09.01.17 – Thames Valley League: Hammersmith v Wimbledon 2
The first Thames Valley dispatch of the New Year was meant to bring good news to all Hammer Chess folk.
Things were looking up – we were fielding our strongest team of the season (in any league) – the inclusion of Tony, Carsten, Pavel and Jeremy, along with the usual suspects, gave us a fighting chance. Expectation were high that we would notch our first win in a tough league in 2016-17.
Alas the New Year hopes were quickly dashed as the effect of too much Christmas Grog, or more realistically the fact our opponents – Wimbledon 2 – played very well on the night. The scoresheet is painful to look at!
The glorious or inglorious defeats were down to Bajrush, Adam and your correspondent. There is no silver lining here no matter how much journalistic license I would like to employ to ease the pain. The sad verdict is we just did not deliver on the night.
The draws were picked up by Tony, Carsten, Paul and Pavel.
Tony’s game was a fighting draw with a very interesting ending. A pawn down but defending very accurately, Tony secured the draw.
A similar story for Pavel – another fighting draw.
Carsten and Paul always had the edge in their games but could not convert. There has to be a break coming for us in the TV League!!!
The one bright spot of the evening was Jeremy winning on Board 6. I think he would agree not his best game but the mantra has to be a win is a win!
Hammer need to get their act together for the last few matches in Division 1, and start getting a few positive scores posted. Otherwise it’s going to be a long season.
05.01.17 – Middlesex League: Harrow 1 v Hammersmith
A very Happy New Year to you all – welcome to 2017!
It couldn’t have been a tougher start to the year for Hammer in the Middlesex League. We were up against league favourites Harrow 1 away from home.
Losing our board one and in-form Carsten through illness in the morning was not a good start. However, the rest of the team proved they were up to the challenge in spectacular fashion.
We were impressed to see digital clocks on all of the tables – less impressed that our hosts didn’t know how to set them (!), leaving us puzzled and frantically hitting the buttons until we found a suitable setting.
It soon transpired that our hard Christmas opening preparation was to pay off. Everyone on the team plays a fine game, and at no point did anyone look to be losing. We ended the night with five wins and three draws – a fantastic result given we were matched for grades across the boards.
Special mentions to Bajrush, Pavel and Matteo, who all made their debuts for the team this season, bring the player count up to an impressive 22 different faces over five matches.
Next week we play their second team at the same time, and at the same venue, where a performance half as good would all but seal another big victory!
The last hurrah of 2016 Hammer Chess took place last night at Lytton Hall. Twenty-one souls turned up to enjoy a night of fighting, no quarter given, 10-minute blitz chess!
The cream of Hammer Chess: Tony, Carsten, Bajrush, Paul, Sheikh amongst many other Hammer stalwarts turned up to take on one and all.
There were new faces present – Iqbal, Ayman, and Ibrahim from Café Nero and three potential new members Josue, James and Ken. All dreaming of taking the prize of Hammer Christmas Blitz Champion and securing points in the race to be overall Hammer Blitz champion 2016-2017.
What followed was a night of high quality blitz chess played at times with breathtaking speed!
The first round saw four groups in an all-play-all double-header arrangement, with the top two from each group going forward to the knock-out stage (a bit like the World Cup, in a way…).
The usual Hammer suspects in the form of Tony, Carsten and Bajrush, not with some slight hiccups along the way, secured their passage. They were joined by Sheikh after a three-player playoff. The rest of the qualifiers were made up of the Café Nero trio of Ayman, Zafar and Ibrahim. This left one place to fill to complete our quarter-final lineup. Displaying great composure and good chess, Josue triumphed to secure the last place.
The quarter-finals saw Carsten, Ibrahim, Sheikh and Josue bite the dust.
The semi-finals were gripping affairs with Bajrush beating Ayman in a truly amazing game with both players on the edge for most of the game. In the end, Hammer’s wily old fox held it together and secured the win.
In the other semi-final Tony won a two-minute playoff after two closely contested drawn games. This was a case of experience and nerves winning the day or night!
The final between the two was a nail-biting affair with Tony – material down – mounting a huge attack on Bajrush’s King. The pressure told and Toney emerged a Rook up but several pawns down. Game over you would have thought, but those of us who have played Bajrush over the years in blitz know it is never the easy.
This was again the case and a tense finish ensued with Tony finally winning by checkmate with seconds left on his clock. It was a great match to watch and Tony emerged as the deserved winner!
Some other comments on the evening for your consideration – Great performances form debutants Ken, James and Josue. Hopefully they will all join the club in the New Year.
John Ryan and Robin Lee both had solid performances to remember.
We welcome Pavel, Tony and Liam as fully paid-up members – Team captains please note they are now available for selection for your teams!
The secret of Tony’s success was to step off a plane from Estonia and hare it over to the club to take part. Unbelievable performance in the circumstances!
Your correspondent, to his total surprise, was presented with the Hammer (better) version of SPOTY – Hammer personality of the Year!
Finally the night was further enhanced by the provision of liquid refreshments (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic) by our Chairman Bajrush with accompanying snacks. Much appreciated by all and a big Thank You to our Wily Old Fox of a Chairman.
As they say… That’s all for 2016, folks!
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to one and all! See you in 2017!
The most daring raid since Kramnik stormed Castle Kasparov at the Riverside Studios, took place on Monday in West London. A heroic bunch of Hammer’s finest took on the “street” chess players in Cafe Néro just off Kensington High Street.
The Hammer crew consisted of Paul “dead-eyed” Kennelly, Tony “the surgeon” Niccoli, Phil “no way” Ehr, Orial “the wiz” O’Caithall, Dave “eye, eye” Pearson, Nick “flick” Rutherford, and John “no idea” White. Reinforcements came in the shape of Pavel and hopefully new member Josue.
Hard to imagine a more intimidating sight than the Hammer Posse walking into contested turf. Our aim: to own the manor.
The chess was pretty bloodthirsty and direct. This was great fun and new friendships were formed. This is the joy of chess – it is a common language.
Part one of the evening complete, four of us in the shape of “no way”, “no idea”, “the wiz” and Josue headed over to the Albion for a more serious kind of refreshment.
We ran into Les, a past member of Fulham Chess Club and an excellent chap all round. Some good beer and ropey chess were on the menu but all was well in the world.
The raid went well and hopefully things will happen as a result.
The final act of the evening was GM Keith Arkell also enjoying a pint in the Albion coming over for a chat. A perfect end to a West London Chess odyssey!
08.12.16 – London League 3 – Wimbledon v Hammersmith
The last LL3 match before Christmas took place at the hallowed hall of Golden Lane. Our opponents were Wimbledon 2 and they were not in a giving mood.
The narrative of the night strikes a familiar theme to those who have read the chronicles of LL3 Hammer this chess season. So close and yet so far….. again!! As ever, the devil was in the detail.
The night did not start well – Bajrush had to pull out but luckily Robin Lee stepped in at the last minute. On top of that we were out-graded by an average of 18 points per board.
In essence the match came down to two critical games where Hammer contrived to snatch a defeat and a draw from the jaws of victory. This was really hard to take, particularly for the two Hammer heroes involved – Adam and Safi.
Adam’s opponent was our Yasser – the irony is that Yasser plays for us in the Middlesex League and Adam is his captain! Adam played an outstanding game achieving an overwhelming position both materially and positionally.
Unfortunately he had consumed too much time on the clock and a scramble ensued. These are always a nightmare to play especially when you know you had a won game just a few moves earlier. The reversal of fortune affected Adam and the loss became inevitable. To be honest it was daylight robbery, and a couple of consoling pints in the Shakespeare did not ease the pain. It was chess at its most cruel!
On another day Adam would have converted.
Safo, on the Black side of an exchange Lopez, played so inventively and was two pawns up in a won endgame Unluckily he fell for a tactic and a subsequent perpetual check. I felt for Safi because he played so well and was coasting to certain victory. Another case of daylight robbery.
The glorious defeated were Matteo, Sheikh, John Wooley, and Robin.
The latter three had games they probably wish they could quickly forget. Sometimes you just have those nights and the lads have to put it down to that. They shall return in 2017 better and stronger!
Matteo should have drawn but he pushed hard for the win. It was one of those situations where one is so focused on victory that your sense of danger goes south. Another half-point disappeared!
The three winners of the night were Paul, Orial and my good self.
Paul played so solidly and won in good style. He really is coming back into his best form.
Orial had an amazing game that resulted in a time scramble but he held his nerve and triumphed in grand style. A really good victory.
As for me playing a la Karpov I totally strangled my opponent. Up to move 45 all was good and I should have closed the Kingside up and then played on the Queenside. My biggest personal chess challenge is translating positional superiority into victory. This transition is one I struggle with. However, with a 40 minute deficit on the clock my opponent was under severe time pressure and blundered in a probably drawish position. After the Adam and Safi results I was just glad that Hammer were on the right side of a result!
Overall a loss was the result – the scoreboard does not lie. However, on another night and if Santa had been in a more generous mood, Hammer would have won 6-4.
You win some, you lose some. On a personal note I want to wish all my chess fighting Hammer colleagues a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Ladies & Gentlemen, SAVE THE DATE – the second round of our club Blitz tournament takes place on Monday 19th December at our home venue.
For those of you with a sharp memory, you’ll recall that the first round in September saw a whopping 17 members show up, with points awarded depending on overall finishing positions at the end of the evening. The current roll of honour looks as follows:
Winner – Bajrush (17 points)
Runner Up – David (16 points)
3rd (Joint) – Brian, Matteo (15 points)
5th (Joint) – Chris, John W, John R, Robin (13 points)
9th – Sheikh (9 points)
10th – Giovanni (8 points)
11th (Joint) – Paolo, Matt (7 points)
13th (Joint) – Ken, Rich, Danny, Mike (5 points)
17th – Phil (1 point)
With a further two rounds to go before prizes are awarded there is quite literally everything to play for! Entry is entirely free, and you don’t even have to be a member – can’t say fairer than that!!
In other news, our London 5 team played last night. Continue reading if you’d like to know how they got on…
06.12.16 – London League 5: Kings Head v Hammersmith
In our fourth match of the season we came up against the old and venerable Kings Head club. Despite the result, we accounted well for ourselves despite being out graded by up to 30 points over three boards.
I saw little of any game apart from my own. David playing black on top board lost a minor piece early on and did well to hang on for so long. It was a courageous effort and he managed to post double Rooks along the a-file, but alas it was all in vain and the inevitable checkmate occurred.
I had the White pieces on board 2 and started with an outrageous opening that was able to exert some pressure against an uncastled King. My opponent defended well though. Eventually pieces got swapped off, Queens and opposite coloured bishops emerging, the game became locked and a draw was offered, which I accepted.
Nick on 3 playing a Kings Indian defence, unfortunately fell to a Knight fork of King and Rook. Against a veteran of the Kings Head Club, and former captain no less, there was no shame in the defeat.
Andy built up a strong centre after a rapid development, and then defended stoically in the face of a sustained counter from his wiley opponent. After swapping pieces he entered the endgame with a slight positional advantage, only to lose it all & resign after blundering his Rook. Bad luck!
01.12.16 – London League 4: Metropolitan 3 v Hammersmith
It’s normally a tough selling job finding cause for celebration in a drawn match, but that was certainly the case when we tied the score at 4 points a piece against Metropolitan 3. We’d salvaged a draw against their 4th team in our last match-up so we looked to be up against it as we stepped-up against their “big brother”.
In terms of paper-grades our opponents outranked us by over 10 points a board. But as any scholar of the game knows, matches are played over 64 black and white squares. They’re thankfully not decided by a pools panel who consult the ECF database!
The heroes of the night were Andy, Robin and John, each clocking-up victories against their higher-graded opponents, and each a great example of dynamic attacking chess.
Andy swept aside his opponent with a well-calculated kamikaze Bishop attack on their advanced h3 pawn. It was soon curtains with Queen and Rook waiting in the wings.
Robin looked under the cosh in a wildly open position, with roughly one minute left on the clock for both players. But one inaccuracy later, and Robin left the board beaming having delivered check-mate. A real lesson for anyone about remaining calm as the seconds tick away.
John’s win was built on a strong positional plan around pawn structures and how best to leverage to his advantage. Well, that, and a marauding Knight with fork opportunities at every turn. His opponent resigned a whole piece and 3 pawns down. Impressive stuff.
Brian had clearly been inspired by the final match of the World Championship between Carlsen and Karjakin! Taking his lead from that match, he agreed a draw in record time, but still with lots of “spaghetti on the board”.
The less said about my game, the better. I was two pawns up but under time pressure allowed a back-door perpetual check. No shame, but still felt like it represented a missed opportunity.
Details of the other games are sketchy at best – though I do have a near-perfect recollection of the buzzer noise that sounded every 5 minutes to let someone into the venue! I’m reliably informed that Orial’s opponent has an unbeaten run lasting 5 years, though I can’t swear to how many games he’s played in that time.
Special mention to David Pearson who made his debut for the team – better luck next time! – and to Dan Rugman who stepped in to cover a last-minute withdrawal. Ruggers, consider yourself the first name on the team-sheet next time.
So, lots of positives to take forward. We’re unbeaten after 4 games, there’s lots of competition for places, and we’ve already racked-up more points than we did in the whole of last season. Genuine progress! As a result we find ourselves in the “Europa League” spot, breathing down the neck of the top 4.
I think we all deserve a little break after all that, and as luck would have it that was our last game before Christmas! Enjoy the down time, and have a wonderful Christmas and New Year. We go again in January!
01.12.16 – Middlesex League – Muswell Hill v Hammersmith
After notching up three fine wins in the first three games of the season, the Middlesex League team were on cloud nine. However, as with most things up on that ninth cloud, we were eventually going to come crashing back down.
Twenty minutes walk from the nearest tube station, Muswell Hill United Reformed Church was our venue for the night. With no less than four players pulling out in the week of the match, and the substitutes pool fully depleted, we showed up with just six players and started the match 0-2.
On another day this might have been all right; after all, we did out grade them by 22 points on average. You would not have guessed this looking at the chess though. It was a night for blunders and missed chances.
Nick was the first to lose. His young opponent played well and one too many mistakes forced an early resignation.
Matt’s game seemed a little closer, but he entered an endgame an exchange down that he was never going to hold.
Jeremy did not look comfortable form the start. Some overly passive opening play allowed a devastating attack down the Kingside. A vicious pin from which it was impossible to escape led to our third loss and a 5-0 scoreline.
John and Adam had very different games but finished with the same result. John had the black pieces and equalised easily from the opening. He couldn’t find a way to improve any more though, and the game slowly petered out into a dead draw.
Adam found a nice tactic in the middle game to win a pawn and seize a big initiative. Instead of continuing to press though, he decided to swap off pieces. A miscalculation at the start of the endgame gave the pawn straight back, and there wasn’t much left to play for.
If there was any honour to be saved, it was Carsten to the rescue. Despite showing up half an hour late, he played a good game. Carsten’s moves were very accurate, and it wasn’t long before his opponent was forced to give up a piece for a pawn. There’s no coming back form that sort of deficit against Carsten; the night ended with the Danish Dynamo scoring our only win.
Result: Muswell Hill 6 – 2 Hammersmith
On a more positive note, we are top of the league and guaranteed to still be there at Christmas!
We have also had 19 members playing in the team this year – a testament to the club’s huge recruitment efforts and increasing strength in depth.
As you can see, we’re back underway very early into the new year, with crucial away matches on the first two Thursday’s of January. Please contact Adam if you’re keen to play in either of those.
This was a night for the Sicilian Masters, and the c3 anti-Sicilian paid off in shovels and spades for Brian on top board.
With the White pieces, he posted a commanding Rook on d5 that became totally surrounded by the enemy. His opponent was yet to prevail, and once a White Knight and Bishop came to support the Rook, the blood bath could begin.
The stranglehold on the Black pieces was a beauteous sight of complete domination. The Rook was then offered in sacrifice near the end, but by then the White Knight had a beautiful fork of Black’s Queen and Rook that finally was taken with 2 minutes on the clock, at which point Brian’s opponent resigned.
With White’s a and b-pawns having passed the 6th rank together, White’s victory was anyway inevitable.
Unfortunately for John, employing a Sicilian Scheveningen, White got his English Attack launched. With the Black h-file open and the White Queen coming down it, Black could not survive and John resigned just a few moves later against the Hackney Captain. Bad luck.
On board 4 Nick cleverly won a minor piece as White’s Austrian Attack looked a bit ambitious. In any case, Nick then got his Rooks doubled and with a possible back row mate on either side, a cliff-hanger of a game ensued. Nick won the exchange and went a Rook up, but it took his passed h-pawn reaching the back rank for his opponent to resign!