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.

Golden Lane is Not Paved with Gold!

11.04.17 – London League 3: Metropolitan 2 v Hammer 1

April in the chess season always brings with it a congestion problem. This phenomenon is usually associated with our national sport where there are many trophies, competitions, and vital points to acquire. In other words, the business end of the season.

The challenge is also complicated by exhaustion and injuries making this the most difficult part of the season.

This is where Hammer Chess Club and our match against Metropolitan 2 was critical to our survival in Division 3 of the London League.

The previous evening Marios, Brian, Sheikh, Paul and myself were in Hounslow, fighting to retain Division 1 status in the TV League.

Unfortunately, we were missing our WOSF of a Chairman and Orial to bolster our ranks. Luckily Brian and David stepped into the breach and the Hammer team were ready.

Furthermore, we dropped a point due to a walkover. This made the task of winning or even drawing the match infinitely harder.

However, the news was not good – we were pipped 4.5 – 5.5 on the night and this has thrown us back into the relegation mix. We are now in a real fight for survival.

The irony is that even with the default we should have won or drawn the match – a familiar tale if you have followed the fortunes of Hammer 1 in LL3. Our recent run of luck finally ran out!!

The winners on the evening were Marios, Sheikh and myself.

The draws were picked up by Paul, Safi and David.

The fallers were Matteo, Brian and Josue.

To the detail…

Marios just keeps on going and keeps on clocking up the points. Despite suffering from a horrible cold and an obdurate opponent. He spurned draw offers – Marios got angry. Not visibly, or in his conduct, but in his determination to punish his opponent. In a quick-play finish his opponent finally blundered and lost a piece. Marios converted and deservedly won the game. Moral of the story – do NOT mess with this Greek!!

Sheikh’s game – despite him sitting beside me – was a blur. All I know is that Sheikh is in a fine vein of form and really delivering the points for Hammer in all leagues. Sheikhum Style is very much in vogue.

My own game was against an opponent I played two years ago. As is customary with me I lost despite having total control of the game – that loss really hurt at the time. Unfortunately, my memory for face is also going south – so I did not recognise my opponent – but it all became clear when he played the Petrov. As he had done two years earlier.

Revenge beckoned!!

For once I rose to the occasion and triumphed in sacrificial style – my best ending of a game this season. I may even submit the last 6 moves to the website.

Just remember – revenge is a dish best served cold!

Of the drawn games, I only saw brief glimpses – but I can say for sure that David held a pull throughout his game and deserved more than he got. As for Paul and Safi I cannot comment – I saw too little of their games. All I can say is that they have been great players for Hammer 1 this season.

The pain of defeat engulfed Matteo, Josue and Brian.

I think they would agree with me, but both Josue and Brian were chasing lost causes in their games. They were the sort of games where a loss or the draw was the only result you could get. The longer they went on, the further the draw option retreated into the distance and inevitably they succumbed to defeat. I think they are games they both need to forget quickly.

The one who should have drawn or even won was Matteo. Indeed, the computer analysis approved of his temporary sacrifice of a pawn to head for victory. Unfortunately, a common word in this report, he misplayed the ensuing complications. This was a painful loss and in his slightly dejected state he also left his wallet behind. After some rapid calling and texting, he responded and returned to the hall to reclaim it!!

On reflection a 5-5 score, even taking into account the default, would have been a fair result for both sides on the night.

The luck spurned Hammer 1 on the evening though.

Now is is belt and braces time if we are to retain Division 3 status – no  more defaults and no more match losses is our goal.

Go Hammer – keep the faith!!

John.

Chess in Flyover Town

10.04.17 – Thames Valley League: Hounslow v Hammersmith

The weary warriors of Hammer TV schlepped over to very West London on Monday night for a critical relegation fixture in Division 1 of the Thames Valley League.

We were missing our WOSF of a skipper, Bajrush, who had the poor excuse of needing a holiday!! Cannot blame him in reality and to be brutally honest several of the team last night, including myself, are displaying symptoms of that well known affliction “COS”. Correctly identified as Chessed-Out Syndrome!

The heroes of the evening came in the form of Marios, Sheikh and Paul.

Marios continued his winning start to his London League Chess career with a dominating performance. He was the first to finish and showed what a potent force he is for our club. There is no stopping this man, despite suffering from a horrendous cold, and obviously not well, he just keeps going and knocking them over. Unbelievable!

Due to the match layout, Sheikh and Brian had to play their games in another room. This was not great but they both rose to the occasion. Sheikh from what I saw was under extreme pressure on the Black-side of a Sicilian and looked dead in the water. But not for the first time, he was calm and collected in his defence and then proceeded to win very quickly. “Sheikhum Style” is pretty deadly.

The ultimate hero of the evening was Paul. His was the last game to finish and we needed a win. In an equal position he probed, he switched his point of attack and in the end Karpov-like, he induced the error from his opponent. Never was a win in TV this season so needed! He was the personification of the Geese saving Rome, Hammer TV’s last stand and he delivered under the pressure. A real clutch performance.

Carsten and Brian both drew their matches – Carsten could do nothing with Black in a position that was always tough to win. He agreed a draw as soon as this became clear.

Brian had to tread carefully with two knights against a rook and pawn ending but comfortable secured the draw. A good result.

Over to the tales of woe…

Tony played a dynamic game and was overwhelmingly in control but somehow ended up losing a rook in the process of trying to deliver checkmate. He gained a reprieve later when his opponent blundered the rook back, but even so the position was still difficult. With time running out he could not hold back his opponent’s pawns. Just a bad night in every way.

Pavel also bit the dust. To be honest he was in difficulty once his opponent’s knight had parked itself on e6, behind Pavel’s pawns, and anchored there with the support of a d5 White pawn. Gradually the pressure built and Pavel just ran out of options. Sacrificing the exchange postponed the inevitable.

As to my game I was winning – I was winning so well I had an extra piece – the trouble was his Q-side attack developed unbelievable momentum and I succumbed in meek fashion in the end. A real XXXX of a game on my part.

The game ended a 4-4 draw.

So, in the end the Hounslow trip was worthwhile – but only just!

Keep fighting, Hammer TV!!

 

A Busy Gameweek – Middlesex & London 4

A clutch of games for you this week – coming thick and fast as the finish line comes into sight. Read on!

30.03.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Battersea

It was a case of revisiting old rivalries as we faced Battersea in Division 4. On the one hand they’re a great partner club – working with us on the birth of the Summer Leauge, hosting us at their home venue for the El Chessico, and sharing some memorable matchups over the years.

On the other, they’re like a slightly annoying little brother. Trolling us on Twitter, calling themselves “Battersea” when they play in Clapham Junction. Too big for their boots!! This is one with a little bit of extra spice!

We played well, but the bottom-line is that we’re 2-4 down with the final couple of games adjourned for another time. The games are pretty tight but we have winning chances in both so things remain in the balance. To quote Kevin Keegan, I would love it if we got something from the match! Love it!

He would LOVE it!

I sat out the match and spectated from the sidelines instead. This all meant I was able to catch a bit more of the action than I normally manage. Another observation is how slowly 3 hours seem to tick by when you’re just watching. It flies by when you’re in the middle of a game!

Things didn’t start well. We had an early faller on Board 7 as Chris succumbed within an hour. Picking up the Black pieces, Chris allowed an early check which forced him into a slightly cramped defensive position. His opponent played actively, kept up the pressure and managed to win a pawn. An unbalanced position resulted, and thanks to his Bishop being placed on a “stupid square”, a resignation soon followed.

Brian kept up his fine run of form on Board 1, chalking up yet another win. He’s now unbeaten in 8! He initially looked in trouble after being forced to move his King following a check with Bh5, but a locked-down position developed in the middle which meant his centralized King was in no danger. The setup seemed to play into Brian’s hands and he superbly marshaled the pawn chain to his advantage to raise the spectre of a decisive passed pawn.

The next two games contrasted in style but alas, not in the result! John, playing White, played his usual solid positional game and emerged in the early middle game with a respectable position. Ladies’ fingers were on a3 and h3, and we looked in for a long night. John’s opponent sensed a potential weakness in his pawn structure though, and began pushing g/h pawns to challenge it head on. A good tussle followed but John was forced to defend and as we all know, it’s a lot easier to attack than to defend. The breakthrough exposed the King and he graciously resigned.

Robin’s game started unusually quietly. Where was the pawn push?? Where was the sacrifice? We didn’t have to wait long though; the fireworks started soon enough. the pawn break came, creating a wildly unbalanced position. Unfortunately it favoured Robin’s opponent who held the centre with 3 (count them) extra pawns. Not one to give up, Robin brilliantly fought back with a Knight pin, but whilst material was equal, the position was not. Robin’s pieces were not coordinated which made covering all the potential attacks very difficult. A fork on Rook and Queen effectively ended the contest, despite an unsuccessful 10-move hunt for a stale-mate!! 1-3 down.

Josue starred in perhaps the most enjoyable match of the evening, at least for this spectator. The endgame was a bit of a thriller. He looked on the ropes in a Bishop/Rook vs 2-Rook end game, particularly when he was forced to defend a passed pawn one rank from promotion. But he had a passed pawn of his own, which he pushed whilst gaining tempo with discovered checks. The opposition passer was sacrificed with all hands on deck to prevent the coronation of a new monarch. Again, Josue found the right tactic and created a blockade with Bishop and King. Great to watch.

Finishing at the same time was Adam, who also found himself in a Knight & pawns endgame. It looked relatively level to me, but who’s to say what Fritz would make of it. Either way, nothing is easy when you’re short on time. It was the kind of position where you’d want 10 minutes per move, not 3 or 4 for the whole lot! Really unlucky. If the Knights were off the board it might have been a different result.

David P and Marios both have slight edges in their adjourned games, but they’re really tight. Probably best I don’t say too much with the games still going, but I know Marios feels slightly disappointed not to seal it on the night; he had pressure from move 1. David played very well to gain a pawn advantage but his wily opponent defended well. A 127 on board 8 – not too shabby.

 

03.04.17 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Kings Head

The Middlesex League season is drawing to a close. Another fine win last night saw Hammersmith move to a whopping eight out of nine with three to play, and a colossal games score of 56-16.

The games, in reverse board order:

Andy’s opponent played a very strange opening, placing his pawns on d3, e4 and f3 with his Bishop inside the pawn chain. Andy developed a large positional edge before a dubious Knight sac on e4 left his opponent with big chances to get back into the game. Andy continued to develop well though, castling Queenside and creating a dangerous Rook pair on the d-file. After his opponent’s passive Queen retreat to g1, Andy smelled blood! As he brought his pieces in for the kill, White elected to hand back the Knight in exchange for some activity. It was not enough to prevent the onslaught though; White soon resigned with mate-in-5 inevitable.

Kaan chose the English opening 1.c4, with his opponent choosing to adopt the tricky 1… c5 symmetrical variation. A sharp tactical struggle ensued, with Kaan coming out an exchange up. Without too much trouble he put his material advantage to good use, grabbing another pawn and soon the sustained pressure forced resignation on move 23.

A last minute drop-out meant Hammersmith superstar Robin was brought in to do battle. Or so he thought! With no sign of his opponent after 30 minutes, the default was awarded.

Adam’s London System woes this season were set to continue. His opponent chose a King’s Indian setup and castled early, to which Adam responded with h4. The early attack was destined to fail – with the e5 square not available for his f4 Knight, Adam brought it back to h2, where it stayed completely inactive for the next 19 moves! Castling Queenside added to the misery; Black immediately launched a Queenside attack to which Adam had very few pieces available for defence. The position was objectively lost, with at least 3 different ways for Black to cash in. Then the game turned.

Some slow and inaccurate piece-shuffling on Black’s back ranks allowed Adam’s hopeless h2 Knight to become a superstar! An h2-f1-e3-d5 manoeuvre brought it to the best square on the board, where it stayed for 6 moves, before gobbling up the Black Queen that was kindly placed on f4. A very lucky escape!

Disregarding his usual repertoire, Sheikh chose to adopt the classical line of the Scandinavian Defence. He proceeded accurately, developing his pieces in the correct order and blocking off all the light squares. He soon started attacking down the Kingside, and eventually overcame his opponent with a clever Bishop sac.

Yasser opened with the Queen pawn and faced the Nimzo-Indian Defence. Yasser chose the 4.Bg5 Leningrad variation, and soon obtained a positional edge and a strong Bishop pair. As Yasser pushed his pawns down the Queenside, Black’s position became more and more cramped. Soon he was forced to give up a pawn, which did nothing to stop Yasser crashing through and scoring the win.

Paul chose to adopt the solid Berlin Defence, and his opponent was not sure how to react. Several pieces were swapped off and before long Paul was in an endgame, but possessed the superior pawn structure. Paul’s superb endgame skills came into play, and before long he was exerting tremendous pressure on White’s weak spots. He coolly converted this pressure into an outside passed pawn, and his opponent resigned as his position started to crumble.

Pavel scored the only draw of the night, though it was by no means a boring draw. He chose to open with 1. Nc3, the Dunst opening. Play developed sharply, with both players castling on the Queenside and Knights hopping around the board creating lots of threats. Pavel gave up his Bishop pair to kill off one of the Knights, creating an unbalanced position that was difficult to evaluate. After a Queen trade and some interesting tactical shots well defended by both players, they agreed to call it a day.

Kaan and Andy become the 26th and 27th players to play this year, and bring the number of players sitting on 100% to 15!

Three games remain, including two big games against our only remaining title rivals, Hendon Juniors.

Adam.

Return of the Grudge Match (vs. Battersea)

28.03.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Battersea

In our return match versus Battersea, we outpointed them with a delta of 17 points!

But first let me say that Kaan Corbaci debut’d this match and had a shocker of a win defending with the black pieces against a straight-forward Guico Piano, his opponent fell for a pawn and his Queen was lost with a Kaan (Knight) fork. Congratulations to Kaan!

Brian played the white pieces against the Sicilian defence, using the O’Kelley variation to achieve a Maroczy Bind. From the middlegame onward, the position reduced to a Rook and minor piece endgame, but Brian had superior pawns, his opponent having blocked and isolated pawns. Brian piled on the pressure, with his Rook and Knight dominating an inferior Rook and somewhat bad Bishop, and the position somewhat blocked.

Through some confusion, his opponent allowed his clock flag to drop without making his first 30 moves, so he lost on time. But Brian was able to demonstrate a winning advantage to his opponent afterwards.

John Wooley achieved a creditable draw early on.

My game was a disaster waiting to happen, after I thought I had trapped my opponent’s Queen with a poisoned pawn. But it wasn’t to be, alas, the Queen escaped and I was down 2 pawns, but then getting into time pressure, I lost the endgame (expletives deleted!!).

Still, we won the match 2.5 – 1.5. Congratulations to the team!

Robin.