Saturday at the home of another chess club. This allowed more time for beer and enjoying the delights of the city.

The Hammers assembled in the main square, called Market Square, for lunch on the Friday. Immediately noticeable was the price difference in beer from London – you definitely got 50% more for your pound – this obviously got the Hammerites in the right frame of mind. My particular favourite was 4Hops – a porter that tasted like treacle and at 14% was truly spectacular.

The group split up and explored the city before assembling to get an Uber down to the blitz tourney. This was in the suburbs and for some reason we could not get an Uber anywhere – fortunately in the end we made it, and joined a FIDE-rated blitz tourney.

The Hammers took on the locals in a brave – but futile – FIDE blitz tourney

Maybe it was the beer, but even our blitz king Corleone had issues and on the whole the Hammer filled up the bottom places – Scemo and Consigliere bringing up the rear. A tough chess baptism. I have to say the majority of our opponents were very talented juniors and played fearless chess. I think only Bonecrusher and Iceman retained any dignity on this occasion.

The Hammers quickly retreated to the city centre to drown their sorrows in more beer. The town itself was alive and one story that summed up the weekend was Psychokiller on his way home at 5am, was able to stop from breakfast. It really is a live-wire town.

The following day (Saturday) the Hammers indulged in various tourist activities – with Capo and Iceman checking out the 360 Panorama exhibition of the Battle of Raclawice – a critical battle in 1754 for Polish independence.

The cultural delights of Wroclaw old town
The striking central Market place
Cathedral island – simply beautiful

The rapid chess match took place in the evening at the home of the Hetman chess club – this again was FIDE rated and played in a superb club room with a huge chess library, trophies a-plenty, and excellent tables and sets.

On behalf of Hammer, Scemo presented a chess badge to each of our opponents and gave a book detailing the history of the Polish Centre in Hammersmith as peace offerings.

This was revenge time – unfortunately our opponents had other ideas – Bonecrusher and Psychokiller won, but for the rest of us it was a tale of woe. Sickle and Capo had fascinating games that could have gone either way – unfortunately not our way. Hammer had lost the turf war but had made new friends. Several consolation pints were consumed to ease the pain and cement the friendship.

Club Hetman
These guys knew a thing or two about chess…
Sorrows well drowned, along with Artur – local legend!

The Sunday was devoted to a visit to the largest and most magnificent castle in Silesia – Ksiaz Castle – organised by Psychokiller – ancestral home of the Hochberg family, one of the wealthiest in Europe. An hours’ train ride away, the Hammer crew all recovered from the previous night of drowning sorrows, and enjoyed a fabulous time in stunning sunshine.

First stop was a restaurant to indulge in a serious piece of Polish Cuisine – Pierogi – unleavened dumplings with various fillings and either boiled or friend. Washed down with beer, these were wonderfully delicious and very filling.

This was then followed by a visit to the Botanical Gardens of Palmiarna, and then a walk to the Castle.

Beautiful Ksiaz Castle!

Psychokiller had organised a guided tour and we were very forcibly reminded of the huge British connection in the form of Princess Daisy (nee Cornwallis-West) an English socialite of the Edwardian period who married Hans Holberg and bared him three sons.

She really was the heart and soul of the Castle and led a fascinating life.

In the end a lot of the wealth was squandered and the Nazi’s took it over and started a huge excavation under the castle. What was planned is a matter of pure speculation as the architectural plans were destroyed – the prime theory centres on it being prepared for Hitler as his final headquarters – there were at least 6,000 labour camp workers forced to work on the project. A modern mystery.

The weekend was thus concluded with some Hammer staying on for an extended break. There was a minor crisis when Bonecrusher et al could not get into their apartment to rescue their luggage – but fortunately all was resolved.

On behalf of Hammer I want to thank Wroclaw and Artur for a superb weekend of great camaraderie and entertainment – I thoroughly recommend that you visit this beautiful city.

John – Clueless – Scemo.

Puzzle of the Week #030

Our last puzzle generated a record number of comments and debate – ranging from “impossible” right through to GM Jon Speelman immediately identifying the match, year, and opponents, whilst sportingly not posting the spoiler!

Props go to Adam Cranston this time – correctly figuring out this fiendishly tricky puzzle with the extremely non-intuitive 1.Kc8!! Line continues as follows:

  1. Kc8!!, b5
  2. Kd7! (White is now threatening Kc6), b4 (or Bf5+)
  3. Kd6!, Bf5
  4. Ke5!, Bc8 (or anywhere else on h3-c8 diagonal)
  5. Kd4 and black is in the square, so =

A true beauty.

To this week’s puzzle – and our source material is one of our Sledgehammer Cup Games! If you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to get involved in our season-long, long play format competition, which is providing some great matchups.

Not strictly a forced-mate, but an 8 move mating sequence (with all remaining pieces staying on the 8th rank), with White to move – answers in the comments please:

Puzzle of the Week #029

‘Weekly’ puzzle? No problem – here we go again…

Our last instalment was way back in March(!!). Yes, we have been slack – apologies!!!

Adam Cranston takes the plaudits there, picking the correct line to follow (Rg3!!), after 2. hxg3, Qe4, mate becomes unavoidable.

To our next puzzle – White to move and save him/herself: answers in the comments please:

The Epsom Challenge & Summer Updates!

Hammers – with all regular league fixtures now complete, and the Summer Chess League well under way, attention once again turns to our Summer activities.

We’re delighted to announce some additional events at the Albion this year, with no fewer than THREE training lectures being added to the programme.

First up on 1st July will be Jim ‘El Loco’ Stevenson, with a repeat of last years highly successful format of a guided talk through a famous game, complete with plenty of audience participation and interaction. This year the emphasis will be on thinking & reasoning skills to navigate through any position.

Swiftly followed by ChrisSydneySkulte, on July 29th with a session likely to focus on the sexy topics of endgames, and using initiative to pressure your opponent.

Last and by no means least, will be our Great Dane, Carsten Pedersen, on 12th August, majoring on another lecture about the history of our beautiful game, with added game analysis.

Save the dates & don’t miss out!!

The Epsom Challenge – 15th July / 9th August

As one of a handful of progressive and forward-looking clubs in London, us Hammers are always on the lookout for other clubs doing things the right way too.

In the case of Epsom chess club, we spotted that a handful of chess enthusiasts have recently resurrected this once great club, and have made great strides in bringing the beautiful game to the charming folks of South London.

The learned committee of the re-founded and resurgent Epsom Chess Club!

Their website is worth a read – after a 50 year hiatus, the club was re-founded in 2018 and is set to go from strength to strength, continuing the proud name of a club originally founded in 1913! . What better way to support their efforts than face off in a double-header and show them who’s boss?!?

This will be a unique opportunity to make new friends and play some chess in a pub (in Epsom) and a brewery (Sambrooks). A bit like El Chessico, only Epsom might actually give us a decent game.

The away leg is on Monday 15th July at the Rising Sun Pub, in Epsom (http://risingsunepsom.co.uk/) – and note that there is no SL fixture the following day.

The return leg will be on Friday 9th August in the brewing room at Sambrooks brewery, Battersea.

If you’d like to take part in a great bit of chess, beer and friendship, and lend a hand to another club doing things the right way, please contact John by July 5th: john.white49@ntlworld.com


Introducing… The Sledgehammer


We are pleased to announce the start of our brand new, Hammersmith Chess Club, season-long, internal long-play competition…. the Sledgehammer Tournament!

This is a quick-start guide for you to understand how it works, how to register, and start playing!

  1. Send an email to sledgehammer@clubmember.org to register.
  2. We will send you an updated contact list of the other participants on a regular basis (please keep it confidential… GDPR and all that).
  3. Contact any of the other participants on the list, and book a game with them. You are free to select any other participant, and play them in a standard ECF rated game no more than once per season (from June 2019 to end of May 2020).
  4. You can play anywhere, anytime, as you convene with your opponent at the club on a Monday evening, or elsewhere.
  5. Games need to be Over the Board (OTB) and played in one session.
  6. The default time is 60 minutes + 30 seconds increment, but players can agree longer time controls if they both want to.
  7. This is a handicap-based tournament, so players beating stronger players will get plenty of points counting towards the cup.
  8. Send the results and PGN file not more than one week after the game was played to sledgehammer@clubmember.org
  9. We will send updated results and standings on a regular basis, and keep updated results on the club website.
  10. Game results will be sent to ECF for grading by the end of the following month.

The full details and rules of the tournament can be found here: Tournament Description

We’re eager to kick-off this new tournament ASAP, with the aim to provide plenty of standard chess playing graded game opportunities within the club, and increase interaction amongst our members!

Note that by registering for this tournament you agree for us to share your contact information with the other participants.

Thanks & good luck!!

Summer at Planet Hammer!

Summer is finally here! At Hammer this means two things – The Summer Chess League and the Hammersmith Summer Programme.

Summer Chess League

The Summer Chess League is a joint venture between us and Battersea Chess Club. It’s now into its third year, and promises to be bigger and better than ever before!

It will consist of nine match weeks (two on, one off) on Tuesdays played at Battersea Labour Club (5 minutes from Clapham Junction), starting on June 11th. The event is always really fun, with loads of players, team logos, cheap beer and a fantastic venue!

This year a whopping 30 teams are taking part! Hammersmith will be entering five of them, and all members have been put into squads and should have been contacted by captains. If you haven’t yet heard anything, please let us know.

Hammersmith Summer Programme

If the SCL isn’t enough chess for you, we’ll be upstairs at The Albion every Monday night. Most evenings will be dedicated to casual chess, but there’ll be a few fun tournaments to take part in.

  • Team Rapidplay (24th June) – attendees will be split into four teams and play one rapidplay game against each of the others. Prizes to the winning team!
  • Handicap Blitz (2nd Sept) – a straight up Blitz tourney played out in traditional Hammer handicap style
  • Bughouse (5th August) – This chess variant is great fun and hugely popular. Players will be paired according to grade and fight it out for the grand prize
Lou and Ben – last year’s Bughouse champions

And of course we haven’t forgotten the highlight of the Hammer Summer Programme – this year’s Kensington pub crawl will incorporate even more pubs, with plenty of chess along the way. Save the date – 15th July!

Full details of all events below:

Hammer and the Holy Grail pt. II

29.05.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Dulwich

Act 2

Had Hammer found the secret code? And if so, would it help or hinder them? Or had Met’s omertà code held firm? Were many individuals really as ignorant as they professed? Most importantly, does the reader care?

To add further intrigue, the Dulwich captain emailed late on Wednesday afternoon that they would, regrettably, have to default two boards. Had the opposition been nobbled? The PM was consulted on this once in a generation issue, but Mrs. May found herself unable to offer a coherent argument either way.

So to arms: With all eight Hammers finally assembled, time to get down to business. Rauno, farcically on board 8 (he’s a 2200 player) demolished his opponent within the hour. His grateful captain, perhaps unable to withstand the tension of spectating, quickly ushered Rauno, a diehard Gooner, over to a local hostelry to watch the Europa final.

Word came through that wins for Chris, then for Bajrush, two of our greatest heroes this season, had brought the score to 5-0. How many points did we need without being accused of chavish overkill?

Your Chelsea supporting scribe decided it would be more stressful watching the second half than the chess, and sloped back to Citadines. Alas, to be met by a despairing Marios who had just lost a well played game to a one move cheapo. Your captain tried to recall the charm and tact of our previous capo, Captain Clueless, in offering words of consolation. 5-1

Not to worry, soon Carsten appeared, anxious for some beer after a slashing victory. 6-1

What could go wrong with our top 3 men still in action? How many points did we need again? Curse that hapless El Loco and his love of John Le Carre novels.

To be frank, Dulwich’s top boards are strong and were fighting for blood and honour. Soon Ryszard, our leader, staggered out bowed and bloodied, claiming that up to a point he was playing like Alpha Zero. But alas, at the critical moment, the power short circuited. 6-2

The T-Bone Thomas, our relentless iron man all season, fell into a hopeless position on board 2, his opponent attacking like Mischa Tal reborn. 6-3 imminent.

On 3, Tony had been nursing a sizeable advantage through the middle game, but his opponent refused to give an inch. Suddenly, in a moment of, who knows, was it divine inspiration, or a calm assessment of the multifarious tie break possibilities, he offered a draw. Now Tony is not a man who likes to draw. At once his opponent shook hands and Thomas, on seeing this, resigned.

The match was over 6.5-3.5. Why did captain El Loco suddenly look like the proverbial Scotsman who had lost a pound and found a fiver? Were Metropolitan, Wanstead and the LL Committee still not available for comment? So many questions – and not all of them rhetorical.

Act 3

To the pub. Much mirth and jovial banter. Then the result, as if by magic, appeared on the LL website: Metropolitan 5.5-3.5 Wanstead & Woodford (+1 adjourned).

More beer. And mutual congratulations with Lewisham captain Andy, whose team were also promoted as D4 champions that evening. Three cheers for the inventor of board count, even though he cost us the Thames Valley Cup Final last year!

Allegedly a group of Hammer players were last seen heading off into the night, set to relieve their captain of his last shekels at the poker table. I couldn’t possibly comment. Chess players don’t do that sort of thing do they?

So, the Holy Grail is found. Hammer complete back-to-back promotions and reach London League Division 1 after 57 years trying.

I must heartily congratulate, and of course thank, the 24 players who took part in the campaign. Spartan Hammers one and all, I salute you.

Of course every point is equally valuable, but a special shout out to those absolute diehards: Bajrush, Thomas, Carsten, Sylvain, Paul, Marios and last but not least, our MVP, Mr. Board 1 hat-trick man himself, Chris.

Hearty thanks also to the wider Hammersmith membership and committee for your encouragement, support and advice throughout. And a big shout out to former Captain John, who started this process back in Division 4, and was on hand as “super-sub” on Wednesday. A triumph for team camaraderie and fighting spirit.

First Division, prepare yourself for the Hammer.

El Loco, at last, finally silent.

Hammer and the Holy Grail pt. I

29.05.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Dulwich

Taking the liberty of mis-quoting a verse from one of my favourite old hippy songs:

“Following our fortune now the holy grail is found,
And the holy bread of div one it is given all around,
Farewell sorrow, praise god the open door,
We ain’t got no home in the Division two world no more”

(Ducks on a Pond. The Incredible String Band, from the legendary 1968 album “Wee Tam”.)

Certainly, there has been more than a zany hint of Monty Python, or perhaps more aptly, of the Pickwick Club at times in following Hammers LL Division 2 adventures this season.

Whether your scribe is more Alfred Jingle than Mr. Pickwick I leave for the reader to judge, as in characteristic vein we approached the final round of matches tied for the second promotion spot with the venerable Metropolitan Chess Club, that quintessentially “establishment” LL Club, about as different in every way you could imagine from the brash upstarts of Lytton Hall.

With 9 match points each, 73 game points apiece (following the adjournment heroics of Marios and Bajrush in our rout of Cavendish) and a tied individual match, we all feverishly consulted the obscure LL rulebook to discover that Board Count was the final tiebreak method. The finest mathematical and legal minds of the Hammertime WhatsApp group then set to work deciphering what this arcane system actually entails.

Apparently it favoured the good guys.

Continuing our Dickensian theme – it was the best of club chess, it was the worst of club chess, as now began the week of intrigue that future chess historians will debate and analyse ad infinitum.

What had happened to the result of Metropolitan v Wanstead? The LL website and management committee maintained a frosty silence. Wanstead were not available for comment. Had Metropolitan devised a plan so cunning that you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel? Secret negotiations spanning five continents, the corridors of Whitehall and even the watering holes of the city, could not prise out the result for love nor money. Twitter banter, classic memes and all sorts of fake news did the rounds.

The unanswered, half-remarkable question, as El Loco and his troops assembled last Wednesday at Citadines at 6:50 prompt: Had the chess Maginot Line held, or did Hammer manage to carve a metaphorical route through the Low Counties and establish what score they needed against Dulwich to secure a historic promotion?

Pt. II to follow with the answers…

A Night with the King

Clueless must first of all offer a fulsome apology for the tardiness in the late publishing of this article – simply work, family and chess commitments proved insurmountable barriers.

At the tale-end of April, Hammer members enjoyed the wit and wisdom of a chess talk from GM Danny King – author, media star, damn good chess player and all-round top bloke.

About 25 Hammers and guests enjoyed a superb evening and to those of you who could not attend, you missed a helluva night of chess and Albion activity.

The evening divided into halves with the lecture at the Anvil and then the nefarious activities and their consequences of a night at the Albion.

This was a night to be remembered!

The theme of the lecture was stalemate – as GM Danny King espoused the concept as a beautiful and legitimate part of our fabulous game – possibly the chess equivalent of the forlorn hope – other parties such as GM Nigel Short, FIDE vice-president, see it is a concept that should be discarded in the modern game.

I must confess, I was probably before this lecture totally guilty of siding with GM Nigel on this matter. How galling it is to outplay your opponent then fall into a stalemate. A certain full-point reduced to a half – the stuff of real chess nightmares. However, changing one’s mind after listening to logical argument, is a sign of a flexible and intelligent person – politicians please take note.

After seeing the various examples that GM DK  used in the opening part of his lecture, I realised that stalemate is not only a legitimate tactic, but also a sting in the tail that Caissa uses to keep all chess players on their toes. Some of the examples, ranging from simple king and pawn scenarios to GM Mark Taimanov’s amazing study-like stalemate, were simply stunning. Definitely challenging and food for thought.

We were then split into foursomes and had to work our way through four stalemate puzzles of increasing complexity – this was a real challenge. The main lessons was that sometimes looking for a draw is just as challenging as searching for that elusive win.

The final challenge was an over-the-board stalemate that a team mate of GM DK found in a match in the Swiss league – this was an amazing solution and I give you the challenge below in Puzzle 5.

The star of the evening was definitely young Jack who garnered a free chess book from GM DK for his contribution – a definite Hammer star of the future.

There then followed a short question and answer session with an emphasis on the recent WCC match in London and the form of Magnus Carlsen since that match.

If you are up to date in your chess news you will know that the form of our World Champion in 2019  has been simply sensational – GM DK reckoned it was down to the phenomenal work he had put in, in preparation for the challenge of Fabiano Caruana. Maybe ELO 2900 will be breached.

GM DK received a rapturous round of applause from a very appreciative audience.

Part one was finished, and the second part of the evening began.

The persuasive powers of the Hammer crew, and the call of the Albion beer proved too much of a temptation for DK and he joined us for a very late night session at our favourite watering hole.

Now what happens in the Albion stays in the Albion – except I will just say the rest of the night involved beer, chess, bump-starting attempts on a car, and finally the Uber rescue service!!!

However, what we did learn is that DK is a legend, and is now a Hammer legend, and I think he has an urge to return to OTB chess despite his work commitments – watch this space!!


Puzzle 1: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 2: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 3: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 4: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 5: White to move and save the game: