C4, D4, or E4… that is the Question?

I thought it was about time to get Shakespeare on the Hammer website.

At club level chess, I am currently rated ECF 150 (roll on July) – you do wonder what is the best opening move.

Taking the White side first.

I am a confirmed e4 player as White – it feels more natural, I have more knowledge of the openings resulting from this move. I am in my comfort zone.

This season, more than ever before, I am feeling the irresistible pull of d4 or c4. Indeed, I am experimenting more and more on chess.com in bullet chess. The problem is translating that experience into the over-the-board, long game and match scenario.

Always a good read – the chessgames.com opening Explorer – e4 the clear favourite

One of the pearls of wisdom I can pass on to the more youthful members of the club from my 58 years in this mortal coil, is that the older you get, the more risk averse you become.

To put it another way. Imagine me as a 25-year old – I was one once – and I had been a competent skier. If the choice was between a black run or a red run, the former would win every time! Thirty-two years later the choice is now between red and blue – with the latter winning most times. In other words, your desire to be reckless diminishes as surely as the march of time.

So, will I make the change? Maybe, or maybe not! Next season is the crunch time.

Now the Black perspective.

When an opponent flashes out c4 or d4 I immediately assume they are a more sophisticated player. They have read a bit!

In my mind, they are prepared for a strategic and positional struggle. They know a thing or two!

The stats don’t lie – c5 by far the most common Black response to 1.e4

e4 feels more basic, more caveman than high-brow. The struggle will be more tactical and a positive result more likely. It feels like your opponent is shouting “charge!”. A fight to the death is taking place and you cannot avoid it.

c4 or d4 feels like let’s see where we go, as I exert the advantage of first move. However, they will seek to slowly strangle you, and do so without risk to themselves.

Bobby Fischer played e4 for practically his entire chess career, until embarking on his WCC match against Spassky.

I know there were two c4 games in the interzonal in that cycle, but his real switch came when the title was on the line.

Poor Spassky must have been totally bemused as it appeared he had no preparation to go on, and coupled with his laid-back character, no defence.

In a recent article for the website I referred to the use of psychology in chess. The result in a game of chess, like all other sport, is often dictated by mental strength. If you can, legally and fairly, get inside the head of your opponent and use that properly, you are well on your way to victory.

Fischer’s use of c4 made hours of analysis and preparation completely redundant. A massive psychological blow.

To sum up – and remember this is just my view! – all three moves are good, and maybe wisdom and experience comes in to the equation.

I have been a confirmed e4 man all my life but am starting to feel the irresistible pull of a Queen-sized offering. Am I being pragmatic, or just getting old? You decide!!

John White.

If you’d like to write an article for the website, please get in touch. All contributions welcomed! 

 

Reminder: Theory Night – Monday 17th July

Don’t forget, the next evening of training & learning takes place this coming Monday at the Albion, starting about 7.30pm.

Our top-rated player, Carsten Pedersen, will be running through a couple of games to give us his thoughts & insights. Come join us!

3rd July – Team Rapidplay

Our Hammersmith Summer of Chess continues this coming Monday 3rd July with a team Rapidplay tournament at The Albion.

The tournament will kick off just after 7.30pm, lasting until around 10pm, with each player assigned to one of four teams. Everybody will get to play three games against similarly-rated opponents on each of the other teams.

Time control will be 20 minutes for all moves, with no increment, and the games will not be graded.

It’s an open event – no need to pre-register, but latecomers should be aware that they may not be able to participate once the teams have been sorted and the first games have kicked off! Non-members and casual drop-ins are of course very welcome!

Anyone not wanting to take part in the tourney is welcome to join us for the evening and play some regular blitz/casual chess on the side.

Lastly, and most importantly… a mystery prize will be awarded to the winning team!! Come on down – should be a great evening of chess!

While we’re on the subject, we have finalised details of our Summer Training evenings – save the following dates:

  • 17th July – Carsten gives us his analysis of some games submitted by members
  • 7th August – Bajrush presents an evening of Openings and Tactics
  • 4th September – Matteo takes us through the Caro Kann Defence

Training @ The Albion: Part 1

26.06.17 – The Albion Public House – Yes, the first training night of the Summer Program was delivered this Monday just gone by Clueless (aka. John White) – not a nickname to fill you with confidence – at our temporary Summer residence, The Albion.

The theme of my training session was to look at the following points, and what part they play in a chess contest:

  • The psychology of chess – what your opponent can do to you, and more importantly, what you can do to your opponent
  • The transition from Middle-game to Endgame
  • That even with reduced material you can still conjure up serious threats and tactics
  • Analysis of move options in a difficult position
  • The role of computers in analysis and adjourned positions

Using an illustrative game of mine, from just over two years ago, played against Ealing 2, I hoped to explore all of these themes. Please note, I will only examine the line played. You can have fun with all the variations and the what-ifs!

One caveat to all of this is my own ability as a chess player. I can probably calculate three moves deep on a good day, but due to the amount of chess I have played I do have some feel for what is the right move in any given position.

We join the game just as White, my opponent, had to seal his move.

Some background to the encounter which may explain some of the comments through the analysis:

  • The result of the game did not have any bearing on the result of the overall match – this was just for personal satisfaction
  • My opponent was quite abrasive and not friendly at the board. At the time, he was graded 143 and I was graded a mere 126. I think the grade disparity may have also influenced his opening choice – 1.f4 Bird’s Opening
  • On completing his sealed move, he offered me a draw. At the time I replied that I would like the opportunity to examine the position and decide once that had been done
  • I looked at the game briefly and decided that I would accept the draw if it was still on offer. I contacted my opponent and made the draw offer. He had obviously analysed the position – my suspicion is that he had probably used a chess program – and turned down the draw offer. After sometime, he agreed a resumption date. I did not look at the game again
  • His comment to me before we resumed, at the board, was “I bet you wished you had taken the draw offer”. This was unsportsmanlike and arrogant, but had the benefit of reinforcing my determination not to lose. It also dictated my behaviour over the first two moves I played

To the game, and I will supplement the move analysis with my thoughts at the time. The critical action took place over about 15 moves.

White sealed Rh3 – I was relieved when it was played on the board. I was dreading Ba3 and a subsequent BxN. At this stage I deliberately waited 10 minutes before playing my next move, KxP. I wanted it to appear I was shocked by his move.

He immediately banged out Kg3. Again, I took my time and thought for 20 minutes – this was part deliberate, as well as part trying to figure out what to play. I knew he was not playing his researched line, and I wanted to find something he and his engine had not considered.

I reasoned that I wanted to keep as many pieces for now on the board, activate my pieces and prevent penetration by his Rook. The move I played, which I found at the board, allowed this to happen. I played Bf7. I played it with supreme confidence to rattle him. A bit of chess psychology.

He visibly started; my ruse had worked. He thought for a while and continued with his original plan. Kg4 was played.

I responded with Kg7 to prevent any Rook penetration along the h-file.

He then banged out Ba3 – if you put it in the engines a mistake. I immediately played Nd7.

His response was to play Bd6 to which I replied Rc3 and for the first time I felt the initiative had changed hands. He played Bb5 and I instantly replied Nf6+. I had achieved my goals set out when I played Bf7.

This is where the tactics started with any King move other than Kf3 allowing a juicy Knight fork. He retreated with said move and I followed up with g5, threatening g4+ and picking up the Rook. He retreated his King to g2. Check out the move options for white here.

I now felt slightly sadistic by playing Rc2+, driving him back to the first Rank. He played Kf1. Now consider the position – whose King has more space and whose pieces have real targets, and how vulnerable is White’s Queenside? Quite a transformation, and all in the space of 9 moves.

In the next few moves the minor pieces were swapped off and White picked up the g-pawn. However, the commanding position of the Black King and the vulnerability of the White Queenside pawns decided matters in favour of myself.

My opponent resigned many moves later – he did not shake hands and was totally bemused. He was beaten psychologically as he could not adjust to the change in events.

All I can say is that revenge is a dish best served cold.

This small section of the game decided matters and demonstrates all of the above themes.

The use of psychology to unsettle your opponent. Doing something out of the ordinary.

On a personal note, I find it unbelievable that we still allow adjournments in UK League Chess. In these days, when everybody is time precious, the extra costs involved and the use of chess programs makes the continued employment of the adjournment option ludicrous. I fervently believe this is the overwhelming view of most league chess players. We are being held back by a vociferous minority!

We have to get with the times!!

(And a final tip to all future trainers at The Albion – get there early as it took a while to locate the demonstration board and setup the furniture)

 

Puzzle of the Week #002

The results are in – they’ve been checked, double-checked, scrutinized to death, and independently verified. We can now proudly announce that the Winner of our first Puzzle of the Week is….

Matteo Bezzini

Well done Matteo!! Full puzzle and solution below. It was a great puzzle to start with, and easy to overlook Black’s pawn on the g-file, poised for promotion.

Solution: 1.Be6+ Kh7 2.Bg8+ Kh8 3.Bb3+ Kh7 4.Rxb7+ Kh8 5.Rb8+ Kh7 6.Bg8+ Kh8 7.Rxb1, then mate is inevitable.

This week, we bring you two puzzles – the first of which is fiendishly tricky and may take you a while to figure out.

The second is a little more straightforward.

It’s White to move in both, and the target is Checkmate. As always, first to leave the correct solution takes the plaudits – good luck!

Puzzle 1 – fiendish!
Puzzle 2 – a little easier!

 

Bishop Training – Monday 27th

Ladies & Gents – owing to a fixture change next week, we now have a free night at the club on Monday 27th March.

One of our top players, Marios, has kindly volunteered to run a training session on opposite-coloured Bishops, starting from about 7.30pm. It’ll be useful to players of any strength, but in particular will introduce thematic thinking around how to use Bishops – definitely going to be useful for those under 130 who’ve not had much coaching before.

No need to pre-register or even let us know – just turn up if you fancy it. Non-members also welcome! See you there.

 

GM Chris Ward Simul – Last Chance!

Dear members, we still have some spaces available for the Simultaneous against GM Chris Ward next month at the bargain price of £3 per entry. Full details below:

  • Date: Tuesday 4th April
  • Time: 7pm start
  • Venue: Lytton Hall (our home venue)
  • Boards: 25
  • Entry: £3 per board
  • Contact: John White to confirm your spot

If there are any spaces left by close of play we will be offering this out to our friends at other chess clubs, and the chess-playing public at large.

If you want to guarantee your spot, please drop John White an email right away: john.white49@ntlworld.com

 

Buddy Up!!!

To tie in with the new ECF grades released today, Hammersmith Chess Club is proud to launch an equally new (and sparkly) scheme to support our members. With any luck we should see collective grades receive a boost too! We introduce our HCC Buddy Programme…

To complement our wide range of in-house training sessions, another useful way to improve your chess is if you have someone to turn to for that little bit of extra support throughout the season. That might be someone who’s happy to review your annotated games, or who can give you a few helpful tips following club tournaments. Obviously, it helps if that person is:

  • A little stronger than you
  • Willing to help (nothing more annoying than feeling you’re bugging someone!)

That’s where our Buddy Programme steps in. We’re looking to pair up willing volunteers who’ll be happy to maintain that 1-2-1 connection across the season. How that pair interacts following the pairing is entirely up to them – we’ll just act as the mechanism to put like minded people together!

What do we need from you? Please let us know – no later than Sunday 5th February – if you’d:

  • Like to offer your services as a Buddy
  • Like to be paired with a Buddy who can support you
  • Or if you’d like to put yourself forward to do both! I hope a number of people will fall into this camp

We’ll be able to confirm pairings on Monday 6th February. Suggest these run until the Summer and then we can review again.

And please, don’t fall into the trap of thinking “I’m only graded X, I won’t be able to help anyone”. That’s nonsense! The best way to learn is from someone who’s only slightly better than you.

The scheme will be administered by Dave Lambert – please send all replies, comments or suggestions in his direction at davidlambert80@gmail.com

Thanks,
Dave.

Save the Dates – FREE Training

Dear Members, as part of our training programme this season we have massively upped our game with the addition of Tony Niccoli to the roster. Tony is an ECF-registered trainer, and a top English player (198 standard/203 rapid), and he’ll be taking two more training evenings – in March and April.

The demo board – seen more action than most this year

Ahead of that we’re equally excited to announce that Monday 23rd January sees our next in-house training session. Hosted by our Thames Valley and London 3 Captains, Adam Cranston and John White, we’ll be analyzing games at the demo board and providing tactical and strategic insights and advice. You’re invited to submit games to Adam by 7pm Friday for inclusion in the session.

Finally we can also confirm our own Danish Dynamo, Carsten Pedersen, will be hosting a training session in May. Carsten has long been one of our top players (192 standard) and is highly skilled with his analysis and insights, with a very accessible and engaging presentational style. His session will be a great finale to this years programme.

Full details below – make sure you save the dates!

  • Monday 23rd January – Adam Cranston & John White
  • Monday 13th March – Tony Niccoli
  • Monday 10th April – Tony Niccoli
  • Monday 8th May – Carsten Pedersen

 

Training Evening with Tony Niccoli

21.11.16 – A first for Hammer, and one more step on the road to creating a vibrant, learning culture at our Chess Club, as ECF trainer Tony Niccoli gave us an evening of his finest teaching!

It was a brilliant training session last night for 12 members of the Club. The clarity and format of the evening was perfectly pitched, and the subsequent working in pairs to solve the problems set for us by Tony was just right.

20161122_tony_1
Tony gets into his stride… silence at the back!

There were two themes to the evening. Firstly, the importance of the outside pawn, and Second, the power of the pin. Even a Lombardy and Fischer game ending was brought into the mix!

The former was illustrated by the use of the three problems, and the learning was delivered in a measured way with plenty of audience participation. Having nailed the importance of this concept we were able to transfer these elements to the second theme – the power and use of the pin.

20161122_tony_2
A crowd of eager Hammer members looks on intently!

Again, using problems of increasing difficulty we were shown how to exploit the power of the pin to it’s maximum effect. Some important concepts were highlighted, such as:

  • Not cashing in & taking the pinned piece too soon
  • Using the power of the pin to improve your position
  • Using the pin to ensure your opponent runs out of moves and is forced to surrender material (incorporating elements of zugzwang)
  • Increasing the pressure of the pin by bringing all your pieces to bear on it

Concepts that were new to some attendees and probably forgotten by the others. This was real eye-opening stuff, delivered in a manner that will stick.

Regardless of your strength, anyone would benefit from the content delivered in a  very professional and logical way by Tony. This was borne out with some of the trickier examples proving a significant challenge to our players rated 160+, indeed it’s fair to say not everyone got the right answers first time round.

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Proof that homework can be fun… !

The evening ended with homework. Tony gave each attendee a puzzle sheet to take away and work on. A definite case of back to school days and a great way to follow-up on the lessons learnt.

On behalf of the club I wish to thank Tony for the huge effort he put into the evening, and his immeasurable patience with us!

To all Hammer members who did not attend, you missed a real treat and an evening that would have improved your game!

Another one will follow!!!

John.

 

Hammersmith vs Fulham Juniors

Following a highly successful thriller of a match last season (it ended a 6-6 draw – details here), we again face the mighty Fulham Juniors in a one-off match next week at the Brunswick Club – Tuesday 15th November.

There are no grading restrictions, so if you are keen to play please contact John White to confirm your space in the lineup. It proved extremely popular last season so please get in touch if you don’t want to miss out.

The Brunswick Club is up on Haldane Road, SW6 7EU – a short walk from Fulham Broadway tube.

And looking further ahead… our Club Night on Monday 21st November features ECF-trainer (and 198-rated player) Tony Niccoli for a special evening of coaching.

Tony has generously volunteered to analyse and run-through some games, so if you have a particularly interesting encounter you’d like him to have a look at & share with the Club, please get in touch. Would love to see as many of you there as possible – promises to be very good.