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

Good News From the Battlefield!

Another double-header of updates for you this evening – we are a busy lot!

16.01.17 – Thames Valley League – Kingston v Hammersmith: Good News at Last!

At 10.25pm on the 16th January 2017 hostilities were ceased and a temporary truce declared. Seven games decided and one sent off to the adjudication office. The score is nicely balanced at 3.5 points each.

The adjourned game in question is Adam’s. Confidence is high this side of the Thames, however it is not over till it is over. More on that later…

Hammer’s TV team were playing Kingston at their new – and very nice – venue, the Druid’s Head, in the centre of the Market Sq, Kingston-Upon-Thames.

The Hammer Heroes of the night were undoubtedly our boards 1 & 2, Carsten and Bajrush, facing opponents graded well above them, the boys came through in style.

Carsten calmly and logically refuting an exchange sacrifice and emerging in a dominant position. Avoiding a good many Knight forks his h-pawn (“Harry”) was the hero. As GM Simon Williams would say, “Harry just wants to be a Queen!”. In this game, his wish came true!

Our Wily Silver Fox (WSF) had an amazingly complicated game with controlled chaos on the board… as usual. At one stage he was a pawn down but with a dominant position and a Rook on the 7th. Time pressure played its part, and we all know there is only one winner when time is short. Our WSF duly delivered.

Two great victories!!

The draws were secured by Brian, Jeremy and Paul. These were not soft draws, but at no time were the Hammer boys in trouble.

The losses were suffered by Pavel and your correspondent.

This was Pavel’s first taste of defeat for Hammer, and from what I saw, in a very complicated and double-edged encounter. He will be back… watch this space.

My own game was one of two halves. To be honest, one long half and one so short it does not merit the designation “half”. My opponent and I just made the time control (30 moves in an hour), and this was one part of the game. In the first half I had to tread a fine line and avoid numerous tactics. I managed to achieve equality and was starting to assume the initiative.

Then I blundered – leading to immediate loss. The second game I have done this in a row.

No player minds losing when you have been outplayed, but to blunder and lose instantly is not something you can easily entertain. Hopefully I have learnt from these painful losses.

So the match depends on the result of Adam’s game. Playing his preferred London system, and utilising smart tactics, he has a position where he’s a pawn up with a passed Harry pawn waiting to pounce.

Worst result Hammer can achieve is a draw. The most likely result a win. A great performance as were again out graded across all boards.

Hammer TV are on the scoreboard.

Rejoice one and all.

John.

17.01.17 – London League 3 – DHSS v Hammersmith: Up & Running – a Great Start to 2017!

The news you have all been waiting for in 2017. Not the UK Brexit strategy (still waiting!), nor the Trump Presidency, and not even the winner of The Voice.

Hammer 1 won for the first time in Division 3 of the London League!

Read that last sentence again – this time slowly and carefully. Breathe it in, digest it, enjoy it… and most of all celebrate it!

Last night Hammer beat DHSS 6.5-3.5 despite defaulting our first game of the season.

Yes, Hammer 1 have broken their duck and are now truly engaged in the fight for Division 3 survival.

We did not need a Sam Allardyce to guide us – all we needed was to trust in our ability and hope for a slice of luck that has been absent for us all season. Last night we got it right and were on the right side of the result for the first time this season.

Nobody needs a Sam Allardyce!

It may be said that your correspondent is prone to hyperbole from time to time, however on this occasion I believe it is fully justified. The Hammer Heroes rose to the challenge and delivered a great morale-boosting victory.

To the nuts & bolts of the clash…

The evening did not start well – Orial got delayed at work and we had to default on board 9. This, coupled with Matteo and Bajrush arriving well after the clocks started – your captain’s nerves were frayed! Indeed, I was like a jack-in-the-box; constantly out of my chair and unable to relax and concentrate on my game.

Things went wrong at first with Matteo playing his worst game of the season, quickly going a Rook down through an oversight. He embarked on a desperado attack which was efficiently repelled by DHSS captain David Gilbert. All of a sudden Hammer were 2-0 down and staring relegation in the face.

Things started to turn when John Wooley gained a draw with the Black pieces. A foothold in the match had been achieved – something to build on.

Cometh the hour, cometh the men… and those men were the four stalwarts of Hammer Chess – Bajrush, Paul, Jeremy and Sheikh. They may have won many games for Hammer over their years of service, but never have four victories been more vital, or more welcome. They shed the weariness of years and played like demons.

Paul was the first to finish – under sever pressure he played beautifully to negotiate his way through all the difficulties to secure Hammer’s first win of the night.

Bajrush stared with a 20 minute deficit. By the end of the game his opponent had 4 seconds left, while our WSF (Wiley Silver Fox!) had over 30 minutes. A study-like endgame resulted in victory. Hammer had their second win.

The score was now 2.5-2.5.

Next up was Sheikh. IN a game where he always had control, he emerged into a single Bishop endgame two pawns up. Avoiding any stalemate traps, he forced the way through calm, logical play. The third Hammer win of the night.

Jeremy now decided to join the fun, playing a brilliant game. He always held the initiative and forced the win through a tactical sequence. These situations always happen once positional dominance has been achieved. The ending was almost Carlsen-esque in its beauty. One for the website, definitely.

The score was now 4.5-2.5 in Hammer’s favour.

Josue playing his first game for Hammer, had a very symmetrical game that always seemed destined to end a draw. This was duly achieved – a solid start to his London League career.

Your correspondent’s game was also drawn. To be honest, I did not cope well with the absence of Orial and the late arrivals of Bajrush and Matteo. My brain was elsewhere and I decided that a pragmatic approach of not trying to force the win, was the best way of dealing with the situation. That, coupled with the importance of the outcome of the match definitely resulted in my first case of Captain’s nerves. Definitely not a pleasant experience.

The score was now 5.5-3.5. The win was secured.

The last game to finish was Adam’s. The sight of the whole Hammer team standing or sitting to watch the conclusion of the game was an added pressure for Adam. You could almost feel the collective will power urging Adam on to victory.

Turning down a draw and negotiating all before him, he finished in great style and secured a deserved victory.

A great night and the beers in the pub tasted very sweet!

I have never felt more proud of the boys and hopefully this will be the springboard for the rest of the season.

I told you to keep the faith!!

Go Hammer!!!

John.

Result: DHSS 3.5 – 6.5 Hammersmith

Chess Mirrors Rugby!

A double-header of match reports for you this evening, chess fans! Read on…

12.01.17 – London League 5: Battersea v Hammersmith

In round 5 of Division 5, Battersea were at home to Hammersmith, where a prognostication of a close match couldn’t have been more wrong. It was a depressing night that started off with snow showers and blistery cold wind, which had us shivering outside in the dark in huddled masses, whilst the door key man was yet to show!

Illness was to reduce Battersea to an absent Captain, and nearly took out the Hammersmith captain too, who had himself a long weekend bout with a sore throat and other flu-like symptoms.

The first to finish was Chris Moore on board 4. Chris with the White pieces opened with the Scotch Game, a very double-edged opening that can reward the attacking chess style. It was soon apparent that White was positionally secure with good attacking possibilities. Chris pressed home his attack and his opponent was lost. Congratulations to Chris on a cracking win!

Next up was Robin Lee on board 3 who had the Black pieces. After a quiet opening a small inaccuracy by White afforded a tiny crack in his fortress. Black launched his Bishop on a hapless h3 pawn, but the Bishop couldn’t be retaken due to a fork of King and Queen by Blacks Knight on e4. This opened up the King to attack and reoffered the same Bishop for another pawn sacrifice (technically it had nowhere to fall back to), Black obtained a dangerous edge.

The game reduced to an endgame with Black having two extra pawns & active pieces on both sides, and White having loose, isolated pawns. After a Knight fork of the White King and Bishop, White gave up.

Robin and Chris celebrate their wins!

David Lambert with the White pieces on board 2 had a quiet game that eventually reduced down to an endgame position of two pawn islands of 3 and 3 for David, against 3 and 2 for Black, both with supporting Kings in the middle. The Kingside pawns were mirror images of each other.

It was a textbook finish, with David pushing the majority 3 pawns on the Queenside and creating a passed pawn on the a-file. This was then sacrificed at the opportune moment and David’s King walked over to munch 2 pawns at leisure. Black had no choice but to resign.

Brian and David deep in thought… textbook

A classic win by David a la Steinitz School of chess – beautiful structure with incremental advantages being gained slowly. I remember watching rugby and seeing the ball being passed along with an overlap on the attacking wing – beautiful to watch as the extra man scores! I’ll have to ask David if he played rugby. Yes, chess mirrors rugby!!

On board 1  Brian had a very dangerous attack going on an unshielded King in the corner with open files and ranks, it looked like a clear win for Brian, with his opponent’s Queen and King seemingly skewered by a Rook. Analysis will have the last word, but a draw was agreed, the match being already won.

Result: Battersea 0.5 – 3.5 Hammersmith

Happy New Year Indeed!!

Robin.

12.01.17 – Middlesex League: Harrow 2 v Hammersmith

Fresh off the back of their decisive victory against the first team, Hammersmith were back in West London for the second week running to play Harrow 2.

Our team had changed considerably – with Carsten, Bajrush, Paul and Pavel all rested, Jeremy was promoted to Board 1 and Ken Kwabiah made his debut on Board 7.

Although we weren’t expecting our opponents to put up too much resistance, it was somewhat disappointing that they weren’t able to field a team anywhere near as strong as the team they sent to us in October. With the bottom three boards ungraded and only one board over ECF100, it was plain sailing for the most part.

Jeremy trapped his opponent’s Queen in the opening, forcing an early resignation. Orial obtained a dominant position early on, and squeezed his opponent positionally into concession.

Congratulations to new members David, Ken and Matt on boards 6, 7 and 8, all of whom made easy work of their young challengers.

Adam made a pig’s ear of his winning Kingside attack, and wouldn’t have won if it wasn’t for a lucky piece-winning tactic as his opponent broke through on the Queenside.

John Wooley had a slow start, getting nothing out of the opening, but after his rival blundered a pawn he smoothly simplified to a won endgame.

The only disappointing result of the night was John Ryan’s loss on Board 5. John was pressing for a win a pawn up, when out of nowhere his opponent’s Knight landed on e4. On this square it became a monster, threatening checks, forks and material gains in all directions. John had no choice but to give up his own Knight for a pawn, promptly succumbing under the multiple threats from Sir Lancelot.

Result: Harrow 1 – 7 Hammersmith

We now have a long wait until our next game against Harrow 1 on 27th February at home, where a win would all but seal a promotion spot.

Ken became the 23rd different player to play for the team so far this season, and joins a group of 12 players on 100%!

Adam.

A Tale of Christmas Chess, pt 2…

The most daring raid since Kramnik stormed Castle Kasparov at the Riverside Studios, took place on Monday in West London. A heroic bunch of Hammer’s finest took on the “street” chess players in Cafe Néro just off Kensington High Street.

The Hammer crew consisted of Paul “dead-eyed” Kennelly, Tony “the surgeon” Niccoli, Phil “no way” Ehr, Orial “the wiz” O’Caithall, Dave “eye, eye” Pearson, Nick “flick” Rutherford, and John “no idea” White. Reinforcements came in the shape of Pavel and hopefully new member Josue.

Hard to imagine a more intimidating sight than the Hammer Posse walking into contested turf. Our aim: to own the manor.

The chess was pretty bloodthirsty and direct. This was great fun and new friendships were formed. This is the joy of chess – it is a common language.

Part one of the evening complete, four of us in the shape of “no way”, “no idea”, “the wiz” and Josue headed over to the Albion for a more serious kind of refreshment.

We ran into Les, a past member of Fulham Chess Club and an excellent chap all round. Some good beer and ropey chess were on the menu but all was well in the world.

The raid went well and hopefully things will happen as a result.

The final act of the evening was GM Keith Arkell also enjoying a pint in the Albion coming over for a chat. A perfect end to a West London Chess odyssey!

Merry Christmas to one and all!

John.