Puzzle of the Week #014

With a record number of responses last week, it’s fair to say that our previous Puzzle of the Week was a proper thinker (or should that be thronker!).

Gokhan was first on the board with the correct (partial) sequence, but it was Bajrush who came in later with the full set of moves. Honours even this time, I think! Well done to you both.


  1. Qd5 Rb8
  2. Qb7!! Rxb7
  3. axb7 – promotion is then unstoppable. The miserable position of the black knight costs dear!

(Source: What it Takes to Become a Grandmaster, Andy Soltis)

And so to round XIV. Black to move & win!

The Hammer Train Rolls On!

Lots more fantastic write-ups coming your way today with plenty of interesting games to play through, after four big matches in the various leagues this week. We also have some great info about playing in the 4NCL – UK & Ireland’s top chess league – make sure you read to the bottom of the update!

Before we crack on with those, don’t forget that it’s Round II of our season-long Blitz comp on Monday evening at Lytton Hall, starting 7.30pm. Full details here – should be a fun evening of quick-fire chess!

Middlesex League 3 vs. Muswell Hill – 05.02.18

On Monday we played host to Muswell Hill in Middlesex Division 3. As probably our biggest rival for the promotion spots, it was vital we picked up a result in our last home game of the season.

Nadhmi’s continuing surge up the grading ladder saw him sat down at board one for the first time. He had a tricky opponent who applied pressure throughout the whole game. Eventually the rooks invaded and it was game over. 0-1

Next up was Matteo. He turned on his Italian style and played a wonderful game, crushing the poor Englishman into the dust. 1-1

Brian entered a very closed position and both players were playing accurately. There was no progress to be made and they agreed a draw. 1.5-1.5

I played a London System on board 4 that went badly wrong. Castling on opposite sides, my kingside attack was far slower than my opponent’s queenside attack and I had to sacrifice an exchange for a pawn to relieve some pressure. He continued to play good moves, trading down to an endgame at the right time which he duly converted. 1.5-2.5

David played a long, tough game. He used a lot of time reaching equality out of the opening, trying to coordinate his pieces on the queenside to break free and shackle the Bishop on b3. His opponent pushed with a slightly premature e5 and then exd6, which opened up the position to Dave’s advantage. The final few moves are omitted due to time pressure but with a couple of minutes on the clock, Dave managed to fork King and Rook, effectively forcing the resignation. 2.5-2.5

Pouya played well on board 6, utilising his space advantage to provoke weaknesses. Eventually he broke through and scored a win. 3.5-2.5

Simon had white on board 7. His superior opening preparation saw him far better going into the middle game and his position continued to improve. The win was inevitable, and Simon moves to an impressive unbeaten 4/5 for the team. 4.5-2.5

Last but not least, our newest junior member Andrew was playing his first game for the club on board 8. Both players played very fast, but there could be no criticism of Andrew’s play. He dominated proceedings, winning a pawn out of the opening and going on to win an exchange with a  sneaky Bishop tactic. With the win he has firmly established himself amongst our growing pool of talented juniors and I have no doubt his grade will be rising very rapidly.

So there you have it, a third 5.5-2.5 win in a week and a half, and our promotion prospects are looking very rosy.

Andrew becomes the 22nd player to show for the team this season, while Ben, Ken, John and Simon look to be favourites for MVP as we look ahead to our final three, tough away fixtures.


Thames Valley League vs. Ealing – 05.02.18

We came to the end of the “TV Month” with the last game against Ealing this week. It was a case of “Magnificent 7 – Reloaded!“, as we beat Ealing at home with the exact same score as when we played them away, 7-1. It was a great performance from every player, including our single defeat – Thomas should’ve got the win too, but was unlucky.

This time last year we were in the relegation zone. But this year is a different story altogether. The current table is as follows:

Our remaining matches this season are as follows:

  • March 19th – Wimbledon away
  • March 26th – Surbiton away
  • April 16th – Richmond home
  • May 14th – Wimbledon home
  • May 21st – Kingston home (postponed from Jan 15th)

We’re also waiting to confirm the date for our home semi-final TV Cup match against Richmond.

Thanks to all players!

London League 6 vs. GLCC – 06.02.18

“A Walk on the Wildside in Division 6”

A mid-week encounter beckoned us to Upper Vestry Hall as we took on Greater London in Division 6. And not for the first time this season, the middle-order battled back to save our blushes.

We ended a 2-2 draw, with Charlie and Wyatt chalking up good wins.

First to fall was Nadim. He made a careless Queen move early on which left his Bishop en prise. He battled on but it was difficult to come back from that.

The next to come to a sticky end was your very own captain for the evening, Dave. I felt I made a hash of the closed Sicilian opening, although the computer fancied I was in charge when it came to move 20. It never felt that way over the board though, and as we moved into the endgame a couple of innocuous looking moves turned the tide in my opponent’s favour and he emerged a pawn up, which he skillfully converted.

The pride of Hammer was on the line and Wyatt and Charlie duly rose to the occasion. Wyatt played a really solid game out of the opening and developed into a late middle-game pawn up and two Rooks apiece. He had far better King safety though, and when he doubled his Rooks on the 7th, it was one-way traffic from thereon in. His opponent’s flag eventually fell, but it only saved him the ignominy of a mate several moves later.

Which brings us to Charlie, who when seemingly faced with a safe move and a more pointed one, dismisses them both and searches for an even more aggressive option! He’s like the Hammer version of AlphaZero (in a way), material is nothing, and tempo is everything! The engines don’t like it but it’s highly effective and scored him another win. See below:

That’s it for now. Hedger roll again at the end of February when we take on Hackney.


London League 4 vs. Athenaeum – 07.02.18

“The Dream is Over in London 4”

As John Lennon lamented during his time with Plastic Ono Band, “the dream is over”. And thus, with our narrow 3.5-4.5 loss at the hands of Athenaeum, the same must be said of our push for promotion from London League Division 4.

Nevertheless, it takes our record to W3 L3, in what is proving to be a creditable season for a team, many of whom are playing their debut seasons with Hammer.

As the scoreline suggested, the match was a close one with Hammer taking an early lead but ultimately being pegged back by strong play across the board order. Full scorecard is below:

First to finish was Dipender who kicked things off with a solid win with White. He worked a good tactic to claim a pawn in the early middle-game and then played flawlessly to line up a battery of Queen and Rooks, swapping off pieces to his advantage when the moment came. A momentary lapse in concentration nearly allowed his opponent to create complications in the endgame, but the opportunity was missed and his passed pawn proved crucial. Game is below. 1-0 to the good guys.

Adam was next to finish. Playing the Albin Gambit, he worked what looked to be a dominant attack on the cramped white position, with pins left, right and centre. However, despite the pressure, the defender always managed to find the right resource and managed to swap off a number of key pieces, leaving the position to fizzle out into something that looked far more drawish. A half point was dutifully taken. A good game to watch. 1.5-0.5

Jeremy, playing only his second match for the club, developed his White pieces nicely, but missed a clever outpost for the opposition bishop forking Queen and Rook. An immediate counter-thrust followed to create complications but tempo was not his friend, forcing him to lose material and to retract his Rook into an overly defensive position. It was a tough battle from thereon in. 1.5-1.5

Hammer regained the lead thanks to a beautiful turnaround from John on Board 6. Playing wily Mike Rose, John got himself into real tactical complications win the middle game and found multiple pieces under attack. The only way out of the trap was to concede a Bishop, and regroup. At that point, your captain wandered off to check on the other games, only to return a short while later with John threatening mate and an exchange up! A Houdini act that’s surely worth further investigation in the pub. 2.5-1.5

Potentially the match of the evening was played on Board 2, as Brian faced an opponent in fine form. Playing the Grunfeld and facing a tricky line where his opponent daringly sacrificed his Rook for a black-squared Bishop, it initially looked positive for Brian with chances to hold firm and stick it out for a won endgame.

But the pressure was unnerving on the King-side via a pawn advance and aggressive posting of bishops and knight. Brian was forced to give back the Rook to stay alive, but still the tactics kept coming. The clever 21.Bf7+ made all the difference.  Brian, as ever, was magnanimous in defeat, warmly congratulating his opponent on a match well played. He’s also good enough to present his game here. Brian had the black pieces. 2.5-2.5

Tomasso’s fine form for the team hit a speed bump as he faltered to his first defeat of his Hammer career. Playing White, he established a strong open position, with a Bishop posted on b3 which looked to be a menace  as the game progressed. However, a breakthrough from Black paved the way for an attack with broadly level material but with superior piece placement. Checks and tactics abound and defeat wasn’t far away. Tomasso will be back stronger I’m sure! 2.5-3.5

The final two matches ended in a draw, ensuring the score finished 3.5-4.5. But in truth, we were arguably lucky to emerge with the half point in both.

Gokhan had a strange game on Board 3. Superb attacking play earned him a whole Bishop advantage and his dominant position deserved a win, but a premature Queen move allowed a simple Rook capture with check on the back-rank. Suddenly he was the exchange down! It looked all over, but Gokhan doesn’t know when he’s beaten and brilliantly fought back with relentless pawn pushing and resourceful coordination of Bishop and King. A draw was inevitable at the end as there was a simple way to reducing everything to a Bishop & King vs. King endgame.

Charlie was last to finish… somewhat reluctantly taking a draw when most observers thought he should have bitten their hand off! His strong looking attack in the opening transpired to be fairly common theory according to his opponent, who ably defended and emerged a pawn up. Charlie did very well to remain solid and ensure limited chances for his opponent but there was definitely an opening at one point where a more confident pawn push would have sealed the deal. Nevertheless, Charlie continues his unbeaten run for the club. Very well done!

Next up is Lewisham on February 21st. We go again…


And Finally… Celtic Tigers!

If you truly can’t get enough chess this year, fear not – there is more available!

Hammer’s own Chris Skulte, is also the manager for the Celtic Tigers team in the 4NCL – that’s the 4 Nations Chess League – the UK & Ireland’s top chess league. Our Great Dane, Carsten Pedersen, also plays for the team.


Celtic Tigers are looking to field a 2nd team in the 4NCL competition next season, as Hammersmith Chess Club are our London Chess Club, we are looking for a few members to consider playing one (or all rounds) next season.

What is 4NCL?

It’s the top league of England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, played over 5 weekends (2 games a weekend, with 3 on the final weekend). You play one game each day, and usually stay the night in the venue, which adds to the social fun of the event. Usually its one weekend in November, January, February, March and May – see below for the current seasons dates:


Why Celtic Tigers?

Two Hammersmith members – Chris Skulte and Carsten Pedersen – already play for the club, and we are a very social club, enjoying our beers and dinner as a team. Have a read of our newsletters to see what it’s like playing for the Tigers: www.celtictigers.club

Will Everyone be Together?

Unfortunately divisions 1/2 and 3/4 play in separate venues, but if they are close enough we will try to organise a mutual location for dinner. Teams will usually be selected on playing strength, but the manager (Chris) has final call each weekend.

What is the Cost?

  • £25 to become a member, covers team registration. If you only play 1 game this will be refunded to you.
  • £62 per night for accommodation (including breakfast!), 1 night per weekend (if you want to stay – entirely optional)
  • Transport to/from the location – usually we will try to carpool
  • You must be a Gold ECF member or above if an ENG federation player (Bronze to Gold upgrade is £18)

Interested, got Questions?

Get in touch with Chris: chrisskulte@gmail.com

Next Years Dates & Locations

  • 17-18 November 2018 – Division 3&4: South Mercure Daventry Court
  • 12-13 January 2019 – Division 3&4: South Park Inn Bedford
  • 9-10 February 2019 – Divisions 3&4: South Mercure Daventry Court
  • 13-14 April 2019 – Divisions 3&4: South Mercure Daventry Court
  • 4-6 May 2019 – Divisions 3&4: South Mercure Daventry Court


Puzzle of the Week #011

Happy Friday – we’re back once again with another Puzzle just in time for the weekend.

Last week’s was a reasonably straightforward mating puzzle, albeit not necessarily entirely intuitive.

Panos was the first to respond with the correct answer – effectively a Queen sacrifice to force the mating sequence. Well done Panos!

This week sees us celebrating the outbreak of mad romanticism in the London 4 team last week, with a game from the archives featuring Capt. Evans.

Evans-McDonnell, London, 1829. Not the first recorded game with the Evans Gambit, but a win by the inventor.

White to move, answers in the comments please!

Puzzle of the Week #010

Welcome back chess fans – and what a response we had to our last Puzzle!

Everyone got the winning combo, but it was John White with the fastest response who takes the plaudits – well done John!

This week we have a classic mating puzzle. Black is clearly in the ascendency, but what is the quickest mating combination for the dark pieces? It’s Black to move… answers in the comments please *


*this is a reasonably well known puzzle, so if you’ve seen it before or think it’s too easy, please leave for others to try first :o)

And finally…

Today is the final day for our EarlyBird offer for an evening with GM Jon Speelman on February 26th.

The price goes up to £10 from tomorrow, so if you want to join the other 26 Hammers (and counting…) for the evening, please get in touch to secure your place: john.white49@ntlworld.com

It’s going to be a cracker!

A January Corker!

As world leaders prepare to depart from Davos, here at Hammer we’re always looking for our next excursion! After the huge success of our visit to Amsterdam last Summer, plans are being laid for a trip across the Irish Sea to visit Cork!

Read on to find out more, along with the usual goings on at Planet Hammer…

  • Cork Chess Club trip
  • Bury St Edmonds challenge match
  • London League 3 vs. Athenaeum
  • Middlesex League 3 vs. Hendon
Get Ready to be Corked!

Yes, the Hammer crew – like a dodgy bottle of Chateau Rothschild – are going to be Corked! The 2018 Hammer on Tour is now confirmed.

On the weekend of June 8-10 Hammer are taking on the might of Cork Chess Club in the second city of Ireland. In a weekend that will celebrate chess, beer, camaraderie and sampling the delights of the beautiful city of Cork.

The stunning Cork riverfront

Following on from our enormously enjoyable and most excellent weekend in Amsterdam in 2017, we have decided to grace the Emerald Isle with our presence. How magnanimous we are!!

Cork is a beautiful city situated on the River Lee in the stunning South-West of Ireland. It has a huge history, with us – the Brits – the noisy and repressive neighbours, playing a large part in that.

University College Cork

Cork Chess club was founded in 1990 and like us is heavily involved in all matters of the promotion of our beautiful game. Their current star is IM Alex Lopez, ELO rated 2432! Check out their website: www.corkchess.com

So, it is time to pack your bags and book your flights (I have already done so!). The flights are excellent value at the moment.

The English Market in Cork City

Please email John White (john.white49@ntlworld.com) ASAP confirming your participation so we can start assembling numbers and looking at accommodation. Plus, we need to give the numbers to our hosts so the arrangements can be put in place.

This will be a superb weekend, so do not miss out!

The 2018 Challenge Match vs Bury St Edmunds – 7th April

The gauntlet has been thrown down and the date set. Hammer are going on the road to take on the powerhouse of Suffolk Chess – Bury St Edmunds. We have been called out and we will answer the challenge to defend the honour of the House of Anvil. Read on…

Beautiful Bury St Edmunds

Bury St Edmunds is a beautiful Suffolk market town with a history dating back to the 11th Century, and a fine cathedral.

They are also pretty good at chess! Check out their club website: www.bsechess.org.uk

The centre-piece of the day will be a long-play over-the-board mass-team match, so we need as many Hammerites to step up and defend the honour of our club!

It will be an excellent day of chess, making new friends and perhaps best of all the prospect of sampling the beer at the Old Cannon Brewery and the Nutshell.

I already have commitments from Carsten, Bajrush, Marios, Wyatt, Adam and Chris Skulte. So, guys I need you step up. Email me ASAP – john.white49@ntlworld.com – so I can match you with a suitable opponent.

This is new territory for Hammer, but hopefully it will become an annual event in the calendar.

Our honour must and will be defended. Go Hammer!

London League 3 vs. Athenaeum – 22.01.18

Welcome to part 4 of the Starship Hammer One 2018 odyssey, and its one season mission to boldly go to Division Two of the London League.

Captain Clueless Log – Part Date 22.01.2018 – Hammer 1’s crew have beamed down to the planet of literary and scientific study – Athenaeum. A strange and hostile world, where gaining entry to the match venue requires digital input technology.

The Hammer Landing Party consisted of, in board order: Thomas, Marios, Bajrush, Jim, Paul McK, Chris S, Sheikh, Tommaso, Paul K and Clueless. Even with the inclusion of Clueless, the strongest team Hammer 1 has put out i the London League for many a year.

We out-graded our opponents on average by 20 points a board. Thus, applying Spock logic – the result should not have been in doubt. If only life was that simple!

Captain Clueless also cocked up on the logistical front and got the wrong start time. Basically gifting at least 10 minutes to some of the Athenaeum team.

Chris S got delayed but brought John G (Sauvignon) along, and poor Bajrush arrived too late. Fortunately, John G stepped in and took over board three for the Hammer crew. Default-free we remain.

So, to the tale of a much fraught and difficult evening.

Playing black on board one and making his debut in the London League, Thomas (T-Bone) took on an opponent who clearly wanted a draw. Displaying great patience and tenacity, Thomas probed, created problems and worried his opponent on the clock. On a blitz-style finish he broke through and downed his opponent. A victory for sheer willpower. Hammer at 1-0.

On board two Marios (Zeus) has adjourned in a position where he has a slight advantage. I have to say his determination to carry on and grab the full point at the conclusion of the evening was truly awe-inspiring. There is nothing like an ultra-determined Greek with immortal characteristics!

John G started on board 3 with a near thirty minute deficit, and truth be told one too many Sauvignon Blancs to the bad. This was a brave shout from JG and ensured that Hammer did not default. He definitely took one for the team. Sadly he lost, Hammer now at 1-1

Jim (Loco) had one of those games that saw little happening and is adjourned in a position with a setup of Rook and three pawns, vs Rook and four pawns. He has three pawns. His King is cramped but he is convinced he can hold the position. I do not think this is Celtic wistfulness.

Board 5 saw Paul McK (The Prof) have the game of the evening with the black pieces. I have asked him to annotate it for the website. This game had everything – piece sacrifices, a king march-up the board in search of safety, and finally a two Rooks vs Queen endgame.

Paul deployed all his ingenuity and experience to keep the game alive – including excellent reverse psychology. The strategic offer of a draw when you are the one being battered! Suffice it to say, in the end all came good and he made it 2-1 to Hammer.

On board 6 – Chris (Sydney) had one of those nights when you are in a bad vein of form. He missed a forced checkmate win and in the end had to resign. He was so angry with himself and cursing his luck. This was an aberration & he will recover his best form – he is too good a player.

Board 7 saw Sheikh (Pandit) with the black pieces, establish equality early on. He was cruising to a draw at worse when it all went wrong and he allowed a Rook and Knight corner checkmate. He was at a loss to explain it in the pub afterwards and his form this season has been good. Personally, I blame the venue. Hammer now down 3-2.

Onto Board 8. Making his debut in the LL3 division a new face. His name is Tommaso – his nickname is Forza. Remember that name. This was probably the best attacking game of the evening – taking on a Dragon Sicilian f3 variation, Tommaso played a fine game and won in great style. A new Hammer star is born. 3-3

Paul K (Dead-Eye) is in lethal form this season for Hammer in LL3. He recored his third win in a fine tactical game. He really is on fire. Hammer now edging at 4-3.

Finally, to Clueless on Board 10 a list-minute substitute for The Suit (Matteo) who succumbed to the Aussie/Japanese flu virus. To be honest with you I played poorly. My form is uncertain at the moment and I was lucky to find a tactic to force a draw. Hammer at 4.5-3.5 on the night.

So not a disaster, but to  be honest we are a better team than the score suggests. We now need to refocus and put this behind us. Promotion is our goal and games like this remind us that we have to work for it.

Clueless over & out!

Middlesex League 3 vs. Hendon, 25.01.18

Hammersmith 2 entered the second half of the season knowing that a good run of results would see us promoted to Division 2. It was vital to get a good start in a tough encounter at Hendon.

On board one, John White had the white pieces. He sacrificed a piece for two pawns and a dangerous attack early into the game, but his young opponent defended tenaciously. When the attack fizzled out, John was simply material down and had no choice but to resign. 0-1

I played my favourite Albin Counter-Gambit on board two. An exciting contest ensued, in which I had good positional compensation for the gambit pawn. Ultimately my passed pawn on the 7th rank posed too many problems, and I came away with the victory. 1-1. Here is the game in full:

Pouya played a closed structure on board 3 that remained very even throughout. The players agreed a draw when it was clear that no progress could be made. 1.5-1.5

Eva’s debut for the team did not go quite according to plan. A few imprecise moves in a tactical sequence left her an exchange down. In trying to work out how to make a draw, her flag dropped and the game was lost, and the team was a point down with four to play. 1.5-2.5

John Ryan won a pawn early on and exchanged pieces off into a tricky queen and pawn endgame. John’s infamous endgame technique shone through – he coolly navigated perpetual check threats and gradually pushed his pawn until it was unstoppable, forcing resignation. The match was level at 2.5-2.5, and John’s record for the team improves to an impressive 3.5/4.

Coming off the back of two defeats, Dipender on board 6 was keen to turn things around. He didn’t play a particularly sound game but unfortunately his opponent made proportionally more blunders and Dipender scored an important win. They performed a detailed analysis at the end of the game with his opponent’s father – a very strong player and first team regular. 3.5-2.5

Shiraz found exactly the right time to exchange off all the pieces in the middle game. To his dismay, his opponent realised that he was now one tempo too late to stop Shiraz’s passed pawn. He tried to cling on for a speculative stalemate but Shiraz was far too clinical and delivered mate. 4.5-2.5

Dan on board 8 opted to delay his development to pick up material early on. His opponent couldn’t find a way to exploit his weak king – Dan consolidated and picked up the win.

So in the end it was a 5.5-2.5 win to Hammersmith – a relief to score a win after two 4-4 draws. Well played all!

It’s well and truly a three horse race for the promotion spots. Our next two home games will be key, versus Kings Head and Muswell Hill:


Puzzle of the Week #009

Welcome back chess fans – it’s been a while since our last Puzzle #008, way back in December.

Pleased to say we have a winner from that round in the form of Carsten, our Great Dane. Congratulations Mr Pedersen!

This week’s puzzle comes courtesy of Carsten, and it’s straight out of a London 4 match v Wanstead last week. Hammer’s John Ryan had completely outplayed his opponent and managed to bury his opponents Queen on h8! Unfortunately from this position he missed a very flashy win, and later ended up losing on time in a better position – painful!!

It was sadly typical of the match, where Hammer lost 5-3, despite having been comfortably ahead on most boards (read about it here)!

Anyway, to the puzzle – White to move, answers in the comments please:


An Evening with GM Jon Speelman

Hammersmith Chess Productions are proud to present… 

On the night of the 26th February in the hallowed halls of the Anvil, Hammersmith Chess Club will host one of the most original and finest grandmasters this country has ever produced.

GM Jon Speelman is not only a world championship semi-finalist, he is a great analyst, journalist, mathematician and writer. His games are some of the most original on record.

The evening will consist of Jon analysing one of his games and commenting on his thought processes and strategy goals as he progresses through it. It’s a unique chance to see how a world class chess player prepares for their opponent, what factors influence the critical decision-making process, his state of mind at various points in the game, and much more.

This will make you look at your chess approach in a totally different way and help you develop as a chess player.

The analysis part of the evening will then be followed by a Q&A session- your chance to ask any question of a top chess professional.

Plus, we have a very special offer for Hammersmith members. As one of the most prestigious events we’ve hosted to date, it’s likely to sell out in advance so we have introduced an EarlyBird offer – if you signup before 31st January, you’ll also get a discounted entry fee. It pays to be pro-active!!

As always, please get in touch with John to confirm your entry asap – john.white49@ntlworld.com

  • Date: Monday 26th February
  • Time: From 7.30pm
  • Location: The Anvil (aka Lytton Hall), W14 8TE
  • Entry: Members – £7 before 31st Jan, £10 thereafter
  • Entry: Guests – £10 before 31st Jan, £12 thereafter
  • Contact: john.white49@ntlworld.com


The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt VI

“On the sixth day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

“… Thames Valley, by Bajrush Kelmendi”

I’m delighted to report that our Thames Valley team has finished the year with a 100% record!

Our season began with a win in the TV Cup against Uxbridge, with a strong 4.5-1.5 victory.

Win aside, the match was notable for an appeal on our only losing board – following an illegal move by the Uxbridge opponent, Jim claimed the penalty. In the ensuing reset of positions – which rather confusingly involved another (non-captain) member of the Uxbridge side, Jims clock was not stopped, leading to him being a couple of minutes down through no fault of his own. The game played out to a finish with Jim losing on time… We shall await the results of the adjudication!

This was followed swiftly by a win over Surbiton B at The Anvil – our first league game proper of the season.

Perhaps our best result so far was an away win at Kingston in November. Not a single Hammer player lost their game, with the score sitting at an impressive 6-1, with one adjournment.

This leaves the table looking very interesting for us. With 2 wins from 2, we sit in second place:

The New Year brings a very busy period for the Thames Valley team, with six matches between 8th January and 5th February, all 7.30pm starts.

  • Monday 8th Jan – Ealing away
  • Monday 15th Jan – Kingston home
  • Thursday 18th Jan – Richmond away
  • Wednesday 24th Jan – Surbiton A away
  • Wednesday 31st Jan – Surbiton B away
  • Monday 5th Feb – Ealing home

I have highlighted our most important matches in red in the battle for survival. This period only has a couple of other senior games (1 x London 3, and 1 x Middlesex 2), so January is effectively the Thames Valley month for first teamers. I would therefore like to field the strongest team possible, so would really appreciate if all high-graded players can make themselves available on these dates!

Thanks for your commitment, and have a Happy Christmas!


The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt V

“On the fifth day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

… Middlesex League 3, by Adam Cranston

It has been a pleasure to captain Hammer’s brand new team this year in the Middlesex League. With several new faces at the club, demand for places has never been higher. Indeed, over the first six matches no fewer than 19 players have turned out, 10 of whom joined the club in 2017.

One of the key challenges for the season was our first ever attempt to cram 16 match boards into The Anvil. The brand new boards, sets and digital clocks arrived just in time for the first round, and we managed to squeeze everyone in, albeit with little room to manoeuvre and not much spare furniture! We started to experiment with new room layouts, and eventually managed to get hold of some more chairs and tables from the council. In the second half of the season the club will host fewer of these double-headers, but we’re certainly now better equipped to do so.

On to the chess…

Our first match couldn’t have gone much better – a 6.5-1.5 thrashing of Ealing 2 at home, with not a single loss on the scorecard. Pouya and Dipender won playing their first games for Hammer, and Simon’s debut ended in a hard fought draw against a very experienced opponent.

A week later we played host to Willesden, the strongest team in the league – on paper. An even better performance saw us come out 4.5-3.5 victors, the star of the show this time being John White. He played extremely accurately to clinch a vital draw with the black pieces against the 181-graded county captain.

Had this momentum continued we’d surely now be a favourite for promotion, however match three on a cold rainy night in Harrow was a big disappointment. This time playing the weakest time in the league, a no-show forced us to start 1-0 down, and blunders on several of the other boards only widened the gap. Pouya and Dave picked up the only wins and we went down 5.5-2.5.

We welcomed them back at The Anvil the following week, determined to enact our revenge. Alexander, Charlie and Nadim made their debuts on this occasion, and all scored fine victories! We came out 6.5-1.5 winners, proving there’s something to be said for home advantage!

Our last two games before Christmas were literally too close to call. Firstly, we travelled to Ealing where some dubious tactics lead to defeats on the top boards. Fortunately we were saved by heroic wins from the board 6-8 trio of Ken, Wyatt and Dan. A 4-4 draw.

And finally we welcomed junior team Hendon 5 to The Anvil. This was Ben’s chance to make his debut, and won very comfortably! Again, uncharacteristic blunders on the top boards let us down – the match frustratingly finishing 4-4 again.

So with exactly half of the season remaining, promotion hopes are hanging in the balance. We sit joint top of the table on four match points, alongside our main rivals Willesden and Muswell Hill, but crucially having played an extra game. Hendon could easily mount a late surge, so we’ll need to play some fine chess in the new year to stay in the hunt. Get studying, everyone!!

Last but not least a shout out to our highest flyers – John and Ken – both with 2.5 from 3:

Merry Christmas!


Christmas Blitz & GM Keith Arkell

Hammerites, you can read a beautiful write-up of our Simultaneous against GM Keith Arkell below, but first a quick reminder of our annual Blitz Tournament tomorrow evening.

Christmas Blitz Tournament

The John R White Blitz Tournament is in its third year and we’re kicking things off at the Anvil (aka Lytton Hall) tomorrow night from 7.30pm.

First up is the small matter of our annual awards for our best players, tournament winners and other contributors to the club – always great to give a small gesture of appreciation!

This will be followed in short order by the handicap Blitz tournament, named in memory of our former Chairman and life-long member, John R White. It’s a fast & furious display of attacking chess, where gradings and form go out of the window, as the ridiculously quick games throw up blunders and sacrifices at every turn. Don’t miss it!

We’ll also be laying on snacks & drinks to help everyone get into the festive spirit! It’ll be a cracker!!

A Night at the Anvil, with GM Keith Arkell

The background – Keith Arkell became a Chess GrandMaster in 1995. His career achievements are mind-boggling:

  • British Rapid Play Champion 1998
  • English Chess Champion 2006
  • Joint British Champion in 2008, losing in a play-off to Stuart Conquest
  • European over-50 Champion in 2014
  • Joint World Champion over 50 in 2014. Awarded the silver medal on tie-break
  • Winner of literally hundreds of chess tournaments
  • A peak ELO rating of 2545

Not bad for a Brummie lad who learned chess at the age of 13!

However, all these achievements pale into insignificance thanks to a chance and momentous encounter on the 12th December 2016 in a pub called the Albion, situated in Hammersmith. Keith, relaxing after a hard days chess at the London Classic, ran into the Hammer posse indulging in their passion for beer (and chess). Contact was made and what followed will enter folklore.

Yes, he agreed to do a simultaneous at the Anvil in December 2017…… read on!

First of all, for the record, Keith “The Legend” Arkell is not only a great chess player, he is really good company, a beer connoisseur and an all-round first class human being.

Due to flu and Christmas commitments, the Hammerite contingent was much depleted, however we did mange 14 boards.

The Legend, in the spirit of the occasion, decided it was best to do a clock simultaneous. The clocks were set at 80 minutes – meaning that on average “The Ledge” would only have less than 10 minutes per board, A serious challenge alone, but on top of that he gave his opponent choice of colour.

In time-honoured tradition the designation of nicknames from Clueless now follows:

  • Chris – “RU Serious”
  • Shiraz – “Vintage”
  • John R – “Eco-Prof”
  • Charlie – “Sorted”
  • Wyatt – “Gandalf”
  • Mike Mac – “Mad Dog”
  • Thomas – “T-Bone”

The rest of the Hammer posse consisted of Wily, Spock, Brexit, Clueless, Pickle and the Great Dane. Plus a guest for the evening called A.N.Other.

Brexit was on wine duty and tried to impair the Legend’s powers by giving him a bottle of Soave to aid his progress. Excellent idea, but did it work?

Brexit also gave the rallying cry to the Hammer troops urging us all to rise to the challenge and help each other. For the greater good was the mantra we would all adopt!

On Board One the Ledge faced the balls of steel chess approach from Wily. An unbelievably fascinating game followed that ultimately ended in the rare scenario of King and Queen v King and Rook, with the Legend in the driving seat. Wily deployed all his powers but could not withstand the inevitable loss. Indeed, it could be said Wily was just “Out-Wilyied” (Hammer yet again expanding the English language). Acme Industries could not have planned it better.

On Board Two Spock struggled valiantly and with huge invention nearly saved the game. Unfortunately, he had the Bad Bishop versus Good Knight situation and two vulnerable advanced pawns. The Legend smoothly converted. Hammer 2-0 down.

Board Three Brexit, unlike real political life, was playing a Peaky Blinder. He was in control of his destiny and everything seemed in order. Unfortunately, when you deal with a Brummie/Devonian chess technocrat they have a way of lulling you into a false sense of security. Brexit thought he had the advantage but the Legend had prepared a devious tactical pin. It had all been so promising…. Hammer 3-0 to the bad.

Board Five had Pickle, playing white and his preferred London System, win the exchange and achieve a definite edge. Although, the position was hugely complicated with tactical possibilities abundant. This caused Pickle to use up huge amounts of time and in the end time pressure told and one of the tactics struck home. Hammer now at 4-0 down.

The next few boards saw RU Serious, Vintage, Eco Prof, Sorted and Gandalf all take a Hammering. RU Serious and Sorted played well beyond the point of no return to give the other Hammerites extra thinking time. Their efforts were not in vain, but more on that later. The other games I cannot comment on as my game totally absorbed my time. The tale of the tape now stood at 9-0 to the Legend.

The best moment of the night was to see Mad Dog take the Legend to the line. Although Keith had it all under control his courtesy and recognition of Mad Dog’s efforts were spot on post-match. He really is a gentleman. Mad Dog was over the moon with happiness. However, the scorecard moved relentlessly onwards to 10-0 in favour of The Legend.

Mad Dog, lording it

A guest of the night whose name escapes me, he shall be known as A.N.Other, also succumbed at the hands of The Legend. The Ledge was cruising at 11-0.

Arriving late but always up for a fight was our Top Dog – the Great Dane. With only forty minutes to play with, this was not his preferred format. He fell for a mate and now The Legend was looking at a whitewash of the Hammer Posse.

Thankfully, the honour of the Club was preserved by T-Bone and your correspondent, Clueless.

T-Bone was under pressure and the Legend misplayed a sequence of moves that allowed T-Bone to pounce with a mate in one. Analysing the position later both players agreed The Legend definitely held the advantage, but a win is a win. Hammer had stopped the rot.

Finally, to Clueless. Playing Black and a Benoni, Clueless took the Legend on in a no-holds-barred contest. There was going to be a result one way or the other. Fortunately for Clueless, Caissa decided the fates should fall his way. With only 90 seconds left on his clock Clueless accepted the Legend’s resignation.

To be frank I think he felt he morally owed me – bribes of accommodation, food, beer, free wi-fi etc. undermined the determination of the Legend. Having said that, I will take the win regardless. My first, and probably only, triumph against a GM.

The evening finished with a win for the Legend 12-2 in his favour Considering his exertions at the Classic and social enterprises over the past 10 days, the score line was amazing. His durability and energy are incredible.

The evening ended up full circle with a return to where it all started – The Albion. The conversation was great and the Legend stated for the record that whenever he is in London and there isa match on, he will turn out for Hammer! This commitment was met with great enthusiasm by the Hammer crew and reinforced our good opinion of him.

The Legend has chosen Hammer as his London home. Enough said.

Happy Christmas one and all and especially to GM Keith Arkell – now a Hammer Legend.

Clueless signing off.