SW London Junior Chess Challenge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tony gives the Juniors some last-minute advice

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

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

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

The rest of the results were as follows:

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

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

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

Valhalla; just how the Vikings remember it

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

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

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

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

John.

 

Hammer v GM Chris Ward – pt. deux!

Ladies & Gentlemen, we have a very exciting announcement – Hammersmith Chess Club will be hosting GM Chris Ward next month for a Simultaneous across 25 boards!! Details below:

  • Date: Tuesday 4th April
  • Time: 7pm start
  • Venue: Lytton Hall (our home venue)
  • Boards: 25
  • Entry: £3 per board
  • Contact: John White to confirm your spot

Please remember this is strictly first come, first served, so reserve your place now!

We hosted Chris this time last year, putting out 15 boards in one of the best events of the last 12 months. It was a fantastic evening of competitive chess, interspersed with some great stories and patter from the esteemed GM. Sadly for us, Chris won 14-1, but our sole victor Carsten did a great write-up of his victory.

The rarified atmosphere of a GM Simul is something else!

One of the highlights of a Simultaneous is the opportunity it presents for players of all abilities. Two of the closest-run games last time came from players rated under 125. The pressure on the GM is immense and quite a leveller. You stand to learn something no matter what the result.

We’re expecting a strong response on this one, so make sure you get in touch with John White (john.white49@ntlworld.com) to confirm your spot as soon as possible. We’ll be opening up the invite to other clubs & non-members later in the month if there are any spots left!

In Other News…

Don’t forget the return leg of our double-header against South-West London juniors at Lytton Hall this Monday 13th. As usual, it’s an early start for the youngsters with the game kicking off at 6.15pm. We’ve got 20 boards confirmed, so promises to be a hectic evening!

SW London’s main man, ECF trainer Tony Niccoli will be staying with us after the game to present another evening of training and analysis. His last session was a truly valuable evening. He’s a super-strong, ultra-sharp and engaging trainer. No matter what your grade, I guarantee you will learn something from Tony!

 

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!!

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!

Thanks,
Dave.

Central London Chess Congress: 21-23 April

Chess fans, just a short update: The Central London Chess Congress has been confirmed for 2017!

The event will be held from Friday 21st April, to Sunday 23rd April, over at Imperial College:

  • Imperial College Union (1st Floor, Union Dining Hall), Beit Quadrangle, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BB

It’s a 5-round Swiss setup, with some hefty cash prizes for the winner. Full details can be found here:

https://union.ic.ac.uk/rcc/chess/2017/01/central-london-chess-congress-at-imperial-college-april-2017/

Limited to 90 places – better be quick if you want to enter!

Mad Blitz Part 3

On Monday 6th February 2017 at 7.30pm, seventeen souls – the great & the good – gathered in the hallowed surroundings of Lytton Hall for the third round of our blitz cycle.

This time the ranks were reinforced by three potential new members: Kaan, Alex and Marios. With the addition of James to lower the average age of participants by a good margin! Indeed, I predict James will play a big part in the future of Hammer Chess once his academic studies are put to bed. You read it here first! Not quite the “Future of Rock & Roll” statement assigned to Bruce Springsteen by Jon Landau in 1974, but still…

As usual the chess was fast and furious. There is nothing like 10-minute handicapped chess to bring out the cannibal in the club chess player. It allows the imagination to soar and the entertainment of ridiculous possibilities and moves.

The man everyone was gunning for, and the man with the biggest target on his back, was our WOSF, Bajrush – Chairman and blitz expert. Winner of the first leg and runner-up in the second, he was a marked man. Unfortunately, he had other ideas.

WOSF in action… the crowd looks on

Fischer-like, he mowed down the opposition in his qualifying group, despite having a serious time handicap for every game. He had his business hat on! His place in the knock-out phase never in doubt.

The qualifiers from the other groups were Sheikh, Josue, Matteo, your correspondent, plus the new faces Alex and Marios. The final place was taken by James after a nail-biting winner-takes-all game against Brian.

The knockout phase saw Bajrush, Sheikh, Marios and your correspondent advance to the semi-finals.

Sheikh totally crushed me and deservedly progressed to the final.

Bajrush had his toughest match of the night against Marios. An amazing game ensued. The final position had two Rooks v Queen and a possible perpetual check. However, our WOSF did not panic and saw his way through all the traps to emerge the winner.

The final saw Bajrush triumph again.

In the play-off for third, Marios won well against your correspondent. A great performance on his debut at the club.

Thus, the roll of honour for the night reads as follows:

  • 1st – Bajrush (17 points)
  • 2nd – Sheikh (16 points)
  • 3rd – Marios (15 points)

In the overall race for the Hammer Blitz Champion, the pecking order is as follows:

  • 1st – Bajrush (54 points)
  • 2nd – Sheikh (41 points)
  • 3rd – John White (37 points)

One more round to go and the best three scores for each competitor will count.

Well done to all!

John.

Blitz Tourney… Round 3!

Roll up, roll up!! The third round of our blitz competition takes place this Monday 6th February in the hallowed surroundings of Lytton Hall.

Starting at 7.30pm, entry is FREE if you’ve entered either of the previous rounds, else it’s only £1 to enter (and we’ll treat you to a cuppa & some biscuits!).

Casual players are very welcome – you don’t have to be a member to take part. We’ve seen a total of 31 players in the tournament so far, 7 of whom were drop-in players. Over 20 people showed up for the last round and it would be great to see another strong turnout!

Come along and enjoy a night of chess that is raw, maddening and inspirational – but never dull!

Current top 5 standings as follows:

  • 37 points – Bajrush “WOSF” Kelmendi
  • 25 points – John “COYS” Ryan
  • 23 points – John “Luck of the Irish” White
  • 21 points – Robin “the Rooster” Lee
  • 21 points – Tony “the Trainer” Niccoli

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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.

Robin.

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!
Dave.

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,
Robin.

Result: Pimlico 2 – 2 Hammersmith