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!


A “Drawn” Out Battle

09.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead

Last night’s match against Wanstead ended as… another 4-4 DRAW. A scoreline that absolutely reflects just how tight the match was from start to finish. Draws are becoming somewhat of our trademark this season! John Woolley would be proud.

Down to the individual games and it’s some irony that the better my own performance, the less I know about the other ones! I was fixated on my board for most of the night so didn’t get much of a chance to look around. Brian, I’m sure your research could easily point out the correlation here! I’m afraid you’re left with the edited highlights.

The most interesting game appeared to be on Board 3 where Josue sacrificed the exchange in order to crank open the h-file and apply some real pressure. He definitely had the initiative, and it looked like there was a mating net to be found. But alas, the London League insistence on banning the use of Fritz at Golden Lane means that’s sometimes easier said than done, and the crushing blow was never dealt. It doesn’t help when your opponent reveals the 3-move mate after the game, but I suppose that’s why we need that post-match pint in the Shakespeare!

Most of the other games looked really tight, with roughly half going right the distance. Both time and pieces on the board were in short supply. Brian and Adam’s games both looked in the balance in their respective endgames; each team eventually taking a point each. In my own game, I faced the Smith-Morra gambit with the Black pieces. I accepted the pawn in the opening and immediately cursed my lack of book knowledge on these lines. Still, I managed to cling onto the extra pawn, repel his attack gained through initiative, and eventually worked my way into an endgame with the same bonus-pawn intact. When the minor pieces were off the board, I was able to convert.

Good win for Nick on Board 8 as well. Thanks for stepping in at the last minute. Much appreciated!

A decent little result all things considered, and builds on our continued improvement relative to last season. We already have 3 points on the board with nearly half the season still to go!

Lest we forget, we ended with just 2 points last time out. It’s also pleasing to see we continue to fill our boards each week – no penalty points thus far. Looking at the league table below, you’ll see that’s no mean feat!


Rapid Play vs The Juniors: Players Needed!!

Dear members, we have a number of exciting rapid play games against our local junior clubs coming up and we need volunteers to play!

For those of you not familiar with the format, it’s two games against the same opponent each evening, one as White and one as Black. Time control is 20 minutes with a 5 second increment per move. We’ll be getting the games graded too, so they’ll all count towards your ECF rapid play grade.

The dates are as follows:

  • 20th February vs Fulham Juniors, starting 6.15pm at Lytton Hall. 10 boards required for this one.
  • 1st March vs SW-London Juniors, starting 6.15pm at St Luke’s Church, West Brompton. 15 boards required for this one.
  • 13th March vs SW-London Juniors, starting 6.15pm at Lytton Hall. Again, 15 boards needed! This will be followed by some training, analysis and insights from Tony Niccoli – should be a good one!

Please get in touch if you’d like to play – John White is the man to contact:

These games follow on from our successful double-header against Fulham Juniors last season. It’s a terrific experience, some of the youngsters are amazing players and you’ll undoubtedly have a fast-paced and action-packed pair of games each night. We need players across all grades, reflecting the varied strength of the youngsters.

Hope to see you there!

An East End Bust Up!

31.01.17 – London League 3: East Ham v Hammersmith

Hammer 1’s second game of 2017 in London 3 was a bit of a soap opera…

Drama, failure, joy, misery and dogged determination in the face of adversity all played their part in the evening’s entertainment. A perfect mirror of Hammer 1’s journey through the division this season.

The drama was provided by Bajrush, our own WOSF, who had an unbelievably complicated game – what’s new? He confessed afterwards that he was lost at several points, but he kept piling oil on the fire and posing new problems. In the end his opponent cracked and our first win was in the bag.

Our other wins came from Matteo and Safi.

Matteo’s was a case of good old cockney determination. In a seemingly equal position Matteo kept probing, manoeuvring, repositioning pieces and squeezing his opponent. He created a Harry passed pawn and was able to deflect his opponents King whilst his King penetrated the Queenside. The win was secured. This was a welcome return to form for Matteo and should be celebrate along with his first ECF grading of 155!

Safi’s win was the joyous moment of the evening – he displayed great skill to win from an equal position and earn his first victory of the season in London 3. A great performance.

Draws were secured by John Woolley, Jeremy and Josue.

To be honest we should have won all three games although Jeremy confessed that he was lost in at least three points of the game.

To the detail…

John’s game was agreed a draw in a static pawn structure with same-coloured Bishops. Crucially he was a pawn up and I believed he was winning. However, a draw was agreed.

Josue had a won game but fell for a tactic that resulted in perpetual check. In his second game for Hammer he dominated and was cruising to victory. Unfortunately his opponent had other ideas. C’est la vie!

Jeremy’s game was another amazing encounter. In the end he had King and Queen against King and Knight – no other pieces on the board. Unfortunately time was short and he could not force the win. This is (another) one for future training sessions!

To the glorious fallen and the failure & misery part of the evening…

I suffered an appalling loss with complete memory failure – I went wrong at the first move, playing a variation I knew nothing about and am at a total loss to explain why. Definitely early signs of senility.

Orial had a dead certain draw, if not a good shot at a win. One mistake and he was totally on the back foot, even though with opposite-coloured Bishops he still had good chances of a draw. Again, it was not meant to be.

Paul had a tough game against a very awkward opponent. It was a difficult game, and not just on the board. Unfortunately, he had to allow a passed pawn, and with a bad Knight against a good Bishop he was always going to struggle.

The toughest loss was probably Sheikh’s – he was totally winning. The intensity of this game – a King’s Gambit – affected both players, with errors on both sides. Indeed at one stage Sheikh castled through check – neither he nor his opponent picked it up. Later in the game Sheikh missed the fact he was in check and played an illegal move. This was spotted and he incurred a 2-minute penalty.

This definitely threw Sheikh and he was rattled. So, despite being a piece up he contrived to lose very quickly. This was a tough loss and his play deserved so much more. As I have said before, Caissa can be very cruel.

A 5.5 – 4.5 loss was the score on the night. A tough loss and we will have to improve to survive in London 3.

Come on Hammer, the fight for survival is truly on!! Keep the faith!!!


An Evening of Roosters and Foxes

26.01.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Streatham & Brixton

Welcome to John Woolley and Rich Wingfield to Division 5, both of whom made their debut for this match. John needs no introduction being the former Thames Valley captain for Hammersmith for many years. Rich is our newest captain for our League 6 Team 1.

As befitting the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Rooster, this is the tale of the courageous Roosters and the wily Foxes. Read on to find out who is who…

Out-foxed, or out-roostered?

I guess Board 1’s result could be said to be a grandmaster draw because, after a more move or two (edit: it was 8 moves!), hands were shaken and the draw was agreed. Exit the two top men.

The evening then settled down to a long battle and into the first deadline and nothing happening.

On Board 3, Rich with the White pieces had gained a strong centre, a lot of initiative, and a win looked possible. All of a sudden Black pulled some kind of surprise attack and they were shaking hands, alas. So one Rooster down; the wily fox had struck like lightning.

On Board 2 the two Captains drew up battle plans – their captain lead off with the Queen’s Gambit, while Robin employed a somewhat unconventional King’s Indian Defence, quickly gaining equality with 2 Bishops. Many moves later after the first clock deadline, we see White getting into time pressure, but it was still Queen & Rook and many pawns on both sides, all blocked, only with White having an advanced 6th pawn.

After White forced the exchange of Rooks it looked like he was playing for a draw. However, Black’s Queen was free to go marauding against loose pawns an exposed White King. It was starting to look like a win or a draw by perpetual check for Black.

With the extra 15 minutes on the clock, Black tried for a win and complication. The wily fox had plotted carefully – or perhaps luckily – because perpetual checks would mean the next check would put the Queen off to the side, taking two moves to return to base & guard her King. However, White could post his Queen on h5, threatening mate or winning material.

A better judgement was called for, but sadly ignored this time. Our rooster went down in a thicket of flying feathers, with pawns falling like dominoes and new claws appearing, White promoted a new Queen.

The end was inevitable, perhaps even cruel, and the Hammersmith captain had to resign. A second rooster had gone down to the wily foxes.

On Board 4 we saw Chris Moore playing strategically, his opponent playing equally carefully. Chris, with possible a slight edge in a King and pawn endgame, shook on a draw once the other roosters had succumbed.

Result: Hammersmith 1 – 3 Streatham & Brixton

Finally, kudos to Rich for stepping in at short notice after our redoubtable Board 2 regular David Lambert had to pull out.


All Good Things Come to an End

24.01.17 – London League 4: GLCC v Hammersmith

All good things must come to an end, and it looks like our unbeaten run in League 4 is no different. We trail our GLCC match 3-4 behind with a single game adjourned. Orial’s the man tasked to take his game away and come back for seconds, although it looks dubious whether he can salvage anything from his 4-pawn v 4-pawn end-game. Shame, because the game had looked dead even throughout. The win we need seems a long shot (!), so we might have to concede the match this time around.

Regardless of the result in that last one, I think we acquitted ourselves very well against a side who out graded us on nearly every board. GLCC actually lie bottom of the table (P5, L5!) but that appears hard to believe when you look at their lineup. I chatted to their captain before the match and he said that as they’ve got a deep pool of players to choose from, they actively rotate selection to ensure that everyone gets a broadly equal matchup. It’s some sign of our progression in this league that they decided to wheel out the big guns for their match against Hammersmith.

Upper Vestry Hall… the cauldron

First to finish was yours truly. I agreed a quick-fire and charming draw in the French after a sharp tactical exchange meant that most of the pieces were swapped off fighting over d4. Not much to be excited about I’m afraid, but I was satisfied with the half point.

Draws for Nick and Brian followed not soon afterwards. I didn’t get to see much of either game but Nick and his opponent’s (lengthy) post-match analysis suggested a fair result was reached on both sides. Brian felt he had the edge but was cautious of over-pressing for fear of allowing tactical counter play. Good results for both give the relative gradings.

Matt – making his debut in League 4 – was next to finish, being on the wrong end of the first decisive result of the evening. he fell behind to a sharp tactic resulting in a pin on the Queen. Finding himself down a minor piece for a pawn, it was always going to be tough from thereon in. Still, he battled bravely and forced his much higher-rated adversary into an endgame, dodging several potential pitfalls along the way.

Dan secured a respectable draw on Board 8, although it could have been better still as the post-match analysis in the pub confirmed (where all the best analysis happens!). He was a couple of pawns up in his endgame but had to worry about a raiding pawn on the h-file that tied up his King in defence. When his Knight came off the board, his unconnected pawns were not enough to force the win and a draw was agreed.

Not for the first time in a match – and probably not the last either – Robin had the sharpest game of the evening. Open files, advanced Queens, unusual pawn structures – it had the lot! It felt like the game was on a knife edge for a while with one small mistake likely to be crucial either way. It seemed Robin had the momentum but a pawn break by his opponent gave him a dangerous pawn couplet on the 6th rank which took all of his attention to rebuke.

With both players in time trouble, they entered an endgame with very few pieces on the board (though alas, still a Queen!) and plenty of chances for stalemate. Unfortunately for Robin, his opponent kept his cool, dodged the numerous traps on offer and slowly improved his position until the Hammer flag was to fall. Unlucky, but a great game to watch.

Star of the show was John who scored a great win against Francois on Board 4; a real solid competitor. My cursory glances put him a pawn down in the middle game, but he was able to take advantage of the free c-file and penetrate with his Rook for check for good effect. He emerged not only a piece up, but also with the initiative, converting coolly into a victory thereafter.

That now takes John to 3.5 points out of a possible 4 for the season – having a stormer so far!

Next up is Wanstead 3, and a return to Golden Lane. Let’s hope it’s a winning return!

A Desperate Evening

19.01.17 – London League 5: Pimlico v Hammersmith

I goofed! Bringing people 30 minutes late to this match – my apologies to all!

Not the ideal start by any means but never-the-less, we had a couple of bright spots last night.

Chris won in short order, as is almost routine for him. With the White pieces, he launched into a Queen’s gambit with a Slav Defence. In a crescendo of a finish, he had 3 major artillery units bearing down on the opponent’s Rook posted at f8, defended only by his King on g8. Checkmate arrived shortly thereafter. Sweet win.

I had a quiet King pawn opening but got careless, losing a Knight due to a Royal pin. The Knight loss became a Rook loss – the price to get out of the pin.

I fought back, no doubt spurred on by Chris’ win, and got a dangerous passed e-pawn on the 3rd rank, protected by a connected f4 pawn.

Eventually my opponent got into time problems and offered me a draw, which I finally accepted. After nullifying my passed-pawn for the extra Rook, material balance was restored. Still, he could have won this Rook and pawn ending, having 3 connected pawns to my 2 unconnected pawns… a lucky escape for the captain on board 3.

Brian on board 1 got a draw fairly early on, against a very evenly matched opponent. Kudos here.

John had a commanding centre position against the Sicilian, and was unlucky not to press home his attack.

A decent result after losing a collective 2 hours of chess at the start – well done all.

Best wishes,

Result: Pimlico 2 – 2 Hammersmith