There Ain’t No Cure for the Summer League Blues

This bulletin comes with a Hammer health warning.

Yes, my fellow Hammerites, just like the late and great Eddie Cochran, there seems to be no end to the Summer Chess Blues for our gallant boys. Our Summer teams both suffered narrow 3.5-2.5 point defeats in the penultimate round of the Summer Chess League this week.

This was particularly harsh on our Totally Hammered boys, who had to concede a default on board 5. Furthermore, the pain was compounded by a touch and move error by Yasser in a winning position. Tony and Ken both had excellent wins.

The Just Hammered team had one of those nights where the result could have gone either way. Marios, playing White, missed a win in a Bishop v Knight ending resulting from a Gruenfeld opening. Your correspondent, with the Black pieces, overlooked an intermezzo that would have provided a good edge in a Benoni/Kings Indian opening. Two draws on the board.

Nadhmi had his worst game of the Summer League and Jay arrived late and flustered and hence did not give one of his best performances. We were now -2 and although David pulled off a smooth victory, Dipender was unlucky not to record a win which would have drawn the match.

Sad to say both Totally and Just teams are now in full rehab and licking their wounds. With just one round to go in this inaugural season we occupy the bottom two places – not a pleasant sight of feeling. There is no other way to view it.

However, the job of any Hammer reporter is to accentuate the positive and there is plenty to be positive about.

Here is some food for thought in these dark times:

  • We have blooded two new captains – both Marios and Ken have stepped up, giving them valuable experience for the 2017-18 League season.
  • Many new members have played their first timed game over the board – proper competitive chess. This is something that is crucial and will stand Hammer in good stead for the coming season as well.
  • The Summer League has allowed us to make new friends and start something new in the London Chess scene.
  • The fact that all games are played to a finish is great, with the use of digital clocks in the league clearly demonstrating the need for the club to invest in this technology.
  • The introduction of the “Teamer” app – a bit of modern, smartphone technology helping our captains arrange a team with less fuss than a multitude of emails.

There are many more positives to take from the first season of the SL and I know we will be better prepared next year.

With regard to the night itself, the brightest ray of sunshine was that Adam’s game was selected as game of the week, and hence subjected to a forensic analysis by the Ginger GM, aka GM Simon Williams. The video is now available on the Summer League website, and the Ginger GM channel on YouTube.

I have to say the fact that Adam played the London System, and that he introduced new ideas, makes the video compelling viewing (for the uninitiated, the GM is a huge proponent of the London System). This innovation in the Summer League is brilliant, and so educational. We are all grateful to Simon and Aldo who have really driven this.

Hammer, the message is “keep the faith“. Continue to believe and we will get the positive results we deserve!!

I sign off with the link to the original Summertime Blues:

 

“Just Hammered” by name…

27.06.17 – Summer Chess League – Battersea Volts v. Just Hammered

Downpour, suspended railway services and poor performances over the board sets the background for a baptism of fire rather than a captain’s debut!

Stranded in Shepherd’s Bush railway station waiting for a train to Clapham among countless souls, I got to experience a bit of Greece in West London… every train to Clapham gets cancelled and we are informed only seconds before the scheduled train arrives at the platform.

Luckily our opponents agreed to delay the kick-off so that we could get there on time (Kaan also struggled on his way from Uxbridge!!!). Thank you, Volts, very sportsmanlike!!!

On to the chess stuff, Board 1 saw the highest rated pair of the night, Chris Beckett vs Carsten Pedersen going all out.  Beckett made a dubious pawn sacrifice to gain the initiative but Carsten failed to find the best route out of the tactical mayhem and mutual blunders in time trouble allowed White to force a perpetual. 0.5-0.5

Board 2 – Yours truly vs M. Gudenas, I managed to get my opponent into a line of the Ruy Lopez – Schliemann I had prepared for Pavel (… now you know bud!!) then I mixed the move order and a complete meltdown followed. My opponent played very accurately, never allowing me a chance to come back. Apparently, knowing too much about a position is as dangerous as being clueless. 1.5-0.5

Board 3 – Tim Valentine vs Paul Kennelly, Paul played his favourite French and gained a material advantage after his opponent went all berserk on the Kingside. Unfortunately, he relaxed before the game was over and blundered all his advantage away, plus interest. 2.5-0.5

Board 4 – David Lambert vs Rayan Balluz, David tried to be creative in a theoretical line of the Najdorf… that’s a NO NO unless your surname is Kasparov. Despite having to drop the exchange he got a pawn and the Bishop pair for it and fought valiantly but was unable to save the half point. 3.5-0.5

Board 5 – Leon Watson vs Kaan Corbaci. This was a very interesting fight in a Benoni-Kings Indian Defence hybrid which was decided in time trouble by Black’s lack of space and light square weaknesses. 4.5-0.5 JH we are not looking good…

Board 6 – Nadhmi Auchi vs Peter Yusoff. A very special game, “Peter was born in the year Jesse Owens won golds at the Berlin Olympics, Nadhmi was born in the year Pirates of the Caribbean II came out“, as Leon pointed out! Nadhmi got a decisive advantage on move 4!!! and converted smoothly. Our beacon of hope in a rather grim night and the only Hammersmith player out of two squads to score a full point on the night. 4.5-1.5

That’s all folks!

Marios.

Heatwave Chess

19.06.17 – Middlesex League – Kings Head v Hammersmith

On one of the hottest days of the year, Hammer embarked on the Carpenters Arms to play our final game of the Autumn/Winter/Spring season. It was the twelfth fixture in our Middlesex Division 3 campaign, a league we had already won with two matches to spare… embarrassing! Kings Head were the opponents, who were also playing for nothing but pride and grading points.

Due to a combination of weather, holidays, work commitments, and the Summer League, it was surprisingly difficult to field a squad. Carsten, Marios and John White kindly stepped up to fill the gaps, vastly improving the playing strength of the team.

Decent grub at the Carpenters. If you want a really good pie… the Gardeners

On board one, Carsten and his opponent blitzed out the first 12 moves, with Carsten landing a white pawn on g7. With a King stuck in the centre, Black defended valiantly, but it wasn’t long before Carsten’s exquisite tactics won him a piece and the game.

Marios and Jeremy were playing more closed positions, yet they both appeared to be in their element. With gradual pressure intensifying throughout the game, their opponents eventually threw in their towels.

John White is not on his best run of form but played fairly solidly, sealing a draw with the black pieces on board four.

Brexit vs. a giant canary

Adam spent a fair bit of his Sunday watching Simon William’s London System DVD. Luck was on his side: he got the white pieces, played the London, and his opponent adopted the passive …Be7 setup. Without a moment’s hesitation, Harry the h-pawn came steaming up the board and ripped apart the Kingside, forcing resignation in 19 moves.

John Woolley was the closest matched player in terms of grading, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from his game. An inspired John played very accurately, winning a Knight in the middle game, and closing it out calmly. Fingers crossed John decides to stay at the club next year.

#chintz

The third John: Mr. Ryan, and his opponent, John, were also closely matched grade-wise. The match looked pretty even until the Kings Head player committed a clear touch-move, cheekily trying to claim that he had touched the piece without any intention to move it. After a couple of minutes of noisy altercation, he conceded that the original piece must be moved, and went on to lose the game. The irony was that the alternative move he had tried to play was even worse!

With a disorganised captain only sending the correct start time on the morning of the match, it was unsurprising that a player showed up late. This was to be Robin on board eight, who has kindly provided his own game analysis:

I came in late, thought it was a Queen pawn opening so as Black I played two moves of the Budapest gambit (Nf6, e5). Getting my specs on, found it was an English opening! What a farce!! Anyway no harm, but interesting position with fairish counterplay for black. White Queenside pawns flew forward but then got cemented down after I sacrificed a pawn. The a-file looked good for the White Rook, but my cluster of bishops, rooks and Queen deterred access. After trading Rooks off I developed a potentially advantageous endgame for me, except Queens were around. I had caught up on my clock also. A draw agreed. Mismatch of gambit defence, though not for the faint of heart, seemed to work this time, and unsettled my opponent perhaps.”

And that ends a hugely successful season in the Middlesex League. Next season we’ll surely face some tougher challenges in Division 2, but with the Club constantly getting stronger, there’s every chance we could head straight on up to Division 1.

Season Stats:

  • Matches: Won 9, Drawn 1, Lost 1, Walkover 1
  • Games: Won 57, Drawn 12, Lost 12, Default 12, Forfeit 3
  • Players: Total 28, Unbeaten 18, 100% wins 14, Player of the Season: Sheikh Mabud (5/5)

Adam.

An Englishman in Division 5

25.05.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Hackney

We had three significant wins this time around, and one bad luck loss, plus an unusually large number of games involving the English!

Chris Moore on Board 3 with the black pieces played a Scandinavian Defence, but soon got into difficulty and had to sacrifice a bishop for a pawn to rescue his Queen trapped at a5. At this point he was really disadvantaged, and things didn’t look good with his opponent having better development.

However, within perhaps 3 more moves with neither side yet Castled, there came a shock in the chess position, echoed by some physical shock in the room, manifested as a table collapsing (I kid ye not!), sending pieces flying off Chris’s board. I didn’t know X-man was on the team, supporting us, the Team of Light.

After order was restored, I saw Qxg2 and Black was now winning with White’s King having to run to escape check mate. Then everything got swapped off, including Queens, there remained only a Rook each and many pawns, but Chris had 4 extra, linked pawns. White had to resign.

Board 4 saw Kaan Corbaci playing the English Opening with the White pieces. A quiet, positional game ensued and Kaan looked all set for a draw after many pieces were traded. However, a central isolated pawn was suddenly pushed to the 6th and couldn’t be stopped from Queening. Kaan had to resign.

Board 2 saw John Woolley opening with the English, and finishing with a fine win as he assailed an entrenched King guarded with fianchettoed Bishop and 3 pawns. I believe he used ever more tightening of the screw tactics on his opponent, so eventually something had to crack. In this case to ward off a check mate, a piece was lost. A fine season for John Woolley with sex incredible draws in a row and a winning finale! He left the best for the last!

On Board 1 we saw Brian Dodgeon defending with the Black pieces against the English Opening (surprise, surprise!). He reached a drawish-looking endgame with Rook and Bishop versus Rook and Knight. Careful manipulation of pawns and tight clocks on both sides saw White’s advantage slipping away, his Bishop and Rook becoming moribund.

Eventually White went 2 pawns down and was lost. Brian had an active Knight posted at d5 that could check but never did in fact. The implied check threat was never executed, and somehow must have amplified the Knight’s intrinsic value, creating a mental burden on his hapless opponent in the final 5 minutes. So well done Brian! Always great to finish with a win!

TV Double Header v Wimbledon

15.05.17 – Thames Valley League: Wimbledon B v Hammersmith

Wimbledon’s venue at the Trinity Club was the stage to host Hammer’s TV team in a double header last week.

First up was a match on 15th May, where Hammersmith faced the Wimbledon B team. This was a crucial match for both teams in their quest to retain Top Flight status. The atmosphere was tense from the start!

We started with a win on Board 4 where Pavel was playing Yasser. Paul on 3 got a draw in a game that was even from the beginning.

Next to finish was your Captain, and unfortunately I lost my game so we were back to level-pegging, at 1.5 a piece. This only served to increase the pressure on the rest of the team.

Sheikh and Marios were next to finish, and they both did well to score wins. Marios commented afterwards: “I played the Black side of a Sicilian accelerated dragon. My opponent allowed me to play Ng4, exchanging his dark squared Bishop early on. I continued to attack on the dark squares and won a pawn later on in the exchange. He resigned a couple of moves later in a completely lost endgame.”

This was followed by Matteo dropping a point, to give Hammersmith a slight edge at 3.5-2.5, with Jeremy and Carsten still playing.

Both games were very dramatic right up to the end. Jeremy’s game ended up with both players going for the win on either side, move by move. His opponent missed two opportunities for a Queen mate(!), allowing Jeremy to hold his nerve and convert the win, taking Hammer to 4.5-2.5 and with it the victory!

Carsten had a tough game too, playing very carefully right up to the end and securing our last point of the evening: 5.5-2.5.

This victory secured our Division 1 status for next season! A great result, and well done to all involved.

18.05.17 – Thames Valley League: Wimbledon A v Hammersmith

The second game on the 18th was against the A-team – a crucial match for them if they were to win the Division, being level on points with Surbiton but with an inferior board scoring. A win or a draw would be enough to secure top spot.

Our brave Hammer heroes were outgraded heavily on almost every board, but we were hungry for the game regardless!

With both teams defaulting a board to start on 1 game a piece, Jeremy and Paul were first to finish. Both put up a great fight against far stronger opponents, but it wasn’t to be, and we quickly fell to 1-3

Sheikh played another fine game, eventually securing a draw despite missing a move that could have won it. Bad luck! 1.5-3.5

Matteo produced a solid performance to secure victory, bringing Hammer up to 2.5-3.5

This was swiftly followed by Carsten with his first draw in the TV league(!), bringing the score to 3-4, and Hammer in sight of an extraordinary result.

Your correspondent was the last to finish. I had a small advantage from the beginning of the game, and managed to hold on to it throughout. With a prepared checkmate trap, I managed to capture my opponents Knight and finished the endgame in some style!

It was a great performance from the team, securing a 4-4 draw against a terrifically strong team.

I’d like to thank everyone who participated during the season for their commitment and effort for the team. It’s been a tough season, but we can look forward to improving next season and staying out of the relegation dogfight! Table below, with one match to go.

Many thanks,
Bajrush.

Campioni, Campioni!

16.05.17 – Middlesex League: Hendon 5 v Hammersmith

Having already won the league, Hammer went into their penultimate fixture full of confidence. This was a slightly unusual match; we were up against Hendon Barnet Knights, a junior team with no player over the age of 12! Despite this, they are one of the strongest teams in the league, frighteningly sharp when it comes to tactics with uncanny positional awareness.

With the first team playing two games in the Thames Valley League this week, it was necessary to allow most of them a rest and to rotate the team. Combined with a last minute dropout, this meant we were slightly out graded on average, and starting the game at 0-1.

On board one Marios did what he has grown accustomed to doing over the last few months – another incredibly precise display and total annihilation of his young opponent. 1-1

John White wasn’t so successful on board two. After a very level opening and middle game he blundered in time trouble and had to accept defeat. 1-2

Josué played extremely aggressively with the white pieces. He very quickly created pins and forks across the board. The victory was sealed before the time control, bringing the score to 2-2.

Playing a Scandinavian, Adam soon managed to enter a line his opponent was unfamiliar with. It didn’t go too well from there though. Despite good control of the centre, he made the dubious decision to castle Kingside and soon found himself with serious pressure on his c2 pawn.

With the Queens, Rooks and a Bishop each still on the board, a sharp battle commenced, with both parties navigating mating threats. Ultimately it was experience that won out. With thirty minutes on his clock versus Adam’s five, his opponent played too quickly, missing a tactic that won a Rook. After forcing a swap of Queens, the game was over. 3-2

On board five, John Woolley played a solid opening and it looked like the game would be heading for a draw. Unfortunately – and much like the other John – a blunder led to almost instant defeat. 3-3

Dave was playing on board six. He made the decision to give up a pawn for the Bishop pair. On the face of it this was quite possibly a sound investment, but as the game progressed and pieces were exchanged, it appeared to get harder and harder to find the winning plan.

He gave up the Bishop pair to win back the pawn, but had unknowingly entered a lost endgame. Unlike so many juniors, his opponent played it flawlessly to convert the win. 3-4

So it was down to young Nadhmi, playing his first game for the team, to save us. Only a win would salvage a point… and this he duly provided!

He played some fantastic chess, very focussed throughout, and picked up the point with relative ease. Very excited to see how he progresses; hopefully he’ll be knocking on Carsten’s door for the board one spot in the not too distant future!

Result: Hendon Barnet Knights 4 – 4 Hammersmith

The final match is likely to be played in June after the AGM, as soon as Kings Head can find a suitable date at their venue. With no less than 15 players on 100% out of a total pool of 28 (Ed: and a captain unbeaten on 81%!), nominating a player of the season will surely be a tough call!

London League Round-up – L5 & L3

 

09.05.17 – London League 3: Kings Head v Hammersmith

“Not with a Bang and not with a Whimper… but with a…”

Our last match of the season saw Hammer 1 take on Kings Head.

Although our objective of retaining Division 3 status had already been achieved, Hammer 1 were playing for pride! This game was a tough ask with Hammer 1 out graded on the top six boards by an average of 15 points per board.

Losses on the top four boards made saving the match a really hard task. All four Hammerites fought valiantly but it was just one of those nights at the office.

Bajrush, Paul, Jeremy and Marios scored 50% plus over the whole season – they have given all for the team.

The next three boards gave Hammer optimism as Sheikh, Matteo and I won. Sheikh and Matteo won brilliantly, and on the night. Both had very complicated games where they verged on the edge of disaster and held the line. They saw through all the pitfalls and emerged triumphant. Two really great wins.

My win was achieved after an adjournment, but playing the Black side of a Benoni I achieved an initiative from about move 20. Accurate play allowed me to convert. I have re-discovered my chess mojo in the final part of the season!

Josue and John Ryan achieved draws. My feeling is both of them had the initiative and maybe on another night would have won. A perfect example of some of the tough luck Hammer 1 has endured this season.

Robin had another encounter with a familiar face – Ian Adam – they have had many battles over the years. This time Caissa decided it was Ian’s turn to triumph and he duly did so. Robin was fairly sanguine about the result, but he has been a real support to me and the team at critical times during the season and I thank him.

I also feel it is appropriate that I announce our player of the season. It is….. A.N. OTHER!… you will all just have to wait and see at the AGM on 5th June.

On a final note, Hammer 1 will be back stronger, better and well-equipped to mount a promotional challenge in 2017-18. The dream of Division 2 chess is something Hammer 1 deserve and the learnings and experience gathered this season will help us achieve that goal. Roll on 2017-18.

Keep the faith, and go Hammer!!!

John.

Result: Kings Head 6-4 Hammersmith

Current standings, with a handful of games left

11.05.17 – London League 5: Pimlico v Hammersmith

We returned to Pimlico on time this time, and to an almost empty hall. Pimlico had no one available to play, so they defaulted on their 4th board – we started the evening 1 point up!

We even had the toss of the coin, which Pimlico proceeded to win. Nevertheless, we stuck in with Black pieces on boards 1 & 3, and White on board 2.

Board 3 was Kaan Corbaci in his second game of the season for our division 5 team. He played a Kings Indian defence to a Queen Pawn opening, and accounted well for himself, winning the exchange. At the endgame he had a Rook and a Bishop against 2 Bishops, and maybe one pawn down. A draw was agreed.

Board 1 saw veteran John White defending to a Kings Pawn opening with a Petroff Defence, which however an hour later saw many pieces swapped. John had reached an ending with only Queens left; however he was 2 pawns down. John, no pushover, had a very active Queen, which could check his opponent’s exposed King, so a draw was agreed.

Board 2 was David Lambert with the White pieces, opening with his Kings Pawn to an Open Sicilian. The middle game saw his opponent mounting a highly unusual battery of Rook, Queen and Rook on the semi-closed c-file; all aimed against the hapless c2 pawn (part of a fianchetto structure) defended by a Rook, Queen and King. Add a Black Knight into the picture and chaos soon ensued.

We saw the Knight fork of the Rooks on the first rank or the loss of a weak pawn. After White lost the exchange, Queens swapped, and further White pawns attacked, Black posted two Rooks onto the second rank. White’s only hope, a Bishop, was merely a spectator. The end was not long in coming and David capitulated against a very strong adversary.

A draw for the second time. Your Captain – and author – sat this one out, preferring Kaan to play.

Robin.

Result: Pimlico 2-2 Hammersmith

Honours Even in London 5

04.05.17 – London League 5: Streatham & Brixton v Hammersmith

We were expecting a battle royale to make amends for our prior 3-1 defeat… (“An Evening of Roosters & Foxes” – a great writeup from back in January!)

Board 4 saw Chris Moore attacking on the Queenside from the English Opening. But Black prevailed and started pressing on White’s undeveloped Kingside. Only the Knight had moved.

With sparks flying, Black finally a touched a Rook, found he preferred something else, and let go. Game rules said he had to move the Rook, which meant the Rook was captured and the game all but lost a few minutes later.

Next to finish was John Woolley on Board 2, who had a standard looking Queens Pawn opening. After reaching a critical position, Black and White repeated moves, and a GM style draw was agreed. John is our draw-master, 5 games in a row. Kudos!

Here is what Brian Dodgeon on board 1 emailed me: “My game as Black was pretty tricky: my opponent (graded 144) played the Trompowski system (1.d4 Nf6 2.Bg5). I played 2… g6 and he took the Knight before I could fianchetto, messing up my central pawns. As a result he got a lot of pressure in the centre, supported by his White-squared fianchettoed KB.

I was often about to lose a pawn and he had a dangerous Queen and Rook doubled on the a-file, but just in time I gained control of the long Black diagonal and won his pawn on b2, which allowed my Queen to penetrate his back rank and get a perpetual check.”

Finally your Captain, who reported that: “In my game a conventional defence got my Queenside weak. I should stick to the obscure gambit.”

“After meeting the first clock dealing, and a tough position more or less locked-up, I had 5 minutes more than my opponent, so the position finally opened up. Funny how I finally got a Rook free to go pawn hunting, got careless, in a scramble to win the ending and got King and Rook Knight forked. The game was lost as a pawn majority broke through on the King side.”

So…. the final result was 2-2; a drawn match. All in all, I feel it was a good result as Streatham were lying second in the league table.

Robin.

Shootout at the Wheatsheaf Corral!

24.04.17 – London League 3: Albany v Hammersmith

A seismic evening of London League 3 chess took place last night in London W1. A critical relegation fixture in Division 3. Hammer were pitted against the might of Albany, who are gunning for promotion to Division 2.

As I said in my last dispatch, this is belt and braces time and Hammer need to deliver.

Let me set the scene – for one moment just closer your eyes. Think Clint Eastwood riding into town in “A Fistful of Dollars” – the Ennio Morricone soundtrack in the background. The long gunman facing insuperable odds.

Imagine that scene and you will be halfway there to where your Hammer heroes were last night. There was only going to be one outcome as they sat down to fight.

As with all things this season, Hammer do not do things the easy way – they are just addicted to pressure. We just have an innate desire to make things as difficult as possible… for ourselves!

Let me demonstrate why:

  • Three of our nominated players have not been able to compete this season
  • Last night we were missing Orial, Josue and Marios. Not easy men to replace.
  • We defaulted a game – Sheikh had an unfortunate lapse of memory. Something I cannot reprimand him for because he has been so good this season.
  • It mean that Hammer started this crucial match already a point down.

Fortunately Brian, Adam and Robin were able to step up. Hammer were ready.

The scene has been set… let’s look at the detail of the evening.

The first man to finish was Robin in rapid fashion. Playing white the game was over so quickly I only saw a brief glimpse of it. My memory is of a white Knight on b5 coupled with his usual fianchettoed Bishop on g2 and pawn on d3 setup. That is all I can relate. Hammer were now 1-1.

Next up was Safi playing one of his best games of the season, he left his b2 pawn en prise. A greedy black Queen took the bait and then proceeded to get trapped. Safi smoothly converted. 2-1 to Hammer.

Things then settled down and the evening wore on.

The outcome saw victories for Paul, Adam and myself. Draws for Bajrush, Jeremy and Matteo. A tough loss for Brian after achieving a winning position, was the only blemish on a great night of Hammer chess.

Paul’s game was one of classical manoeuvring and probing. Paul very rarely plays badly and is very solid and logical in his approach. This was another good and deserved win. Hammer now at 3-1.

Adam was in dominant mood. I think he was four pawns up at one stage and he only had to negotiate a couple of tactics to secure the win. This he duly did and Hammer cruised to 4-1.

Chess is a really easy game if you are playing well and your opponent helps.

My win was on the white-side of a Caro-Kann that had elements of an advanced French. Luckily, I came out of the middle game with a passed b-pawn which grew as it advanced up the board. I had multiple ways to win and decided the most prudent course was to head for an endgame with the same number of pawns, but the bonus of an extra Knight. My opponent actually lost on time but his position was completely bust! I was just glad to get the point – Hammer now flying at 5-1.

Our WOSF of a Chairman performed his usual Kosovan wizard – turning a lost position into a murky one and then into a draw. How does he do it? Who cares – the match point was secured. 5.5 – 1.5.

Jeremy has had a very solid season for Hammer – no losses and standing at 70%. Last night he was solid on every level. Playing black, he agreed the draw when he had the edge but made a pragmatic decision. Hammer now in heaven at 6-2.

Finally, Matteo also agreed a draw when a sealed move was imminent. Hammer beyond paradise at 6.5-3.5 win (including our defaulted board). An outstanding result and achieved in the face of tough odds.

One slightly sour note is that as a result of the defaulted game we lost half a match point. Hence, we are still not theoretically safe. The last three matches have cost us and now we can afford no more mistakes in our last match against Kings Head on the 9th May.

I conclude with a deep, heartfelt thanks to the lads last night and must single out Robin for special mention. Not only did he put himself forward when I was scrambling for a team – he stood down when Jeremy became available. He then responded immediately to my request to step in again when Marios had to withdraw on the day. Robin exemplifies all that is best in the Hammer spirit, and Hammer Chess.

We are lucky to have him.

Till the next time – live long and prosper my fellow Hammerites!!

 

Meanwhile… down at the Club House…

24.04.17 – Rapidplay @ Lytton Hall

It was a great evening last night as we marked our first attempt at a Rapidplay evening at Lytton Hall.

It’s long been an ambition to organise a fully-fledged internal Rapidplay tournament and last night marked a significant step towards making that a reality. Undeterred by having most of our “big hitters” in a pub somewhere in central London for our crucial Division 3 match, the rest of us rolled-up our sleeves and got stick in to some 30 minute action.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable evening with some good attacking chess, and a couple of games that went right to the wire! Hopefully it worked for the guys involved too. Please let us know in the Comments below. It’s amazing how much quieter Lytton Hall is when people know it’ll affect their grade!

The night was also significant in that it marked our youngest ever member to take his bow. Yep, we were joined by 9-year-old Nadhmi making his debut for the club, and a very good show he made of it too. He ran me extremely close in his first match, only to lose on time (I wasn’t far behind), but managed to pip Nick in his second. A very solid performance and very happy to have him on board!

Other highlights included Shaun chalking up his first graded win! Well done, Sir. Let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come!

If there was a winner on the night, we probably have to give that accolade to Ken, emerging with 1.5 points from his 2 games played. But more broadly I hope everyone enjoyed the experience, and let’s see if this can’t pave the way for a more structured Rapidplay tournament next season. More on that at the AGM!

Full results below. You should see these results reflected in the July 2017 grades.

It was also a real pleasure to see so many new faces at the club. Last night we welcomed a total of 5 new people – Sassa, Panos, Aaron, Dipender and of course, Nadhmi. Sorry we couldn’t include you all in the Rapidplay. We’re a bit hamstrung unless you’re formally ECF-registered! Still, I hope you enjoyed your own matchups and your first taste of Hammer Chess! Hope to see you all again soon.

Dave.

A Tough Night at the Office

20.04.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Streatham

Our penultimate match in Division 4 saw our battle-wearied troops face the top-of-the table Streatham. It always looked a tough match on paper (they’ve been known to have a 130 on Board 8!) and such was the case in practice. We lost the match 1.5 – 5.5, with Adam’s game yet to conclude.

However, we should perhaps look at ourselves and say we could have done better! Their line-up was relatively soft by their high standards, and particularly with a few games sitting 50/50 for much of the evening, we could perhaps have run them a little closer.

One thing that wasn’t close was the battle on Board 8! A combination of illness and pest control robbed us of our final player, so we had to start with a default and 0-1 down.

My match was the first to finish. A fairly anaemic variation of the classical Sicilian that fizzled to a drawish position after 25 moves. I felt my opponent had the slightly better position, so was happy to take the draw. I was glad to see Fritz agreed with my analysis after the fact! 0.5 – 1.5

Next to finish was Brian playing on Board 1. He reached what looked like a fairly level middle game, but conceded immediately following a clever Knight fork on Queen & King. It looked like it wasn’t possible due to a Bishop recapture, but that in turn led to another discovered attack on the Queen.

What do they say? Tactics flow from a better position? That’s the challenge of facing someone performing at 175! That rounds off Brian’s season for us, as he’s stepping up to help John secure Division 3 status in the crucial closing matches. Cracking season all round though, Brian! Hope to have you onboard next time around. 0.5 – 2.5

The next 3 matches sealed our fate with each going the way of Streatham. Very unlucky not to take something from the trio.

Ken, as is his custom, played in an open, attacking style and reached a late middle game slightly down but with chances. He was a pawn down, his opponent conceding doubled-pawns in return, but the general structure allowed attacking play for both sides. With Queens still on the board, tactics would be decisive and Ken’s opponent forced through to create checking opportunities. When the trusty Rook got involved, a checkmate shortly followed. 0.5 – 3.5

John, as is NOT his custom(!), also got into a really open position! His opponent raided into his territory with his Queen but it appeared like a potential overstretch as John’s Rooks were connected and gave him chances to attack with tempo. He obtained a pawn advantage and told me later he regretted the opportunity to force a Queen exchange. Nevertheless, play picked up again in an even position. Tactics abounded and John was forced to give up his Knight to save his Rook. He battled on, trying to push for promotion but was eventually forced to concede. 0.5 – 4.5

Nick’s game only had Robin as competition for “most interesting” of the evening. It turned into a pretty unbalanced affair. Nick’s opponent, playing White, lodged a fairly horrible Bishop on the h6 square, which is where it stayed for most of the game. He also had to contend with a pair of advanced pawns that seemed to beckon the Knight to make them their outpost!

Nevertheless, Nick was a pawn up (unless my eyes deceived me!). If he could find an accurate defence, he might be able to hold out. Nick offered a draw, a charming offer that was declined on more than one occasion. With the clock ticking, Nick succumbed to time pressure as the flag fell. A minor inquest was held as to whether they’d played 36 (or was it only 35?) moves but the record books have this as a loss. 0.5 – 5.5

So onto Robin. The man with nerves of steel. Gifted a Knight in a previously equal middle game, in part due to his opponent having touched the wrong piece (!), Robin looked in a good spot. In normal circumstances, this may have result in a routine win but Robin was well down on the clock, so they played on.

He increased his lead from a Knight to a Rook with a tactic he learnt from chess.com (so he tells me) but it was still precarious. At this point it must have been 2 minutes v 20 – the time-out looked a real possibility. Sensing the situation, his opponent aimed for complications, forcing the clock into the final minute of play. Robin kept his cool mercurially and forced the mate with literally seconds to spare. Great to watch. 1.5 – 5.5

Last but not least was Adam. His position looked particularly unpleasant when his opponent rooted his Bishop on d6, right in the middle of his defence. It looked a monster, and effectively dominated a Queen and two Rooks! The battle was now to somehow exchange Bishops without losing pushing tempo to do so. He did it, but at the expense of an extra (doubled) pawn; not a bad price to pay in my book. In fact, Adam managed to chop off the doubled-pawn and that’s where they adjourned. It looks fairly even, so we’ll see what happens.

League table below with one match to play, for us at least..!

Thanks,
Dave.