London Div 3 – Season Finale: The Push for Promotion

Starship Hammer 1 has locked into orbit around the familiar neutral planet of Citadines for the next week for the two final matches of the mission. The season-long goal to boldly go to Division 2 of the London League has been achieved, thanks to the outcome of the Albany-Kings Head clash, with victory for the latter ensuring that Hammer is secure in second-place and guaranteed promotion.

Starfleet, however, is not satisfied. They have issued an edict of the highest priority that dictates Hammer 1 must finish as champions – as crewman Dead-Eye put it “Nobody remembers who came second.”

Welcome to the final report of the 2017-18 mission and the voyages of the Starship Hammer 1.

Cuid a hAon Deag et et Parte Douze

Captain’s Log – Star Date 23/05/2018 – Clueless at the helm

Hammer 1 has been totally galvanized by the achievement of promotion and the crew members are ecstatic. Thanks to the actions of Kings Head the primary goal has been achieved – Hammer 1 is now a Division 2 team in 2018-19.

Now is the time for mind reset and refocusing now that the mission goal has been stretched. This is not an easy task and Clueless is concerned that the team may be demob happy and not able to summon the will to finish the job.

Team selection will not be easy with Sydney absent for the first game and Forza for the second. There is one lesson this year-long struggle has taught us – Caissa can send the odd curve-ball anytime.

Returning to the familiar surroundings of Planet Citadines, where Hammer is undefeated this season, is a help as familiarity of the combat zone will produce the necessary will to win the Division and get promoted as champions.

The first match saw Hammer taking on the planet of WanWood, a binary system in the NE quadrant of Londonium.

The final match one week later will be against an alien species called Wombles 2. They inhabit a Common planet in SW Londonium and are apparently obsessed with racket sports as well.

Victory in both clashes would result in mission accomplished.

So many factors for Clueless to contemplate… please read on.

The landing party in board order for the WanWood encounter:

  • T-Bone (Thomas)
  • Zeus (Marios)
  • Wily (Bajrush)
  • Prof (Paul McK)
  • Loco (Jim)
  • Forza (Tommaso)
  • Dead-Eye (Paul K)
  • Spock (Pavel)
  • Pandit (Sheikh)
  • Brexit (Jeremy)

Clueless was non-playing captain and as usual displaying pre-match nerves.

His slightly frayed demeanour is put at east when WanWood concede victory by walkover on board eight before the match has even begun. Spock being the excellent and logical first officer he is, made the generous decision to allow Brexit to take his place. A typically unselfish gesture by one of Starfleet’s most decorated officers.

Hammer at 1-0.

The scoreboard then moved along swiftly with T-Bone in crushing form and totally overwhelming his opponent with a ruthless combination of tactical and strategic pyrotechnics. This was French élan and flair at it’s best. Hammer at 2-0 and looking good.

The Hammer crew working their magic

The next two results saw Loco and the Prof secure draws in games that rarely fizzled and despite their best efforts to create complications and tactics. Their opponents just played solidly and were obviously delighted to secure the half-point. Hammer now at 3-1 and looking well set.

There then followed those moments as a non-playing Captain you dread. When events on the board wreck your air of quiet confidence.

Pandit played a superb attacking game. He had trapped his opponent’s King in the centre of the board and his pieces had occupied the optimum outposts. His opponent’s pieces were totally restricted and he was running out of viable moves. Pandit was in complete control and was eschewing which way to win. Clueless had all ready mentally chalked up the win.

What followed encompassed the beauty and cruelty of chess. Pandit missed a tactical shot and his opponent won a piece with a clever check. Pandit was rocked and then reconciled himself to the new situation on the board and started to fight for the draw. He strained every mental sinew but his young opponent kept his cool and saw through every trap that was set. This was a vary mature performance. Hammer pegged back to 3-2 but it was more than a win – especially as the game was virtually won for Pandit.

On board 3 Wily had a bad-tempered game with his opponent making various assertions to his Captain about our Chairman leaving the room when it was his move. I can report this was a very poor version of the infamous Toiletgate story from the bad-tempered Topalov-Kramnik match of yesteryear. However, I also know that our Chairman was not well and had been extremely ill that week. Anyway, there was no mobile phone analysis going on the Citadines facilities. Wily countered by pointing out that his opponent was not writing the moves down when the latter thought he was down to the last five minutes. His opponent was not aware that the digital clocks added 20 minutes once you made the time control. It was all handbags at dawn to be honest.

Wily took revenge by pursuing the game to the very end although it was a total lost cause. Hammer pegged back to 3-3 and a full-blown wobble was in progress.

Zeus then contrived to totally misplay a drawn position where he was slightly better. Obviously, influenced by the ongoing events on Board 2 and the reversal of fortune for PanditZeus went for it. This was a classic case of over-reach and sacrifice for the team and as is the case when reaching for the firebird even a God can go down in flames. Caissa admired the nerve but dished out a cruel dose of humble pie. Hammer now 3-4 down and dreams of the title disappearing down the Swanny. Clueless in despair.

This is where the men of the hour step forward to defy the odds and by sheer will-power drive the team towards victory. Fortunately, for Hammer, those men were Forza, Dead-Eye and Brexit – the new and the old of Hammersmith Chess Club.

Tommaso displayed and deployed all his skill to win a drawn game. This was a dead drawn King and pawn ending with correct play from both sides. However, his opponent overplayed his hand. Forza sacked a pawn and activated his king. In a flurry of moves and the time counting down he checkmated his opponent after queening a pawn. The Forza is strong in this Hammerite.

Dead-Eye is in superb form this season and tonight when Clueless needed him most he yet again came through. His opponent was a novice to the London league and completely oblivious to the idea of resignation. Dead-Eye was getting frustrated as he kept dismembering his opponent, but rather like the Black Knight in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, he kept dismissing the loss of material as mere flesh wounds. In the end his lone King was facing Dead-Eye with a Knight and three pawns. He still didn’t resign. Dead-Eye was incensed but kept his cool and saw the game through to victory. Hammer at 5-4 and some momentum had been clawed back.

At last to Brexit – the match and the Title were on the line – would he the hero or the villain?

Yet again defying the real-life Brexit fiasco – our nicer version – played a peaky blinder after a non-stellar first half of the game. However, Brexit is resilient and obstinate when he has to be and is a passionate and proud Hammerite. His is a definite true-blood. After dancing on the edge in the early middle-game he was able to open the h-file and free his imprisoned rook. He then smoothly moved over to the attack and his pieces effortlessly flowed towards the enemy King. His opponent resigned gracefully when the threats became overwhelmingly. Yes, you read it here Brexit had dragged us over the line to the border of the promised land.

A great performance by Jeremy and a vital 6-4 victory was achieved.

It was definitely not sexy and definitely not found in the Starfleet manual but Hammer had triumphed against all the odds. It was a dirty win but when it comes down to the wire with so much on the line I, Clueless, totally adopt the mantra – “A win is a win

Hammer beamed back to the safety of our Starship and recuperation after this wild-ride of a match. The title was still on but a huge hurdle still had to be overcome in the form of our final opponent – the fearsome Wombles 2 to complete our mission.

Clueless relieved and the dream was still alive.

Captain’s Log -Star Date – 30/5/2018 – Clueless at the helm

Clueless has been in the think-tank for the last week and contemplating the enormity of the task and the right team to achieve it. After consultation with Zeus our Chess God asked to be stood down – he felt even a God can get chess fatigue after a long season. Forza after his brilliant run asked to miss the encounter for personal reasons – she is a lucky lady is all I will say. So, our landing party was two men down. Fortunately, Sydney moved heaven and earth in Crypto world to make himself available and Clueless contacted Pickle to answer the call to arms. The crew was complete.

Our opponents Wombles 2 have a fearsome reputation and have excelled this season in the alternative world of TV Division 1. They would not be pushovers and with their need to clear up litter wherever they go Hammer had to be on guard to ensure they were not consigned to recycling.

The night of destiny was upon us.

The night did not start well with Sydney succumbing to a debilitating virus in Crypto world and Brexit en-route was side lined by a desperate 999 call from Ice world. Clueless stepped into the breach for Sydney but there was no time to cover Brexit (chess mirroring real-life again!!). Hammer 0-1 down without a piece moved in anger. A tough task just got harder.

The depleted landing party consisted of in board order

  • T-Bone (Thomas)
  • Bajrush (Wily)
  • Loco (Jim)
  • Prof (Paul McK)
  • Spock (Pavel)
  • Dead-Eye (Paul K)
  • Pandit (Sheikh)
  • Clueless (me), and
  • Pickle (Adam).

The omens were not good and things did not get any better.

The Prof facing a fellow Hammerite in Yasser Tello who plays for the Wombles in the London League. The Prof went wrong in a position where he held a definite edge and in the end was glad to take the draw. The Prof was very annoyed with himself and no matter how many beers he consumed afterwards his disposition did not improve. All I can say is that he has been an invaluable addition to the Hammer Crew this season and we would not have been challenging for the title without his efforts. Hammer down 0.5-1.5

Things that turned definitely for the worse when Spock lost on time and Clueless played a horrendous game. Pavel held his hand up as did Clueless – it was just total rubbish – we gave the recycling Wombles everything they wanted on a plate. Hammer down 0.5-3.5 and things were about to get worse.

Clueless was observing title dreams disappearing before his eyes.

T-Bone, Pandit and Pickle were all a pawn down with all three looking at nothing better than a draw. Dead-Eye was playing a position that had less hope than despair. These were grim, very grim moments. Hammer were in massive trouble and title hopes were receding faster than a Jeremy Corbyn apology. Hammer were staring defeat in the face

It is often said that the darkest hour is the hour before dawn. Hammer just had to survive and hang on till any light appeared.

The first sign of dawn, signally a change in fortune, arrived in the form of Loco. The Flying Scotsman gave Hammer hope with a beautifully played attack. The sight of his opponent’s knight pinned to the enemy King, and nowhere to go, produced a pleasing picture. The fightback was on. Hammer at 1.5-3.5 to the bad.

The dawn continued to break as Wily employing his usual set-up created a passed pawn. His excellent endgame technique did the rest – Hammer back to 2.5-3.5. Hope was suddenly on the horizon.

The next piece of good news was Pandit who used his opponent’s time trouble to improve his position and then win material. All of the sudden Hammer had drawn level. However, we still needed two points from the last three games to secure the match. If you were a betting man you would have put your faith, and money, on a three-legged horse winning the Derby rather than Hammer pulling it off. Hammer now tied at 3.5-3.5.

Clueless was literally hoping and praying for a Citadines miracle.

The first hint that there may be a chance, was when T-Bone made something happen out of nothing. He has done it so often this season Clueless should not have been surprised. Hammer inching ahead at 4.5-3.5

The problem was Dead-Eye looked dead in the water and Pickle was facing nothing better than a draw. This would mean a drawn match and the title chance gone.

Dead-Eye playing an incredibly complicated against a well-known foe in the form of Womble, Nick Grey found a resource. This seemed to turn the tide and gave hope that a draw or even more unlikely a win may be there. This was excruciating to watch and terrible on the nerves. The last part of the game saw Dead-Eye’s King on an open board trying to avoid mate. One mismove would be curtains – somehow Dead-Eye negotiated it all – with a huge dose of luck and secured the draw. Hammer now at 5-4 and all eyes turned to Pickle.

I suppose it had to come down to this. The last game in the last match of the season was the one that would decide whether we would win the Title. You could not write a better cliff-hanger of a tale.

Pickle was a pawn down in a knight and pawn endgame. His knight had struggled all-game to find a decent square – luckily, he was able to activate his king and eliminate the passed pawn on the Q-side. Unfortunately, this left the white king in a better position and a three pawns vs three pawns on the K-side. Playing accurately and betraying no signs of nerves Pickle probed, maneuvered and by sheer force of will created a passed pawn on the King side. By some Football Radar Voodoo, he also got his King and knight into the optimum positions. It should have been a draw but Caissa took a hand and decreed that on this night Hammer would not be denied. Adam was able to force the pawn through and would have won but his opponent ran out of time. A win for sheer guts and determination. Clueless is now lobbying Starfleet command for the Freedom of Hammersmith award and other titles for this sterling performance. Pickle had saved the day.

Hammer had won 6-4. It was not pretty, it was not great chess but it did not matter – we had earned the right to call ourselves Champions. That indeed is something special, Clueless was in shock – this really was a Phoenix from the Ashes scenario.

Once again Hammer had come back from the Dead – We are the Champions!!!

In honour of our diverse nationality squad of players I give the following chant

Είμαστε οι πρωταθλητές, Nous sommes les champions,
Siamo i campioni, Мы – чемпионы,
Ne jemi kampionet, Is iad na Seaimpíní iad,
Me olemme voittajia…………………

The celebrations went long into the night. This has been a great group of guys who have fought every inch of the way to achieve what they have achieved, They, really are Champions – one and all.

Here for your delight dear reader are the last match card and final table:

And the table:

We won every match played at Planet Citadines!

Captain Clueless signing off – mission accomplished. May the next mission by just as enjoyable and successful. Bring it on!!

John (aka. Clueless)

London League 5 vs Cavendish

24.05.18 – London League 5: Cavendish v Hammersmith

Welcome to our new campaigner, Aditya – or Adi – who debuts this time out.

As we settled in with White on top board, I had high hopes for our last match this season.

An hour passed and then, on board 3, John Ryan got up and as I glanced over at him, he gave me a rueful look and downward thumb, and I saw him go.

Shortly thereafter Wyatt on board 4 and Adi on board 1 filed out also. I got up and saw the scoresheet 0-3, I felt like I had to make the effort and stop the great rout from Moscow.

Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow

After putting pressure on my opponent in the middle game, things got swapped off, and I had emerged with 2 bishops against my opponent’s bishop and hobbled knight. I was tempted to offer a draw having, I judged, barely a minuscule advantage and 5 minutes more on the clock.

I watched carefully as my opponent seemed to be panicking as I increased the pace and kept up the pins and fork threats in the endgame. Finally forced off the knight for a bishop and somehow got a passed pawn on my a-file. With Bishops of opposite colour, was it drawn?

There were two sets of linked and blocked pawns each on the h and g-files, but my king could get behind them possible, but only if his bishop could be pried out of the corner. In the last 2 minutes, my king got to c2 and the bishop was displaced from the corner by zugzwang, and after 99.Bc4 Kg2, the white bishop at c4 couldn’t protect his pawn at g3, so White resigned.

Match lost 1-3

Later, Wyatt told me it was an equal looking endgame that was his undoing. Sharp tactics and cruel endings are common.

 

The Good Ship Hammer

16.05.18 – London League Div 4: FINAL MATCH v. Kings Head

We ended our season in London Division 4 last Wednesday with a solid 6-2 win against Kings Head. That safely rounds off our 2017/18 campaign with a solid 7.5/12 points, and with several matches still to play it looks good enough to secure us a 4th or 5th place finish.

Kings Head’s lily-livered crew came down with a bout of scurvy close to shore, and could only secure 6 players for the final match. 2-0 to the good for Hammer but frustrating as we had the strength in depth to go toe-to-toe across all 8 boards. Blair and your captain Dave the unfortunates to miss out.

Within 45 minutes we were 3-0 up as John quickly made short work of their Board 6, playing outside in the Citadines’ atrium. Fair play concentrating in those noisy conditions. John secured a bothersome pin against Knight and Queen, with his opponents Bishop – and best hope of defence – locked-out via his own pawn chain. A sharp attack followed which exposed the King and allowed a brutal checkmate. They shared a beer apiece as they deconstructed the match in their analysis.

Nadhmi also secured a great win, grinding down his opponent with an entirely different approach. A slow suffocation method that robbed key squares, and then push, push, push! It was great to watch (but no doubt horrible to be on the receiving end) and whilst material was relatively equal for much of the encounter there was only going to be one victor. 4-0

The other games were anything but plain sailing, however. Gokhan and Rich won matches they both could easily have lost. Gokhan lost his Queen, managing to nab a Rook and Bishop as some compensation but he was struggling…! Thankfully his opponent obliged and played a couple of passive moves that allowed a double-attack on Queen and King. That was that.

Meanwhile, Rich was a whole Knight down from around move 10, but continued to ask questions, which were duly answered! Perhaps an element of complacency crept in, as duly conceded by his magnanimous opponent in the pub afterwards.

The unlucky crewmembers made to walk the plan were Jeremy and Dan.

Jeremy wasn’t best pleased with his work, and conceded it was one of his weaker games of the season. One too many blunders against a prepared opponent was his undoing.

Dan got himself into what looked like a relatively even endgame position against his Italian counterpart, but failed to hang onto a crucial pawn which proved to be decisive. More radical forcing tactics were required which meant complications – never easy with an ailing clock.

And thus it finished 6-2.

Finally we rounded off our evening by sharing a couple of beers with the Kings Head crew in The Ship Tavern, just a few short minutes from the Citadines venue. Definitely recommended and I’ll be heading there again…! Great little boozer.

Full match-card below:

Midweek Roundup – London & Middlesex Leagues

Middlesex League – Final Game & Season Roundup!

The Middlesex League season has drawn to a close with the last match of the season for Hammer 2 in division three. We descended on Kings Head’s pub venue with the enviable mindset of knowing we were already promoted. It was a chance for some of Hammer’s newer recruits to stamp their mark on the league, and for the MVP contenders to rack up one last win.

On boards one and two, Simon and I were paired against two of Kings Head’s ruthless 170+ players. Neither of us played a fantastic game, and as one might expect, we found ourselves in difficulties early on. We both left castling a bit too late and paid the price, coming under deadly attacks culminating in resignation. 0-2

At the other end of the room, Jeremy and Wyatt sat down on boards seven and eight with a tiny grade advantage. What’s opponent played quickly, exchanging down to a pawn endgame that was very difficult to hold. Here Wyatt’s rigorous endgame training regime, courtesy of the John White Drinking Club, came into its own. He played very methodically, queening with one tempo remaining to stop his opponent doing the same.

Jeremy played a promising defence against the King’s Indian Attack, but ultimately failed to find a good plan. After losing two pawns rather cheaply it looked like it might not be his day, but luckily his opponent blundered a rook in a winning position to hand Jeremy victory. 2-2

Boards five and six were occupied by John Ryan and Dipender, both of whom have been integral to the team’s success this season. John’s endgame was incredibly sharp, with both players possessing plenty of heavy pieces and weak squares. Coupled with five minutes each on the clock, there was no way they could calculate all the variations. John mustered up a brave attack on the enemy king, but couldn’t quite find checkmate. Sadly this left his own king very vulnerable, and saving it cost too much material and the game.

Dipender’s game was far different. In a Sicilian Dragon, Dipender held a slight advantage with the white pieces before his opponent blundered a bishop. From here the outcome never looked in doubt, and with the win Dipender joins Simon and John on a very respectable 4/6 for the season. 3-3

And so our fate was left in the hands of Charlie and debutante Adi. From the outset, it was clear Charlie’s opponent was not set up for a sharp game. Charlie tried his best to spice up the position, rejecting two draw offers, before finally accepting the third, by which point his position was slightly worse.

On the white side of a Semi-Slav, Adi started off very strongly, building up a big centre and eventually winning a pawn. He thought he had spotted a knight sacrifice that would deliver mate in three, but as can so often happen in chess, he had overlooked one small but important details – that the knight capture would give check and pick up a game-changing tempo. Two moves later, Adi threw in the towel. A frustrating debut, but from what I’ve seen, I have no doubt he will be a key player next year as we look to preserve division two status. 3.5-4.5

With two matches outstanding, we can only be caught by Hendon, and only if they thrash Kings Head away from home.

Adi becomes the 25th player to play this year, three short of last year. With eight of the club’s top players ineligible due to first team nomination, I’m extremely proud of the strength in depth the club now possesses. Having seen so many great performances, this year’s MVP will be a very tough choice.

Bring on next year!
Adam.

Hammer 1 Goes Into Fischer Mode in WC1V

After the Greek Tragedy in W1 there had to be a rebound in WC1V. Redemption was the only course on the menu for the boys of Hammer.

Welcome to the latest boy’s own adventure of the voyages of the Starship Hammer 1 and its one-year mission to boldly go to Division 3 of the London League.

In homage to our Chairman, we open this report with two Albanian words:

Pjesa Dhjetë

Star Date – 9/05/2018

Hammer 1, after undergoing repairs and mental retuning, has locked into orbit around the planet Cave-N-‘Dish in the Holborn quadrant of the Londinium galaxy. The mission was a delayed encounter thanks to the machinations of “The Beast from the East” and hence was played at the Citadines complex rather than the home planet of the ‘Dish.

This was a task again deemed critical by Starfleet – with the added pressure of Hammer 1 having to regain their collective mojo.

What would the response be?

Clueless, despite missing Sydney and the Suit in the landing crew, was glad to welcome back the talents of Wily and Forza. This was destiny time – seize it and Hammer 1 were firmly back on track.

The landing part in board order:

  • ThomasT-Bone
  • MariosZeus
  • BajrushWily
  • Paul McKProf
  • JimLoco
  • TommasoForza
  • JeremyBrexit
  • Paul KDead-Eye
  • SheikhPandit
  • with Captain Clueless (John W) brining up the rear

Hammer got a break before the match started when Cave-N-Dish forfeited board 10 – Hammer 1-0 to the good.

First game to finish was Wily in crisp and rapid form – his opponent a former Hammer captain, took him to the 30 minute mark before resigning in a hopeless position. For those sadists amongst you, here is the encounter:

Hammer now at warp speed 2.

Next to join the party was Pandit, who won in less moves than Wily but his opponent consumed large amounts of time and hence he spent longer at the board. This was another chess massacre and Pandit continues his return to form. Hammer now at 3.0 warp speed.

Next to extend the Hammer lead was Forza – employing his usual tactic of consuming more time initially and sacking a pawn in the opening for dynamic piece play. In no time his pieces were swarming over the White Kind and the end followed very swiftly. Hammer cruising at 4-0.

Hammer were pegged back in the next game when Brexit blew a winning position and succumbed to a tactic that had more points to it than even his opponent saw. Indeed, it was only in the post-game analysis he realised the full implications – I will say this only once – I was gutted for Brexit and frustrated for him. Despite his stance on the Brussels matter he is a good bloke and a devoted Hammer player. His form is uncertain and he has definitely hit the Irish Border conundrum. I am sure he will solve it, unlike HM Government, and move back to his best form. Hammer stuck at 4-1.

That was the only setback of the evening.

Loco playing a Kings Gambit was in scintillating form – the game was a real throwback to the Morphy-chess era. It was great to watch and demonstrated that as well as being an accomplished positional player, Loco can, when required, go “Loco tactical“. The ending was prosaic with Black losing his queen in one move or two Hammer now at 5.1 warp speed.

The Prof, with the black pieces, faced an opponent who was determined to keep the position as dull as possible. The Prof with the bishop-pair advantage probed, provoked, and induced square weaknesses around the White King. White’s position deteriorated rapidly and under pressure he succumbed to a tactical shot of Qxh4+ with White unable to take the Queen due to a bishop pin. Faced with a complete collapse in his position his opponent gracefully resigned. Hammer at 6-1 with the match victory secured.

Dead-Eye going into this encounter was on 94% for the season and after it had moved to 95% for the season. Playing the black side in the French defence he snaffled an early pawn then grabbed another two. White tried a desperado attack that was coolly repelled, and then Dead-Eye simply marches his c-pawn to c2 and that was that. Hammer at Warp speed 7.1

The last two games to finish were the top two boards.

T-Bone on board 1 was facing a familiar face in LL chess – the captain of Cavendish 3, Bertie Barlow – who definitely knows a thing or two. T-Bone consumed huge amounts of time trying to find an edge in a position that was fairly sterile. Despite having the two bishops he was encumbered by the fact that the position was closed and one of those bishops had defensive duties. Thomas is the most visually expressive player we have in the club – you can almost sense what he is thinking. How he achieved victory is beyond me, but he did – and that was purely down to sheer willpower and tenacity. Hammer at 8.1 Warp Speed.

Zeus played in the only slow-play game of the evening. Why oh why do we persist with this anachronistic version of our game? It is an absurd and outdated option in the modern world of computers and busy lives!

Rant over and now to the actual game. Zeus has been in uncertain form in recent weeks but tonight was the night he returned to form. Dominating an open c-file he induced and injudicious b-pawn advance form his opponent. This duly got consumed and then Zeus opened up the King-side. The game was adjourned at move 35, with his opponent sealing the move. Pub analysis indicates that Zeus is +1.7 and has multiple ways to win. The hope is that his opponent will see sense and resign, otherwise the game resumes next Wednesday.

Hammer at 8-1 with one game adjourned. A dominating performance by the Hammer crew – they totally bossed the planet of Cave-N-Dish.

Clueless announced part 10 of the mission had been successfully completed and has resumed his state of inner peace and contentment.

I leave you with the match card and latest table:

 

A Greek Tragedy in W1

Επεισόδιο Εννέα

There is an old adage that states every good run comes to the end. This is the best that can be said of a tragic cold Monday night in Fitzrovia. In scenes reminiscent of Medea and Oedipus Rex the Hammer 1 juggernaut came off the rails at the hands of Albany, crashing to our first defeat of 2018.

Welcome to the latest instalment of the Starship Hammer 1 and its one-year mission to boldly go to Division 2 of the London League.

Captains Log – Star date 30/4/2018

Starship Hammer 1 has gone into orbit around the Alba planet of Wheatsheaf in the Fitzrovian quadrant of the Londonium galaxy. The upcoming encounter of chess mental gymnastics is laced with potential venom and hidden danger. The playing venue has alcoholic distractions available and there is a hint of a Welsh poetic voice in the air as well as shades of Animal Farm and 1984. This planet has ghosts from the past.

Clueless is wary and concerned that there may be too many distractions and a possible air of complacency in the landing party. He is at fever pitch, the weight of expectation almost unbearable.

Read on if you dar and see if you can spot the use of Newspeak in this report in homage to George Orwell.

 

The team assembled on time, in the right place and in the right frame of mind. We had a strong team, confidence was high, the banter beforehand was spot on – surely nothing could go wrong.

We had a new board one Rauno – aka “Sync” – a miserable play on the capital city of a great country – Finland.

The team, in board order:

  1. Rauno (Sync)
  2. Thomas (T-Bone)
  3. Marios (Zeus)
  4. Chris (Sydney)
  5. Jim (Loco)
  6. Paul (The Prof)
  7. Jeremy (Brexit)
  8. Paul (Dead-Eye)
  9. Sheikh (Pandit)
  10. Matteo (The Suit)

Sync playing on board one returned to chess action after a substantial break from the game. He was delighted to be playing again. Indeed, all seemed well at first and into the middle game. He had established an edge with the white pieces and was on the brink of launching a devastating queen-side assault with a free bishop controlling d8. Alas, a couple of mis-moves followed and he allowed black time to mount a vicious attack on the kingside. The end was swift and Hammer were 1-0 down.

Grand surroundings for a game of chess

The T-Bone had an unnerving encounter of playing an opponent who always arrives 30 minutes late and then proceeds to play at Wily Ward Speed. Clueless counselled T-Bone on this matter beforehand and all looked well. Thomas was a pawn up and consolidating his position – he had two bishops versus two knights on an open board – he was in control and having a good think. Unfortunately, he placed his rook on b8 instead of c7 and this allowed a nasty white knight to jump in on c6 and pin his bishop. T-Bone has an excellent face crime face and I could clearly see his frustration. Despite strenuous and ingenious efforts, he could not avoid material loss and the rest of the game was a rear-guard action without hope. It was genuine daylight robbery. Hammer 2-0 down.

Board 3 saw Zeus in action. Even for a God, Zeus has played a lot of chess this season and in recent games has displayed a touch of weariness. Other possible explanations are a recent trip to Olympus or the amount of beer consumption and his recent love for karaoke (see our @Hammer_Chess twitter account for evidence!). Whatever, the answer to this dip in form is, it initially continued in this match. Zeus dropped a pawn in the opening – but this time there was no doubleplusungood ending as he fought back and equalised. A draw was agreed shortly afterwards – Hammer on the scoreboard but 2.5-0.5 down.

Board 4 saw Sydney in his worst sober game of the season. Facing a Bajrush-style opening with the black pieces he got himself into a real positional bind. His strategy was totally malquoted. A desperado exchange sacrifice did not relieve the pressure on his position and the rest of the game  was a matter of technique for his opponent. A truly horrible game for Sydney and very frustrating for him. It was just one of those nights when Caissa dished out a bit of humble pie. Hammer down 3.5-0.5 and Clueless reduced to downing pints and cursing Dylan Thomas and anyone else he could think of.

Loco on board five would surely stop the rot. Indeed, he did, but the combination of a slightly annoying opponent and a fairly dull position conspired against him converting the edge he had. In the bar afterwards, he confessed to a bellyfeel about the game that indicated it was going to be a draw. Hammer trailing at 4-1 and stick in impulse rather than warp speed.

Something had to change and the burden of recording Hammer’s first win shifted to the Prof. I have to confess Clueless was most anxious in his periodic visits to the board and altogether gloomy about the outcome. However, I forgot the Prof always takes the “Reverse Amber” approach (Rudd – I will not resign) and keeps throwing oil on the fire. This Lasker approach will always produce results, especially in mutual time trouble, and the Prof duly converted. The Prof along with Wily has more lives at the chess board than a cat, and his uncompromising approach will always yield interesting games that test the nerves of his opponent as well as those of his captain. The record does not lie and his record this season shows a clean sweep when he has played.

Hammer now at 4-2 but still stuck in impulse speed and the core reactor was still misfiring.

The fate of the match then moved to the next four boards and Clueless had assumed a more optimistic air. The outcome of the match was still to be played for and Hammer were well-placed in all four games. A definite case of plusgood.

Board 8 saw potential player of the season Dead-Eye once again deep in thought. Paul really is a picture of concentration at the board as he summons all his willpower for the coming struggle. This night was no different as he went into ownlife mode and struggled mightily to force a win for Hammer. It was a tough game as his opponent was obviously settling for a draw and that is what he achieved. Hammer now at 4.5-2.5 and still in arrears.

Pandit on board 9 once again rubbed Hammer salt in the wounds of his opponent, Charlie’s (Sorted) old maths teach, and scored a dominating win. I was so pleased for Pandit as he has had some tough losses this season and this was a return to form and most welcome. He induced a black-square weakness around the Black King and basically was threatening checkmate in a variety of ways. It was great to see Pandit playing effortless chess, it was total duckspeak. Hammer at 3.5-4.5 down.

The Suit played a perfect game against a lower-rated opponent. Snaffling a pawn and exchanging down to a King and pawn ending. He then demonstrated technique forcing his pawn through and gracefully accepting the resignation of his opponent. It is a minitrue that he is returning to his best form.

The Suit, looking good

Hammer equalise at 4.5-4.5 – and like real political life, it was all down to Brexit.

I must add a caveat here and state I have taken writer’s poetic license here to add to the drama of this report and Jeremy’s game was not the last to finish. I have to confess employing goodthink to produce this report.

Brexit with the white pieces seemed to have everything under control despite his opponent controlling the f-file. Clueless was definitely not concerned and there was no hint of a hard border for Brexit. The conclusion was nothing to rectify here.

Unfortunately, this was just one of those nights and nothing really went Hammer’s way after a couple of mis-moves on Brexit’s part the game was over and Hammer had lost 4.5-5.5.

Clueless was distraught despite several pints of beer thrust into his hand he was inconsolable. On reflection I realised that nothing had changed – this is not newspeak – our destiny is still in our hands and if we play to our best we will go up and complete the mission.

My challenge to the Hammer boys is it’s do-or-die time, the clock is at 11 minutes to midnight and we have to seize our destiny. Hammer will win through, we are too good a team to let this golden chance slip.

This is not thinkpol on my part, nor fake news, but reasoned logic on how this team has performed this season. We will not be denied.

I leave you with the match card and current division standings.

Clueless over & out.

London 4 Update

I bring tidings of two quick-fire results within London Division 4; a narrow 3-5 loss to table-topping Newham, and a comprehensive 6.5-1.5 win against strugglers Metropolitan 4.

First up was Newham in a matchup that gave us the chance to nestle in amongst the league leaders, but in truth with those around us having games in hand, realistic chances of promotion already alluded us. Still, the match represented a great opportunity to test ourselves against a strong side. We were ultimately edged out but nearly all of the matches went to the wire in terms of close endgames, and we could easily have won on another night.

Matteo, Adam and Gokhan were particularly disappointed with their endings, but respect must be due to their opponents who played particularly well and took advantage of minor slips. Full scorecard below:

Brian has kindly shared his match for us all to enjoy – a fine win against his young opponent, now graded >150. He’s also included some of his own analysis and commentary:

“My opponent played an early Queen side fianchetto and put a lot of pressure on my e4/d4 pawns. By advancing 7.e5 I hoped to block his bishop’s long white diagonal, so he exchange two minor pieces on c3 and e5 to open the diagonal, at the expense of having to defend his isolated e5 pawn against my 12.Qg4 advance, eventually losing it. After he castled long, he developed dangerous double-rook pressure on the open g-file with an advancing h-pawn, but by pinning his g4 rook against his king (19.Qh3), I forced him into a complex minor-piece exchange, which was his only way to preserve attacking momentum, but left him a piece down for a pawn, menacing me with Queen and rook threats while I carefully got my exposed King to safety on the Queen’s side. Once my remaining rook was developed, I could attack his King on the seventh rank, forcing the exchange of all major pieces to an easily-won ending.”

I should also reserve particular mention for Dipender. Playing in his debut season for the club, he’s performing admirably in Division 4 and has established himself as one of our most reliable players. This victory against 137-graded Dybowski Jnr representing his best ever performance in an over-the-board encounter.

Next up was a match against Metropolitan’s 4th team. It’s worth reflecting on that for a moment. As we progress as a club, we’re contemplating entering a 3rd team into the London League structure, but our foes have maintained 4 for some time. Pretty impressive stuff.

However, it seems that stretch is proving a bigger challenge than normal this season,as they’ve struggled to consistently put out a full team this season, with inexperienced players often taking up the lower boards.

Hammersmith were in no mood to go easy on them though, as we ran out comfortable winners. The scoresheet tells its own story with a near clean sweep across the boards. Congratulations to Paul Mustafa who broke his duck for the club by scoring his first win. The first one’s always the hardest!

The results leave us 5th with just our finale against Kings Head to come. We should be hopeful of getting a positive result there but whatever happens, we’ve had a great season and are certainly moving in the right direction. Lest we forget we finished 9th last season, with just 4 points to our name! Roll on Hammer!!

The “El Chessico” – 2018 Variation

Yes, welcome to the latest instalment of the Starship Hammer 1 and her one year mission to boldly-go to Division 2 of the London League.

Partie sept et huit – Starship Hammer has gone into prolonged orbit around the binary planetary system Battersea Chessicus (BC2/3) – the mission, to meet with the noisy neighbours/strange inhabitants of this world. Thankfully, on the whole the people of BC2/3 are overwhelmingly friendly. The question is how would relations between our peoples be after two deadly encounters in over the board chess mortal combat?

This latest assignment has been given the code name “El Chessico 2018” and designated as mission critical by Starfleet Command.

Captain’s Log – Star Date 10/04/2018 and 17/04/2018. Clueless at the helm.

The Hammer 1 voyage has reached a seminal point – successful in this enterprise and we would be in the home straight and prime position to successfully conclude our overall goal. I had much to contemplate with landing crew selection vital in achieving the mission objectives. With the background of unknown diplomatic consequences – as well as two vital chess matches to be won – this was Hammer 1’s severest challenge. 

How would matters unfold?

The first encounter saw Hammer take on Battersea 2. My report is tempered by the fact I was playing as well.

The Hammer 1 crew was greatly depleted, missing the huge talents of Paul (The Prof), Chris (Sydney) and Thomas (T-Bone). Fortunately, willing and very capable deputies were on hand.

The Hammer team roster, in board order, comprised of:

Marios (Zeus), Bajrush (Wily), Jim (Loco), Tommaso (Forza), Pavel (Spock), Jeremy (Brexit), Paul K (DeadEye), Matteo (The Suit), Alexander (He shall be known as the Talent) and Clueless bringing up the rear.

Zeus, with the white pieces, took on the most innovative chess impresario in London Chess – Aldo on board one. Aldo had prepared a devilish line that required Zeus to tread a very careful tightrope. Deploying all his powers he negotiated his way through the minefield and emerged with a slight advantage. Maybe he missed a win, but it was very hard to see. A draw was agreed – Hammer on the scoreboard at 0.5-0.5

Wily on board 2 as usual went for it in an equal position. It is his uncompromising approach that has won many a battle for Hammer. Unfortunately, this can sometimes backfire and sadly this was the case in this encounter. From an equal position, Wily over pressed, lost a pawn, tried to complicate and sadly went down in a blaze of glory. Hammer trailing at 0.5-1.5

Board 3 next with Loco in sparkling form and determined to start noticing some wins for Hammer 1 – he duly did so and deservedly won in fine style. Hammer now level at 1.5-1.5

Both Forza’s and Brexit’s games are adjourned with the former in the ascendancy where cannot lose but hopefully enough to press for a win. Our Jezza, aka Brexit, is an exchange down but in a very blocked position he seems confident of holding it.

On board 5 Spock played very correctly and precisely as is his way. He comfortably held an edge but not enough to turn into a deserved win. Hammer still level at 2-2

Matteo had a tough night and ended up in a position where it was difficult to develop both his Q-side Rook and Bishop. Chess is hard enough, but when two of your pieces are not participating it makes it way harder. Despite tenacious defence, he was always struggling and when he resigned the position was just untenable. Hammer now down a point at 2-3

The next two boards saw excellent Hammer wins when both Dead-Eye and the debutant Talent, played excellent games.

Dead-Eye continued his sparkling form with an endgame study-like win against Battersea stalwart Emil. This was a masterful performance from Dead-Eye and although he had to wait for a long overdue resignation, the win was never in doubt. Hammer level at 3-3

The Talent is definitely the real deal and played an excellent debut game against his opponent, and although there were some iffy moments the restful was always going to go his way. Hammer now surging at 4-3

Lastly to Clueless on board 10. This was a case of snatching a draw from the jaws of victory. A nice knight retreat won me the exchange, but then my yo-yo form of this season took over and I failed to prosecute my advantage. So frustrating and particularly as this would have practically guaranteed victory on the night.

So, the current score is 4.5-3.5 in Hammer’s favour with two games to be decided. The worst Hammer can do is draw, and even the half a match point we would get, will keep us firmly on course. Obviously, victory by either Forza or Brexit (of the right variety) would be the more desired outcome!!

 

Hammer beamed down again for the second match against Battersea 3, a week later. Again, it was all change as Clueless rung the changes in an effort to score a decisive blow.

The Talent and Clueless stood down, and Thomas (T-Bone) and Nadhmi (The Gift) took up the cudgels and prepared to fight for Hammer honour.

This was a very different affair with Hammer ending the night at 9-0 up with one game adjourned. An almost Fischer-like performance with a win rush of epic proportions.

T-Bone playing white utilised his usual Kings Indian Samisch variation with Q-side castling, sacked a pawn on the queen side and then marched his major pieces to the King side and launched a heavy assault down the g and h-files. In the end the overwhelming forces deployed were just too powerful. The first of the glorious nine was secured.

On board two Zeus, in the last game to finish, pressed with the black pieces and went to the limit in striving for a win. I can reveal he has offered his opponent a draw in the adjourned position. We await developments, but for the purposes of this blog I will take it as a draw. Hammer steady at 1.5-0.5 to the good.

That was the only respite granted to our opponents with Hammer in devastating form and totally in the groove.

Loco at anytime is a formidable opponent. With the hits pieces against a French defence with space advantage and an open file, unstoppable. This was risk-free chess with the capture of a couple of pawns along the way. In the end, resignation was his opponents only viable option. Win number 2.

Wily conjured a win from a position where most of us would accept a draw. He deliberately went into a rook pawn endgame which he released he would hold the edge. He probed and manoeuvred tirelessly with both logic and subtlety. Eventually he achieved a passed pawn on the Q-side – this was the decisive moment. How he achieved it, only God and Wily knows, especially when this pawn was opposed by three pawns. I have called it Kosovan voodoo in the past and ask you to come up with a better term. Hammer leap ahead 3.5-0.5

Forza is not only a Caruana doppelgänger, but is starting to play like the WCC Challenger! His style is so smooth with his classic idiosyncrasy of taking about 80% of his allowed time over the first fifteen moves. He then speeds up and moves in for the kill. He always seeks to take his opponent out of normal lines and forcing them to rely on their talent rather than memory. This is a deadly skill. Facing a Scandinavian response to his initial e4 he found a variation that forced his opponent to start thinking from about move 4.

Forza then launched a pawn storm against the black king on the Q-side, that was so powerful, it led to a swift and fully-merited win.

Spock scored his win through forceful and dynamic play. he trapped the white king int he centre and then netted a rook for a bishop. His opponent was clearly demoralised and overlooked a tactic that would have ended in mate or the giving up of the second rook. An excellent performance – Hammer soaring at 5.5-0.5 to the good.

Next up was Brexit. He set a clever trap that saw his opponent surrender his queen for rook and minor piece. The rest of the game saw consolidation and mopping-up in full flow. A real Brexit job and almost welcome victory.

On board 8, Dead-Eye continued his devastating form of the season – his poor opponent Arnold had no answer to a tactical blow that yielded a pawn. A second pawn fell and as Dead-Eye relentlessly improved his position, Arnold called time and Hammer moved to Warp One at 7.5-0.5

The last two Hammer gauchos could not wait to join the landslide party.

Matteo was in fine fettle. He played a positional masterpiece with the black king imprisoning his rook on h8. Further indignity was inflicted with a bishop on h6 imprisoning the king and a passed pawn on d6 supported by a rook on d1 and the second rook on e1 and an open file. Back rank mates abounded and his opponent realised the cause was futile. Hammer at Warp 5 and 8.5-0.5

Returning to the Hammer colours on board 10 saw the Gift playing his second game for Hammer 1. Playing with the black pieces he simply built an unstoppable king-side attack that yielded a passed pawn that marched all the way to g2. This paralysed the white king, rook and knight he had to stop this monster from queening. The Gift then switched his king to mopping up the remaining white pawns. This was dominating chess and he graciously accepted the white flag and moved Hammer to Warp Speed 9.5

A hugely impressive night by the Hammer Crew. A result that will not be forgotten for a long time by our noisy – but excellent – neighbours. Clueless is reaching zen level – inner peace is within touching distance.

My thanks and congratulations to the Hammer heroes who really grabbed the moment in both matches.

Four games to go until mission end and Hammer are in charge of their own destiny. Next up are Albany on the 30th April and Clueless will be mailing out shortly.

Hammer 1 are the new definition of Mean Machine.

Here for your delight is the current League 3 table:

An ecstatic Clueless over & out!

Puzzle of the Week #016, & Bonus Match Report!

Admittedly, it has been slightly longer than a week since our last round, but who’s counting!

Without further ado – our congratulations goes to Jim “Loco” Stevenson with the first correct answer in our last Puzzle. It was a lovely little thinker, with the solution as follows:

1… Nc5+
2. dxc5, O-O-O+ (leaving the Black King primed to take white’s Rook on next move)

Our master-quiz-setter Carsten noted, “It was really just an excuse to plug the Dutch author Tim Krabbe’s fantastic chess page. Forged the dated labour and lack of presentation, the content is probably the best of any chess site on the net.

Go to https://timkr.home.xs4all.nl/chess/chess.html and be amazed, and if you don’t then you lack a chess soul!”

While Carsten & Co. concoct some more fiendish puzzles, we bring you a writeup by our Correspondent of the Year 2018 of last week’s London Div 5 game. Enjoy!

11.04.18 – London Division 5: Hammersmith v Lewisham

Welcome to Charlie Sturt, who debuts this season for our Division 5 team, but has already campaigned in other leagues.

This match started off with our small team being in the middle third of the league. Comes to the penultimate match of the season and we’re in the bottom quarter. So it is with much relief that I can report a great win, almost a slam dunk, with a 3-1 score over Lewisham. Read on for the unexpectedly good news.

Our opponents, losing the toss, meant we were White on odd boards. I was preoccupied with my game and so saw little of anyone else’s game, so their commentary has been included here.

Chris (as Black) on board two, adopted something akin to the French Defence (Exchange Variation). After skirmishing on the queenside, Chris craftily prevented his opponent from castling, using his bishop. White tried to shield his king with a bishop on e2, but Black piled on the pressure on that square. While White mustered every piece he could in its defence, it was to no avail and Black delivered checkmate finally, slipping queen and bishop through the hapless defenders. First blood to Hammersmith and congrats to Chris! 1-0

On board one, Nadhmi (as White) was up against a seasoned veteran looking for revenge after a previous defeat, and things looked very tough for Nadhmi in this game. Early on Black sacrificed a bishop for a pawn to attack White’s castled king. Black then forked White’s king and a rook with a knight. White however persevered and, fortifying his centre, was able to get counterplea against Black, who had not castled. Nadhmi started swapping of pieces and pawns. The end was inevitable, with king, knight and pawn against a king alone. Black resigned after the pawn was queened. 2-0 to Hammersmith.

Charlie, on board four, played very cautiously against a seasoned opponent. Charlie, employing quiet positional strategy, built up considerable advantage. His opponent had no chance and eventually succumbed. Hammersmith 3-0

A smiling Charlie, while Chris watches on, with Nadhmi and Robin both deep in thought

On board three, the captain looked like he was getting into trouble after fumbling against an obscure defence, 1.e4 d6, known as the Pirc. But as the middle game progressed, he was having a slight advantage, since he had a strong knight at d5, and Black had issues with king safety. White sacrificed a bishop for two pawns and White was doing fine, albeit 20 minutes down on the clock.

The first deadline came and went, with about even clock times. All queens and rooks were present, but Black had two stymied bishops facing a mere knight. White continued blocking Black attempts to free his pieces. Finally, after White lost a pawn by mistake in the centre, Black started to push the e and f-pawns to the 5th.

White was strategically lost. In the dying last two minutes, Black suddenly sacked his queen for the c3 pawn, protected by White’s queen, but the White queen was guarding the back row square b1 against checkmate, so couldn’t take the Black queen. White found a rook check, instead – but White, realising his mistake, reflected on the correct check. Yes, the sacrificial Black queen on c3 could in fact be taken (QxQ+!), with check on h7, and Black would have lost.

White was so chagrined, he’d had enough, and the flag on his clock cruelly dropped. So much for strategy, blunders quickly settled it!

Final score: Hammer 3 – 1 Lewisham

The Return of the Hammersmith League

Welcome back chess-fans – read on for details of the triumphant return of the Hammersmith League from it’s long hiatus, and a blistering write up of a make-or-break game in Middlesex Division 3

The Hammersmith League

“A Brief History of How, Why and Round One”

The fifty-six year old history of Hammersmith Chess Club is both rich and varied. In our halcyon days, one of the most important competitions the club ran was the Hammersmith League. This was a long-play format that involved local clubs, but it sadly fell into decline and finally ceased, as the fortunes of chess clubs in West London withered.

It was always the desire of the current Committee when the club was reinvigorated and financially sound, to resurrect the League. The big question was how we could make it different to what is currently out there, and give it a modern, relevant twist.

The answer lay in the rapid grade you can now obtain as an ECF member. There was nothing out there – League wise – that would allow members to attain a rating – plus the idea that this should be an exclusive competition for players graded around 100.

After consultation with SW London Juniors and our frenemies at Battersea, we launched the League on the 19th March 2018. For this inaugural competition, four teams are involved – Battersea, SW Juniors, and two from Hammer. The competition will be played over three nights in March and April and the basic rules are as follows:

  • Teams of five boards
  • Average grade for the team to be no higher than 114 ECF
  • Time controls – 30 minutes plus 15 second increment per move (the club’s decision to purchase digital clocks earlier this year made this possible)
  • All players to be ECF members and all games to be graded
  • A double-header – you play the same opponent twice, once as black and once as white
  • To be played over three nights on the 19th March, 9th April and the 30th April

I must acknowledge at this stage the help from Leon and Gregg at Battersea, Tony at SW Juniors and Adam our Club Captain, in realising the new League. Plus, due to helping out our Thames Valley team on the night, Tony Niccoli ran the first evening for me… hugely appreciated.

So, Hammer needed two new captains – and I am happy to report both Wyatt and Ben stepped up to the plate. We were ready to go!

The first round draw saw Battersea take on SW Juniors and the Hammerheads (Team Wyatt) take on their compatriots Hammersmith Circus (Team Ben).

The SW Juniors was a tense affair that went back and forth across the two matches. In the end it finished 5-5 and honours even. Notable performances were seen from SW Junior stars Alexander Jamieson and Taylor Auchi, both convincing winners at 2-0. Whilst Battersea stars Josef-Milne-Lewer and Joe Sullivan returned 2-0 victories as well.

The last match-up saw Gregg and young Connal contest two hard-fought draws. The match scorecard is given below:

  • Alexander Jamieson 2 – 0 Darius Zutautas
  • Teymour Harandi 0 – 2 Josef Milne-Lewer
  • Connal McBrinn 1 – 1 Gregg Hutchence (two draws)
  • Kirill Povarenkin 0 – 2 Joe Sullivan
  • Taylor Auchi 2 – 0 Perto Yusoff

The Hammersmith derby match now took centre stage.

Two new teams and two new captains. There is nothing like lording it over your fellow club mate. There was pride, bragging rights and a bit of putting-in-your-place on the line.

Truth be told it was a bit one-sided with the Hammerheads demonstrating a ferocious appetite for points. Worthy of certain Premier League champions elect.

The final results are not pleasant for Team Circus:

  • Charlie Sturt 2 – 0 Shiraz Suntook
  • David Lambert 2 – 0 Alex Meynell
  • Simon Harding 2 – 0 Dipender Gill
  • Wyatt Donaldson 2 – 0 Ken Kwabiah
  • Nadim Osseiran 0 – 2 Ben Rothwell

The Hammerheads triumphing 8-2 and surging to the top of the table. Their top four boards completing 2-0 sweeps and only Captain Ben heroically holding the line and preventing a whitewash.

London League 2 Captain Dave Lambert was in ruthless form and exploited the understandable rustiness of Alex Meynell. Exclusively, for Hammer Chess, he sharedshis thoughts on the two games:

Game 1 (Dave as Black) – we both fianchettoed King-side and then a bit of a standoff occurred in the middle until I grabbed the initiative with my e7-e5 pawn push. This ultimately left me a pawn up after I threatened a cheapshot mate with a Queen/Bishop battery, forcing Alex on the defensive. Alex also got himself into time trouble as he persistently forgot to press the clock! As we entered an endgame slightly favourable to me, he timed out.

Game 2 (Dave as White) – Alex defended with an unusual variation of the Petrov defence which allowed an exchange of Queen and minor piece each, but at the expense of damaging Black’s pawn structure. Perhaps somewhat prematurely, I raided forwards with a Rook which snagged a pawn at the expense of wasting several moves finding a safe square to retreat it to.

I entered an endgame with the slight edge but significantly down on time. It was soon a Knight and several pawns apiece, but White had the better centralised King which proved crucial as we entered the final minute. The Black King eventually ended up with two masters – preventing the pawn promotion and guarding his Kingside pawns. It was too much to bear or take, and Alex’s resignation followed very quickly.

Thus, after round one the Cross table and League Standings are as follows:

That is Round One folks, with more to come. There is still all to play for and some crucial, crunch games to come.

Bring on Round 2! John.

03.04.18 – Middlesex Division 3: Muswell Hill v Hammersmith

The team travelled to Muswell Hill’s brand new pub venue knowing that this game would make or break our season. The game was just as important for our opponents, and as with most second teams at this stage of the season, both teams were slightly weakened by ineligibility.

It was the perfect opportunity for Tommaso to make his debut for the team on board one. He was playing Muswell Hill’s newly-graduated youngster, and a wild tactical struggle ensued. With crazy variations in the air, Tomasso coolly navigated the position and entered a Queen & Knight vs. two Rooks endgame. This he won with relative ease – a superb performance that set the scene for the remaining games. 1-0

John on board two was the only player out graded on the night. He entered a classic closed position with a good Knight vs. bad Bishop. He could possibly have pushed his fractional edge, but sensibly decided instead to take the draw. 1.5-0.5

Alexander had an evening to forget. He found himself in an opening he did not know and fell into trap after trap. Two pawns fell in quick succession, and then a piece. His King was hopelessly stranded in the centre of the board and although he defended tenaciously, the writing was on the wall. 1.5-1.5

Nadhmi had the black pieces on board four, and elected to play a solid defence. Both he and his opponent were on top form, and neither faltered. In the end a draw was the correct result. 2-2

Brian on board four found himself a piece down in the early-middlegame. He had decent compensation, however, and pressed his opponent to find some difficult moves. Eventually the extra piece proved decisive and Brian went home empty-handed. 2-3 #squeakybumtime

I faced the tricky 3.Nf3 Scandinavian,and could not recall any of my preparation. In trying to transpose into a line I knew better, my opponent built up a huge centre with c4 and d5, restricting my pieces to the back rank. Fortunately this was where my luck turned: instead of attacking my weak pawns or uncastled King, my opponent decided to slowly develop his remaining pieces to some passive squares, allowing me to untangle and address my weaknesses. The game ended abruptly with a fairly elementary piece-winning tactic, and to my relief I had undeservedly scored a win. 3-3

Charlie was facing none other than his former maths teacher! After Queens were exchanged, Charlie confidently marched his King to the centre of the board, and attempted to checkmate his opponent with his Rooks and Knight! The tactic did not quite go according to plan, and the players started repeating moves while trying to calculate alternative paths. Eventually the Knight was swapped for a Bishop, but Charlie’s pawn majority on the Queenside came under attack. The maths teacher decided to test Charlie’s arithmetic, offering a draw while three pawns down! Charlie politely declined, and delivered mate on the h-file two moves later. 4-3

Dave on board 8 played a complicated opening, with both players expending a lot of time to reach a middle game position where Dave was a fair bit better. Dave realised he had to speed up his play, but his opponent decided his best strategy was to slow down. As the last game to finish, with all spectators watching the seconds ticking down, only one player in the room was surprised when the flag dropped. 5-3

Go Hammer! The victory means the team is all but guaranteed promotion with a game to spare!

The remaining permutations are mind-boggling. In short, Willesden have to still to play Hendon, and Muswell Hill have still to play Kings Head (twice), so only one of each pair could possibly reach eight points.

Even in this rare scenario, and even if we lose our last game, we’d still have a strong chance of promotion based on game points, penalty points, or the league that no club can have three teams in a division.

A huge thanks to all 24 players who have contributed to the team thus far this season. The coveted MVP certificate is being hotly contested by Charlie, Ken, Ben, Simon and John. If any of these players win in our 12th match (and the other four don’t), the prize will be his!

Adam.

 

Eggcellent Chess

April Fools’ – he wasn’t really dead!  (Happy Easter!)

With that out of the way, let’s get down to some chess updates. March ended with some mixed results for our teams – match reports follow. We’re also really excited to be able to share a very interesting evening at Battersea Chess Club coming up tomorrow – Tuesday 3rd April – and some details on the ever-growing casual chess scene at Hammersmith. Read on!

  • Middlesex Division 3 v. Willesden
  • London Division 6 v. Battersea
  • Middlesex Division 2
  • Battersea Hand & Brain Night
  • Hammersmith Social Chess
26.03.18 – Middlesex Division 3: Willesden & Brent v Hammersmith

From a captain’s point of view, Monday’s match v Willesden started several days before the first move was made. We knew we needed to field a strong team to stand a chance of winning, and eight of the best Hammerites were fit and ready to demonstrate our mettle on away turf. On Friday, the opponents announced their venue was shut & promptly called the match off… before asking to play at our place instead. Game back on!

After assuring me they would only be able to field seven players, I was a bit perplexed when they turned up with eight. Coupled with several members of our team being drafted into the firsts at the last minute, I was left scrambling for players – a big thanks to Ben, Eva and Wyatt, who stepped in at the last minute.

We were well out graded on every board, but played some good chess.

On Board One, Brian missed a piece-winning tactic that would have ended the game. After that, a few inaccuracies in time trouble led to a painful, but ultimately hard-fought loss:

Yours truly got a nice position out of the opening on the black side of a London System. Ultimately, my lack of a concrete plan and unwillingness to give up material cost the game:

Alexander played a very nice endgame which culminated in his opponent’s King walking into checkmate:

Pouya narrowly lost as well, so it was down to our lower order to try and salvage something from 3-1 down. They came very close – Ben, Jeremy and Wyatt made well-earned draws, and Eva pickup up her first win for the club.

So we ended the night second best – losing by a single point.

We go into our last two games in a four-way race for the two promotion spots. Next up is a crunch match against Muswell Hill, which may well determine our fate.

Adam.

27.03.18 – London Division 6: Battersea v Hammersmith (Hedger)

Hammersmith Hedger suffered our heaviest defeat of the season this week, going down 3.5-0.5 to arch-rivals Battersea.

Robin played black on Board One, securing the half-point. Having a solid setup, he held the position, giving away very little, ultimately settling for a draw in a King & pawn ending.

Nick played black on Three, having two active Bishops. However he had saddled himself with three isolate pawns and ended up resigning after losing the exchange. In Nick’s defence, he was facing an opponent the best part of 30-points higher than himself.

John’s opponent gave up the exchange to open an attack on John’s King. John defended it well and adjourned. However, after reviewing the adjourned position he decided the position was lost and resigned without resuming.

Dan on Board Four had worked his way into a decent position, however he ended the evening very disappointed as he fell for a mate.

28.03.18 – Middlesex Division 2

No match report for this one, but we are delighted to report a Hammersmith victory, 4.5-3.5, which means promotion to Division 1 is near-guaranteed.

Great to see both teams enjoying a bit of post-game conviviality afterwards too – the spirit of chess alive & well!

Hand & Brain Night – Battersea Chess Club – Tuesday 3rd April (tomorrow!), 7.15pm

Our good friends and noisy neighbours down in Battersea will be hosting a chess-quiz-double-header this Tuesday evening from 7.15pm down at their home venue (the Battersea Labour Club, 5 minutes from Clapham Junction – cheapest pints in London!).

Full details on their website – link below – but in brief, there’ll be a bit of a “guess-who” round of famous chess players, followed by an eight-round tournament, all of which will count towards your points total for the evening.

It’s an activity aimed at all levels – new players will be paired with stronger players to make it as balanced as possible – sounds like fun to us!!

http://www.batterseachessclub.org.uk/hand-brain-night-at-battersea-with-chess-who-quiz/

Entry: free!
Contact: aldocamilleri@aol.com – to confirm your spot
Start Time: 7.15pm sharp – there’s a lot to get through!
Location: Battersea Labour Club, Falcon Road, SW11 2PF

Hammersmith’s Burgeoning Casual Chess Scene!

And last but not least, we wanted to let everyone know about our extremely popular and ever-growing casual chess scene!

Started by a handful of enthusiasts from the club, we are now seeing regular meetups on weekends and during the week, of like-minded individuals who want to enjoy a bit of chess, often (but not always!) in a pub with a drink or two.

It’s a really fun, social & ever-evolving – and we want to encourage it as much as possible! If you’d like to get involved please get in touch with our man (mostly) at the helm, John White: john.white49@ntlworld.com, or leave a message and we’ll add you to the Club WhatsApp group (aptly named “HammerTime“), where most of this gets arranged (30 people and growing!).