The Fellowship of the Hammer – Corking in C-Orc-dor

[Official Warning – This report contains graphic passages on alcohol abuse and requires a knowledge of J.R.R. Tolkein’s masterpiece – The Lord of The Rings]

Yes, the official chess season was done and dusted and that could only mean one thing – the Hammer Crew were once again off on their foreign quest in search of beer, pubs, friendship, fun and a bit of chess. The Hammer 2018 tour party was primed and ready – the only question was where to go?

The chosen city of our munificence was the beautiful city of C-Orc-dor, set in the South West of the Emerald Isle in the ancient province of Munster. The prize was to destroy the legendary Ring of Cork and secure peace and friendship forever. A noble quest if there ever was one.

The chief protagonists in this cabal were Mark Watkins, aka Mark Gamgee, Chairman of C-Orc-dor Chess Club, and John White, aka Clueless Baggins, the Hammer emissary. A covert meeting was held on the 28th December 2017 in a dubious inn on the quayside in C-Orc-Dor. The two men quickly agreed dates and the format over a few beers and several casual games of chess. The deal was done and the challenge was on.

By plane, train, automobile and boat, the Hammer Fellowship arrived in Cork on Friday the 8th June. The Fellowship were given special codenames for this quest by Clueless – their familiar designations are also given below:

  • Chairman Bajrush – Wily – aka Aragorn
  • Ryzsard – Breslau – Eomer
  • Chris Skulte – Sydney – Gimli
  • Wyatt – Gandalf, and surprisingly… still Gandalf
  • Dipender – Mr Dipendable – Elrond
  • Shiraz – Vintage – Pippin
  • Chris Moore – RU Serious – Faramir
  • Mike – Mad Dog – Merry
  • Paul K – Dead Eye – Legolas [Ed – genius.. ]
  • Eva – Athena – Eowyn
  • John – Clueless – Clueless Baggins

This tale starts with a simple fact. The beautiful city of Cork is definitely not Mordor – it is simply stunning, with pubs, bars, restaurants and music galore. There is craic to be had everywhere and the people of this proud city are hugely welcoming and friendly.

The Fellowship assembled at the home of C-Orc-Dor Chess Club on the Friday after dumping their luggage at various places around the city. Clueless Baggins on behalf of the Fellowship presented a certificate to Mark Gamgee that declared everlasting friendship would be the goal, but we were there to win the Ring of Cork.

The C-Orc-Dor Chess venue is truly stunning with panoramic views of the River Lee and plenty of space to play. A genuine and relaxed atmosphere was established and all settled down to enjoy lots of bliss, chess and getting to know our new friends.

The leader of the Fellowship, Aragorn, was in great form and as the night wore on rallied the Hammer boys and urged them to great deeds in the two long-play matches scheduled for the following day.

As the night drew to a close the Fellowship dispersed with certain Hammers seeking alcoholic and musical entertainment. The inn that drew most of the attention went by the Gaelic name of Sin E (a very quaint quayside bar with a musical bent) – the raiding party consisted of Gimli, Aragorn, Eomer and Clueless and they were joined by Eowyn. A good few Stouts were consumed – as is well documented, alcohol can raise the courage levels. The music provided the perfect backdrop but travel fatigue took its toll and the Hammers hit the sack with a vengeance.

The following morning C-Orc-Dor greeted us with brilliant sunshine and the Fellowship gathered to take on the challenge of a morning long-play game. The fate of the contest would be decided over two ten-board contests – one in the morning and one in the afternoon.

The morning Hammer line-up in Board Order was:

Eomer, Gimli, Aragorn, Legolas, Clueless Baggins, Eowny, Faramir, Elrond, Pippin and Gandalf.

Before battle commenced, welcoming speeches and gifts were exchanged, and the Ring of Cork was revealed. Whether it would be a source of discord or harmony was to be determined…

My precious!!!

The games were played under time incremental conditions. In this tense morning session, the contest swung backwards and forwards, with both clubs at different stages holding the edge.

This was the tale of the morning session:

All the games were closely contested with a real, epic heavyweight contest on board One with Eomer (Ryszard) holding a slight edge – huge complications then ensued and the outcome of the contest hung in the balance. In a hard-fought game Eomer could not hold it down and went down in flames – a real battle of Helms Deep proportions.

The Hammer Fellowship heroes were Gandalf (Wyatt), Pippin (Shiraz), Paul (Legolas) and Aragorn (Bajrush) who all scored excellent wins. Whilst Baggins (Clueless), Elrond (Dipender) and Gimli (Chris S) stayed true and solid to the quest and drew. There were tough losses for Eowyn (Eva) and Faramir (Chris) – like the Lord of the Rings they were united in their bravery.

The Fellowship had sneaked a 5.5-4.5 win – a truce was called and both teams regrouped and took on board refreshments ready for the afternoon struggle.

If it was possible, the afternoon session was even more intensely fought with the fate of the Ring coming down to the last game to finish.

Ryszard (Eomer) was under severe pressure, facing multiple threats, but as time pressure came into play, kept his cool and started finding consistently strong moves that challenged his opponent. In a battle of nerves and skill he held out and gained a great revenge win.

Chris (Gimli) was in awesome form and when that is the case, a win usually ensues – he did not disappoint. Hammer at 2-0

The Fellowship heroes of the morning, Aragorn (Bajrush) and Legolas (Paul K) both suffered afternoon reverses with their opponents playing excellent forcing chess that merited two deserved wins. It was getting tense at two points apiece.

Clueless Baggins was involved in a real struggle having punted a Budapest gambit, and with forceful play had established a definite edge. As is common with Baggins, he has issues converting positional advantages into a win. Pushing hard for victory, he let his worthy opponent off the hook and went down in flames.

Both Faramir (Chris M) and Gandalf (Wyatt) scored excellent wins against stronger opponents. Indeed with his heroics this weekend Wyatt has emerged as Gandalf the White and definitely not Grey. A tremendous performance by both men.

Two more losses were suffered by Elrond (Dipender) and Merry (Mike) with both Fellowship heroes fighting to the last. Hammer down 5-4 and on the ropes.

All eyes turned to the final encounter which would decide the destiny of the Ring of Cork – a win for either Cork or Hammer in this game, and the Ring would stay intact and balance would not be found. A draw would see the Ring of Cork broken and divided.

All eyes turned to Pippin.

No pressure

In a great struggle Pippin (Shiraz) ended up in a  rook and pawn endgame that really went down to the last pawn. He had a winning line, that he failed to see in time pressure, and the game petered out to a draw.

Definitely no pressure at all…

This meant that the overall match was drawn and the Ring of Cork would be cleaved in two and its spell broken! Harmony and balance would triumph and both clubs would be forever bound in friendship.

In the end, Fellowship won and the great chess clubs of Cork and Hammer will always be bound by friendship, an appreciation of beer, and a mutual love of the noble game of chess.

With the serious business done and dusted both clubs ambled along to the Franciscan Well brewery, where with the burden of combat already a distant memory, beer, chat and chess endured long into the night. There is nothing like copious amounts of good beer and pizza to create a brilliant night.

Friendships were formed and will endure.

I have vague memories of leaving The Well at about 1am in the company of those ill-reputes: Bajrush, Chris S, Ryszard and Wyatt, in search of another bar. Cork City was still buzzing.

There was definitely more beer and shots consumed and somewhere around 3am Ryszard, Bajrush and I surrendered and sought our way back home. Wyatt and Chris went in search of more entertainment – I can only admire their capacity and stamina.

The following morning Chris S missed his flight – a definite case of the effects of over-indulgence, while the remnants of the Fellowship gathered for the last hurrah at the Cork Chess Club. A blitz tourney had been arranged as a parting gift – from a medical perspective one of the best antidotes to excessive beer consumption and hangovers!

In an excellent tourney, First Place was taken by Ryszard with the critical encounter against Bajrush proving a mesmerising battle. In the end Ryszard won and deservedly took first place.

We thanked our hosts – they had put on a brilliant chess and social weekend that will live long in the memory, and departed on the best of terms. Real kudos should go to Mark and the Cork Chess Committee.

This is where the tale should end, but some of the Fellowship decided to wander the streets of Cork City, take in a meal, consume the odd drink before, before heading for the airport and home.

Honour had been satisfied – we had also had the very best of weekends. There will be further adventures to come.

Here ends the tale of the Fellowship of Hammer.

Summer League – Round One

Making his Captaincy debut, Charlie takes us through his Team’s Round I Results from this week!

The Summer League Round I shone upon us on 26th June. With temperatures at highs of 28 degrees, there was a warm air of certainty around the Labour Club, and after such an inspirational weekend of drinking, frolics, quiz games, and lazy afternoons with the Espion Dutch Crowd, it was hard not to feel like you were on your Summer break! “A working holidayGM Keith Arkell responded to me, as he gleefully shook the hand of a wide-eyed and big-smiling 6 year old fan who offered him a game of chess.

What a week we have had! Thank you again John for driving on and pushing through a great weekend [writeup to follow next week!]. It has been an absolute pleasure to join Hammersmith Chess Club, and what an honour to be asked to lead the Hammer Heads into the abyss that is the Summer League 2018.

To the team then! I was lucky enough to have my first team selection made up of Brexit, Clueless, and “the Suit“, with myself making up the team on Board 4. I couldn’t have asked for an easier start to this captaincy business.

I didn’t get to see much of the game on Board 1, but attach the game below for you all to peruse. Jeremy was in a bad position early on against a really exciting line (IMO!) by Black. But through grit, determination and of course a bit of help, Jeremy pulled through and delivered the first win for the team.

1-0 up, and on to Board 2, where Clueless seemed lost! But then I realised he often pulls that face to lull his opponent into a false sense of security. So with a presented opportunity of a tactic (see move 13), John found a discovered attack which could have led to recapturing his lost pawn. Instead of recapturing the pawn (see move 14), John decided to push his pawn instead. Leading to more positional play the game looked decidedly drawish as they shook hands.

One and a half up, and it looked like this captaincy was pretty easy!

When I looked over to board 3 I got to see Matteo deliver a lovely check with his Queen that gave him a rook for free. His opponent smiled gracefully, “well played”, and they shook hands.

Although the early positional plays are unclear to me (my weak point, I know), the tactical finish was beautiful! Matteo gave me a win, smiled, and disappeared in the blink of the eye. Well played sir, and thank you for turning out.

Thank you to all of you for playing, and anyone else who is interested in playing some Summer League chess for the U150’s section please drop me an email: charliesturt2000@yahoo.co.uk, and I will try my best to fit you in.

Onto the last game. I would like to add that, due to all the distractions we have had of late, it was hard for me to put on my game face, but when Harry Morgan sat down opposite me all I needed to do was remember what we @Hammersmith Chess say via WhatsApp… “It’s Hammer Time!!

So I was in no mood to take the draw offered on move 39, but to be honest I was in a terrible position, so who knows what goes through my head sometimes!!

However, just like Jeremy I too voted “to leave” and although it seems to some that we may have put ourselves in a worse position (see move 41), maybe like Harry, Europe will also blunder (see move 43) and we will come out stronger for it.

Charlie.

If that’s not enough…

Continuing the excellent web-form of last season, the Summer League is again putting every game online each week for your perusal and enjoyment!

Summer Chess League – Launch Night – June 19th

Ladies & Gents, the Summer League is almost upon us!

It all kicks off next Tuesday evening from 7pm at Battersea’s home venue – The Battersea Labour Club, down on Falcon Road, a mere 5 minute stroll from Clapham Junction station.

Remember, the Summer League is a bit different from the usual staid and sometimes stuffy atmosphere of most league chess, and the launch night will be no different – it’s going to be a chess extravaganza! With fully 26 teams this year (yes, twenty-six – that’s not a typo!!), Summer Chess has gone London-wide, with entries from all over the city.

First up, GM Simon “The Ginger GM” Williams, will be providing one of his entertaining & equally insightful lectures for the audience. This will be followed by a blitz tournament, a Chess-themed quiz, and a series of puzzles.

It’s going to be massive!

Importantly – if you are planning on coming along, you need to ensure you complete the doodle below so that the Battersea folks can manage numbers & ensure everyone gets to take part. It takes all of 20 seconds to complete:

https://doodle.com/poll/in3dgm7zzgkzw7fb

Sign up to ensure you don’t miss out – it’s going to be a great evening!

And remember, the rest of the game nights are as follows – your captain should already have been in touch to check availability. If not, just drop us a line!

Stop the Press!! Hold the Front Page!!!

The Hammersmith Blitz Champion 2017-18

After the shortest AGM in Hammer history, the hammerites got down to the fun part of the evening – the final leg of our three-tourney-cycle to determine the Handicap Blitz Champion of the Club for the 2017-18 season.

Twenty-three of the best of our club entered this final round with the two blitz gurus of the club, Chairman Bajrush, and Carsten, vying for top dog status. They were #1 and #2 in the rankings after the first two rounds and surely one of them would emerge as the champion?

However, matters were not so simple, with 23 points up for grabs for first place in this final round.

Without further ado I can announce that the winner of the third-round of the Blitz Tourney with a perfect 8/8 was Tony Niccoli.

Not only that, but he also seized the overall title as well with this superhuman performance that propelled him into first place. A stunning score of 43.5 points.

In second place was new member Thomas, with a total of 42.5 points – another epic performance.

In third and fourth respectively were bookies favourites, Carsten and  Bajrush.

The best result of the night was Robin Lee, who finished joint 5th despite being ranked 15th – a really stellar performance.

A big vote of thanks must go to Adam who ran the tournament really well and used the software expertly to keep matters rolling along.

So, we have a new champion – yet another sign of all the changes happening in our vibrant club – roll on next season! The best is yet to come.

The tournament results in full:

London Div 3 – Season Finale: The Push for Promotion

Starship Hammer 1 has locked into orbit around the familiar neutral planet of Citadines for the next week for the two final matches of the mission. The season-long goal to boldly go to Division 2 of the London League has been achieved, thanks to the outcome of the Albany-Kings Head clash, with victory for the latter ensuring that Hammer is secure in second-place and guaranteed promotion.

Starfleet, however, is not satisfied. They have issued an edict of the highest priority that dictates Hammer 1 must finish as champions – as crewman Dead-Eye put it “Nobody remembers who came second.”

Welcome to the final report of the 2017-18 mission and the voyages of the Starship Hammer 1.

Cuid a hAon Deag et et Parte Douze

Captain’s Log – Star Date 23/05/2018 – Clueless at the helm

Hammer 1 has been totally galvanized by the achievement of promotion and the crew members are ecstatic. Thanks to the actions of Kings Head the primary goal has been achieved – Hammer 1 is now a Division 2 team in 2018-19.

Now is the time for mind reset and refocusing now that the mission goal has been stretched. This is not an easy task and Clueless is concerned that the team may be demob happy and not able to summon the will to finish the job.

Team selection will not be easy with Sydney absent for the first game and Forza for the second. There is one lesson this year-long struggle has taught us – Caissa can send the odd curve-ball anytime.

Returning to the familiar surroundings of Planet Citadines, where Hammer is undefeated this season, is a help as familiarity of the combat zone will produce the necessary will to win the Division and get promoted as champions.

The first match saw Hammer taking on the planet of WanWood, a binary system in the NE quadrant of Londonium.

The final match one week later will be against an alien species called Wombles 2. They inhabit a Common planet in SW Londonium and are apparently obsessed with racket sports as well.

Victory in both clashes would result in mission accomplished.

So many factors for Clueless to contemplate… please read on.

The landing party in board order for the WanWood encounter:

  • T-Bone (Thomas)
  • Zeus (Marios)
  • Wily (Bajrush)
  • Prof (Paul McK)
  • Loco (Jim)
  • Forza (Tommaso)
  • Dead-Eye (Paul K)
  • Spock (Pavel)
  • Pandit (Sheikh)
  • Brexit (Jeremy)

Clueless was non-playing captain and as usual displaying pre-match nerves.

His slightly frayed demeanour is put at east when WanWood concede victory by walkover on board eight before the match has even begun. Spock being the excellent and logical first officer he is, made the generous decision to allow Brexit to take his place. A typically unselfish gesture by one of Starfleet’s most decorated officers.

Hammer at 1-0.

The scoreboard then moved along swiftly with T-Bone in crushing form and totally overwhelming his opponent with a ruthless combination of tactical and strategic pyrotechnics. This was French élan and flair at it’s best. Hammer at 2-0 and looking good.

The Hammer crew working their magic

The next two results saw Loco and the Prof secure draws in games that rarely fizzled and despite their best efforts to create complications and tactics. Their opponents just played solidly and were obviously delighted to secure the half-point. Hammer now at 3-1 and looking well set.

There then followed those moments as a non-playing Captain you dread. When events on the board wreck your air of quiet confidence.

Pandit played a superb attacking game. He had trapped his opponent’s King in the centre of the board and his pieces had occupied the optimum outposts. His opponent’s pieces were totally restricted and he was running out of viable moves. Pandit was in complete control and was eschewing which way to win. Clueless had all ready mentally chalked up the win.

What followed encompassed the beauty and cruelty of chess. Pandit missed a tactical shot and his opponent won a piece with a clever check. Pandit was rocked and then reconciled himself to the new situation on the board and started to fight for the draw. He strained every mental sinew but his young opponent kept his cool and saw through every trap that was set. This was a vary mature performance. Hammer pegged back to 3-2 but it was more than a win – especially as the game was virtually won for Pandit.

On board 3 Wily had a bad-tempered game with his opponent making various assertions to his Captain about our Chairman leaving the room when it was his move. I can report this was a very poor version of the infamous Toiletgate story from the bad-tempered Topalov-Kramnik match of yesteryear. However, I also know that our Chairman was not well and had been extremely ill that week. Anyway, there was no mobile phone analysis going on the Citadines facilities. Wily countered by pointing out that his opponent was not writing the moves down when the latter thought he was down to the last five minutes. His opponent was not aware that the digital clocks added 20 minutes once you made the time control. It was all handbags at dawn to be honest.

Wily took revenge by pursuing the game to the very end although it was a total lost cause. Hammer pegged back to 3-3 and a full-blown wobble was in progress.

Zeus then contrived to totally misplay a drawn position where he was slightly better. Obviously, influenced by the ongoing events on Board 2 and the reversal of fortune for PanditZeus went for it. This was a classic case of over-reach and sacrifice for the team and as is the case when reaching for the firebird even a God can go down in flames. Caissa admired the nerve but dished out a cruel dose of humble pie. Hammer now 3-4 down and dreams of the title disappearing down the Swanny. Clueless in despair.

This is where the men of the hour step forward to defy the odds and by sheer will-power drive the team towards victory. Fortunately, for Hammer, those men were Forza, Dead-Eye and Brexit – the new and the old of Hammersmith Chess Club.

Tommaso displayed and deployed all his skill to win a drawn game. This was a dead drawn King and pawn ending with correct play from both sides. However, his opponent overplayed his hand. Forza sacked a pawn and activated his king. In a flurry of moves and the time counting down he checkmated his opponent after queening a pawn. The Forza is strong in this Hammerite.

Dead-Eye is in superb form this season and tonight when Clueless needed him most he yet again came through. His opponent was a novice to the London league and completely oblivious to the idea of resignation. Dead-Eye was getting frustrated as he kept dismembering his opponent, but rather like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, he kept dismissing the loss of material as mere flesh wounds. In the end his lone King was facing Dead-Eye with a Knight and three pawns. He still didn’t resign. Dead-Eye was incensed but kept his cool and saw the game through to victory. Hammer at 5-4 and some momentum had been clawed back.

At last to Brexit – the match and the Title were on the line – would he the hero or the villain?

Yet again defying the real-life Brexit fiasco – our nicer version – played a peaky blinder after a non-stellar first half of the game. However, Brexit is resilient and obstinate when he has to be and is a passionate and proud Hammerite. His is a definite true-blood. After dancing on the edge in the early middle-game he was able to open the h-file and free his imprisoned rook. He then smoothly moved over to the attack and his pieces effortlessly flowed towards the enemy King. His opponent resigned gracefully when the threats became overwhelmingly. Yes, you read it here Brexit had dragged us over the line to the border of the promised land.

A great performance by Jeremy and a vital 6-4 victory was achieved.

It was definitely not sexy and definitely not found in the Starfleet manual but Hammer had triumphed against all the odds. It was a dirty win but when it comes down to the wire with so much on the line I, Clueless, totally adopt the mantra – “A win is a win

Hammer beamed back to the safety of our Starship and recuperation after this wild-ride of a match. The title was still on but a huge hurdle still had to be overcome in the form of our final opponent – the fearsome Wombles 2 to complete our mission.

Clueless relieved and the dream was still alive.

Captain’s Log -Star Date – 30/5/2018 – Clueless at the helm

Clueless has been in the think-tank for the last week and contemplating the enormity of the task and the right team to achieve it. After consultation with Zeus our Chess God asked to be stood down – he felt even a God can get chess fatigue after a long season. Forza after his brilliant run asked to miss the encounter for personal reasons – she is a lucky lady is all I will say. So, our landing party was two men down. Fortunately, Sydney moved heaven and earth in Crypto world to make himself available and Clueless contacted Pickle to answer the call to arms. The crew was complete.

Our opponents Wombles 2 have a fearsome reputation and have excelled this season in the alternative world of TV Division 1. They would not be pushovers and with their need to clear up litter wherever they go Hammer had to be on guard to ensure they were not consigned to recycling.

The night of destiny was upon us.

The night did not start well with Sydney succumbing to a debilitating virus in Crypto world and Brexit en-route was side lined by a desperate 999 call from Ice world. Clueless stepped into the breach for Sydney but there was no time to cover Brexit (chess mirroring real-life again!!). Hammer 0-1 down without a piece moved in anger. A tough task just got harder.

The depleted landing party consisted of in board order

  • T-Bone (Thomas)
  • Bajrush (Wily)
  • Loco (Jim)
  • Prof (Paul McK)
  • Spock (Pavel)
  • Dead-Eye (Paul K)
  • Pandit (Sheikh)
  • Clueless (me), and
  • Pickle (Adam).

The omens were not good and things did not get any better.

The Prof facing a fellow Hammerite in Yasser Tello who plays for the Wombles in the London League. The Prof went wrong in a position where he held a definite edge and in the end was glad to take the draw. The Prof was very annoyed with himself and no matter how many beers he consumed afterwards his disposition did not improve. All I can say is that he has been an invaluable addition to the Hammer Crew this season and we would not have been challenging for the title without his efforts. Hammer down 0.5-1.5

Things that turned definitely for the worse when Spock lost on time and Clueless played a horrendous game. Pavel held his hand up as did Clueless – it was just total rubbish – we gave the recycling Wombles everything they wanted on a plate. Hammer down 0.5-3.5 and things were about to get worse.

Clueless was observing title dreams disappearing before his eyes.

T-Bone, Pandit and Pickle were all a pawn down with all three looking at nothing better than a draw. Dead-Eye was playing a position that had less hope than despair. These were grim, very grim moments. Hammer were in massive trouble and title hopes were receding faster than a Jeremy Corbyn apology. Hammer were staring defeat in the face

It is often said that the darkest hour is the hour before dawn. Hammer just had to survive and hang on till any light appeared.

The first sign of dawn, signally a change in fortune, arrived in the form of Loco. The Flying Scotsman gave Hammer hope with a beautifully played attack. The sight of his opponent’s knight pinned to the enemy King, and nowhere to go, produced a pleasing picture. The fightback was on. Hammer at 1.5-3.5 to the bad.

The dawn continued to break as Wily employing his usual set-up created a passed pawn. His excellent endgame technique did the rest – Hammer back to 2.5-3.5. Hope was suddenly on the horizon.

The next piece of good news was Pandit who used his opponent’s time trouble to improve his position and then win material. All of the sudden Hammer had drawn level. However, we still needed two points from the last three games to secure the match. If you were a betting man you would have put your faith, and money, on a three-legged horse winning the Derby rather than Hammer pulling it off. Hammer now tied at 3.5-3.5.

Clueless was literally hoping and praying for a Citadines miracle.

The first hint that there may be a chance, was when T-Bone made something happen out of nothing. He has done it so often this season Clueless should not have been surprised. Hammer inching ahead at 4.5-3.5

The problem was Dead-Eye looked dead in the water and Pickle was facing nothing better than a draw. This would mean a drawn match and the title chance gone.

Dead-Eye playing an incredibly complicated against a well-known foe in the form of Womble, Nick Grey found a resource. This seemed to turn the tide and gave hope that a draw or even more unlikely a win may be there. This was excruciating to watch and terrible on the nerves. The last part of the game saw Dead-Eye’s King on an open board trying to avoid mate. One mismove would be curtains – somehow Dead-Eye negotiated it all – with a huge dose of luck and secured the draw. Hammer now at 5-4 and all eyes turned to Pickle.

I suppose it had to come down to this. The last game in the last match of the season was the one that would decide whether we would win the Title. You could not write a better cliff-hanger of a tale.

Pickle was a pawn down in a knight and pawn endgame. His knight had struggled all-game to find a decent square – luckily, he was able to activate his king and eliminate the passed pawn on the Q-side. Unfortunately, this left the white king in a better position and a three pawns vs three pawns on the K-side. Playing accurately and betraying no signs of nerves Pickle probed, maneuvered and by sheer force of will created a passed pawn on the King side. By some Football Radar Voodoo, he also got his King and knight into the optimum positions. It should have been a draw but Caissa took a hand and decreed that on this night Hammer would not be denied. Adam was able to force the pawn through and would have won but his opponent ran out of time. A win for sheer guts and determination. Clueless is now lobbying Starfleet command for the Freedom of Hammersmith award and other titles for this sterling performance. Pickle had saved the day.

Hammer had won 6-4. It was not pretty, it was not great chess but it did not matter – we had earned the right to call ourselves Champions. That indeed is something special, Clueless was in shock – this really was a Phoenix from the Ashes scenario.

Once again Hammer had come back from the Dead – We are the Champions!!!

In honour of our diverse nationality squad of players I give the following chant

Είμαστε οι πρωταθλητές, Nous sommes les champions,
Siamo i campioni, Мы – чемпионы,
Ne jemi kampionet, Is iad na Seaimpíní iad,
Me olemme voittajia…………………

The celebrations went long into the night. This has been a great group of guys who have fought every inch of the way to achieve what they have achieved, They, really are Champions – one and all.

Here for your delight dear reader are the last match card and final table:

And the table:

We won every match played at Planet Citadines!

Captain Clueless signing off – mission accomplished. May the next mission by just as enjoyable and successful. Bring it on!!

John (aka. Clueless)

London League 5 vs Cavendish

24.05.18 – London League 5: Cavendish v Hammersmith

Welcome to our new campaigner, Aditya – or Adi – who debuts this time out.

As we settled in with White on top board, I had high hopes for our last match this season.

An hour passed and then, on board 3, John Ryan got up and as I glanced over at him, he gave me a rueful look and downward thumb, and I saw him go.

Shortly thereafter Wyatt on board 4 and Adi on board 1 filed out also. I got up and saw the scoresheet 0-3, I felt like I had to make the effort and stop the great rout from Moscow.

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow

After putting pressure on my opponent in the middle game, things got swapped off, and I had emerged with 2 bishops against my opponent’s bishop and hobbled knight. I was tempted to offer a draw having, I judged, barely a minuscule advantage and 5 minutes more on the clock.

I watched carefully as my opponent seemed to be panicking as I increased the pace and kept up the pins and fork threats in the endgame. Finally forced off the knight for a bishop and somehow got a passed pawn on my a-file. With Bishops of opposite colour, was it drawn?

There were two sets of linked and blocked pawns each on the h and g-files, but my king could get behind them possible, but only if his bishop could be pried out of the corner. In the last 2 minutes, my king got to c2 and the bishop was displaced from the corner by zugzwang, and after 99.Bc4 Kg2, the white bishop at c4 couldn’t protect his pawn at g3, so White resigned.

Match lost 1-3

Later, Wyatt told me it was an equal looking endgame that was his undoing. Sharp tactics and cruel endings are common.

 

The Good Ship Hammer

16.05.18 – London League Div 4: FINAL MATCH v. Kings Head

We ended our season in London Division 4 last Wednesday with a solid 6-2 win against Kings Head. That safely rounds off our 2017/18 campaign with a solid 7.5/12 points, and with several matches still to play it looks good enough to secure us a 4th or 5th place finish.

Kings Head’s lily-livered crew came down with a bout of scurvy close to shore, and could only secure 6 players for the final match. 2-0 to the good for Hammer but frustrating as we had the strength in depth to go toe-to-toe across all 8 boards. Blair and your captain Dave the unfortunates to miss out.

Within 45 minutes we were 3-0 up as John quickly made short work of their Board 6, playing outside in the Citadines’ atrium. Fair play concentrating in those noisy conditions. John secured a bothersome pin against Knight and Queen, with his opponents Bishop – and best hope of defence – locked-out via his own pawn chain. A sharp attack followed which exposed the King and allowed a brutal checkmate. They shared a beer apiece as they deconstructed the match in their analysis.

Nadhmi also secured a great win, grinding down his opponent with an entirely different approach. A slow suffocation method that robbed key squares, and then push, push, push! It was great to watch (but no doubt horrible to be on the receiving end) and whilst material was relatively equal for much of the encounter there was only going to be one victor. 4-0

The other games were anything but plain sailing, however. Gokhan and Rich won matches they both could easily have lost. Gokhan lost his Queen, managing to nab a Rook and Bishop as some compensation but he was struggling…! Thankfully his opponent obliged and played a couple of passive moves that allowed a double-attack on Queen and King. That was that.

Meanwhile, Rich was a whole Knight down from around move 10, but continued to ask questions, which were duly answered! Perhaps an element of complacency crept in, as duly conceded by his magnanimous opponent in the pub afterwards.

The unlucky crewmembers made to walk the plan were Jeremy and Dan.

Jeremy wasn’t best pleased with his work, and conceded it was one of his weaker games of the season. One too many blunders against a prepared opponent was his undoing.

Dan got himself into what looked like a relatively even endgame position against his Italian counterpart, but failed to hang onto a crucial pawn which proved to be decisive. More radical forcing tactics were required which meant complications – never easy with an ailing clock.

And thus it finished 6-2.

Finally we rounded off our evening by sharing a couple of beers with the Kings Head crew in The Ship Tavern, just a few short minutes from the Citadines venue. Definitely recommended and I’ll be heading there again…! Great little boozer.

Full match-card below:

Midweek Roundup – London & Middlesex Leagues

Middlesex League – Final Game & Season Roundup!

The Middlesex League season has drawn to a close with the last match of the season for Hammer 2 in division three. We descended on Kings Head’s pub venue with the enviable mindset of knowing we were already promoted. It was a chance for some of Hammer’s newer recruits to stamp their mark on the league, and for the MVP contenders to rack up one last win.

On boards one and two, Simon and I were paired against two of Kings Head’s ruthless 170+ players. Neither of us played a fantastic game, and as one might expect, we found ourselves in difficulties early on. We both left castling a bit too late and paid the price, coming under deadly attacks culminating in resignation. 0-2

At the other end of the room, Jeremy and Wyatt sat down on boards seven and eight with a tiny grade advantage. What’s opponent played quickly, exchanging down to a pawn endgame that was very difficult to hold. Here Wyatt’s rigorous endgame training regime, courtesy of the John White Drinking Club, came into its own. He played very methodically, queening with one tempo remaining to stop his opponent doing the same.

Jeremy played a promising defence against the King’s Indian Attack, but ultimately failed to find a good plan. After losing two pawns rather cheaply it looked like it might not be his day, but luckily his opponent blundered a rook in a winning position to hand Jeremy victory. 2-2

Boards five and six were occupied by John Ryan and Dipender, both of whom have been integral to the team’s success this season. John’s endgame was incredibly sharp, with both players possessing plenty of heavy pieces and weak squares. Coupled with five minutes each on the clock, there was no way they could calculate all the variations. John mustered up a brave attack on the enemy king, but couldn’t quite find checkmate. Sadly this left his own king very vulnerable, and saving it cost too much material and the game.

Dipender’s game was far different. In a Sicilian Dragon, Dipender held a slight advantage with the white pieces before his opponent blundered a bishop. From here the outcome never looked in doubt, and with the win Dipender joins Simon and John on a very respectable 4/6 for the season. 3-3

And so our fate was left in the hands of Charlie and debutante Adi. From the outset, it was clear Charlie’s opponent was not set up for a sharp game. Charlie tried his best to spice up the position, rejecting two draw offers, before finally accepting the third, by which point his position was slightly worse.

On the white side of a Semi-Slav, Adi started off very strongly, building up a big centre and eventually winning a pawn. He thought he had spotted a knight sacrifice that would deliver mate in three, but as can so often happen in chess, he had overlooked one small but important details – that the knight capture would give check and pick up a game-changing tempo. Two moves later, Adi threw in the towel. A frustrating debut, but from what I’ve seen, I have no doubt he will be a key player next year as we look to preserve division two status. 3.5-4.5

With two matches outstanding, we can only be caught by Hendon, and only if they thrash Kings Head away from home.

Adi becomes the 25th player to play this year, three short of last year. With eight of the club’s top players ineligible due to first team nomination, I’m extremely proud of the strength in depth the club now possesses. Having seen so many great performances, this year’s MVP will be a very tough choice.

Bring on next year!
Adam.

Hammer 1 Goes Into Fischer Mode in WC1V

After the Greek Tragedy in W1 there had to be a rebound in WC1V. Redemption was the only course on the menu for the boys of Hammer.

Welcome to the latest boy’s own adventure of the voyages of the Starship Hammer 1 and its one-year mission to boldly go to Division 3 of the London League.

In homage to our Chairman, we open this report with two Albanian words:

Pjesa Dhjetë

Star Date – 9/05/2018

Hammer 1, after undergoing repairs and mental retuning, has locked into orbit around the planet Cave-N-‘Dish in the Holborn quadrant of the Londinium galaxy. The mission was a delayed encounter thanks to the machinations of “The Beast from the East” and hence was played at the Citadines complex rather than the home planet of the ‘Dish.

This was a task again deemed critical by Starfleet – with the added pressure of Hammer 1 having to regain their collective mojo.

What would the response be?

Clueless, despite missing Sydney and the Suit in the landing crew, was glad to welcome back the talents of Wily and Forza. This was destiny time – seize it and Hammer 1 were firmly back on track.

The landing part in board order:

  • ThomasT-Bone
  • MariosZeus
  • BajrushWily
  • Paul McKProf
  • JimLoco
  • TommasoForza
  • JeremyBrexit
  • Paul KDead-Eye
  • SheikhPandit
  • with Captain Clueless (John W) brining up the rear

Hammer got a break before the match started when Cave-N-Dish forfeited board 10 – Hammer 1-0 to the good.

First game to finish was Wily in crisp and rapid form – his opponent a former Hammer captain, took him to the 30 minute mark before resigning in a hopeless position. For those sadists amongst you, here is the encounter:

Hammer now at warp speed 2.

Next to join the party was Pandit, who won in less moves than Wily but his opponent consumed large amounts of time and hence he spent longer at the board. This was another chess massacre and Pandit continues his return to form. Hammer now at 3.0 warp speed.

Next to extend the Hammer lead was Forza – employing his usual tactic of consuming more time initially and sacking a pawn in the opening for dynamic piece play. In no time his pieces were swarming over the White Kind and the end followed very swiftly. Hammer cruising at 4-0.

Hammer were pegged back in the next game when Brexit blew a winning position and succumbed to a tactic that had more points to it than even his opponent saw. Indeed, it was only in the post-game analysis he realised the full implications – I will say this only once – I was gutted for Brexit and frustrated for him. Despite his stance on the Brussels matter he is a good bloke and a devoted Hammer player. His form is uncertain and he has definitely hit the Irish Border conundrum. I am sure he will solve it, unlike HM Government, and move back to his best form. Hammer stuck at 4-1.

That was the only setback of the evening.

Loco playing a Kings Gambit was in scintillating form – the game was a real throwback to the Morphy-chess era. It was great to watch and demonstrated that as well as being an accomplished positional player, Loco can, when required, go “Loco tactical“. The ending was prosaic with Black losing his queen in one move or two Hammer now at 5.1 warp speed.

The Prof, with the black pieces, faced an opponent who was determined to keep the position as dull as possible. The Prof with the bishop-pair advantage probed, provoked, and induced square weaknesses around the White King. White’s position deteriorated rapidly and under pressure he succumbed to a tactical shot of Qxh4+ with White unable to take the Queen due to a bishop pin. Faced with a complete collapse in his position his opponent gracefully resigned. Hammer at 6-1 with the match victory secured.

Dead-Eye going into this encounter was on 94% for the season and after it had moved to 95% for the season. Playing the black side in the French defence he snaffled an early pawn then grabbed another two. White tried a desperado attack that was coolly repelled, and then Dead-Eye simply marches his c-pawn to c2 and that was that. Hammer at Warp speed 7.1

The last two games to finish were the top two boards.

T-Bone on board 1 was facing a familiar face in LL chess – the captain of Cavendish 3, Bertie Barlow – who definitely knows a thing or two. T-Bone consumed huge amounts of time trying to find an edge in a position that was fairly sterile. Despite having the two bishops he was encumbered by the fact that the position was closed and one of those bishops had defensive duties. Thomas is the most visually expressive player we have in the club – you can almost sense what he is thinking. How he achieved victory is beyond me, but he did – and that was purely down to sheer willpower and tenacity. Hammer at 8.1 Warp Speed.

Zeus played in the only slow-play game of the evening. Why oh why do we persist with this anachronistic version of our game? It is an absurd and outdated option in the modern world of computers and busy lives!

Rant over and now to the actual game. Zeus has been in uncertain form in recent weeks but tonight was the night he returned to form. Dominating an open c-file he induced and injudicious b-pawn advance form his opponent. This duly got consumed and then Zeus opened up the King-side. The game was adjourned at move 35, with his opponent sealing the move. Pub analysis indicates that Zeus is +1.7 and has multiple ways to win. The hope is that his opponent will see sense and resign, otherwise the game resumes next Wednesday.

Hammer at 8-1 with one game adjourned. A dominating performance by the Hammer crew – they totally bossed the planet of Cave-N-Dish.

Clueless announced part 10 of the mission had been successfully completed and has resumed his state of inner peace and contentment.

I leave you with the match card and latest table:

 

London 4 Update

I bring tidings of two quick-fire results within London Division 4; a narrow 3-5 loss to table-topping Newham, and a comprehensive 6.5-1.5 win against strugglers Metropolitan 4.

First up was Newham in a matchup that gave us the chance to nestle in amongst the league leaders, but in truth with those around us having games in hand, realistic chances of promotion already alluded us. Still, the match represented a great opportunity to test ourselves against a strong side. We were ultimately edged out but nearly all of the matches went to the wire in terms of close endgames, and we could easily have won on another night.

Matteo, Adam and Gokhan were particularly disappointed with their endings, but respect must be due to their opponents who played particularly well and took advantage of minor slips. Full scorecard below:

Brian has kindly shared his match for us all to enjoy – a fine win against his young opponent, now graded >150. He’s also included some of his own analysis and commentary:

“My opponent played an early Queen side fianchetto and put a lot of pressure on my e4/d4 pawns. By advancing 7.e5 I hoped to block his bishop’s long white diagonal, so he exchange two minor pieces on c3 and e5 to open the diagonal, at the expense of having to defend his isolated e5 pawn against my 12.Qg4 advance, eventually losing it. After he castled long, he developed dangerous double-rook pressure on the open g-file with an advancing h-pawn, but by pinning his g4 rook against his king (19.Qh3), I forced him into a complex minor-piece exchange, which was his only way to preserve attacking momentum, but left him a piece down for a pawn, menacing me with Queen and rook threats while I carefully got my exposed King to safety on the Queen’s side. Once my remaining rook was developed, I could attack his King on the seventh rank, forcing the exchange of all major pieces to an easily-won ending.”

I should also reserve particular mention for Dipender. Playing in his debut season for the club, he’s performing admirably in Division 4 and has established himself as one of our most reliable players. This victory against 137-graded Dybowski Jnr representing his best ever performance in an over-the-board encounter.

Next up was a match against Metropolitan’s 4th team. It’s worth reflecting on that for a moment. As we progress as a club, we’re contemplating entering a 3rd team into the London League structure, but our foes have maintained 4 for some time. Pretty impressive stuff.

However, it seems that stretch is proving a bigger challenge than normal this season,as they’ve struggled to consistently put out a full team this season, with inexperienced players often taking up the lower boards.

Hammersmith were in no mood to go easy on them though, as we ran out comfortable winners. The scoresheet tells its own story with a near clean sweep across the boards. Congratulations to Paul Mustafa who broke his duck for the club by scoring his first win. The first one’s always the hardest!

The results leave us 5th with just our finale against Kings Head to come. We should be hopeful of getting a positive result there but whatever happens, we’ve had a great season and are certainly moving in the right direction. Lest we forget we finished 9th last season, with just 4 points to our name! Roll on Hammer!!

The “El Chessico” – 2018 Variation

Yes, welcome to the latest instalment of the Starship Hammer 1 and her one year mission to boldly-go to Division 2 of the London League.

Partie sept et huit – Starship Hammer has gone into prolonged orbit around the binary planetary system Battersea Chessicus (BC2/3) – the mission, to meet with the noisy neighbours/strange inhabitants of this world. Thankfully, on the whole the people of BC2/3 are overwhelmingly friendly. The question is how would relations between our peoples be after two deadly encounters in over the board chess mortal combat?

This latest assignment has been given the code name “El Chessico 2018” and designated as mission critical by Starfleet Command.

Captain’s Log – Star Date 10/04/2018 and 17/04/2018. Clueless at the helm.

The Hammer 1 voyage has reached a seminal point – successful in this enterprise and we would be in the home straight and prime position to successfully conclude our overall goal. I had much to contemplate with landing crew selection vital in achieving the mission objectives. With the background of unknown diplomatic consequences – as well as two vital chess matches to be won – this was Hammer 1’s severest challenge. 

How would matters unfold?

The first encounter saw Hammer take on Battersea 2. My report is tempered by the fact I was playing as well.

The Hammer 1 crew was greatly depleted, missing the huge talents of Paul (The Prof), Chris (Sydney) and Thomas (T-Bone). Fortunately, willing and very capable deputies were on hand.

The Hammer team roster, in board order, comprised of:

Marios (Zeus), Bajrush (Wily), Jim (Loco), Tommaso (Forza), Pavel (Spock), Jeremy (Brexit), Paul K (DeadEye), Matteo (The Suit), Alexander (He shall be known as the Talent) and Clueless bringing up the rear.

Zeus, with the white pieces, took on the most innovative chess impresario in London Chess – Aldo on board one. Aldo had prepared a devilish line that required Zeus to tread a very careful tightrope. Deploying all his powers he negotiated his way through the minefield and emerged with a slight advantage. Maybe he missed a win, but it was very hard to see. A draw was agreed – Hammer on the scoreboard at 0.5-0.5

Wily on board 2 as usual went for it in an equal position. It is his uncompromising approach that has won many a battle for Hammer. Unfortunately, this can sometimes backfire and sadly this was the case in this encounter. From an equal position, Wily over pressed, lost a pawn, tried to complicate and sadly went down in a blaze of glory. Hammer trailing at 0.5-1.5

Board 3 next with Loco in sparkling form and determined to start noticing some wins for Hammer 1 – he duly did so and deservedly won in fine style. Hammer now level at 1.5-1.5

Both Forza’s and Brexit’s games are adjourned with the former in the ascendancy where cannot lose but hopefully enough to press for a win. Our Jezza, aka Brexit, is an exchange down but in a very blocked position he seems confident of holding it.

On board 5 Spock played very correctly and precisely as is his way. He comfortably held an edge but not enough to turn into a deserved win. Hammer still level at 2-2

Matteo had a tough night and ended up in a position where it was difficult to develop both his Q-side Rook and Bishop. Chess is hard enough, but when two of your pieces are not participating it makes it way harder. Despite tenacious defence, he was always struggling and when he resigned the position was just untenable. Hammer now down a point at 2-3

The next two boards saw excellent Hammer wins when both Dead-Eye and the debutant Talent, played excellent games.

Dead-Eye continued his sparkling form with an endgame study-like win against Battersea stalwart Emil. This was a masterful performance from Dead-Eye and although he had to wait for a long overdue resignation, the win was never in doubt. Hammer level at 3-3

The Talent is definitely the real deal and played an excellent debut game against his opponent, and although there were some iffy moments the restful was always going to go his way. Hammer now surging at 4-3

Lastly to Clueless on board 10. This was a case of snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. A nice knight retreat won me the exchange, but then my yo-yo form of this season took over and I failed to prosecute my advantage. So frustrating and particularly as this would have practically guaranteed victory on the night.

So, the current score is 4.5-3.5 in Hammer’s favour with two games to be decided. The worst Hammer can do is draw, and even the half a match point we would get, will keep us firmly on course. Obviously, victory by either Forza or Brexit (of the right variety) would be the more desired outcome!!

 

Hammer beamed down again for the second match against Battersea 3, a week later. Again, it was all change as Clueless rung the changes in an effort to score a decisive blow.

The Talent and Clueless stood down, and Thomas (T-Bone) and Nadhmi (The Gift) took up the cudgels and prepared to fight for Hammer honour.

This was a very different affair with Hammer ending the night at 9-0 up with one game adjourned. An almost Fischer-like performance with a win rush of epic proportions.

T-Bone playing white utilised his usual Kings Indian Samisch variation with Q-side castling, sacked a pawn on the queen side and then marched his major pieces to the King side and launched a heavy assault down the g and h-files. In the end the overwhelming forces deployed were just too powerful. The first of the glorious nine was secured.

On board two Zeus, in the last game to finish, pressed with the black pieces and went to the limit in striving for a win. I can reveal he has offered his opponent a draw in the adjourned position. We await developments, but for the purposes of this blog I will take it as a draw. Hammer steady at 1.5-0.5 to the good.

That was the only respite granted to our opponents with Hammer in devastating form and totally in the groove.

Loco at anytime is a formidable opponent. With the hits pieces against a French defence with space advantage and an open file, unstoppable. This was risk-free chess with the capture of a couple of pawns along the way. In the end, resignation was his opponents only viable option. Win number 2.

Wily conjured a win from a position where most of us would accept a draw. He deliberately went into a rook pawn endgame which he released he would hold the edge. He probed and manoeuvred tirelessly with both logic and subtlety. Eventually he achieved a passed pawn on the Q-side – this was the decisive moment. How he achieved it, only God and Wily knows, especially when this pawn was opposed by three pawns. I have called it Kosovan voodoo in the past and ask you to come up with a better term. Hammer leap ahead 3.5-0.5

Forza is not only a Caruana doppelgänger, but is starting to play like the WCC Challenger! His style is so smooth with his classic idiosyncrasy of taking about 80% of his allowed time over the first fifteen moves. He then speeds up and moves in for the kill. He always seeks to take his opponent out of normal lines and forcing them to rely on their talent rather than memory. This is a deadly skill. Facing a Scandinavian response to his initial e4 he found a variation that forced his opponent to start thinking from about move 4.

Forza then launched a pawn storm against the black king on the Q-side, that was so powerful, it led to a swift and fully-merited win.

Spock scored his win through forceful and dynamic play. he trapped the white king int he centre and then netted a rook for a bishop. His opponent was clearly demoralised and overlooked a tactic that would have ended in mate or the giving up of the second rook. An excellent performance – Hammer soaring at 5.5-0.5 to the good.

Next up was Brexit. He set a clever trap that saw his opponent surrender his queen for rook and minor piece. The rest of the game saw consolidation and mopping-up in full flow. A real Brexit job and almost welcome victory.

On board 8, Dead-Eye continued his devastating form of the season – his poor opponent Arnold had no answer to a tactical blow that yielded a pawn. A second pawn fell and as Dead-Eye relentlessly improved his position, Arnold called time and Hammer moved to Warp One at 7.5-0.5

The last two Hammer gauchos could not wait to join the landslide party.

Matteo was in fine fettle. He played a positional masterpiece with the black king imprisoning his rook on h8. Further indignity was inflicted with a bishop on h6 imprisoning the king and a passed pawn on d6 supported by a rook on d1 and the second rook on e1 and an open file. Back rank mates abounded and his opponent realised the cause was futile. Hammer at Warp 5 and 8.5-0.5

Returning to the Hammer colours on board 10 saw the Gift playing his second game for Hammer 1. Playing with the black pieces he simply built an unstoppable king-side attack that yielded a passed pawn that marched all the way to g2. This paralysed the white king, rook and knight he had to stop this monster from queening. The Gift then switched his king to mopping up the remaining white pawns. This was dominating chess and he graciously accepted the white flag and moved Hammer to Warp Speed 9.5

A hugely impressive night by the Hammer Crew. A result that will not be forgotten for a long time by our noisy – but excellent – neighbours. Clueless is reaching zen level – inner peace is within touching distance.

My thanks and congratulations to the Hammer heroes who really grabbed the moment in both matches.

Four games to go until mission end and Hammer are in charge of their own destiny. Next up are Albany on the 30th April and Clueless will be mailing out shortly.

Hammer 1 are the new definition of Mean Machine.

Here for your delight is the current League 3 table:

An ecstatic Clueless over & out!