Happy New Chess Year!

05.01.17 – Middlesex League: Harrow 1 v Hammersmith

A very Happy New Year to you all – welcome to 2017!

It couldn’t have been a tougher start to the year for Hammer in the Middlesex League. We were up against league favourites Harrow 1 away from home.

Losing our board one and in-form Carsten through illness in the morning was not a good start. However, the rest of the team proved they were up to the challenge in spectacular fashion.

We were impressed to see digital clocks on all of the tables – less impressed that our hosts didn’t know how to set them (!), leaving us puzzled and frantically hitting the buttons until we found a suitable setting.

It soon transpired that our hard Christmas opening preparation was to pay off. Everyone on the team plays a fine game, and at no point did anyone look to be losing. We ended the night with five wins and three draws – a fantastic result given we were matched for grades across the boards.

Special mentions to Bajrush, Pavel and Matteo, who all made their debuts for the team this season, bring the player count up to an impressive 22 different faces over five matches.

Next week we play their second team at the same time, and at the same venue, where a performance half as good would all but seal another big victory!

Adam.

Blitz Tourney Round TWO!.. & London 5

Ladies & Gentlemen, SAVE THE DATE – the second round of our club Blitz tournament takes place on Monday 19th December at our home venue.

For those of you with a sharp memory, you’ll recall that the first round in September saw a whopping 17 members show up, with points awarded depending on overall finishing positions at the end of the evening. The current roll of honour looks as follows:

  • Winner – Bajrush (17 points)
  • Runner Up – David (16 points)
  • 3rd (Joint) – Brian, Matteo (15 points)
  • 5th (Joint) – Chris, John W, John R, Robin (13 points)
  • 9th – Sheikh (9 points)
  • 10th – Giovanni (8 points)
  • 11th (Joint) – Paolo, Matt (7 points)
  • 13th (Joint) – Ken, Rich, Danny, Mike (5 points)
  • 17th – Phil (1 point)

With a further two rounds to go before prizes are awarded there is quite literally everything to play for! Entry is entirely free, and you don’t even have to be a member – can’t say fairer than that!!

In other news, our London 5 team played last night. Continue reading if you’d like to know how they got on…

06.12.16 – London League 5: Kings Head v Hammersmith

In our fourth match of the season we came up against the old and venerable Kings Head club. Despite the result, we accounted well for ourselves despite being out graded by up to 30 points over three boards.

With the Christmas bunting out, would the Hammer team be feeling festive by the end??

I saw little of any game apart from my own. David playing black on top board lost a minor piece early on and did well to hang on for so long. It was a courageous effort and he managed to post double Rooks along the a-file, but alas it was all in vain and the inevitable checkmate occurred.

I had the White pieces on board 2 and started with an outrageous opening that was able to exert some pressure against an uncastled King. My opponent defended well though. Eventually pieces got swapped off, Queens and opposite coloured bishops emerging, the game became locked and a draw was offered, which I accepted.

Nick on 3 playing a Kings Indian defence, unfortunately fell to a Knight fork of King and Rook. Against a veteran of the Kings Head Club, and former captain no less, there was no shame in the defeat.

Things looking tasty…

Andy built up a strong centre after a rapid development, and then defended stoically in the face of a sustained counter from his wiley opponent. After swapping pieces he entered the endgame with a slight positional advantage, only to lose it all & resign after blundering his Rook. Bad luck!

Robin.

Result: Kings Head 3.5 – 0.5 Hammersmith

Metro Land

01.12.16 – London League 4: Metropolitan 3 v Hammersmith

It’s normally a tough selling job finding cause for celebration in a drawn match, but that was certainly the case when we tied the score at 4 points a piece against Metropolitan 3. We’d salvaged a draw against their 4th team in our last match-up so we looked to be up against it as we stepped-up against their “big brother”.

In terms of paper-grades our opponents outranked us by over 10 points a board. But as any scholar of the game knows, matches are played over 64 black and white squares. They’re thankfully not decided by a pools panel who consult the ECF database!

The heroes of the night were Andy, Robin and John, each clocking-up victories against their higher-graded opponents, and each a great example of dynamic attacking chess.

Andy swept aside his opponent with a well-calculated kamikaze Bishop attack on their advanced h3 pawn. It was soon curtains with Queen and Rook waiting in the wings.

Robin looked under the cosh in a wildly open position, with roughly one minute left on the clock for both players. But one inaccuracy later, and Robin left the board beaming having delivered check-mate. A real lesson for anyone about remaining calm as the seconds tick away.

John’s win was built on a strong positional plan around pawn structures and how best to leverage to his advantage. Well, that, and a marauding Knight with fork opportunities at every turn. His opponent resigned a whole piece and 3 pawns down. Impressive stuff.

Brian had clearly been inspired by the final match of the World Championship between Carlsen and Karjakin! Taking his lead from that match, he agreed a draw in record time, but still with lots of “spaghetti on the board”.

The less said about my game, the better. I was two pawns up but under time pressure allowed a back-door perpetual check. No shame, but still felt like it represented a missed opportunity.

Details of the other games are sketchy at best – though I do have a near-perfect recollection of the buzzer noise that sounded every 5 minutes to let someone into the venue! I’m reliably informed that Orial’s opponent has an unbeaten run lasting 5 years, though I can’t swear to how many games he’s played in that time.

Special mention to David Pearson who made his debut for the team – better luck next time! – and to Dan Rugman who stepped in to cover a last-minute withdrawal. Ruggers, consider yourself the first name on the team-sheet next time.

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So, lots of positives to take forward. We’re unbeaten after 4 games, there’s lots of competition for places, and we’ve already racked-up more points than we did in the whole of last season. Genuine progress! As a result we find ourselves in the “Europa League” spot, breathing down the neck of the top 4.

I think we all deserve a little break after all that, and as luck would have it that was our last game before Christmas! Enjoy the down time, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We go again in January!

Dave.

Result: Metropolitan 4 – 4 Hammersmith

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A (Muswell) Hill to Climb

01.12.16 – Middlesex League – Muswell Hill v Hammersmith

After notching up three fine wins in the first three games of the season, the Middlesex League team were on cloud nine. However, as with most things up on that ninth cloud, we were eventually going to come crashing back down.

Twenty minutes walk from the nearest tube station, Muswell Hill United Reformed Church was our venue for the night. With no less than four players pulling out in the week of the match, and the substitutes pool fully depleted, we showed up with just six players and started the match 0-2.

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N10… a mission to get to!

On another day this might have been all right; after all, we did out grade them by 22 points on average. You would not have guessed this looking at the chess though. It was a night for blunders and missed chances.

Nick was the first to lose. His young opponent played well and one too many mistakes forced an early resignation.

Matt’s game seemed a little closer, but he entered an endgame an exchange down that he was never going to hold.

Jeremy did not look comfortable form the start. Some overly passive opening play allowed a devastating attack down the Kingside. A vicious pin from which it was impossible to escape led to our third loss and a 5-0 scoreline.

John and Adam had very different games but finished with the same result. John had the black pieces and equalised easily from the opening. He couldn’t find a way to improve any more though, and the game slowly petered out into a dead draw.

Adam found a nice tactic in the middle game to win a pawn and seize a big initiative. Instead of continuing to press though, he decided to swap off pieces. A miscalculation at the start of the endgame gave the pawn straight back, and there wasn’t much left to play for.

If there was any honour to be saved, it was Carsten to the rescue. Despite showing up half an hour late, he played a good game. Carsten’s moves were very accurate, and it wasn’t long before his opponent was forced to give up a piece for a pawn. There’s no coming back form that sort of deficit against Carsten; the night ended with the Danish Dynamo scoring our only win.

Result: Muswell Hill 6 – 2 Hammersmith

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On a more positive note, we are top of the league and guaranteed to still be there at Christmas!

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We have also had 19 members playing in the team this year – a testament to the club’s huge recruitment efforts and increasing strength in depth.

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As you can see, we’re back underway very early into the new year, with crucial away matches on the first two Thursday’s of January. Please contact Adam if you’re keen to play in either of those.

 

The Sicilian Masters

28.11.16 – London League 5: Hackney v Hammersmith

This was a night for the Sicilian Masters, and the c3 anti-Sicilian paid off in shovels and spades for Brian on top board.

With the White pieces, he posted a commanding Rook on d5 that became totally surrounded by the enemy. His opponent was yet to prevail, and once a White Knight and Bishop came to support the Rook, the blood bath could begin.

The stranglehold on the Black pieces was a beauteous sight of complete domination. The Rook was then offered in sacrifice near the end, but by then the White Knight had a beautiful fork of Black’s Queen and Rook that finally was taken with 2 minutes on the clock, at which point Brian’s opponent resigned.

With White’s a and b-pawns having passed the 6th rank together, White’s victory was anyway inevitable.

Unfortunately for John, employing a Sicilian Scheveningen, White got his English Attack launched. With the Black h-file open and the White Queen coming down it, Black could not survive and John resigned just a few moves later against the Hackney Captain. Bad luck.

On board 4 Nick cleverly won a minor piece as White’s Austrian Attack looked a bit ambitious. In any case, Nick then got his Rooks doubled and with a possible back row mate on either side, a cliff-hanger of a game ensued. Nick won the exchange and went a Rook up, but it took his passed h-pawn reaching the back rank for his opponent to resign!

With my game a default, victory was complete.

Robin.

Result: Hackney 1 – 3 Hammersmith

The Richmond Mission – Impossible…?

24.11.16 – Thames Valley League: Richmond & Twickenham v Hammersmith

This past Thursday saw your TV Hammer (a cooler version of MC) take the journey down to Teddington, to take on a strong Richmond team in Division 1 of the Thames Valley League.

Not only a tough task at the best of times, but with travel woes on top and the closure of Teddington High St due to turning on the Christmas lights, it was taking on the mantle of Herculean proportions! Fortunately the Hammer team are made of stern stuff in the “getting to where I’m going” department and our team duly assembled at the designated time and place – Christchurch Hall, Teddington.

The team was already missing two of our strongest players in Carsten and Tony, and this helped exacerbate the grading difference between the teams. Although overall it probably would not have made much difference.

TV Hammer were out graded by an average of 31 points per board, with Bajrush facing a 52 point deficit on top board!

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Tom using Stockfish for his post-game analysis

You probably realise by now that things did not turn out well…

The roll of honour in defeat reads as follows – Bajrush, Paul, Jeremy, Adam, Orial and Alex.

This was hard to take, especially Adam’s loss where a blunder in a position where he had both material and positional advantage after using his London opening to great effect against a Queen Indian style setup, cost him dearly. A smart tactic netted him his opponents Queen for a Rook and Minor piece. Unfortunately an oversight lead to the loss.

Bajrush, Hammer’s on WOSF (Wily Old Silver Fox) was totally outplayed by an IM and really I could truthfully say there was nothing he could have done.

Paul also had an edge after an extremely complicated middle game against a 213-rated opponent, but he just faltered at a critical moment and the loss became inevitable.

Jeremy’s game I did not see, but again he gave his all for the team.

Orial had a brilliant game with chances for both sides, indeed in the critical position I think he had the advantage. Sadly, he could not consolidate and another victory appeared on the Richmond side of the scoreboard.

Alex was forced into a speculative attack which left his King naked. This was duly exploited by his opponent and Alex joined the ever-lengthening list of casualties. It was starting to resemble a day on the Somme – would TV Hammer succumb to an 8-0 drubbing?

This did not happen thanks to an amazing escape deliberately and cold-bloodily played for by Sheikh, and your over-cautious reporter. Ours were the last two games to finish.

I had the advantage when a draw was agreed. Indeed, looking at the position a win for me was more than probable. However, knowing my unrivalled ability to blow such positions and the match result already decided, I took the easy option. A draw against a 170 opponent was enough on the night.

Sheikh’s ending was lost both from a positional and material viewpoint. However, in mutual time pressure he spotted a stalemate combination that his opponent walked straight into. Clear thinking under time pressure is a great quality that Sheikh has and the final position was totally original. Despite being a Queen, Rook and Bishop down he had no legal move. A brilliant save!!

So in the end it was Mission Impossible, and to be honest even with the addition of Carsten and Tony I doubt the result would have been any different.

TV Hammer have now played the top four teams in the league, a tough opening to our schedule of matches. Hopefully we can now get some points on the board and cement our position in Division 1 this season.

Keep the faith, go TV Hammer and cue the soundtrack to “U Can’t Touch This“…. till my next dispatch from the TV front, farewell!

John.

Result: Richmond & Twickenham 7 – 1 Hammersmith

An Ealing Comedy… or Victory?

21.11.16 – Middlesex League: Ealing v Hammersmith

On a wet and dark November evening, what could be more enjoyable than playing in our third (and first away) Middlesex League match?

Our hosts Ealing 2 were as friendly as ever. Their venue is one of the nicest to play in, with large tables, big comfortable chairs and digital clocks combining to make for a supremely enjoyable experience.

Having resoundingly beaten them 6.5-1.5 at our venue, we went into the match with a lot of confidence, despite a smaller grade gap than before.

In the spirit of squad rotation, no less than five players were making their season debuts in the League. A particular mention has to go to Carsten and John for stepping in following late dropouts.

Only one game was over within ninety minutes. Newcomer Danny blundered in a winning position, and for the first time this season we were losing the match.

Fortunately boards five through seven were on hand to rectify the situation. Solid wins from Hammersmith stalwarts Robin and Nick, and a top class performance from new member David, saw us take a 3-1 lead. This meant that John’s loss on board four was not the end of the world, and left us needing three draws on the top three boards.

Adam was pleased to be up against the same opponent he had played in the return fixture, again with the White pieces. Unfortunately, his opponent had done his homework and this time played a much better defence to Adam’s London System. The game headed into a Rook +3 pawn vs. Rook +2 pawn endgame, but after much manoeuvring in time trouble all Adam could do was to settle for the draw.

Carsten and Paul heavily out graded their opponents, and were therefore both surprised by the resistance they came up against. Neither looked to get a significant advantage from the opening or middle game, but their experience and technique were always a little too much for their opponents. In a time scramble at the end, the victories were sealed, as was the team’s win.

Next up is likely to be our toughest test so far – a trip to Muswell Hill on December 1st. Our sights are now firmly set on the Christmas #1 spot!

Result: Ealing 2.5 – 5.5 Hammersmith

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On The Scoreboard… At Last!

17.11.16 – London League 3: Hammersmith v Mushrooms 2

Stop the press!! Hold the front page!! The internet may crash!!!!…. Hammer 1 finally got a half-point and are on their way in London 3!

For those of you who know their American Football, Hammer 1 were starting to look like the 2016 Cleveland Browns of the London League 3. Despite huge potential and tenacity we had nil points… just like the unfortunate Browns!

That all changed last night with a fighting draw against Mushrooms 2 at Golden Lane.

I have never been involved in a match that veered so violently as the results of the individual games came in. At one stage Hammer 1 were 4-1 up with 5 games to be decided. Within the blink of an eye we were trailing 4-5 and all attention switched to the last game.

Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and that man was Jeremy. A truly titanic struggle ended in…. more of that later!! Here’s the blow-by-blow account:

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The Hammer 1 team deep in the action

Paul, Sheikh and Adam were the first to finish – all clocking up really impressive victories.

Paul’s victory – his first of the season – on the white side of a very complicated French Winawer, represented a welcome return to form of our player of the year last season. A really excellent win.

Sheikh’s win was equally welcomed. Playing black against the Closed Sicilian, Sheikh was under severe pressure and facing a pawn roll on his Kingside. With the added complication that his King was there and gradually having his protective pawn shield eroded. However, in a remarkable turnaround Sheikh triumphed. A definite example of the motto – it is never over ’till it is over!!!

Adam’s victory with white, utilising the London setup against the fianchetto version of the Dutch was very smooth. Indeed, over a pint later on in the pub Adam opined that this was his best victory since his entry into League chess. He has promised to annotate it for the website. A great performance.

The draws of the evening went to Bajrush and Orial.

Our wily silver fox of a Chairman, Bajrush was under pressure for much of the game but then assumed the initiative and was threatening a checkmate at the end. Unfortunately there was not enough material to prosecute the attach and the game ended honours even. Bajrush never gives up trying to win and he epitomises what the Hammer spirit is all about.

Orial will now be known within our club as the “Wizard of Dingle” thanks to his miraculous escape in this game! An exchange and pawn down, he threw caution to the wind and went on the attack, forcing his opponent to concede a draw. A brilliant rear-guard action.

And so to the fallen!

John Wooley had a very messy position and was under real pressure. He defended tenaciously but in the end the wall was breached and he resigned in a very difficult position.

Alex was the unluckiest loser – despite being substantial material up, he succumbed to a simple mate due to time pressure. A very tough loss and another example that chess can really hurt!

Matteo playing on board 8 suffered his first loss in League Chess against a very experienced opponent. He cam out of the opening with quite a constricted position while his opponent gradually built up the advantage. Matteo fought back, nearly achieving equality until, with his Queen offside  and under threat he had to surrender material. The end was long but never really in doubt. He will learn from this!

Your captain was doing well and then threw away the advantage with the move c4. Having missed a simple intermezzo earlier that would have provided a definite advantage, the loss was fully deserved. At this level of chess you have to take your chances.

So it all came down to the final game – could Jeremy get us to 5-5? Would he be the hero or the… zero…?

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Attention turns to Jeremy’s game… could he save the result?? No pressure!!

A really complicated game ended up with Jeremy being a piece and two pawns down. However, under time pressure he was able to penetrate his opponents King position with his Queen and Rook. The two pieces were like the hammer and anvil, and a checkmate ensued. Rome was saved and Jeremy was roundly congratulated by his fellow team members.

Points on the board is the moral of the story. Hopefully Hammer 1 can now build on this and achieve our goal of staying in Division 3.

Keep the faith and go Hammer!

Result: Hammersmith 5 – 5 Mushrooms

Fulham Juniors – Round II

15.11.16 – Fulham Juniors v Hammersmith (Rapidplay)

After the huge success of last year’s event, both clubs decided to go for a double repeat of the same format last night.

This time the match was played over 9 boards with the same time control of 20 minutes to start with, plus a 5 second increment per move. The match would pit each team member against their opponent twice – playing white in the first game and black in the second. Games were rated so players can get a rapid grade.

This was truly a brilliant evening with great fighting chess and an unbelievable display of talent by the Juniors. The Hammer All Stars triumphed in both matches but the result of the second-round match was very much up in the air until the end.

At half-time, Fulham Juniors held a prize-giving in which Vigus Widdicombe-Gasson received the club’s Perpetual Shield for the next year, for the best results during the 2016 season. Xavier Cowan had run him very close.

The previous year’s winner, Thomas Le Rendu, received a small trophy to keep, in compensation for having to hand in the Perpetual Shield.

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The Fulham Juniors are a credit to their coach, Paul McKeown, and were only “Trumped”  by the steely determination of the Hammer All Stars. The Hammer All Stars were relentless and ruthless but that did not mean they were not sailing close to the edge at times.

Our boards 1, 2 and 3 in the form of Orial, Dave and Robin all achieved 2-0 results but not without the odd critical moment. All games were keenly contested and both Robin and David had a wobbly moment in the second games. Orial’s games were unbelievably complicated and great credit for that goes to Xavier his opponent. In the end Skill, technique and experience triumphed.

Matt and Hammersmith debutant David were also 2-0 winners – great to have them in the club! I thank them for volunteering last night and also not been fazed by the sight of an eight-year old boy whizzing pieces around the board!

The critical games occurred on boards 4, 5, 6 and 9.

On board 4 Chris had to default the first game due to a late arrival but thank fully made it for round 2. As is the way at these faster time limits – Chris achieved a clear edge but then time pressure began to enter the equation and Chris simply overlooked the overload on f2 and his young opponent Samuel smoothly converted.

Danny on board 6 played a really strong first round with the black pieces and duly notched up the point. The second game was the complete opposite with his opponent Hugo playing a great game and gaining a fully-deserved win to split the mini-match 1-1.

One of the most interesting games of the night was Andy’s encounter with young Wilfred. The first game ended in a draw as Andy could only force perpetual check due to Wilfred’s strong defending and under intense time pressure. In the second Andy’s experience in endgames triumphed. However, there was one stage of this game where young Wilfred displayed an uncanny understanding of black-square control that must be innate and caused Andy real technical difficulties at the board.

Finally, on board 9 – we have the tale of the best-dressed chess player in London (maybe in the world!)– Shaun. Shaun has only just started playing competitive chess over the board and his clock-handling is still something he has to come to terms with. He lost both games on time, despite being way ahead materially and positionally. Chess is very unfair sometimes. Fortunately, the administration of a post-match Glenmorangie helped soothe the pain!

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The Hammer team “analyses” the result afterwards… alcohol incidental!

A great night and many thanks to the Fulham Juniors and Paul for their hospitality and the great spirit in which the match was played

Bring on the return !

Round 1: Fulham Juniors 2.5 – 7.5 Hammersmith
Round 2: Fulham Juniors 3 – 6 Hammersmith

Match Result: Hammersmith Win

London 4: Honours Even at the Lane

08.11.16 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Metropolitan

It was a classic ‘game of two halves’ last night. The first four games to finish landed us with just the half-point to show for our efforts. Then, just when it looked like we were heading for defeat, a fantastic last surge that Donald Trump would have been proud of, sent us to an honourable 4-4 DRAW. Probably pretty fair all things considered – there wasn’t much to call between the grades…

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Standing room only on a busy night at the Lane

It’s a reflection on how hard I was concentrating on my own game that I have little insight on the games involving Brian, Robin or Andy. When I finally conceded defeat, we were already down 0.5 vs 3.5. Brian once again held firm and chipped-in with a solid half-point.

My game was a frustrating one. I felt I outplayed my opponent all the way through the middle-game, managed to fork King and Rook with my Knight and entered the endgame +1.5 points according to my engine. Still, they haven’t developed a Stockfish that allows for a couple of slack moves under time pressure! Before I knew it, my opponent had squared-up his double-bishops and they were at least as strong as my Rook / Bishop pair. Real frustrating one.

Ken was first to claim a win – an outstanding result on his debut! Not least because my spies tell me he looked in a spot of bother early-doors. It was nice to see the guys playing through some variations once the game had finished. A pleasure when you’ve won. Torture when you’ve lost.

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The Hammersmith team, deep in focus…

Rich found himself in a good position against his tricky adversary, again with advanced pawns raiding their way up the board. Short on time, he pushed hard for promotion but allowed the back-door open and the most frustrating of finishes: a perpetual check when you’re clearly winning! No doubt almost as painful as his 5am start the next morning.

Next to finish was Orial who maintains his fine start for the club. All the focus was on his lone pawn on the 6th rank, and whether he could force it home. No easy feat with 3 pieces blocking its path. Still, through a series of skilful manoeuvres he found a way, and ended up slipping it a surprise checkmate into the bargain. Very impressive to watch.

The night was rounded off by John who was a whole piece and a pawn up when the clock chimed and it was time to adjourn. His position was solid, with a natural plan emerging to raid into enemy territory with his doubled-pawns. Sensing the end in sight, his opponent did the honourable thing and resigned rather than force the resumption. Also allowed a few of us to nip to the pub to muse over what might have been!

Another step on what’s proving to be a very enjoyable season in League 4. Next up is Metropolitan’s big brother team. The bigger they are, the harder they fall…

Result: Hammersmith 4 – 4 Metropolitan
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And the current L4 table:

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