A Fast & Furious Night At Golden Lane

14.03.17 – London League 3: Hammersmith v Hackney

Hammer 1 rolled into the Barbican last night determined to continue the drive to consolidate their Division 3 status. In the way were Hackney 3, also caught up in their own relegation struggle. This was a true six-point game, to quote the football parlance.

On paper Hammer 1 had the strength in depth and a healthy advantage grading-wise. However, matters are never that simple; holding all the aces still means you have to convert them.

In short, Hammer 1 came through this contest in fine style with a 6.5-3.5 win. We are now on 3.5 match points and almost on the verge of safety and thus retaining our place in Division 3 of the LL!

To the runners and riders (my only Cheltenham metaphor, I promise!):

In reverse running order, boards 10 and 9, Orial and Matteo respectively, secured solid wins without ever being in any real danger. Hammer were on their way.

Boards 8, 7 and 6 saw Josue, Safi and Sheikh all take draws to keep the points ticking over. Again, the draws were all pragmatic and in light of the way the match was moving, entirely sensible. This was a night where the match result was everything.

Boards 5, 4 and 3 saw myself and our new member Marios, plus Jeremy, step up. Well, to be entirely honest Jeremy and Marios did – I on the other hand, was away with the fairies!

Marios won in fine style against a Benko gambit and coaxed the error from his opponent, whilst Jeremy also took advantage of a blunder to secure his win. He felt he was lucky – my own view was that he was due some fortune after some of his mishaps earlier this season. Remember, the mantra is a win is a win! Plus their two wins secured the match.

As for myself, I contrived to play a totally wrong move order in a Sicilian Najdorf – fought back, achieved equality, relaxed and then blundered. I think my chess brain is frazzled at the moment, and skiing can not come soon enough.

Our boards 2 and 1 saw the reliable due of Paul and Bajrush in play. Bajrush finished his game first and was the epitome of the WOSF and a man in a hurry. Whilst Paul, fatigued from his exertions the previous evening where he triumphed in an adjourned game from a Thames Valley match vs Richmond, played his worst game of the season. Just one of those nights.

Just some asides to put a bit of colour into the evening…

Josue is now sporting a white-bleach-blonde set of hair which is dramatic to say the least! He foolishly made a bet that Barcelona would not come back against PSG with a friend. Guess what happened, and guess what the forfeit was?

Sheikh agreed a draw in the adjourned game against his Surbiton A opponent without hostilities being resumed. This spared us the humiliation of an 8-0 whitewash and all in, team Hammer owe him a huge debt of gratitude! We bow before thee, Sheikh!!

The match was played at a rapid rate and we were all out of Golden Lane, including Hammer 5, who were also on duty, well before 10pm. Is this the fastest time ever for clearing Golden Lane with all games completed?

I firmly believe that with the addition of one or two players, such as Pavel and AN Other next season, we will be strong challengers for promotion. Part One of the master plan is nearly complete with the goal of Division 3 retention all but achieved.

However, rest assured, there will be no let up from me for the final three matches. A top-half finish is achievable.

Finally, as captain of this excellent bunch of soldiers, my thanks.


Royal Bloodshed!

14.03.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Kings Head

We were up against it last night, facing Kings Head – top of the League and the clear favourites to win the game, but nothing was certain. No quarter was given and Hammersmith did not succumb without a struggle.

Handshakes all round as the match gets underway

On Board 1, Brian Dodgeon with the Black pieces got to defend against a ferocious 3 pawns abreast attack in the centre – did someone say a Maroczy Bind?? After an exchange or two, there was a Knight fork against King and Rook, so Brian ended up a Rook down, capitulating soon after. Bad luck!

Board 3 saw David Lambert getting to an equal position with two Bishops and Knight on both sides, and symmetric pawn positions. An early draw was agreed soon after Brian’s loss on top board.

Board 4 saw our winningest player, Chris Moore (4.5 out of 5 matches so far this season) go two pieces down but still making a fight of it. In the endgame his opponent – who out-graded Chris by 15 points – had both Bishops and Rook buried behind jammed-up pawns, but got into time difficulties. So it looked for a while as if a two piece deficit could be ignored. Sadly the game was lost when the Rook and Bishops finally emerged.

Our hero of the match was John Woolley on 2nd board, who had a might nice English opening, and both sides looking very solid. Suddenly, John launched a pawn break in the centre, which caused an exchange of several pieces. This led to John’s Rook pinning an undefended Knight against the Queen, and the win looked good. Somehow though, John’s opponent managed to wriggle out and a draw was agreed. John looked close to winning – better luck next time!

All things considered, not a bad result against a strong side.


An Early Bath at Morley College

10.03.17 – London League 4: Morley College v Hammersmith

What a difference a year makes. It was only 12 months ago we made the trip to Morley College for the final game of the season, rooted to the bottom of the league and desperately in need of a win to avoid picking up the League’s wooden spoon.

I’m pleased to say this season has brought happier times; buoyed by an intake of enthusiastic new players, we’ve more than held our own in the division and I’m pleased to have a different problem – deciding who to pick or leave out when we’re oversubscribed for games.

All smiles at the start of the evening

Whilst the backdrop is different, I’m delighted to confirm our match result appears to be heading the same direction! We triumphed last season, and we look set to do the same this time round, leading 4-2 with two games scheduled for adjournments. Robin’s match remains in the balance but mine looks pretty positive (Fritz has it +10.0!).

The match itself was pretty, well… odd. We started with a default; their board 8 was a no-show. We played our games under near constant chatter from the walk-ins and late arrivals. And then we ended the evening by being kicked out of the building by security whilst several games were still going. Fine if it’s a slow play, but mine was Quick and designed to finish on the evening. Bizarre!

Under the circumstances, I confess I didn’t get to see much of the other games, so then just a word of acknowledgement to our winners. John got back into winning ways with a great result on Board 2. He appeared to be being edged in the middle game but the position was fairly complicated, and a series of quick-fire errors meant before long his opponent’s Queen was no more. That was the end of that.

Rich ground down his opponent with heavy pressure pivoting around a pawn on the 7th, drawing a broad smile from his opponent when the hammer finally fell. I think he knew he was done long ago but battled on bravely for the sake of his team. Fair play.

Down to business

The final victor of the night was David Pearson, who calmly chalked up his first win in Division 4. Very well done. I asked Adam what had happened and he was equally perplexed having watched some of it – “I don’t know. It seemed to be pretty even with loads of pieces on the board and then bang… a few moves later he’d won”. You’ll have to show us that trick next time around, David. Worth sharing!

The great week for Hammer seems to be extending into a fortnight! Long may it continue.


London 3 – A Fight for Survival

When an animal is cornered, even one as cultured and sophisticated as Hammer 1, they will fight tooth and nail for survival.

Tonight, when the chips were down and Hammer 1 were facing the prospect of relegation, the fighting nature endemic in all Hammer chess players came to the party.

The mantra was: we may still be relegated…. but not on this night, not as a result of this match, and not against Kings Head 3!

Hammer 1 stepped up to the plate and delivered. We took a giant step towards retention of Division 3 status in a great display of sheer will power from all involved.

Enough of this hyperbole – let’s examine the nuts and bolts of the night in board order.

On board one our Chairman the WOSF himself cruised to a comprehensive victory. Bajrush meant business – our first point on the board.

Paul on second board had the nights only adjourned game. His opponent has sealed the move and the consensus is that Paul has a won game. Let us hope his opponent agrees.

Board three saw Jeremy display the skills of Houdini to escape the grip of an eternal pin and agree a draw in a bitterly fought contest.

Board four saw your correspondent agree a draw for my own sanity and that of Hammer 1. Despite being a pawn up, the draw was the right decision for our team and myself. Please feel free to ask me at the club as to why this was so.

Sheikh was next up and played a beautiful game with the Black pieces in a Sicilian. He won the exchange and smoothly converted. Classic Sheikh.

Next to our only fallen warrior of the evening – Safi. He had one of those games on one of those nights. To be honest he was far from his best and the loss was inevitable.

Matteo demolished a fellow Italian on board seven, even having to explain the en passant rule to his opponent. Matteo was as cool as the suit he was wearing and scored a well-deserved victory.

Josue had a dominating win and was the first to finish – just a comprehensive win.

Orial, the wizard of Dingle, brought the luck of the Irish to his match. He claimed he played terribly… but he still won… and that is all that counts. Memories of Napoleon come to mind – do not give me great generals; give me lucky ones. To be honest I think Orial was too hard on himself and he was never in danger.

Board ten was a walkover and Hammer 1 got its first freebie point of the year.

So, in summary – we lead 7-2 with one game to be decided. Our biggest win of the season and one that should ensure survival in LL Division 3.

The moral of the story is do not mess with Hammer 1 when they are facing down the barrel of a gun. These boys are tough and not to be messed with.

Great job lads – I am dead proud of you all!!!


The Muswell Massacre

06.03.17 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Muswell Hill 2

With seven wins from eight games and four to play, Hammersmith are still going strong at the top of the Middlesex League.

Last night’s victims were Muswell Hill 2, who put up some resistance on the top boards but ultimately went down 7-1. As has unfortunately been traditional at recent home games, the opponents turned up without a full team with no advance notice. John White very kindly offered to step out, allowing Josué his first game for the club…

… although it might best be described as a massacre. His ungraded opponent opted against developing his Queenside and didn’t feel the need to castle. As might be expected against as strong a positional player as Josué, this strategy did not work out well. In one of the quickest wins I’ve seen in club-level chess, the game was over on move 20 with a bizarre yet utterly dominating checkmate.

Board six featured Brian “Magnus” Dodgeon, and as is often the case his opponent was not offered a single chance to get into the game. Brian started turning the screw from move one, and the evaluation just got better and better. Eventually his opponent could withstand the squeeze no longer and offered his hand in resignation.

Sheikh “Snake” Mabud provided yet another fine performance on board five. With a very strong pawn planted on e5, he started manoeuvring his pieces. His opponent followed suit, with both seemingly creating an additional pin or fork threat with every move. Sheikh handled the complications splendidly, eventually clearing the g-file for his Rooks to come flying in with checkmate.

It was not to be Jeremy’s day on board four; his superior chess set and digital clock seemingly not enough to intimidate his opponent. With the Black pieces Jeremy appeared to get a fine opening, planting two super-strong Bishops on d4 and e4. A slight let-up allowed his rival to bring his big guns into the game, and out of nowhere Jeremy was forced to resign.

Paul sat down on board three with one thing in mind: to rain hell over the board. He didn’t disappoint. The second game to finish on the night was one of the most convincing wins of the match; hopefully Paul can keep up his fine form for the rest of the season and into the next (ed: and maybe provide us with an annotated version of the game??).

And onto the top two boards, which both followed a strangely similar pattern. Bajrush with White and Pavel with Black both outgraded their opponents by 34 points, yet both managed to play horrific openings.

Bajrush was forced to retreat his Knight to b1 on move four, and later missed a tactic that almost cost him a piece. Pavel’s opening was arguably worse, as he failed to develop any of his Queenside and was forced to defend against an advanced pawn on f5, a dangerous Bishop eyeing his Kingside and a Knight providing constant forking threats.

At this point, both decided it was time to wake up! With a little help from their opponents, both turned their predicaments around, each eventually extinguishing all the enemy threats and creating unstoppable passed pawns!

With four games left to play, the title is still by no means guaranteed. Harrow and Hendon could still feasibly both finish above us if we ease off too much towards the finish line. Despite this, I’d still like to give some appearances to more of the club’s burgeoning member base.

Josué’s win makes him the 25th player to play for the team and the 13th now sitting on 100%! My target is for us to reach 30 players by the end of the season.

Result: Hammersmith 7 – 1 Muswell Hill 2


A Very Good Week

This last 7 days has been a week of sweet, sweet victories for Hammersmith Chess Club, perhaps historically so!

With fully 4 of our 7 teams in team in action this week, plus a 15-board thriller of double-headed RapidPlay action against South West London Juniors, I’m delighted to report that Hammersmith won every single game – five strong victories, including two white-washes, for a total score of 38-13:

  • Monday: 6.5-1.5 against Harrow in the Middlesex league
  • Tuesday: 4-0 against Metropolitan in London 6 (scorecard below)
  • Wednesday: 20.5-10.5 against South West London Juniors
  • Thursday: 4-0 against West London in London 5 (scorecard below)
  • Thursday: 3-1 against Hackney in London 6 (scorecard below)

A huge well done and thank you to all involved!

HammerChess marches on!!

Marching on in Middlesex

27.02.17 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Harrow

The Middlesex League team notched up another fine win last night with a dominant display against Harrow.

Despite being our biggest rivals in the league on paper, Harrow have been struggling to match their home strength at their away fixtures. Last night was no exception – the visitors brought just six players, with only four graded 100+.

Sheikh’s game on board five was the first to finish. His opponent lost a Queen early on, picking up just two Knights in compensation. Black pieces continued to drop, and the inevitable resignation could probably have come several moves earlier. Sheikh now has three wins from three in the league.

Paul, playing on board two, finished second. With the Black pieces and a grade advantage of just six, he was more than content to take a draw in a very equal looking position to leave the team needing just one more point.

New member Marios became the team’s 24th player to play this season. His very young opponent was not able to provide much competition at the board: Mario’s superiority in all departments meant the game was over almost before it started, and Hammersmith had hit the magic 4.5 mark.

Bajrush’s game was not one for the Hammersmith books. A strong opening left him with two passed-pawns that he should have converted into a win. All it took was one oversight, however, and suddenly he had lost a Bishop and pawn. Despite the blunder, his opponent was left with very weak light squares and two uncoordinated Knights. To his credit he defended resolutely, organizing his pieces at the correct moment and before long it was all over for Bajrush.

Yasser’s game on board three opened up very early. Soon both players had pawns on the seventh rank and Black’s King came marching up the board. After some tactical manoeuvres from both players, it was Yasser who came out a pawn up and converted the advantage without a hitch. Yasser also moves to 3/3 for the season.

Despite John spending more time watching Yasser’s game than his own, he played some good chess, establishing an early passed-pawn and a strong hold on the centre of the board. Swapping off most of the pieces he started to push his passed pawn and force White’s King from behind it. It could have been more difficult had his opponent spotted a tactic to gather the pawn, entering a tricky RPP v RP endgame. In winning the game, John becomes the third player now sitting on 3/3.

All-in-all, a pretty convincing win that puts us further in front of the chasing pack. Five matches remain, including a grudge match next Monday against Muswell Hill 2, the only team to have beaten us this season.


A Very Bad Night at the Surbiton Office

22.02.17 – Thames Valley League: Surbiton A v Hammersmith

Last night storm Doris blew in – in the form of Surbiton A – and hit Hammer TV with all its might. It was an awesome demonstration of power.

In chess terms it was seismic: Fischer v Taimanov or Larsen comes to mind. It was dark…

After our excellent performance last week against Richmond, we were brought crashing back down to earth. The scoreboard currently stands at 7-0 with one adjournment. The man holding out is Sheikh, in a position where he faces a long fight for a draw.

I think with the exception of Sheikh, Jeremy, and new member Marios, we all played badly.

The first to fall were Bajrush and myself – followed shortly after by Matteo. To be honest, there’s nothing much to say for any of us. Bajrush was a Rook down plus facing a pawn on the 7th rank. Matteo blundered a piece early on and yours truly contrived to lose Rook and pawn for a lone Knight. What followed was death by a thousand cuts.

Following on behind were Marios and Brian. The former is clearly a talented player who is a little ring-rusty but will be a good player for the club in the foreseeable future. Poor Brian had to face one of those rare situations where a bad Bishop is totally dominated by a great Knight in a pawn ending. There was no way out.

Carsten succumbed to a move Nh4!! This allowed him to take his opponent’s Queen, but a Knight sac on g6 was a forced mate. It had all been going so well. In the pub analysis afterwards he berated himself for allowing Bc4 at a critical point in the game. His worst game of the season so far.

Thus, to the unluckiest player of the night…. Jeremy. He had an unbelievably complicated game and achieved a winning, but very double-edged position. The sort of position where one false step leads to an instant loss. Unfortunately, he could not negotiate his way through the complications and sadly fell, with a deserved victory so close.

And so, to Sheikh. He had one of those games that required a lot of piece-shuffling. The adjourned position is tough for him with Black holding most of the winning chances. Fingers crossed he can hold it.

A dark night in all. Although we were out graded by an average of 20 points per board, the result was very hard to take. No amount of alcohol could hide the fact we were simply outclassed on the night.

Here endeth this sorry tale of chess woe!!

Result: Surbiton 7-0 Hammersmith (1 adjournment)

Hammer TV Rise to the Occasion!

13.02.17 – Thames Valley League: Hammersmith v Richmond

Remember the date – 13th February

Remember the place – Lytton Hall

Remember the opponents – Richmond A

Savour the result: 4.5-2.5 in favour of Hammer TV with one game adjourned.

Earlier in the season in the away leg against our esteemed opponents, we were trounced 7-1. This was our worst result of the season and we needed to vastly improve in the return leg.

Things were looking up though, with Hammer fielding our strongest team in recent history. Carsten, Tony and Bajrush: our top three boards are a formidable combination, and in support: Paul, Pavel, Jeremy, Sheikh and my good self. It says something about our team that Sheikh was playing board 8!

To the nitty gritty…

Carsten on board one played a heroic defensive tour de force. He held IM Gavin Wall to a draw with the black pieces in an advanced variation of the French Defence. Post-match he was absolutely convinced he was lost at one stage but in the end, he was able to force a perpetual. A superb rear guard action!

Tony had a tough and unlucky loss. Those of us who have watched Tony play know he is a very correct positional player with an eye for a tactical shot. Within seven moves of this game there was chaos on the board, induced by his opponent. It was unfathomably complicated and in the end Tony, who had been on the edge for most of the game, could not hold it. A real no-holds-barred contest.

Bajrush’s game on board 3 was the second to finish. I was so tied up in my own game I had no chance to see what was happening. However, our Chairman’s skill at creating fire on the board and emerging the victor is unrivalled – especially post-Christmas – and he won in great style.

On board 4 Paul has the advantage in a middle-game that resulted in an off-beat version of the Sicilian Defence. The game is finely poised with Paul having latent pressure against f2. Hopefully he can convert and extend our winning advantage. Hostilities are resumed in three weeks time.

On board 5 Pavel had his first win in the TV League for Hammer. Playing in fine style he forced his pawn through to the eighth rank, sacking a Rook on the way to ensure victory. A great win.

On boards 6 and 7, Jeremy and I had solid draws. I was particularly pleased to draw with my opponent who crushed me in a Schliemann variation last season. Playing against an f4 version of the Sicilian (ed: Najdorf Amsterdam variation?) I was able to negotiate my way through to a level ending.

Jeremy had one of those games where the pawns get stuck, the pieces then get stuck and no progress can be made. We have all had games like that, possibly with the exception of Bajrush, and prudence dictates the draw is the only result.

Finally, to board 8 and Sheikh in fine form and fettle. Playing the white pieces against a Modern Defence he gradually increased his control over the position. Picking up material at the right moment he was able to cruise to victory. Thus, securing Hammer’s victory and a real step on the road to consolidation in Division 1 of the TV League.

A real moral-boosting win and real credit to all our Hammer Heroes on the night!


A Fighting Chance

20.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead

Well done to everybody who fought hard for Hammersmith last night! The story was that we were up against a very strong side who outgraded us by an average of 21 points per board.

We defaulted one board so were 1-0 down initially, but nevertheless we started promisingly. Adam on top board played the London System and held his own solidly to draw against a very strong opponent.

I played as black against the London System on board two, and adopted Bajrush’s plan against an opponent graded 30 above me – fianchettoing both Bishops, then advancing the central pawns to e5 and d5, supported by the Bishops.

White’s King delayed castling and the central pressure enabled me to win first the b2 pawn, then another on d5. I turned down a draw after 20 moves, trying to simplify to arrive at a “won” endgame. However my opponent avoided exchanges, maximized the power of his white-squared Bishop, and in the 20 minute play-off after move 30 he produced a worrying King-side attack with Bishops, two Rooks, Queen and Knight.

I should have sacrificed the Rook for Bishop to relieve the pressure, but I didn’t see it under time pressure, instead taking refuge in a draw with just a few minutes left on the clock.

The heroes of the evening were Chris and Rich, who were first to finish. I didn’t see the intricacies of Rich’s game but he beat an opponent graded 36 higher than him!

Chris survived a hair-raising period of having to blockade the opponent’s 7th-rank pawn for ten moves or so, finally sacrificing a Knight to get rid of it, but emerging two pawns up to win the endgame.

At that stage it looked like we might win the match against all the odds, since I was two pawns up and Josue was a piece up for a pawn. But Josue’s opponent managed a Rook-infiltration of his second rank, gaining a pawn to create a winning Queening threat, and I got too short of time to force a win.

Then John’s game, which had looked pretty even throughout, ended in a loss against an opponent 25 grading points higher.

David, making his debut on board 8, managed an honourable draw.

So of the games played on the night, we drew 3.5-3.5, but lost 4.5-3.5 owing to the default. A credible result against tough opponents!