Shootout at the Wheatsheaf Corral!

24.04.17 – London League 3: Albany v Hammersmith

A seismic evening of London League 3 chess took place last night in London W1. A critical relegation fixture in Division 3. Hammer were pitted against the might of Albany, who are gunning for promotion to Division 2.

As I said in my last dispatch, this is belt and braces time and Hammer need to deliver.

Let me set the scene – for one moment just closer your eyes. Think Clint Eastwood riding into town in “A Fistful of Dollars” – the Ennio Morricone soundtrack in the background. The long gunman facing insuperable odds.

Imagine that scene and you will be halfway there to where your Hammer heroes were last night. There was only going to be one outcome as they sat down to fight.

As with all things this season, Hammer do not do things the easy way – they are just addicted to pressure. We just have an innate desire to make things as difficult as possible… for ourselves!

Let me demonstrate why:

  • Three of our nominated players have not been able to compete this season
  • Last night we were missing Orial, Josue and Marios. Not easy men to replace.
  • We defaulted a game – Sheikh had an unfortunate lapse of memory. Something I cannot reprimand him for because he has been so good this season.
  • It mean that Hammer started this crucial match already a point down.

Fortunately Brian, Adam and Robin were able to step up. Hammer were ready.

The scene has been set… let’s look at the detail of the evening.

The first man to finish was Robin in rapid fashion. Playing white the game was over so quickly I only saw a brief glimpse of it. My memory is of a white Knight on b5 coupled with his usual fianchettoed Bishop on g2 and pawn on d3 setup. That is all I can relate. Hammer were now 1-1.

Next up was Safi playing one of his best games of the season, he left his b2 pawn en prise. A greedy black Queen took the bait and then proceeded to get trapped. Safi smoothly converted. 2-1 to Hammer.

Things then settled down and the evening wore on.

The outcome saw victories for Paul, Adam and myself. Draws for Bajrush, Jeremy and Matteo. A tough loss for Brian after achieving a winning position, was the only blemish on a great night of Hammer chess.

Paul’s game was one of classical manoeuvring and probing. Paul very rarely plays badly and is very solid and logical in his approach. This was another good and deserved win. Hammer now at 3-1.

Adam was in dominant mood. I think he was four pawns up at one stage and he only had to negotiate a couple of tactics to secure the win. This he duly did and Hammer cruised to 4-1.

Chess is a really easy game if you are playing well and your opponent helps.

My win was on the white-side of a Caro-Kann that had elements of an advanced French. Luckily, I came out of the middle game with a passed b-pawn which grew as it advanced up the board. I had multiple ways to win and decided the most prudent course was to head for an endgame with the same number of pawns, but the bonus of an extra Knight. My opponent actually lost on time but his position was completely bust! I was just glad to get the point – Hammer now flying at 5-1.

Our WOSF of a Chairman performed his usual Kosovan wizard – turning a lost position into a murky one and then into a draw. How does he do it? Who cares – the match point was secured. 5.5 – 1.5.

Jeremy has had a very solid season for Hammer – no losses and standing at 70%. Last night he was solid on every level. Playing black, he agreed the draw when he had the edge but made a pragmatic decision. Hammer now in heaven at 6-2.

Finally, Matteo also agreed a draw when a sealed move was imminent. Hammer beyond paradise at 6.5-3.5 win (including our defaulted board). An outstanding result and achieved in the face of tough odds.

One slightly sour note is that as a result of the defaulted game we lost half a match point. Hence, we are still not theoretically safe. The last three matches have cost us and now we can afford no more mistakes in our last match against Kings Head on the 9th May.

I conclude with a deep, heartfelt thanks to the lads last night and must single out Robin for special mention. Not only did he put himself forward when I was scrambling for a team – he stood down when Jeremy became available. He then responded immediately to my request to step in again when Marios had to withdraw on the day. Robin exemplifies all that is best in the Hammer spirit, and Hammer Chess.

We are lucky to have him.

Till the next time – live long and prosper my fellow Hammerites!!

 

Meanwhile… down at the Club House…

24.04.17 – Rapidplay @ Lytton Hall

It was a great evening last night as we marked our first attempt at a Rapidplay evening at Lytton Hall.

It’s long been an ambition to organise a fully-fledged internal Rapidplay tournament and last night marked a significant step towards making that a reality. Undeterred by having most of our “big hitters” in a pub somewhere in central London for our crucial Division 3 match, the rest of us rolled-up our sleeves and got stick in to some 30 minute action.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with some good attacking chess, and a couple of games that went right to the wire! Hopefully it worked for the guys involved too. Please let us know in the Comments below. It’s amazing how much quieter Lytton Hall is when people know it’ll affect their grade!

The night was also significant in that it marked our youngest ever member to take his bow. Yep, we were joined by 9-year-old Nadhmi making his debut for the club, and a very good show he made of it too. He ran me extremely close in his first match, only to lose on time (I wasn’t far behind), but managed to pip Nick in his second. A very solid performance and very happy to have him on board!

Other highlights included Shaun chalking up his first graded win! Well done, Sir. Let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come!

If there was a winner on the night, we probably have to give that accolade to Ken, emerging with 1.5 points from his 2 games played. But more broadly I hope everyone enjoyed the experience, and let’s see if this can’t pave the way for a more structured Rapidplay tournament next season. More on that at the AGM!

Full results below. You should see these results reflected in the July 2017 grades.

It was also a real pleasure to see so many new faces at the club. Last night we welcomed a total of 5 new people – Sassa, Panos, Aaron, Dipender and of course, Nadhmi. Sorry we couldn’t include you all in the Rapidplay. We’re a bit hamstrung unless you’re formally ECF-registered! Still, I hope you enjoyed your own matchups and your first taste of Hammer Chess! Hope to see you all again soon.

Dave.

A Tough Night at the Office

20.04.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Streatham

Our penultimate match in Division 4 saw our battle-wearied troops face the top-of-the table Streatham. It always looked a tough match on paper (they’ve been known to have a 130 on Board 8!) and such was the case in practice. We lost the match 1.5 – 5.5, with Adam’s game yet to conclude.

However, we should perhaps look at ourselves and say we could have done better! Their line-up was relatively soft by their high standards, and particularly with a few games sitting 50/50 for much of the evening, we could perhaps have run them a little closer.

One thing that wasn’t close was the battle on Board 8! A combination of illness and pest control robbed us of our final player, so we had to start with a default and 0-1 down.

My match was the first to finish. A fairly anaemic variation of the classical Sicilian that fizzled to a drawish position after 25 moves. I felt my opponent had the slightly better position, so was happy to take the draw. I was glad to see Fritz agreed with my analysis after the fact! 0.5 – 1.5

Next to finish was Brian playing on Board 1. He reached what looked like a fairly level middle game, but conceded immediately following a clever Knight fork on Queen & King. It looked like it wasn’t possible due to a Bishop recapture, but that in turn led to another discovered attack on the Queen.

What do they say? Tactics flow from a better position? That’s the challenge of facing someone performing at 175! That rounds off Brian’s season for us, as he’s stepping up to help John secure Division 3 status in the crucial closing matches. Cracking season all round though, Brian! Hope to have you onboard next time around. 0.5 – 2.5

The next 3 matches sealed our fate with each going the way of Streatham. Very unlucky not to take something from the trio.

Ken, as is his custom, played in an open, attacking style and reached a late middle game slightly down but with chances. He was a pawn down, his opponent conceding doubled-pawns in return, but the general structure allowed attacking play for both sides. With Queens still on the board, tactics would be decisive and Ken’s opponent forced through to create checking opportunities. When the trusty Rook got involved, a checkmate shortly followed. 0.5 – 3.5

John, as is NOT his custom(!), also got into a really open position! His opponent raided into his territory with his Queen but it appeared like a potential overstretch as John’s Rooks were connected and gave him chances to attack with tempo. He obtained a pawn advantage and told me later he regretted the opportunity to force a Queen exchange. Nevertheless, play picked up again in an even position. Tactics abounded and John was forced to give up his Knight to save his Rook. He battled on, trying to push for promotion but was eventually forced to concede. 0.5 – 4.5

Nick’s game only had Robin as competition for “most interesting” of the evening. It turned into a pretty unbalanced affair. Nick’s opponent, playing White, lodged a fairly horrible Bishop on the h6 square, which is where it stayed for most of the game. He also had to contend with a pair of advanced pawns that seemed to beckon the Knight to make them their outpost!

Nevertheless, Nick was a pawn up (unless my eyes deceived me!). If he could find an accurate defence, he might be able to hold out. Nick offered a draw, a charming offer that was declined on more than one occasion. With the clock ticking, Nick succumbed to time pressure as the flag fell. A minor inquest was held as to whether they’d played 36 (or was it only 35?) moves but the record books have this as a loss. 0.5 – 5.5

So onto Robin. The man with nerves of steel. Gifted a Knight in a previously equal middle game, in part due to his opponent having touched the wrong piece (!), Robin looked in a good spot. In normal circumstances, this may have result in a routine win but Robin was well down on the clock, so they played on.

He increased his lead from a Knight to a Rook with a tactic he learnt from chess.com (so he tells me) but it was still precarious. At this point it must have been 2 minutes v 20 – the time-out looked a real possibility. Sensing the situation, his opponent aimed for complications, forcing the clock into the final minute of play. Robin kept his cool mercurially and forced the mate with literally seconds to spare. Great to watch. 1.5 – 5.5

Last but not least was Adam. His position looked particularly unpleasant when his opponent rooted his Bishop on d6, right in the middle of his defence. It looked a monster, and effectively dominated a Queen and two Rooks! The battle was now to somehow exchange Bishops without losing pushing tempo to do so. He did it, but at the expense of an extra (doubled) pawn; not a bad price to pay in my book. In fact, Adam managed to chop off the doubled-pawn and that’s where they adjourned. It looks fairly even, so we’ll see what happens.

League table below with one match to play, for us at least..!

Thanks,
Dave.

Golden Lane is Not Paved with Gold!

11.04.17 – London League 3: Metropolitan 2 v Hammer 1

April in the chess season always brings with it a congestion problem. This phenomenon is usually associated with our national sport where there are many trophies, competitions, and vital points to acquire. In other words, the business end of the season.

The challenge is also complicated by exhaustion and injuries making this the most difficult part of the season.

This is where Hammer Chess Club and our match against Metropolitan 2 was critical to our survival in Division 3 of the London League.

The previous evening Marios, Brian, Sheikh, Paul and myself were in Hounslow, fighting to retain Division 1 status in the TV League.

Unfortunately, we were missing our WOSF of a Chairman and Orial to bolster our ranks. Luckily Brian and David stepped into the breach and the Hammer team were ready.

Furthermore, we dropped a point due to a walkover. This made the task of winning or even drawing the match infinitely harder.

However, the news was not good – we were pipped 4.5 – 5.5 on the night and this has thrown us back into the relegation mix. We are now in a real fight for survival.

The irony is that even with the default we should have won or drawn the match – a familiar tale if you have followed the fortunes of Hammer 1 in LL3. Our recent run of luck finally ran out!!

The winners on the evening were Marios, Sheikh and myself.

The draws were picked up by Paul, Safi and David.

The fallers were Matteo, Brian and Josue.

To the detail…

Marios just keeps on going and keeps on clocking up the points. Despite suffering from a horrible cold and an obdurate opponent. He spurned draw offers – Marios got angry. Not visibly, or in his conduct, but in his determination to punish his opponent. In a quick-play finish his opponent finally blundered and lost a piece. Marios converted and deservedly won the game. Moral of the story – do NOT mess with this Greek!!

Sheikh’s game – despite him sitting beside me – was a blur. All I know is that Sheikh is in a fine vein of form and really delivering the points for Hammer in all leagues. Sheikhum Style is very much in vogue.

My own game was against an opponent I played two years ago. As is customary with me I lost despite having total control of the game – that loss really hurt at the time. Unfortunately, my memory for face is also going south – so I did not recognise my opponent – but it all became clear when he played the Petrov. As he had done two years earlier.

Revenge beckoned!!

For once I rose to the occasion and triumphed in sacrificial style – my best ending of a game this season. I may even submit the last 6 moves to the website.

Just remember – revenge is a dish best served cold!

Of the drawn games, I only saw brief glimpses – but I can say for sure that David held a pull throughout his game and deserved more than he got. As for Paul and Safi I cannot comment – I saw too little of their games. All I can say is that they have been great players for Hammer 1 this season.

The pain of defeat engulfed Matteo, Josue and Brian.

I think they would agree with me, but both Josue and Brian were chasing lost causes in their games. They were the sort of games where a loss or the draw was the only result you could get. The longer they went on, the further the draw option retreated into the distance and inevitably they succumbed to defeat. I think they are games they both need to forget quickly.

The one who should have drawn or even won was Matteo. Indeed, the computer analysis approved of his temporary sacrifice of a pawn to head for victory. Unfortunately, a common word in this report, he misplayed the ensuing complications. This was a painful loss and in his slightly dejected state he also left his wallet behind. After some rapid calling and texting, he responded and returned to the hall to reclaim it!!

On reflection a 5-5 score, even taking into account the default, would have been a fair result for both sides on the night.

The luck spurned Hammer 1 on the evening though.

Now is is belt and braces time if we are to retain Division 3 status – no  more defaults and no more match losses is our goal.

Go Hammer – keep the faith!!

John.

Chess in Flyover Town

10.04.17 – Thames Valley League: Hounslow v Hammersmith

The weary warriors of Hammer TV schlepped over to very West London on Monday night for a critical relegation fixture in Division 1 of the Thames Valley League.

We were missing our WOSF of a skipper, Bajrush, who had the poor excuse of needing a holiday!! Cannot blame him in reality and to be brutally honest several of the team last night, including myself, are displaying symptoms of that well known affliction “COS”. Correctly identified as Chessed-Out Syndrome!

The heroes of the evening came in the form of Marios, Sheikh and Paul.

Marios continued his winning start to his London League Chess career with a dominating performance. He was the first to finish and showed what a potent force he is for our club. There is no stopping this man, despite suffering from a horrendous cold, and obviously not well, he just keeps going and knocking them over. Unbelievable!

Due to the match layout, Sheikh and Brian had to play their games in another room. This was not great but they both rose to the occasion. Sheikh from what I saw was under extreme pressure on the Black-side of a Sicilian and looked dead in the water. But not for the first time, he was calm and collected in his defence and then proceeded to win very quickly. “Sheikhum Style” is pretty deadly.

The ultimate hero of the evening was Paul. His was the last game to finish and we needed a win. In an equal position he probed, he switched his point of attack and in the end Karpov-like, he induced the error from his opponent. Never was a win in TV this season so needed! He was the personification of the Geese saving Rome, Hammer TV’s last stand and he delivered under the pressure. A real clutch performance.

Carsten and Brian both drew their matches – Carsten could do nothing with Black in a position that was always tough to win. He agreed a draw as soon as this became clear.

Brian had to tread carefully with two knights against a rook and pawn ending but comfortable secured the draw. A good result.

Over to the tales of woe…

Tony played a dynamic game and was overwhelmingly in control but somehow ended up losing a rook in the process of trying to deliver checkmate. He gained a reprieve later when his opponent blundered the rook back, but even so the position was still difficult. With time running out he could not hold back his opponent’s pawns. Just a bad night in every way.

Pavel also bit the dust. To be honest he was in difficulty once his opponent’s knight had parked itself on e6, behind Pavel’s pawns, and anchored there with the support of a d5 White pawn. Gradually the pressure built and Pavel just ran out of options. Sacrificing the exchange postponed the inevitable.

As to my game I was winning – I was winning so well I had an extra piece – the trouble was his Q-side attack developed unbelievable momentum and I succumbed in meek fashion in the end. A real XXXX of a game on my part.

The game ended a 4-4 draw.

So, in the end the Hounslow trip was worthwhile – but only just!

Keep fighting, Hammer TV!!

 

The Anatomy of a GM Ward Defeat

Following hot on the heels of our recent Simultaneous against GM Chris Ward, our only victor of the evening – Marios – has produced a fantastic writeup of the game – check it out here.

It’s thrilling stuff and a terrific performance from Marios – he’s rapidly rising to become one of our top players this season!

In other news, we have a number of chess books in our library for sale, all at super low prices! They’re great titles and if you’re keen to sharpen up on a particular opening or aspect of the game, we highly recommend investing:

£5 Titles:

  • The Caro Kann – Joe Gallagher
  • Sicilian: Grand Prix Attack – Gawain Jones
  • Sämisch Kings Indian Uncovered – Cherniev
  • Piric in Black or White – James Vigus
  • Leningrad System – Stefan Kindermann
  • The Caro Kann Advanced – Byron Jacobs
  • The Caro Kann – Peter WellsSOLD to David Lambert
  • The Scandinavian – John Emms
  • The Sicilian Scheveningen – Kasparov & Nititin
  • Play the Najdorf Scheveningen – John Emms
  • The Slav – Cyrus Lakdawala
  • Play the Kings Indian – Joe Gallagher
  • The Open Ruy Lopez – Glenn Flear
  • Nigel Shorts Best Games – Nigel Short

£3 Titles:

  • A Guide to Attacking Chess – Gary Lane
  • My Best Games of Chess – Vishy Anand
  • More Simple Chess – John Emms
  • Attacking with d4 – Angus Dunnington

£1 Titles:

  • Spanish – Romansin
  • Ideas Behind Chess Openings – Rueben Fine
  • My Best Games – Anatoly Karpov
  • An Opening Repertoire For Black
  • Fischer – Spassky 2 – Return of a Legend

Free:

  • Chess Puzzles in One Move (for Juniors)
  • Chess Dictionary – S. Gligoric
  • Worlds Greatest Chess Games – Rueben Fine

If you’d like to purchase any, please contact our erstwhile Secretary, Mike Mackenzie – michael.mackenzie5@btinternet.com

A Busy Gameweek – Middlesex & London 4

A clutch of games for you this week – coming thick and fast as the finish line comes into sight. Read on!

30.03.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Battersea

It was a case of revisiting old rivalries as we faced Battersea in Division 4. On the one hand they’re a great partner club – working with us on the birth of the Summer Leauge, hosting us at their home venue for the El Chessico, and sharing some memorable matchups over the years.

On the other, they’re like a slightly annoying little brother. Trolling us on Twitter, calling themselves “Battersea” when they play in Clapham Junction. Too big for their boots!! This is one with a little bit of extra spice!

We played well, but the bottom-line is that we’re 2-4 down with the final couple of games adjourned for another time. The games are pretty tight but we have winning chances in both so things remain in the balance. To quote Kevin Keegan, I would love it if we got something from the match! Love it!

He would LOVE it!

I sat out the match and spectated from the sidelines instead. This all meant I was able to catch a bit more of the action than I normally manage. Another observation is how slowly 3 hours seem to tick by when you’re just watching. It flies by when you’re in the middle of a game!

Things didn’t start well. We had an early faller on Board 7 as Chris succumbed within an hour. Picking up the Black pieces, Chris allowed an early check which forced him into a slightly cramped defensive position. His opponent played actively, kept up the pressure and managed to win a pawn. An unbalanced position resulted, and thanks to his Bishop being placed on a “stupid square”, a resignation soon followed.

Brian kept up his fine run of form on Board 1, chalking up yet another win. He’s now unbeaten in 8! He initially looked in trouble after being forced to move his King following a check with Bh5, but a locked-down position developed in the middle which meant his centralized King was in no danger. The setup seemed to play into Brian’s hands and he superbly marshaled the pawn chain to his advantage to raise the spectre of a decisive passed pawn.

The next two games contrasted in style but alas, not in the result! John, playing White, played his usual solid positional game and emerged in the early middle game with a respectable position. Ladies’ fingers were on a3 and h3, and we looked in for a long night. John’s opponent sensed a potential weakness in his pawn structure though, and began pushing g/h pawns to challenge it head on. A good tussle followed but John was forced to defend and as we all know, it’s a lot easier to attack than to defend. The breakthrough exposed the King and he graciously resigned.

Robin’s game started unusually quietly. Where was the pawn push?? Where was the sacrifice? We didn’t have to wait long though; the fireworks started soon enough. the pawn break came, creating a wildly unbalanced position. Unfortunately it favoured Robin’s opponent who held the centre with 3 (count them) extra pawns. Not one to give up, Robin brilliantly fought back with a Knight pin, but whilst material was equal, the position was not. Robin’s pieces were not coordinated which made covering all the potential attacks very difficult. A fork on Rook and Queen effectively ended the contest, despite an unsuccessful 10-move hunt for a stale-mate!! 1-3 down.

Josue starred in perhaps the most enjoyable match of the evening, at least for this spectator. The endgame was a bit of a thriller. He looked on the ropes in a Bishop/Rook vs 2-Rook end game, particularly when he was forced to defend a passed pawn one rank from promotion. But he had a passed pawn of his own, which he pushed whilst gaining tempo with discovered checks. The opposition passer was sacrificed with all hands on deck to prevent the coronation of a new monarch. Again, Josue found the right tactic and created a blockade with Bishop and King. Great to watch.

Finishing at the same time was Adam, who also found himself in a Knight & pawns endgame. It looked relatively level to me, but who’s to say what Fritz would make of it. Either way, nothing is easy when you’re short on time. It was the kind of position where you’d want 10 minutes per move, not 3 or 4 for the whole lot! Really unlucky. If the Knights were off the board it might have been a different result.

David P and Marios both have slight edges in their adjourned games, but they’re really tight. Probably best I don’t say too much with the games still going, but I know Marios feels slightly disappointed not to seal it on the night; he had pressure from move 1. David played very well to gain a pawn advantage but his wily opponent defended well. A 127 on board 8 – not too shabby.

 

03.04.17 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Kings Head

The Middlesex League season is drawing to a close. Another fine win last night saw Hammersmith move to a whopping eight out of nine with three to play, and a colossal games score of 56-16.

The games, in reverse board order:

Andy’s opponent played a very strange opening, placing his pawns on d3, e4 and f3 with his Bishop inside the pawn chain. Andy developed a large positional edge before a dubious Knight sac on e4 left his opponent with big chances to get back into the game. Andy continued to develop well though, castling Queenside and creating a dangerous Rook pair on the d-file. After his opponent’s passive Queen retreat to g1, Andy smelled blood! As he brought his pieces in for the kill, White elected to hand back the Knight in exchange for some activity. It was not enough to prevent the onslaught though; White soon resigned with mate-in-5 inevitable.

Kaan chose the English opening 1.c4, with his opponent choosing to adopt the tricky 1… c5 symmetrical variation. A sharp tactical struggle ensued, with Kaan coming out an exchange up. Without too much trouble he put his material advantage to good use, grabbing another pawn and soon the sustained pressure forced resignation on move 23.

A last minute drop-out meant Hammersmith superstar Robin was brought in to do battle. Or so he thought! With no sign of his opponent after 30 minutes, the default was awarded.

Adam’s London System woes this season were set to continue. His opponent chose a King’s Indian setup and castled early, to which Adam responded with h4. The early attack was destined to fail – with the e5 square not available for his f4 Knight, Adam brought it back to h2, where it stayed completely inactive for the next 19 moves! Castling Queenside added to the misery; Black immediately launched a Queenside attack to which Adam had very few pieces available for defence. The position was objectively lost, with at least 3 different ways for Black to cash in. Then the game turned.

Some slow and inaccurate piece-shuffling on Black’s back ranks allowed Adam’s hopeless h2 Knight to become a superstar! An h2-f1-e3-d5 manoeuvre brought it to the best square on the board, where it stayed for 6 moves, before gobbling up the Black Queen that was kindly placed on f4. A very lucky escape!

Disregarding his usual repertoire, Sheikh chose to adopt the classical line of the Scandinavian Defence. He proceeded accurately, developing his pieces in the correct order and blocking off all the light squares. He soon started attacking down the Kingside, and eventually overcame his opponent with a clever Bishop sac.

Yasser opened with the Queen pawn and faced the Nimzo-Indian Defence. Yasser chose the 4.Bg5 Leningrad variation, and soon obtained a positional edge and a strong Bishop pair. As Yasser pushed his pawns down the Queenside, Black’s position became more and more cramped. Soon he was forced to give up a pawn, which did nothing to stop Yasser crashing through and scoring the win.

Paul chose to adopt the solid Berlin Defence, and his opponent was not sure how to react. Several pieces were swapped off and before long Paul was in an endgame, but possessed the superior pawn structure. Paul’s superb endgame skills came into play, and before long he was exerting tremendous pressure on White’s weak spots. He coolly converted this pressure into an outside passed pawn, and his opponent resigned as his position started to crumble.

Pavel scored the only draw of the night, though it was by no means a boring draw. He chose to open with 1. Nc3, the Dunst opening. Play developed sharply, with both players castling on the Queenside and Knights hopping around the board creating lots of threats. Pavel gave up his Bishop pair to kill off one of the Knights, creating an unbalanced position that was difficult to evaluate. After a Queen trade and some interesting tactical shots well defended by both players, they agreed to call it a day.

Kaan and Andy become the 26th and 27th players to play this year, and bring the number of players sitting on 100% to 15!

Three games remain, including two big games against our only remaining title rivals, Hendon Juniors.

Adam.

Puzzle of the Week #003

You are a clever bunch! It didn’t take long for the double-header from last week to be solved, despite the apparent “fiendishness” of the second one. Props to the following individuals:

Adam Cranston – puzzle 2

John White – puzzle 1

For the first puzzle, as Black is threatening mate in one, White has to keep giving check. The theme is smothered mate:

1. Be4+, Rb7
2. Qb8!+, Rxb8
3. Rxa7+ Bxa7,
4. Nc7#

The pin established with the first move means the Knight can’t be taken. This is a very old composition, by the Syrian Phillip Stamma, first published in his “Essai sur le jeu des echecs”, 1737! Later translated into English as “The Noble Game of Chess”.

Puzzle 2 – quite simple:

1. Qxh2+ Kxh2
2. Rh7+ Qh5
3. Rxh5#

A bit of drama with a Queen sacrifice, but mate is then unavoidable.

So to this week’s puzzle – quite a good one, if I say so myself.

White has just played Rh2-h3 with the plan Rg3 followed by Bxh6. Why was that a bad idea? Black to move and win!

Same as usual – solutions in the comments please! Good luck!

Return of the Grudge Match (vs. Battersea)

28.03.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Battersea

In our return match versus Battersea, we outpointed them with a delta of 17 points!

But first let me say that Kaan Corbaci debut’d this match and had a shocker of a win defending with the black pieces against a straight-forward Guico Piano, his opponent fell for a pawn and his Queen was lost with a Kaan (Knight) fork. Congratulations to Kaan!

Brian played the white pieces against the Sicilian defence, using the O’Kelley variation to achieve a Maroczy Bind. From the middlegame onward, the position reduced to a Rook and minor piece endgame, but Brian had superior pawns, his opponent having blocked and isolated pawns. Brian piled on the pressure, with his Rook and Knight dominating an inferior Rook and somewhat bad Bishop, and the position somewhat blocked.

Through some confusion, his opponent allowed his clock flag to drop without making his first 30 moves, so he lost on time. But Brian was able to demonstrate a winning advantage to his opponent afterwards.

John Wooley achieved a creditable draw early on.

My game was a disaster waiting to happen, after I thought I had trapped my opponent’s Queen with a poisoned pawn. But it wasn’t to be, alas, the Queen escaped and I was down 2 pawns, but then getting into time pressure, I lost the endgame (expletives deleted!!).

Still, we won the match 2.5 – 1.5. Congratulations to the team!

Robin.

A Season of Two Halves

23.03.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Lewisham

You’ve probably heard the cliché “a game of two halves”, well I think we need a new cliché for our loyal band of warriors in Division 4 as we look set to embark upon our “season of two halves”!

As luck would have it, our first few games pitted us against the lower graded teams – and we certainly scored well there. But you can probably guess what that means – most of the big boys still lie ahead!

The key task now is to step up to the plate and take down some of the big dogs. Remember what happened when David fought Goliath!

Yeah, well, that was all very good in the Old Testament but things played out slightly differently in our hallowed theatre of Golden Lane as we face Lewisham.

We went down fighting but unfortunately couldn’t prevent a narrow 3.5 – 4.5 defeat. Top performance though; we ran them right to the wire and I was proud of the guys who turned out for Hammer, giving away around 10 grading points per board on average.

The night started pretty sweetly with fine wins for Marios and Brian on boards 1 and 2. Marios made short work of his opponent despite rocking up 15 minutes late. The art of intimidation obviously one of his strong suits. That, and a supported pawn on the 7th. His opponent was no slouch either – Mr. Stewart is averaging almost 180 for the season.

I managed to catch Brian’s game just as the hammer came crashing down. BD’s Rook came marauding forward and pinned the Queen to the King. The instinct to immediately take must have been a strong one… before realizing that immediately setup a Knight fork on the unhappy royal couple. The instinct to lean forward and offer a hand of resignation followed promptly. 2-0 up.

The next few to finish were all draws – Josue, Rich and yours truly. Fair to say we had attacking chances in all 3 but had to settle for half a point apiece. Rich was probably closest to finding the win, forging a really strong position before a momentary lapse allowed Gokhan back in and a draw was agreed. Very charitable considering Gokhan was a member of our own ranks last season! We were now 3.5 – 1.5 up.

That’s seven games for Rich in Division 4 this season. He remain unbeaten with 3 wins and 4 draws, a record that perfectly mirrors that of Brian. They’re currently neck and neck in the stakes to be this season’s MVP.

So, just a single positive result from the remaining three games would see us take something from the match, but alas, that final half-point wouldn’t come.

Losses for John, Adam and finally, Ken, meant we ended the evening with nothing to show but a few hard-luck stories and empty pint pots in the Shakespeare.

Despite sitting next to John I didn’t see much of his game, but hopefully it’s some consolation to learn that his “e130” opponent is actually averaging 167 for the season. Small matter of 6 wins out of 6.

Adam’s run of bad luck in Division 4 continues – maybe it’s something to do with me. He faced the unconventional 1.b3 and was forced to make early concessions following a mis-step in controlling the c-file. He battled back only to fall foul to a sharp tactic causing him to lose a minor piece with little in the way of compensation. An honorable resignation followed soon after.

Our final faller was Ken. I took up watching at one of the more unusual endgame positions I can remember in a while. Completely open, 3 passed pawns, at least 4 pawns en prise. The challenge was knowing what to do – attack or defend? Take a pawn and go for the win, or defend and try to consolidate? Ken chose to go for broke, but as the saying goes, discretion is sometimes the better part of valour. His opponent ended with a passed pawn in the centre supported by a Bishop – it’s destiny was clear. Unlucky.

So a defeat, but a very honorable one at that. And I think it’s worth noting this is the strongest 2nd team we’ve ever assembled in Division 4.

The future’s bright; the future’s Hammer.

Dave.

SW London Junior Chess Challenge

The might of Hammer took on the very different challenge of SW London Juniors in a double-header this month.

The format of the match agreed was two nights of chess – one at the home of the Juniors, and one at the home of Hammer – Valhalla, as we like to call it.

Played over as many boards as possible with each pairing playing each other twice on the night – once as Black, once as White.

The time control was 20 minutes to start, plus 5 seconds increment per move. All games will be graded and thus the participants would achieve a Rapidplay grade.

Before relaying the events of both nights, I feel I must first comment on the SW London Juniors and our Hammer Club.

The Juniors is an impeccably run club – the two Tony’s who masterminded the birth of the club and run it have established a culture that is friendly, welcoming and safe. The coaching is top-class and the discipline and behavior of their young charges is equally impeccable. Please check their website out: www.swchess.co.uk

As for my club, Hammer, I am proud to say that over twenty members rose to the challenge and met their young foes over the board, displaying great grace, patience and a will to win. There are very few clubs where senior chess players would put themselves up for this kind of match. But our club did, and that says a lot about the club culture and commitment to the future that Hammer Chess has embraced over the last two years.

Ok, enough of the slaps on the back for all concerned – let us review the actual chess!

The first match was held at SW Junior HQ, situated near Earls Court. The date was the 1st March. Thirty-one games of chess were played in total and the big people triumphed 20.5-10.5. The chess was so frenetic I was unable to keep track of my fellow Hammerites as the pieces flew round the boards.

Tony gives the Juniors some last-minute advice

One thing about playing children is that they have no fear, they relish the challenge of bringing down an adult, they play at speed, and boy do they love attacking! The top-tip is to remember that defence is something they have yet to learn, so a controlled, aggressive approach is always the right way to approach such games.

Unfortunately, this does not always work and Marios on board 1 was facing defeat in a prepared line of the Scotch – indeed, he was objectively lost in every sense. Unfortunately for his young opponent – but fortunately for Marios and us – he missed a back-rank check mate.

This was a definite wake-up call and showed that these young people could play; and play very well. This was the only game Marios played – but what a game! I know for a fact that he analysed this line very extensively after the game – he will not be caught again.

The rest of the results were as follows:

  • There were two wins clocked up by Jay, Orial, Adam, Enkh-Ochir, Des, Andy, Kaan and myself
  • Honours were split for Anda, Chris and Ken – one win apiece
  • The double-doughnuts were Robin, Danny and Shaun. Indeed, Robin lost to a young man with the same surname. The new Lee is on the block!!
  • Somesh had one loss and a draw

Although the score line seems one-sided, I can assure you it was not!

The return leg took place on the 13th March at Valhalla, and Hammer this time had an idea of what we were facing. The feel-good factor from the first encounter meant that we tried to get twenty boards out. Have to say, SW Juniors delivered, whilst Hammer had to default a few boards.

Valhalla; just how the Vikings remember it

The result was a good win for Hammer again, but the SW Juniors played outstandingly well and went down fighting. However, the march of time is relentless and these juniors are increasing their strength at an alarming rate. I am not sure in a year’s time Hammer will triumph again.

I hope all who took part enjoyed the evening – I know I certainly did.

My funniest memory of the evening was the sight of Jay, Ken and myself sitting on the blue kiddy chairs to play our games! I had enough sets, boards and tables, but did not think we would ever fall short on the chair count! Please note for future reference: we only have about 32 chairs!

Once again, thank you to the two Tony’s, the SW Juniors, and the Hammer Heroes – we will repeat next year!

John.