Chess on Fire

It’s been an absolutely BLISTERING start to the new season for everyone at Hammer! New Equipment, New Tournament, and six days into the new season I can proudly report that we are UNBEATEN, having won 4 and drawn 3 of our opening games – a fantastic start!

Without further ado, a full roundup of this week’s action follows.

World Mental Health Day

First up, we are proud to report that a group of our members lent their support to our friends at the Hammersmith & Fulham branch of mental health charity MIND, in their event to mark World Mental Health Day this Tuesday just gone.

Lyric Square, W14 – familiar territory for Hammersmith Chess Club

Similar to our fund-raiser earlier this year, we hooked up with the MIND folks in Lyric Square at the heart of the community to generate interest and publicity for the wonderful work MIND does, and of course play some chess!

Mike Mackenzie – Benoni’d to within an inch of his life

Our thanks goes to everyone involved in organising and volunteering for such a worthwhile cause! Tony Niccoli was a particular star, helping with transporting tables, chairs, sets boards and clocks, and manning the tables until 11.30am.

Later on we were joined by new members Charlie and Nadim, with our heavyweight duo Marios and Mike joining later in the afternoon.

Some of the day’s highlights:

  • Numerous enquiries from the public about the club
  • Hammer Chess showing how much it is part of the local community
  • The camaraderie of our club is just outstanding
  • The number of people who love chess
  • And finally a surreal moment that became clear 24 hours later. During a lull in the proceedings, Marios, Mike and I played through the classic Petrosian-Spassky 1966 WCC final game involving the classic swooping Queen sacrifice. The next day on, that game was the Daily Puzzle challenge – spooky or what??

Our thanks go to Victoria and our friends at MIND, plus John, Tony, Nadim, Charlie, Marios and Mike, who gave their time to support a worthwhile cause.

Hammer bossing it in Lyric Square – yet again!

Middlesex League Double Header – 09.10.17

Monday 9th October saw both of our Middlesex Teams competing in their opening games of the season – it was quite literally standing room only at Lytton Hall, with a few brave souls playing casual chess on some makeshift tables right at the back of the room!

Fantastic to see so many players down at the club on a dark Monday evening! Our 2nd team match report follows…

Standing room only for the casual players!

This was the first ever match for our brand new team in Middlesex Division 3!

Astonishingly, 14 players wanted to play in a team that could hold 8, leaving the captain with tough selection decisions. I decided to give as many of the new guys as possible a chance to play, and rested some of the stalwarts for the potentially far harder second fixture.

We ended up beating our opponents by a score of 6.5-1.5 with not a single player losing a game. Coincidentally this matches our score against them last year – which funnily enough was also the first game of the season (report here). Of course, in that case we didn’t have a second team, and put out our first team – a testament to the progression we’ve made as a club in 12 months.

Dipender’s game was the first to finish. He surprised his opponent on move 1, and proceeded to play aggressively, forcing resignation in a 14-move manoeuvre.

The full, brutal demolition is below!

Next Monday we play host to Willesden, who join us from Division 2 last season. I expect us to be out graded across all boards, but we’ll be full of confidence following a fine first showing.


The same evening our other Middlesex team – “the 1st team”, playing in Division 2 – ran out 4.5-3.5 winners under new captain “Super” Marios.

A fabulous result given the tough standard of our opponents, and another Hammer team off to a winning start this season.

London League 4: Hammer v Morley College – 06.10.17

A great start for our “2nd team” in London Division 4 as we got off to a flyer against Morley College. It’s always nice to start the season with a win but even more pleasing when you’re able to complete the job without losing a match. We’re up 6.5-0.5 with one adjournment, and things are looking positive in that one too.

Also great to see so many people battling for places. Alas, I had to knock back several players this time around, but managed to find spots for Pouya and Charlie, both of whom ran out winners on the night.

Here’s the scoresheet…

And then onto the games…

First to finish was Charlie’s mash-up on Board 8. We could only have been 5 minutes in when I saw the White Knight forking King and Rook. The Bishop and Queen followed closely behind and we looked set for a <10 minute victory. In truth, I think it probably lasted a few minutes more than that but the hammer soon fell. Great win to get things moving. 1-0

Your author’s match on Board 7 wasn’t far behind. A couple of slow moves in the opening allowed me to take the initiative and gain space with an early pawn push. I trapped his Bishop, and found myself in the driving seat materially and positionally. The fact his King was vulnerable to checks meant I always had a good move brewing (perhaps “too many”, to quote Mike Mac), and forced a resignation a few moves later. 2-0

John was next to strike on Board 6, putting his opponent in all sorts of trouble in the middle-game. It didn’t help that he castled the ‘wrong side’, when all the pointers seemed to suggest a King-side defence was tighter. Suddenly John’s Bishop on h2 was a monster, and his marauding c-file pawn was a menace. When a pin was sprung on his opponent’s Queen there seemed no way out short of losing significant material. John bust open the defences and finished with an elegant checkmate. Nice to watch. 3-0, and it seemed we were working from the bottom of the scoreboard upwards!

Next to finish was Brian who selfishly messed up the pattern! Still, he got a win so I can’t complain too much. Playing White, Brian disrupted the pawns on the opposition’s King-side forcing him to castle Queen-side. Whilst material was level, his pawn structure was superior and following an ill-advised pawn charge on the h-file, he was left with his own soldier who could march up the board unchallenged. Harry!!! Simon Williams would be proud. 4-0

Matteo secured a draw against their strongest opponent on Board 1. He was left to rue several moves that the computer considered suboptimal (always easier when checking in the pub afterwards) but in truth, there wasn’t much in it from start to finish, and in the end a draw was probably the right result. 4.5-0.5, and the match was won.

Pouya found himself up against Morley College stalwart Simon Shaw on Board 3. A cursory look suggested the match was finely balanced as the players entered the endgame with two Rooks and almost a full complement of pawns apiece. However, looks can be deceiving. The Hammersmith debutant’s pieces were coordinated much better and taking a leaf out of Nimzovich’s “Rook on the 7th” mantra, the momentum suddenly swung in his favour. Pawns were mopped up left, right and central, and the resignation came shortly afterwards. 5.5-0.5

The final match to finish was Rich’s. Imagine the scenario: Queen, Knight vs. Rook, Bishop, Knight, with a couple of pawns apiece. Add to the mix a centralised (and checkable) King, and a couple of minutes on the clock. Rich had the edge, but he was one careless move away from oblivion! With nerves of steel, he kept things extremely tight and effectively managed to wind down his opponent’s clock further still. A gracious resignation broke the tension and set Rich up for a well-earned point (and pint). 6.5-0.5

Which brings us to our unresolved encounter between Nadhmi and John Williams. There looked nothing in it throughout the encounter, even following a sharp exchange of pieces that left both sides with a Knight and six pawns each. I suppose a supercomputer would say it was a theoretical draw but they played on, still several moves short of their 36 moves. Nadhmi seemed more confident in the position and forced through a passed-pawn before the adjournment came. Frustrating one, with the balance of power moving towards Master Auchi, but they’ll live to fight another day! Adjournment date TBC.

Thanks to everyone for playing. Look forward to next time.


London League 5: Hammersmith v Kings Head – 11.10.17

In our other game this week, our League 5 team scored a 2-2 draw against Kings Head. It maintains our unbeaten run and gets a few more players out of the starting blocks! Hopefully we can squeeze out a victory next time round.

Sponsorship – Chess & Bridge Shop

The eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed the addition of a new “Shop” link on our menu and a sponsor on the right hand side of the page.

We are pleased to announce that we’ve agreed a sponsorship deal with London’s premier chess equipment store – Chess & Bridge –

It’s a great link for both of us and has allowed us to renew some more of our equipment at a great price – watch our for more new boards & pieces coming soon! And if you’re looking for some equipment yourselves, we’ll have a stack of magazines down at the club shortly for your perusal!

London League 3: Hackney v Hammersmith – 11.10.17

Saving perhaps our best result for last, and confirming our “on fire” status so far this season, London 3 Captain John White gives us his take on the opening night for our League 3 team.

Cue Captain James Tiberius Kirk voice…

Welcome to the voyages of the Starship Hammer as it commences its one season mission to boldly go where??….. to Division 2 in the London League, and we don’t need 5 years!!!

Okay Trekkies, that’s your lot for the moment.

Yes, the new London League Division 3 season opened at a new venue – The Citadines Hotel in Holborn (not a shabby place!) – starring Hammer 1, rejuvenated, reinvigorated, packed with new and old talent and ready to take to the stage in an encounter with Hackney 3.

However, before we get to the nitty-gritty please indulge your correspondent in a rewind to the end of last season and my reflections on our journey last year. I noted that we had achieved our primary objective, which was to retain Division 3 status. However a detailed analysis revealed that we had a plus score in game points and that with the odd individual game results going our way, we would have been much further up the table.

With this in mind I thought a realistic objective for 2017-18 was promotion to Division 2. Our first match against Hackney 3 confirmed the logic of this.

The Hammer team this season is a very different beast.

Our nominated players this season are Marios, Bajrush, Jim, Chris, Paul McK, Jeremy, Pavel, Sheikh, Paul K and John G. In other words, I do not even make the team and I am the captain!

First of all, I would like to welcome Jim and Paul McK to the club, and to the Hammer team. Both are very strong players and really beef up our top boards. Furthermore, the return of Chris (see below pic!) and John G is most welcome after an absence of two years. These recruits, coupled with Marios and Pavel being available for the whole season, really makes Hammer a competitive and tough nut this season. With Matteo, Brian, Orial, Safi and Adam to call on as super-subs, we have real strength in depth too.

Two years is a long time in chess, as Chris Skulte returns to the warm bosom of mother Hammer

I also need to designate nicknames to our team members, and so far this season we have:

  • Marios – “Zeus”
  • Bajrush – “Wily”
  • Jim – “Loco” (an obscure reference to the Flying Scotsman!)
  • Chris S – “Sydney”
  • Paul McK – “Prof”
  • Jeremy – “Brexit”
  • Pavel – “Spock”
  • Paul K – “Dead Eye”
  • Sheikh – “Pandit”
  • John G – “Sauvignon”
  • John W – “Clueless”
  • Matteo – “Suit”
  • Orial – “The Wiz”

Other designations will follow as and when.

Alas, Sauvignon, Spock and Dead Eye could not make the Hackney gig and thus the Suit, the Wiz and Clueless stepped up to the plate.

At last to the match report. Please note: as I was playing, the details are not extensive!

Hammer started at full throttle with Loco finishing his game in double-quick time. A crushing win and Hammer 1-0 to the good. There then followed a gold rush of wins as Hammer flexed its muscles.

Decisive wins followed from Zeus, Sydney, Pandit, Prof, Brexit and even Clueless got in on the act putting Hammer 7-0 up and the clock had not even reached 9.30pm. I can report that all of these were decisive wins and totally in keeping with the Caveman heritage that Hammer espouses. Victory was assured.

The three remaining games were in some ways the most interesting. The Wiz sadly went down and the score moved to 7-1. This was definitely a case of over-pressing with the Wiz trying to force a win.

The Suit has a sealed move scenario, unfortunately in a very murky position. I am pessimistic about his chances although there are counter-play possibilities.

As for Wily, what can I say? He snatched a draw from the jaws of defeat. A typical Wily game & performance. A rook imprisoned on h4, controlled chaos on the board and yet despite being a pawn and the exchange down, he was striving for the win. Wily chess requires balls of steel and his uncompromising approach always yields results. Some good, some bad!

So, at the end of the night Hammer are 7.5-2.5 ahead with 1 adjournment.

A successful takeoff and Hammer is ready to complete its 2017-18 mission. The force is with us!!



The B of the Bang

After what seems like an age, the new chess season is finally upon us – and it started with a Bang!

Monday 2nd October saw the opening game of the 2017-18 season, with the two Hammer teams battling it out in Lytton Hall for bragging rights in the Hammersmith Derby – more on that later.

If you haven’t taken a look at our Calendar recently – please do so! It’s a rip-roaring story of competitive games coming thick & fast, with no fewer than 16 matches this month, plus the opening night of our RapidPlay tournament. In fact, the months up to Christmas are going to be chocka – including a top class Simultaneous!

Our weekly digest of goings-on at the club follows…

Hammer Derby – 02.10.17

Our two London League 6 teams faced off in the traditional season opener at the start of the week. A tense affair as always, we were delighted to hand league debuts to two new members, Charlie and Wyatt – welcome chaps! The game unfolded as follows…

Board 1 saw Captain Rich take on stalwart John. It proved a very tough affair with the players evenly matched. The tussle ended in a late flurry of moves in order for both players to reach the time control, with the game going to an adjournment. Subsequently, the players agreed a win for White. First blood, 1-0

Board 2 had Club Secretary Mike taking on newbie from down under, Wyatt. An all out attack from White (Wyatt) was repelled by a very stubborn defence. When the dust settled, there was spaghetti all over the board, and Black had the upper hand. However, wily Wyatt managed to steer the game to a draw, 1.5-0.5

Board 3 had our other newbie Charlie, taking on one of our charming long-timers, Nick. As experienced players will know, the draw is always on offer with Nick, and the game went true to form with an early draw being agreed, 2-1

Board 4 was another even matchup – just 2 grading points separating the players. The experienced Dan (as Black) played a smooth game, ending in a Queen & Rook mating net. Bad luck to Nadim, but a great tussle. Honours even at 2-2

RapidPlay Tourney – Pairings Announced!

You’ve probably heard about our new RapidPlay tournament this season – it’s going to last the full 8 months of the season, with a round each month, and we literally can’t wait for it to kickoff!!

To date it’s been a HUGE success, with 25 players signing up to take part. The big news this week – entries have now closed and the Supercomputer at Lytton Hall has determined the initial pairings as follows:

There’s a couple of tasty pairings in here – and the opportunity for a whole load of upsets! It’s a remarkable feature of chess how time can be an almighty leveller. Those gradings will mean very little with just 45 minutes on the clocks.

It properly kicks off on Monday 23rd October, 8pm sharp – see you there!

GM Keith Arkel Simultaneous – 11.12.17

We are DELIGHTED to announce that esteemed GM Keith Arkell will be gracing us with his presence at Lytton Hall on the final night of the London Chess Classic – Monday 11th December – for a Simultaneous display at the club!

Gary meets GM Keith Arkell

Keith has been a GM since 1995, British RapidPlay Champ in 1998, and has a peak ELO rating of 2545. He tied for British Champ in 2008, and shared first place in the World Senior Championship in 2014. He ain’t no fool!!

Full details will be announced shortly – there’ll be a small fee to enter, and places will be limited, but you can register your interest early by dropping us an email:

Monday 11th December – Save the date!!

NEW Equipment!

After much searching and deliberation, we are pleased to announce that we’ve purchased a boatload of shiny new equipment for our members to use! It takes Hammer Chess right into the 21st Century and is a solid investment for the Club.

First up and fresh off the plane from China this week – we’ve secured a raft of new digital clocks. These can’t be beaten on functionality and will allow us to use timing increments for the first time. They’re also FIDE approved for when we next host Carlsen et al for some tea & biscuits on a rainy Monday night in W14.

We’ve also purchased a raft of new boards and pieces – weighted, no less! – for casual use, and are in the final stages of agreeing some brand new, solid wood match boards for the premium matches!

It all bodes well for the future of Hammer Chess!


Hammersmith MIND – World Mental Health Day

If you haven’t heard already, we’re rekindling our link with Hammersmith & Fulham MIND next week, with a team of volunteers from Hammer Chess helping out in Lyric Square to support the charity as they mark World Mental Health Day on Tuesday 10th October, 10am – 4pm.

It’s not too late to get involved – if you’re available and would like to help out, please drop John an email:


Like Playing in a Foreign Country

As we know, the Hammer Foreign Legion is strong – having successfully toured Amsterdam earlier this year, a couple of our members have recently had some chess-based experiences in foreign lands.

First up, our intrepid London League 4 Captain, Dave, had the pleasure of taking on some of the locals in Slovakia recently. It was an interesting experience, and rumour has it he’s made some permanent friends on the app!

The Slovaks… crazy for the beautiful game

And whilst experiencing the delights of Moorish Spain, webmaster Andy did some background reading on the Nasrid dynasty, coming across the following fascinating passage in a book – finally explaining the meaning of Alfil!

“Chess is one of the oldest games of war, and has been played in Spain longer than anywhere else in Europe, by Spanish Muslims since their arrival in the eighth century, and by Spanish Christians and Jews since the early tenth century. It started in ancient India, and the original pieces represented the units of the Indian army – foot soldiers, cavalry, armed chariots and elephants. The infantry, or pawns were led on the chessboard as in life by the King and his senior minister, his vizier. Some people think it was a game modelled on Alexander the Great’s campaigns in Persia, in which his squadrons were aligned in ranks of sixty-four squares, the number of squares on a chessboard.

The game reached Europe through Moorish Spain, where in Islamic chess, opening moves had romantic names such as the Sword opening, or Pharaoh’s Fortress. As it spread to medieval Europe, the pieces changed to reflect the feudal social environment of the times. Kings and pawns stayed the same, but the elephant piece was replaced in Christian chess by the Bishop, a powerful figure in the medieval church. In Spanish Muslim chess, the Bishop is just an alfil, meaning a chess piece and nothing more. The horse of the Indian game became the Knight, a symbol of feudal chivalry, the old armed chariot became the castle (or Rook in English, which comes from the Persian word for chariot), and the vizier changed into the Queen.

The 14th Century Nasrid ChessBoard

By the late fifteenth century, when the Nasrids were playing chess on the Alhambra chessboard, a dramatic change had taken place. The Queen was no longer the weaker companion of the King – she was the most powerful piece on the chessboard, with new long-range striking power. There was only one way to win the game, and that was through the irrevocable cornering and capture of the enemy King.”

The more you know!!

Hot off the Press – 06.10.17 !!

The London League 4 team have made a wining start to their season this Friday night, with a thumping 6.5-0.5 victory (plus one winning adjournment) against Morley College. Full writeup to follow…!

There Ain’t No Cure for the Summer League Blues

This bulletin comes with a Hammer health warning.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is some food for thought in these dark times:

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

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

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

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

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

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


“Just Hammered” by name…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That’s all folks!


Heatwave Chess

19.06.17 – Middlesex League – Kings Head v Hammersmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brexit vs. a giant canary

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

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


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

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

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

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

Season Stats:

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


An Englishman in Division 5

25.05.17 – London League 5: Hammersmith v Hackney

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TV Double Header v Wimbledon

15.05.17 – Thames Valley League: Wimbledon B v Hammersmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18.05.17 – Thames Valley League: Wimbledon A v Hammersmith

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks,

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!!!


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.


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.