R-Ealing from a Hammer Blow

Yes, stretching the fabric of acceptable punnage, we present here a recent match report from debut-correspondent, Kostis. Enjoy!

18.03.19 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith vs. Ealing

With four games to go in the Middlesex League and being at the top of the scoreboard, two points ahead of Willesden & Brent, the Hammers arrived at the Actonians Sports Club to play against Ealing, with no intention to negotiate.

It didn’t take more than an hour for the first two games to finish. Andrew managed a draw on board 3, followed by Paul shortly after on board 5 with a win after his opponent blundered from a position that was probably defendable. 1.5-0.5

Around ten minutes later, Jakub finished off his opponent in ‘rapid’ mode, going to a double rook endgame. Jakub played with confidence, blitzing his last several moves, which added even more pressure on his opponent, who had less than 10 minutes on his clock to Jakub’s 1hr 5mins! A rushed moving hoping to exchange both rooks and go into a pawn endgame, ended with Jakub a rook up instead. 2.5-0.5

Jakub’s game is presented here for your enjoyment:

A couple of boards down the order and things were starting to get clearer, with Ken bringing a second ‘lady’ into the game to finish in style. Ken made a mistake that could have cost him the game, but his opponent allowed him a counterattack which he executed precisely to secure our third full point. 3.5-0.5

Ken’s game follows:

On Boards 7 (Nick) and 8 (Javi), the games were almost over with both black sides up the exchange. Nick converted his advantage quickly, pushing his opponent’s pieces towards the King to deliver a deadly fork with his bishop, before shaking hands and securing the match for Hammersmith.

Javi stood his ground going to a rook vs knight endgame down the exchange. Unlucky! 4.5-1.5

Meanwhile on top board, Brian had an open position as black, having placed his knights in the middle of the board. After a couple of exchanges and a few tactical moves, a draw was agreed 5-2.

One game to go on board 2, with Jonathan having less than 3 minutes on his clock to his opponents 30+.

Carried away with the idea of running Jonathan’s clock down, his opponent missed a check-fork that would have wiped the White square Bishop off the board and instead grabbed the a2 pawn. 38 seconds on the clock and the material is “equal”, with Jonathan having a rook pair, a light squared Bishop and 3 pawns, to his opponents Queen, dark square Bishop and 4 pawns.

The game reached the position below with black to play and 3 seconds for Jonathan, who refused to drop his weapon.

Two blunders (…g3, Rd4+ Kg5, Kxg3 Qe5+) and Jonathan delivered the finishing blow to fork King and Queen with f4+ and one second on the clock. If only he had 20 seconds on the clock he could have even won the match (mate in 10). But saying that… his opponent would not have played so recklessly, as he was obviously focused on running him out of time, when he would have been better off using his advantage on the clock to outplay him – by probably chasing the rook and/or bishop over the board rather than the King.

A 5.5-2.5 win for Hammersmith then, and a very good chance of being promoted!


A Blue Monday

First up, a couple of reminders for you – Monday 18th (tomorrow!) marks the first of our FREE beginner lessons at the club, starting at 6pm.

ECF registered trainer and Hammer legend, Tony Niccoli, will be hosting the session. It is 100% totally FREE, generously supported by the Chelsea FC Foundation, and is aimed at beginners and those returning to the game.

Anybody and everybody is welcome, so if you fancy a bit of top-level instruction on the wonderful game, just come on down. We are ridiculously excited about this initiative, and would love the local community to get involved – please spread the word!

Following that session, we then have TWO home matches in the Thames Valley league starting at 7.30pm, so we are asking anybody who would like to continue playing casual chess to kindly decamp to our ‘overflow facilities’ at the The Albion public house, on Hammersmith Road. We’ll have some boards setup there to cater for you.

If you do want to stick around at Lytton we will need to enforce a strict total silence policy throughout the duration of the matches, please.

Come next season, we’ll be running all home matches on Tuesday nights so our Monday’s will be free for casual chess & events, however we need to accommodate some home games on Monday for the remainder of this season, so we appreciate your help in making Lytton a great environment to play tomorrow night.

Thanks for your support!

11.03.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Kingston vs. Hammersmith

The night the match might well have gone south, the Battle of Castagnaro March 11th 1387, was weighing heavily on my mind as I journeyed to the storied township of Kingston and a 14th Century pub. Read on…

The Battle of Castagnaro, 1378

That, and the troubling news in parliament, nothing was very propitious… But chess players are made of sterner stuff and must endure, right?

First to finish was our esteemed John White on board 3, whose opponent got up quickly, shook hands with John and left the room. John White smiled ruefully and mouthed a (grand master) draw.

10 minutes later Olivier Vigneron on board 5 finished, his opponent with the white pieces got a piece doubly pinned to the white king, and that piece was trapped. She resigned. First blood to Olivier, congratulations! Score 0.5-1.5

Meanwhile Eddie on board 6 had reached a commanding position, with an impressive 5 man pawn chain, and the ending was coming soon enough with the win! 0.5-2.5

Brian Dodgeon had reached a somewhat drawish looking position, but was a pawn up. With great precision, he converted this to a nice win! Well done! We’re lucky to have Brian; he is very much in demand to play on Hammersmith teams. 0.5-3.5

Brian’s game is presented here:

I was looking at some analysis with Brian, and missed what was happening on board 2. Nadhmi Auchi, with the white pieces, had a fine middle-game with lots of play, or so I thought, and his opponent’s king in contrast looked vulnerable to back row shenanigans (critical double-edged tactics). Apparently under clock pressure, and I missed all this, there was a sudden denouement, when after a series of swaps, a surprising counter tactic emerged, a piece was taken that meant Nadhmi was material down… and he resigned. Bad luck! 1.5-3.5

A couple of minutes later, seeing the match was already won, Paul Kennelly and Ivan Gorgiev stopped play, with adjudication requested. Overnight, Ivan was to email his resignation. Paul’s three connected pawns and two rooks looked to be winning against 2 pawns and 2 rooks.

A match in two halves, top boards halved 1.5-1.5, as is customary; lower boards carried the day with 3 wins! Now our 3rd win in a row, we are looking good and have probably staved off relegation.


East Devon 44th Congress – or my chess rebirth after 44 years

Christof B., new Hammer member, gives an account of his first over the board chess tournament for nearly half a century. This is a fascinating article with a great outcome. 

In his own words, read Christof’s modern chess odyssey.

With the Brexit date decided a year ago (I mean my personal Brexit, my last working day in corporate life being 29th March 2019), I had contemplated to resume a very early passion; CHESS.

How do you do that, not having played for a club or in a tournament for 44 years?

The Jersey International 1975 was my last one where I was lucky enough to finish joint 3rd, way ahead of a 9 year old Nigel Short.

Well, I tried playing against a computer (quite demotivating), read a few books, one of which “The Rookie” gave me some ideas, and I intend to play lots of competitive games. Playing in a  club is a must, and I was lucky to join the best one in early 2019, but unable to commit to weekday games until April.

I needed to find out about my level of chess fitness, or whatever is left from a long, long time ago. Thus, the East Devon Congress was a fitting trial, by coincidence its 44th event, so it must have begun life just when I had retired.

This one was a tight 2-day format with more than 120 players in 3 sections. Saturday is tough with three 3.5 hour games, plus 2 more on Sunday, but it is very worthwhile to attend. The venue is the Corn Exchange in the centre of Exeter, and the event is flawlessly organised.


Since I did not have the slightest clue about my current strength (grading was introduced after I had retired from chess), I registered myself in the Major section. To my annoyance, the organisers had added the informal 100e grade from the Hammersmith website to my name in the list of players, all of which were between 125 and 154, making me look a somewhat odd wannabe!

I immediately realised a visible change from four decades ago: then most players were old, now most are young – at least seen from my perspective. My opponents ranged from 13 to 71, both among the highest graded.

Well, the first game finally came, and I felt the same excitement building up as 44 years ago, sitting among the 120+ players, hearing the noise of 60+ clocks ticking, and my heart jumped to 180 (I hope my ECF grade will follow suit) when I realised the chance of winning a competitive game for the first time in 44 years. What a feeling!

Not so much like a Rookie, but like a Phoenix rising from the Ashes. And it was not so much the winning sensation as it was when I was young, it was the enjoyment of playing each move, like in the creation of an art object by two people.

Long story kept short, I added another win in the second round, then in round 3 the top-seeded player was waiting for me on Board 1, another new sensation for me, and I won as well. I was as pleased about how the game was played by both sides – see below:

1.d4 Nf6 2.Nc3 d5 3.Bf4 c6 4.e3 Bf5 5.f3 Is this variation still part of the London System, with a knight on c3 and not f3, and with a pawn on f3 and not c3? Anyway, the typical feature of “my” London variation is for White advancing pawns on the king side and in the center and for Black the same on the queen side.

e6 6.g4 Bg6 7.h4 h6 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bd6 10.Nge2 Qc7 11.Bxh7 Nxh7 12.Qd3 Nd7 13.Bxd6 Qxd6 14.e4 Qe7 15.e5 b5 16.a4?
The whole idea of blocking the black pawns with a4 is ill-advised. White should ride out the Black attack on the queen side and focus on opening some lines on the king side. The engine sees a small White advantage after 16.f4
and even allows White long castling! The follow-up in the game with the white knight moving to a2 and b4 and the closing of the pawn structure there with 22.c3 helps Black. The only benefit is of psychological nature in drawing Black’s attention (too much) to the queen side, but that is not a good advise for a strategic decision.

b4 17.Na2? Ng5 18.Ng3 c5 19.f4 c4 20.Qe2 Nh7 21.a5 Nb8 22.c3? b3 23.Nb4 0-0 24.0-0?! The white king might be better protected in the center on e1 or d2. Without short castling, White can much quicker double its heavy forces on the g-file and at a certain time push the pawns.

Rc8 25.f5 Qg5 26.Rf2 Qh4? 27.Kg2 Nc6 28.Na6! Qe7 29.Nc5 Ng5 30.a6? Nd8 31.Qe3 Rab8 32.Raf1 The f-pawn should be pushed immediately, with clear White advantage.

[ 32.f6 Qe8 ( 32…gxf6 33.Rxf6 Qf8 34.Nd7 Qg7 35.Ra5 Nc6 36.Rxd5 exd5 37.Nf5 ) 33.fxg7 Kxg7 34.Rf6 Rxc5 35.dxc5 Rc8 36.Raf1 Qg8 37.Qf4 Rc7 38.Ne2 Kh7 39.Nd4 ]

32…Rb5? This is losing valuable time. The music plays on the other side.33.f6 Qe8 34.Qf4? First, this is against the principle of pushing with the Queen behind the Rook(s) and not in front. Very concretely however, immediate 34.fg allows beautiful continuations with decisive White advantage. I would invite to self-think along the lines after 34.fg Kg7: stated below.

Admittedly, I used the engine after the game to prove the correctness of fg. Obviously I did not see the forcing lines on the board, just before time control and 1 or 2 minutes left (until move 36).

[ 34.fxg7 Kxg7 35.Rf6 Rcxc5 ( 35…Qg8 36.Nd7; 35…Qh8 36.Nxe6+ ) 36.Rxh6 ]

34…Rcxc5 35.dxc5 Ra5? 36.fxg7 Qe7? This proves that it is much more difficult to defend than to attack. An attacker might lose an advantage, the defender the game. Qe7 loses directly (if White plays it right), but as the engine shows, the alternative Kg7: still leaves a big White advantage after 37. Ne2 with the intention to exchange first the knights on f3 and then the queens on g5. 37.Qf6! With time control over and with 15 minutes for the rest of the game, there was some quality time to think. And it still looked beautiful, the Black king to be imprisoned on g8 and so many attack avenues available. But, still so many possibilities to go astray

Qf6 threatens Qh6: and Qh8 mate. Qf6 however only works in combination with the next move and the further sequence which was needed to be seen, otherwise the re-taking on f6 with the rook as best in previous moves would have come more naturally to me. This is a great position for calculation training and for finding mating patterns. Which one is followed through depends on Black’s moves. The sequence played in the game is just one of many possibilities, one more beautiful than the other. I do not want to spoil this experience by showing what the engine proposes.Qxf6 38.exf6!!

The black position looks bombproof, the pawn structure intact and the knights protecting the elements of the pawn chain. Yes, the Black King is imprisoned on the last row, but the access for White rooks is blocked where you see, the barrier e6 over-protected by a pawn, 2 knights and the rook on a6. And still, danger lurks from the White knight on g3 with its potential to jump all the fences, and e6 will be the weak spot to fall.

Rxa6 39.Re2! threatening Nf5 and mate follows. Nh7 preventing 40.Nf5 because of Nf6. 40.g5! keeping the prison lock f6-g7 intact. hxg5 41.h6 adding another lock h6-g7. Nc6 42.Rxe6! Nxf6 43.Rfxf6



Another win in round 4 and I was already a full point ahead of the rest, was assured of 1st prize and had to explain that I really had nothing to do with the estimate 100, that I would have been quite happy with just an UG.

In round 5, after only 10 moves, I saw a nice scenario to force a draw but my opponent decided differently and so I had to fight it out, taking more risks and winning this as well, making it sole 1st place for a Hammersmither.

What can I say, sorry for the e100 (but then, as an ungraded player i could only cash in the value of the 3rd prize!).

I apologise that I cannot write about the Open (serial winner IM Jack Rudd came first, FM William Claridge-Hansen second) and the Minor sections of the East Devon Congress, but I was completely absorbed in the great congress atmosphere, and my own rebirth experience after 44 years retirement.

This is my list of opponents and their grades:

  • R1 with B: Rob Woolacott, 142 win 0-1
  • R2 with B: Michale Wickham, 148 win 0-1
  • R3 with W: Andrew Di-Vetta, 154 win 1-0
  • R4 with B: Adam Hussain, 150 win 0-1
  • R5 with W: Colin Sellwood, 153 win 1-0

The Major section was for grades 125-154 – I scored 5/5 for clear first place.

A Hat-trick of Reports

Can Hammer 1 continue their quest for an unlikely promotion to the top table of London League Chess?? And will the Middlesex and TV teams manage to turn their seasons around??  Read on to find out…

  • London League Division 2
  • Middlesex Division 2
  • Thames Valley Division 2
27.02.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Wanstead & Woodford

“If at first you don’t succeed, hide all evidence that you ever tried”
– David Brent.

In recent weeks the growing momentum generated by our run of London League victories has been accompanied by classic quotes from Greek heroes Leonidas and Achilles. We’ve used the immortal Che line “Hasta La Victoria Siempre” as a call to arms. I have invoked the sporting genius of Bill Shankly and Eric Cantona.

But comrades, I cannot lie to you. Even after a week of reflection, this horrible performance and result against Wanstead remains raw. I think we must take David Brent as today’s inspiration!

As usual, the 48 hours before the match featured a number of call offs. The recurring theme of the season. As ever, I am indebted to those who stepped in at the last minute, or came late directly from work. None more so than Captain Clueless, arriving at the board directly from an exhausting trip to Dublin. The Hammer team spirit remains indomitable.

So to the match. We had a comfortable grading advantage of 10 to 20 points per board. Alas, we all decided to choose this evening to play our worst games of the season. For example, I defended a dull game okay, then blundered a pawn in one move. Paul was just unrecognisable. Others agreed early draws, or struggled to equalise.

Only Bajrush with his customary tactical trickery, and Marios who played an excellent game in the classic style of the legendary Soviet World Champion Mikhail Botvinnik, managed to win.

Marios’ game is presented here, with his commentary below:

“1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. f3! (This leads to unique positions that most opponents don’t know how to handle.) 4…d5 5. a3 Bxc3+ 6. bxc3 b6 7. e3 O-O 8. cxd5 exd5 9. Bd3 Bb7 10. Ne2 c5 11. O-O Nbd7 12. Ra2 (Useful waiting move in this system if Black attempts c4 then g4 followed by Ng3 is thematic)12… Rc8 13. Ng3 cxd4 14. cxd4 Re8

15. Qe1! (Guards the weak squares, supports a4-a5 on one side with ideas of Nf5 – Qg3 on the other what more can you expect from a single move?)15… Nf8 16. a4 Ne6 17. a5(Provoking the one-mover)17… Nxd4 18. Bb2 Nc6 19. Nf5 Ne7? (simply losing) 20. Bxf6 gxf6 21. Qh4 Nxf5 22. Bxf5 Rc4 23. Qh6(accurate!) Qc7 24. Bxh7+ Kh8 25. axb6! (playing on both sides Ra7 is useful in some lines since his Queen can’t leave the 7th) 25… axb6 26. e4? (Allows the stubborn Qc5+ and Qf8 the right plan to bring the rooks in the attack is Bf5+ followed by g4 and Rg2)26… dxe4?? 27. Bxe4+ Kg8 28. Qh7+ Kf8 29. Bxb7   1-0

Amazingly the win comes in the opposite flank. “

Still, it came down to the last two games. 4.5-3.5 ahead with two easily won games, the baying Hammer pack surrounded the boards hoping to soon get to the pub to celebrate a lucky win, rather than the abject performance.

It was not to be.

Jeremy’s opponent, who was clearly too weak to understand when one should decently resign, was the beneficiary of a Queen as Jeremy’s flag was about to fall. A time management refresher course beckons…. ? :o)

Finally, John, despite his heroic efforts and his captain’s tetchy insistence, could not squeeze a win from the rapidly diminishing material. So it ended 5-5, a result which reduces our previously sporting change of promotion to a rather remote theoretical possibility.

We may beat Cavendish, but I doubt any other teams will offer much resistance to Imperial College or Metropolitan.

We shall soon see.


Tough Times on the Middlesex Division 2 Sector Battlefront

After the miracle of Valentines Day, Captain Clueless was hoping that some semblance of balance had been restored in this very competitive and tough division.

Sadly, the last days of February brought a huge reversal of fortune and resumed the pattern of 2019 results.

There are no excuses to be offered… except that within a period of 10 days (in reality 8 days if you take into account the weekend) Hammer had to field 11 teams plus the journey to Hendon is a tough old schlepp after a day of work. Adding to the negative side, Captain Clueless had to take personal leave at the critical moment. This all added up to a lethal cocktail of pure trouble and adversity.  

For once, Captain Clueless can only say a big thank you to the warriors who turned out for the Ealing 1 match on the Monday, and the five heroes who made it to Golders Green on the Thursday to face the toughest of tasks.

The results were to go as expected when you take all things into consideration.

A 6-2 loss away to Ealing and a 7.5-0.5 away loss to Hendon 4.

The bright spots in this pit of misery and woe are as follows:

  • The most welcome debuts of Amaya and Edward in Middlesex 2. I hope they are not too down hearted by their respective results.
  • Jonathan scoring the only win against a tough team – great result against a 160.
  • Rauno in his debut easily holding a very strong player to a draw.
  • Brian scoring the half-point at Hendon

There is no way to sugar coat the bitter pill – Hammer 2 Middlesex are in a dogfight.

We need to score plus 50% in our five remaining matches to secure the prime objective to retain Division 2 status – this is a critical time, and I need all Hammers to answer the call and step up. If Captain Clueless, let alone any other Hammer Captain, asks you to rally to the cause, then please do so without hesitation. This is vital and I urge you all to answer the Call to Arms!

Here is the worrying situation in Division 2:

Hammers – answer the Call of Mother Hammer!

Clueless over & out!!!!

05.03.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Hammersmith vs. Hounslow B
The Grudge Match v Hounslow B – underdogs win 5-1 Hallelujah!

This match in TV division 3, Hammer B and Hounslow B, was our first home match, and perhaps the fighting spirit and the urge to excel from the other two matches being held at Lytton Hall spread through the packed room and helped dispel any pre-match nervousness.

Welcome to nearly everyone who debuted this team this season: Chris Moore, Ed Goldman, Olivier Vigneron and Jakub Wirecki. Veterans Nadhmi and Matteo (boards 1 and 2) rounded out the very new team.

For the first hour I was encourage to see even positions with quiet manoeuvring for advantage, pretty well on every board; some tactical possibilities would emerge. First to finish was Eddie on board 4 with the black pieces our newest and most congenial club member, followed quickly by Matteo, who came in fashionably late and left early with a nice win. Way to go, Matteo! Would that we could all emulate that!

Nadhmi was pretty even, but towards the end he duped his opponent with a Greek gift and then won a piece and the game soon after.

Our Kuba on board 6 was fighting on against a sleeper, an unrated player playing like a 120 rater, who slowly ground him down. Unlucky. Score 3-1.

On board 3 with the white pieces, Chris (126) has supplied his game narrative of a razor edged match against a 136 opponent:

“I opened with the Queen’s Gambit, which my opponent declined. I put my white-square bishop on d3 while he put his on b7. Seeing a threat I wanted to avoid I moved my knight from f3 to e5 quite early, and following that with a pawn on f4 I ended up being over-extended for the mid-game. The black queen soon went to d5, threatening checkmate and I decided to move my knight back from e5 to f3 to defend. Momentum was with black.

However, a few moves later black missed an opportunity to go a piece up, as he captured a bishop on a1 before removing the defending rook with check.

Time pressure was starting to affect black, and he also seemed agitated which I took to mean he thought he’d missed an opportunity but only later guessed it would be the exchange error I just mentioned.

Soon queen and a rook each were the only pieces on the board, with black having a passed-pawn. However I’d managed to get my queen on the back rank to harass the black king. Black tried some traps to get a back rank mate but after dodging them and then giving my king some space by playing h3, I was able to get both pieces attacking the passed pawn while black had taken his eye off that ball.

With that threat gone and black’s flag about to fall, I put the game beyond doubt after a fork from my queen left his rook with insufficient defenders. Black resigned”

Olivier had reduced to two solid pawn islands and lovely posted knight on d5 against a scattering of weakish pawns and a landlocked bishop. Congratulations for gaining the win with technical mastery over weak pawns.

For your viewing pleasure, here are Matteo and Olivier’s games:

“I was black in a Caro Kann Advanced variation. If white doesn’t attack with 5.Bb5, loses initiative and Black can attack successfully the pawn structure” 

“I am a pawn up from the opening (gifted by my opponent). I played a dubious move with Ng4?! on move 12, which he was unable to capitalise on as he only played passive defensive moves for most of the middle game.

His 22nd move Ne3+? gave me a winning endgame which I thought I played accurately but many paths would have ultimately led to victory given the size of the advantage.”

Conclusion: this win brings us to 2 wins in 5 matches, so we still have a way to go to stay in the division. Would that we can keep this up. We were lucky to have Chris this time, who is going from strength to strength.


Hammersmith Chess Club in the Community

One of the major drivers in the success and transformation of Hammersmith Chess Club has been its willingness to engage with the Hammersmith community and use chess to promote something positive in Hammersmith – it is enshrined in our constitution.

With that in MIND (subtle pun), the club is pleased to announce one new and one old initiative to help us fulfill that GOAL (another subtle pun). Please read on…

Working with Chelsea FC – Starting 18th March 2019

We’re delighted to announce that Chelsea FC have agreed to sponsor five 1-hour chess lessons at Hammersmith Chess Club, on five consecutive Mondays, starting on the 18th March 2019.

Lytton Hall -aka The Anvil – has been booked, and the courses will start at 6pm.

These will be aimed at introducing and re-introducing members of the local community to our brilliant game. Hammer member, and ECF-registered trainer, Tony Niccoli, will be running the lessons. He’s a dab hand at teaching the game, with plenty of experience ranging from juniors to adult regulars, and these are sure to be popular!

Watch this space – the social media campaign starts now. It will be totally open with no pre-booking, and is something Andrew Ducille – senior inclusion officer at the Chelsea FC Foundation – wanted to happen. Hammersmith are grateful to him and Chelsea FC for their support.

Whether this will change any football loyalties remains to be seen, but if it helps Hammer members look for the Chelsea result with a more positive view, we’ll be delighted.

Hammersmith MIND Day – Saturday 11th May 2019

For the third year in a row, Hammersmith Chess Club will be bossing Lyric Square in the heart of Hammersmith from 10am-4pm on Saturday 11th May. This is a chess jamboree as we get members of the public to play chess and at the same time raise funds and spread the word for a worthy cause that directly helps the people of our community.

In the past two years we have raised nearly £1,200 for Hammersmith MIND and we are going to add to that total this year.

The format will be the same as previous years, but there may be some special appearances from our new football partners… watch this space!

We’ll be recruiting members later this month to volunteer their time to help this enterprise. So put it in the diary! It’s a great day out and hugely social – the Albion pub and social chess beckons!!

Puzzle of the Week #028

It was back in January that we presented our last puzzle. As is the way, Charlie was in there first, but he didn’t get the right solution this time.

Plaudits go to Jon S, with the following line:

1…Bxe3! (Bxc3??, Nxd5 Kxd5, gxh4= as black has the wrong bishop)
2. Kxe3, g4!
3. gxh4, gxh3 (or hxg4, h3) and in both cases the pawn promotes.

A nice little game taken from the 2014 Qatar Masters, Karthikeyan-Eljanov.

On to this week then, taken from a 2015 NCL game, no less – Black to move, answers in the comments:

The Hammer Blitz!

A couple of thronking reports from the London League follow, but first up a reminder of Round II of our club Blitz Tourney!

4th March – Blitz Tourney, Round II

Yes, it only seems like yesterday that we had our inaugural Christmas round of the Blitz tournament, but Round II is already now upon us.

Save the date – 4th March 2019, Lytton Hall, 7.30pm

As ever, the rules are very simple:

  • First, you gotta be in it to win it.
  • Only the two best results from each of the three tourney’s count. In other words, if you play all three, you maximise your chances of being crowned champion.
  • It is a time handicap tourney, so if you are graded lower you may have up to 8 minutes to play the entire game, against the 2 minutes allocated to your higher-rated opponent.
  • This year, after a serious review of the scoring system, the following points will be awarded: First place: 1 point, Second place: 2 points, and so on. The overall winner of the competition will be the Hammer with the lowest score from the two tourneys that count. This will eliminate different entry numbers from the equation.
  • I would like to think (4) was my idea, but Ben – captain of LL Hammer 4 – is the source!
  • It will be a Swiss Tourney
  • It’s FREE for all Hammer Chess members

Good luck!

20.02.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Lewisham

And so to the much anticipated match with Lewisham. I had expected them to be at full strength, rather like King’s Head in our previous fixture, but in fact they arrived missing some key players. This gave us a comfortable 10/20 grading point advantage on the middle and lower boards, which ultimately proved decisive.

That’s with the benefit of hindsight. We also had some problems when Marios had to pull out a day before, and Bajrush just before kick off. Both absolutely faultlessly I must stress, due to work and family priorities, but still not ideal pre-match.

As it transpired we won the match relatively comfortably, 7.5-2.5, though my own games complexity prevented me seeing much of the action on the other boards. So based on what I was told in the pub afterwards:

Board 1Chris: another flawless strategic masterpiece from our “Achilles”. At least that’s what he told me… I guess he plays better than Brad Pitt anyway. Seriously, a fine battling game, pressurizing a strong opponent into some middle game errors. I couldn’t persuade him to annotate it though…

Board 2Thomas played his customary power positional game, although I believe his opponent had very good drawing chances in a R+3p vs. R+2p endgame.

Board 3Carsten had a good position but lost after a very uncharacteristic tactical oversight. It happens to the best. As we are into our Greek heroes at the moment at Hammer, can I say “even Homer nods.”.

Board 4 – I had been joking with our super-sub Charlie, that even though he was only on hand as a spectator, he should keep his boots at the ready. I had in mind Sylvain, who was scheduled to arrive back from Paris just before kick-off, but as it turned out Bajrush’s late emergency dragged Charlie in at the last minute. What a solid performance he produced, confidently drawing quickly with a strong opponent. A big boost for the team. See below for an unusual treatment against the French Defence:

Board 5 – As mentioned, Sylvain arrived straight from the airport right on 7pm. Alas, he erred right at the very end in a rook endgame, after a tremendous tussle. No wonder with seconds left after a long, tiring day. But I think such selfless devotion to the cause is worthy of the highest praise: the true Hammer spirit!

Board 6Paul McK, making a welcome return to the team, brushed his opponent aside with his customary blend of iron logic and sharp tactics.

Board 7 – Thanks to the persuasive powers of our Celtic Tigers Supremo, Showbag, we welcomed Rauno to the team for his long-awaited LL debut. He wasted no time in demonstrating his class, first to finish, dispatching his bewildered opponent with some crisp, accurate tactical blows.

Board 8 – I was involved in a long, dour positional battle, interesting in all three phases. My slip in the time scramble at the end gave my opponent a fleeting drawing opportunity, which fortunately for me, he missed. Curiously, it was 40 years to the day from when I played my first serious graded game, so it was nice to get the full point.

Board 9Alexander continues to impress, turning in another smooth, well controlled performance.

Board 10Paul K produced a solid performance to down a former Hammer.

So the dogs may bark outside, but the Hammer caravan rolls on. Three more wins and that elusive first division winning lottery ticket is ours.

My Spartan call to arms before the match, “Hammers – what is your profession?” certainly provoked a favourable response.


21.02.19 – London League Division 5: Hammersmith vs. Cavendish

Cavendish are one of London’s grand old clubs, and it’s always a pleasure to play at their venue. They always provide a warm welcome, with complimentary refreshments on hand, and an impressive set of full-size wooden sets. Alas, reserved for their first team this time around but let’s not split hairs!

Dave was acting as temporary captain in Rich’s absence and it was his match which eventually secured the draw in deep time trouble. I’m afraid that key detail explains the brevity of the notes that follow! I didn’t get to see much of the action on the other boards.

Andrew continued his unbeaten run for the Majors with a draw on board 3, but couldn’t convert for the full point. A similar story was in store for Joe on board 4.

Making his debut in the London league, he played the far more pressing chess and secured a pawn advantage. It looked like he’d romp home, but he admitted to a mistake in the latter portions of the match and had to console himself with the spoils shared. Still, great experience getting stuck into a full match over the board. I’m sure he’ll be an asset to the club.

Charlie, recovering from his higher-division heroics the night before, was pitted against veteran of the LL circuit, Ben Finn. A player whose 120 grade seldom does him justice. In fact, he’s showing his true colours this season playing c.20 points in excess of that.

Our man sacrificed an early Knight to gain the upper hand in development, and the imminent threat of reclaiming a minor piece in return. But there were a number of sharp tactics lying in wait, and precise play was needed to maintain the balance in his favour. It wasn’t to be, and Charlie succumbed, leaving us 1-2 down.

Dave tied up the match whilst defending a familiar line with the Sicilian. An early pawn was grabbed, handing his opponent the initiative but he couldn’t make it pay, meaning the +1.0 advantage was maintained and eventually extended as they entered the endgame. Time was a crucial factor as the analogue clocks ticked on, and despite missing an earlier 1-move mate (thanks, Charlie!) he had enough to hold out. 2-2 and a respectable draw.

The opposition captain Tomasz was a gentleman throughout. We wished them well for the remainder of the season as we sloped off to find a nearby pub.

The league table looks as follows. We’re in the mix, but the title may just be out of reach:

Next up is East Ham on 27th March. Get in touch with Rich Wingfield if you fancy playing that one.


Livin’ on a Prayer

A bumper update awaits – with the latest from across the club this week, including: A mid-season update on our Sister club the Celtic Tigers, a match report from the Middlesex League against our West London rivals…. West London, and the latest round of the Hammersmith RapidPlay League!

Celtic Tigers: Half way there, and livin’ on a prayer

Celtic Tigers (Hammersmith’s partner in the national league) has just completed the third week of the national league (aka 4NCL). It currently has a team in the first and fourth divisions of the national league. To learn more about the 4NCL, have a read here.

Division 1 progress (rounds 1-6 of 11)

We entered this division as the bottom ranked team in the competition, and have since gone on to beat 3C’s, and Blackthorn Russia, both teams with an average rating >2300 (FM level), or roughly 215 ECF.

In the latest weekend rounds 5-6, we were playing the 6th and 7th ranked teams, with us only requiring 2 points to make the championship pool and qualify for Europe, where we will be playing teams filled with the top 20 players in the world! Amazing!!

To strengthen the team, we welcomed 11 year old Marc Andria Maurizzi to the fold, from Corsica. That’s right, 11 years old! With a FIDE rating of 2250 he is higher rated than world champion Magnus Carlsen at that age. Definitely one to watch. Here is his Sunday game, where he easily dispatched a 193 ECF – Murray Smith:

Unfortunately we lost the Saturday match 3.5-4.5, and drew Sunday 4-4. This meant that even though we are currently 4th, a likely loss in the final round means our destiny relies on the match between the 7th and 8th placed teams at the moment. So in division 1, we are now livin’ on a prayer! All will be decided on the 16th March, where we hope the Sharks can win or draw against the 3Cs.

Division 4 progress (rounds 1-6 of 11)

This is the newest team to the Tigers roster, allowing a nice progression point for Hammers that want to compete on the national level. This year, players like Adam, John, Charlie and Bajrush have all stepped into the ring to test their skills against the best in the 4 nations.

We are currently ranked 12th out of 38 teams, with a respectable 2 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss. To get promoted we need to win at least 4 of the remaining 5 rounds, so it’s an upwards slug ahead, but definitely possible.

Here is an analysis video from Tiger Jacques on how to create fireworks against the Petroff:


If you have any questions about playing in the 4NCL, get in touch with Chris Skulte, who manages the team. If there is enough interest, we might expand to a 3rd team next season. Kostis is already begging for this!

More will come out in the next edition of the ROAR – the official newsletter of the Celtic Tigers, available here: https://www.celtictigers.club/newsletter

Until then, keep on having fun! :o)

13.02.19 – Middlesex Division 3: West London vs. Hammersmith

Last Wednesday, the Hammer 3rd team were in action in the Middlesex League. We hopped on bikes, buses and trains, venturing two miles West along King Street to be welcomed by the grand interior of Chiswick Town Hall. Our opponents on the night were West London, a chess club matching Hammersmith for history, but lacking the forward-thinking ideas needed for a modern club to blossom.

As a captain, it’s a big relief when everyone shows up! In this regard Hammer were flawless: the whole team were ready and raring to go at the agreed start time, despite only one of our hosts being present. With several Hammers recently becoming auto-nominated for the firsts and seconds, we had a refreshing mix of players.

  • The old guard: Robin and Ken
  • The experienced junior: Andrew
  • Four new members this season: Jonathan, Olivier, Jeremy and Liam
  • One brand new member playing her first game for the club: Soumya

As the opponents trickled in and their team sheet appeared, it was clear we’d be up against it. West London’s board 1 to 5 were all experienced 160+ players. From there, there was a substantial drop off, but five points would be enough for them to win. The room was arranged across four tables – I’ll start at the bottom.

On board 8, Ken played a long tactical game with mating threats for both sides. In time trouble, his opponent was always one tempo up, forcing Ken to concede material in an attempt to defend. In the end the pressure was too much and Ken resigned.

Liam, on board 7, was somewhat surprised to receive a blundered knight on move 3. From here it was plain sailing – his opponent refused to resign, instead heading for a hopeless ending a piece down. 1-1

Board 5 saw Jeremy looking for his first win for the club – it was not going to be easy as he was massively out-graded. With black in a queen’s pawn game, Jeremy was slightly premature in developing his light square bishop, falling victim to a typical Qb3 motif, with a double attack on d5 and b7 that was impossible to defend. His opponent made no mistake in converting.

To demonstrate the difference between the two teams, Robin’s opponent on board 6 was a full 32 grading points weaker than board 5, yet still had 24 points on Robin. Robin was not to be intimidated though. He refused to let his opponent castle, sacrificing a pawn to plant a delicious knight on c5 and later d6. A vicious attack ensued, and Robin scored a convincing win. 2-2

Jonathan’s fine run of form continues. Here he played impeccably against the opposition captain, graded 172, going a full pawn up with little in the way of compensation. Here his opponent offered a draw, and Jonathan reluctantly accepted. It was definitely the correct decision given the opponent’s strength.

Olivier was sitting next to Jonathan and ready to do battle. On move 13, he made the totally understandable decision to weaken his king to maintain a material balance. However, this ultimately proved to be his downfall. The correct decision was to sacrifice a pawn, opening up the position and activating Olivier’s bishop pair – a long term strategic plan that’s not so easy for us mere mortals to find.

So the team were 3.5-2.5 down, with just Soumya and Andrew left to face the top two West London players. The conference table they sat across was four feet wide and rather tall, meaning that neither player was afforded a bird’s eye view of their army. Both generals fought very bravely at the one dimensional board, but were ultimately slain. Soumya’s game was a strange closed Sicilian, clearly a pet line of her opponent, who knew exactly how to get the most out of it with the white pieces. I have no doubt both Soumya and Andrew will be pushing for first team selection in the near future.

Final result 5.5-2.5

Despite the loss, the league table is looking good for Hammer. Most teams still have half their games remaining, so it’s too early to start dreaming of promotion just yet.


Hammersmith Rapid League – Round IV

The penultimate round of the 2019 Hammersmith Rapid League once again threw up some intriguing fixtures – a top of the table clash, a pride of hungry lions hoping to find a nice meal in Hackney, and a tasty local derby.

Would the destiny of this year’s title be settled and would matters carry on to the final week? Read on and find out…

Hackney vs. The Lions

I think the Lions have been the unluckiest of the teams in this year’s league. They have played consistently good chess and have been unlucky not to have points on the board. That theme continued tonight.

Despite drawing the first rubber 2-2, the greater experience of the Hackney crew meant there was no tasty meal.

I must mention Tianyou Xu here – a great performance on taking down the wily Hackney captain Brian, 2-0.

A great result from Hackney, 5-3:

Football Radar vs. Tony’s Tigers

This was a top of the table clash that was meant to settle the destiny of the title At moments it looked like there would be a decisive result.

Alistair and Nadhmi swapped points on top board, and the same for Daniel and James on board 2.

Taymour has been in great form recently but he met his nemesis in the form of Radar’s Michael – an excellent 2-0 win for the Radar man.

Laith – the other third of the Auchi nation, and devoted Tiger, nailed it. A great 2-0 win made sure that the match was drawn and the title would not be decided until the final week.

Hammersmith vs. Battersea

“So, we meet again Mr Battersea” (a touch of Ian Fleming to spice things up) – yes, the latest derby match between these erstwhile frenemies took place on the evening. There have been so many clashes with out noisy neighbours this season, and it pains me to say that Battersea have definitely been holding the upper hand. Could Hammer reverse that trend in the Rapid League match up??

For a while matters looked promising – 2 points a piece after the first round with all to play for, but that solid iron man, Darius, scored a 2-0 win against Hammer hero and captain Kostis. The other matches were halved and allowed Battersea to shade it with a 5-3 win.

Hats off to Battersea – after their first-round defeat to the Radar team they have come back strong and are still in the mix for the title.

For Hammer, the league has been a story of so close, but so far – but shall be back!!

So with four of the five rounds complete, this is how the land lies:

The destiny of the title lies in the hands of the Crazy Gang – if they beat Hackney then nobody can catch them. However, if they slip up, either Battersea or the Tigers could sneak through and pinch the title.

things are coming nicely to the boil with three teams in for the title and all to play for.

The final round lineup reads like this:

  • Football Radar vs. Hackney
  • Battersea vs. Tony’s Tigers
  • Hammersmith vs. Tony’s Lions

The “Winter Break” now kicks in, and the final round will be played on the 2nd April – till then folks, live long and prosper.


The Hammer of Love

Hammersmith’s 2017 Reporter of the Year, and Thames Valley captain, Robin Lee, takes us through last week’s away trip to the outer-reaches of West London, followed by the latest dispatches from the Middlesex 2 battle front, courtesy of 2018’s Reporter of the Year, John White. All rounded off with some details of this year’s Czech Open. Do read on…

11.02.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Maidenhead vs. Hammersmith

First to finish was Javi on board 5, his French Defence taking the point, so score 1-1 and balancing our default: we were short one player. Javi has definitely improved his openings in the last month.

This was quickly followed by Kostis on board 4, with a dogged anti-Sicilian leading to a stranglehold on the black king. This Kostis exploited, and soon enough came the win with blitz style finish, and score 2-1.

Your captain on board 3 with the black pieces meanwhile, dug in, facing an unknown 1.e4 2.Bc4, that my opponent thought was called the Bishop’s opening. It just didn’t compute. I tried to make it a Scotch Game, maybe equalising. After some to and fro, black attacked the white king with a diamond cutting tool, two bishops scything down on an ill-protected king.

White dipped his king, in view of the inevitable rook and queen coming to deliver checkmate. Score now level-pegging at 2-2.

I turned to watch board 1 and saw John White a queen up. It was fascinating, watching our top board with a queen, rook and minor tackling two minors and rook. A very comfortable situation, as John encroached on the opposing king, having only to diffuse the danger of two advanced, linked pawns in the centre. Yes, the win was inevitable, score 3-2. I thought I saw a smiling Cheshire cat, sitting on the window sill in the room.

John’s game is given below, with additional commentary beneath:

10. 0-0, 0-0 – Atrociously played opening – was trying to tempt an early e5 and retreat my knight back to g8, to get him totally out of his book – he didn’t bite.
19. f4, exf4 – White throws away advantage, I gain the upper hand, the new reality, to which he doesn’t adjust, common to chess players of all strengths.
24. Be2, Ng6 – I make space for my Queen on g3 and also float another piece towards his king.
27. Rg1, Re5 – partly psychological – gains a huge error but his time trouble makes me opt for this move, followed by 28…Nxh3
37. Re1 Qf3+ – the rest is mopping up and simplification

Meanwhile on board 2 John Goodacre was coincidentally battling a junior in blitz style, with knight, king and pawns versus knight and king. In contrast to John’s sedately played game, it was all fire and smoke on the other board. I thought I heard a groan, as the junior came to the last minutes on his clock, with John G almost an hour up. Possible he just signed or made the wrong move on a theoretically drawn position. Unlucky. So it ended 4-2.

John G later commented, “these teenagers… are a bit sharp. I am usually better tactically than positionally, so their strength is the same as mine. I was rusty… but he was under a lot of pressure, and he could calculate.”

Definitely things to ponder there, thankfully we had a win.

Maidenhead was a long schlep getting there, but we were flying back on empty roads. The Albion beckoned us as we reached terra firma, the whole Hammer crew – Adam, Chris and Carsten – and Monsieur Cornette welcomed us back. Charlie, Wyatt and David were doubtless celebrating over in Holborn; they knew our win thanks to WhatsApp. Yeah, we were a tight crew, bonded by our chess camaraderie. What’s not to like?

I think this was fortune smiling on us this time, possibly only a small uptick in our seasons’s poor performance. Who can say?

14.02.19 – Middlesex Division 2: Metropolitan vs. Hammersmith

A Valentine’s Tale of Extreme Valour

Believe it or not there are times when even Captain Clueless is lost for words. This is one of those times, but then it would make for a very tedious report regarding the heroic rearguard action fought by the Hammer crew this Valentine’s day past. This was epic stuff, against all odds and a firm reminder of the enduring spirit of Hammer Chess Club. Hence, this report is full of hyperbole and slight exaggeration. Definitely not fake news, but shall we say slightly embellished.

First of all, this skirmish was fought on the day of love – a touch choice for anyone – the love of your God (Caissa) or the love of your beloved (Valentine). Surely they are one and the same and nobody should ever have to choose. I leave you to reflect on that.

Non-playing captain Clueless had to make an early exist – I am afraid the love for Karen or possibly the potential ire of Karen, made my decision inevitable. Dave and Adam stepped into the breach.

The Hammer heroes in Board order 1-6: Marios (Zeus), Paul K (Dead-Eye), Jeremy (Brexit), Matteo (The Suit), Nadhmi (The Gift) and Adam (Pickle).

On boards 7 and 8 we had one new Hammer, and one veteran Hammer.

Navarone (“Nav”) was making his league debit and hence in time-honoured tradition a nickname is designated – he will be known as “VR” – in tribute to that most brilliant batsman Vivian Richards (a true sporting hero of mine).

Board 8 saw Dave Lambert making his debut fora  team I captained. My memory may be failing (definitely) but I think this is the first time it has happened in 4 plus years. All I can say is – he is one of Hammer’s finest and will now be known as “Toffee” – in honour of his beloved Everton and his resilience at the chess board.

Things did not start well – VR got deleted and had to default. Toffee moved up to board 7. Zeus and the Suit were delayed by work and the vagaries of the District Line, and arrived 30 plus minutes late. Add in the fact that the Metropolitan Chess Club is harder to find than any integrity in Donald Trump, made it a stressful time for Clueless. The clocks were ticking, Clueless’s BP was going North, and Karen was waiting… Valentine was not happy.

All I can say is the team performed heroically to a man.

I was still in the building when Toffee agreed a draw, Zeus and the Suit had yet to arrive. This was totally solid stuff from Toffee – playing the white side of a Sicilian Dragon, he was never in danger and was an exchange up but with vulnerable pawns. A draw was a wise decision. Hammer 0.5-1.5 in arrears.

With Zeus and the Suit in situ, Clueless made his exit – worried, anxious and apprehensive – we were out-graded on average by approximately 10 points a board and we were 30 minutes plus down in two games on the clock. These were dark times.

There was a news blackout in the Clueless bunker, and then suddenly via the wonders of that modern-day carrier pigeon, WhatsApp, at 9.16pm Captain Toffee reported a famous victory. Hammer had seized the day and had won by 4.5-3.5!!!

This was just sensational stuff.

Wins from Zeus, Dead-Eye and Brexit – the Hammer vets leading the way. With solid draws from the Gift and Pickle – added to Toffee’s earlier draw, saw Hammer nose it.

I have asked for some PGN’s but so far only Zeus – as a good God should – has delivered. He was as usual completely scathing of his effort with such comments as “I blundered three pawns for no real compensation…”. Personally, I think it was a Petrosian-like masterpiece – here is the final position with our man/God as white:

The one thing that can be said is this result has done us no harm in our quest to retain Division 2 status – a testimony to the spirit of the team and their true fighting nature.

Clueless salutes you.

Here are the match card and latest table for your delight:

Czech It Out

Yes, we went there. Anyway, the 19th International Chess Festival Series – Czech Tour 2019/2020 and the International Czech Open, have both recently been announced – what could be better than some Summer chess in the heart of Europe?

Dates and locations are as follows:

  • 16th March 2019 – Prague International Chess Festival
  • 28th July – Czech Open, in Pardubice
  • 9th August – Summer Prague Open, in… Prague
  • 17th August – Olomouc Chess Summer
  • 15th September – Sunny beach Open, in Bulgaria

Terrific tournaments, with sections for all levels of players, inc. the amateur patzers, so if you fancied combining your Summer hols with some Chess, here’s how you do it:




Solid as a Hammer

The combined might of Hammer has been experiencing something of a collective Purple Patch this last couple of weeks. Read on to find out about some more cracking results:

  • London 2 vs. Kings Head
  • London 4 vs. UCL
  • Week 3 of the Hammersmith Rapid League
06.02.10 – London League 2: King’s Head vs. Hammersmith

Although on paper this match might have seemed straightforward – our opponents had already lost seven of their eight matches this season – as a former King’s Head man myself, I know that you dare to underestimate such a strong and renowned club at your peril.

And as I suspected, they turned up with a much strengthened team in a late bid to avoid the drop. When one sees experienced, formerly 200+, players such as Connor O’Shaughnessy and Rik Thomas on the middle boards, you know you are in for a bare knuckle fight.

Before the match, the Hammertime WhatsApp banter made jovial reference to the need for a demonstration of the Spartan “come and take it” attitude. And thus it transpired…

I think I may have inadvertently created a monster. Chris seems to have taken a distinct liking to top board, and is clearly in no hurry to vacate the hot seat. Another neat Sicilian miniature followed, presented below for your enjoyment with Chris’s lucid notes.

13.f5 was a mistake – I was impatient and wanted to open up the centre. I felt I would have pressure for the pawn [Jim: Seems natural and fine to me]
[Jim – 17.Bf4? this allows…Be7, and…0-0! better 17.bg5 when the plausible 17…Bd6?? allows 18.Rxf7! Kxf7, 19.Rf1+ mating shortly]
17…Qd4? was a big mistake, allowing me to activate a number of pieces and point everything at his King.
By move 20 he had only 2 minutes for 10 moves, so I was looking for 2-3 move tactics that would make him pause and rethink. Playing 21.d4 I saw that the natural 23…Rc8? fails to a neat tactic. (Try and find it!).
When you are a little worse, or down a pawn, always keep pressure and initiative, and you will have a good chance to fight back into it.
[Jim – a nice game. 25.Bf6! is even more sadistic]

On board 2, Thomas was engaged in a fierce time scramble, where his extra pawn was compensated by his strong opponent’s initiative and clock advantage. Draw agreed.

Engrossed in my own game, I did not get to follow much of the play on boards 3 to 5. Bajrush, so often our match winner this season, went down, while Sylvain and Marios recorded solid draws.

The match was getting more tense with each passing minute. On six against my Richmond Juniors colleague Rik Thomas, I ventured a couple of risky moves in my favourite Grünfeld and twice briefly stood very badly. A difficult endgame finally tilted in my favour as the clock ran down. A satisfying win, and important in edging us ahead again. Check out the gory details below.

11…Qh5?! is dubious, the natural 11…Qa5 gives near equality but is to lifeless for such a critical match.
15.Qxh5? a lucky escape. The sneaky 15.Qe1! Threatening Bd1 and eyeing the loose Na5 sets black near insurmountable problems.
19…e5! This is way too sharp. 20.Nf6+ Kg7, 21.Nd7! Rxd7, 22.Rxd7 Be6, though tricky, clearly favours white.
30.Nh3? Time pressure takes its toll, the N is strong and secure on g5. Later 33.Ng5! holds while 33.Kf3 and 34.Ke4 though natural, loses. Rik has long been a strong player. I was satisfied with my endgame play.

A short draw by Pavel on board 9, and a heroic, but ultimately unsuccessful rearguard action from Kostis on ten, left the match tied at 4-4 going into the final moments.

Jeremy, on board 8, kept a firm grip on his earlier advantage, steering a well played game to victory in the endgame.

So, all eyes on Paul on board 7. A fluctuating struggle seemed to be won for us, and Paul also had a vital extra minute on his clock. Alas, his opponent’s dogged resistance began to eat away at Paul’s time advantage. A Hammer loss on time seemed inevitable, until his opponent, with 12 seconds left versus 5 seconds, albeit in a hopeless position, offered a draw. Thankfully Paul had the presence of mind to accept, sparing his team mates a collective coronary. We’ve all been in such tense positions and know how logic often falls by the wayside.

So as the dust settled, Hammer had won the match 5.5-4.5. Perhaps a little fortunate, but undoubtedly a critical point in our season. We now need to make the most of this reprieve in the crucial upcoming matches.

Many thanks to everyone for a tremendous effort. Particularly Jeremy and Kostis for stepping in at the last minute and performing so admirably.


The current standings in Division 2:

11.02.19 – London League 4:UCL vs. Hammersmith

Ancestral Voices Prophesying Waraka a trip to UCL

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round:
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-burning tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.

With echoes of Coleridge chiming in our ears, we faced University College London in their home citadel. That all-too-familiar bastion of higher education – the Rugby Tavern pub close to Holborn.

The room smelling of un-tempered bellicose spirit, mild dread, and salt & vinegar crisps. Here, the Mongol spirit of fallen heroes would be summoned to contest our learned foes on equal footing.

We stared blankly into the abyss of a 30 ECF point deficit per board.

It was time.

But cometh the hour, cometh the man, and Hammer were not to be outdone, fighting bravely to hold our rivals to a 4-4 DRAW. The Great Khan would have been proud.

This wasn’t a night for weak, apologetic chess, with all 8 matches proving decisive one way or the other.

The triumphant Cherbi were Charlie, Dave, Wyatt and Nick, each taking down their higher-rated opponents. But surely there was no better performance than Wyatt. Drafted into the fray only hours before battle, he ably took down his man in double quick time, ushering a humble thumbs-up as he emerged from the board.

Nick took advantage of his opponent’s ‘casual’ approach to time management, ramping up the pressure as his time slowly ticked away. Oblivious as his flag fell, it was a small matter for the Hammer man who continues his fine form since the Summer.

Proving it’s not only UCL boys who can leverage the benefits of academic advancement, Charlie’s been doing some studing of his own, veritably imbibing the sweet liquor of Nimzowitsch’s masterwork, My System. It paid dividends as he entered a seemingly even endgame, but our friend zugzwang was to scream into view, ensuring Charlie commanded the centre, and thus the game. Beautiful takedown.

Your captain benefitted from an overly aggressive pawn push in the opening which allowed an e4-e5 counterthrust. With the Rook now under attack, material loss was inevitable, an advantage that persisted into the endgame. The game is presented here.

Our fallen heroes numbered 4 – Tommaso, Matteo, Brian and Paul. Their bodies burned away on a pyre of leaden ash, their souls ready to return to fight another day. Tommaso reached an endgame with Bishop and pawn vs. Rook and pawn. Tricky to defend, but even more so when you have 15 seconds left, and you’re facing down a 200 ECF. It wasn’t to be – the extra seconds may have counted as the post-match analysis suggested a draw may have been lurking in the mire.

Matteo and Paul had nights I suspect they’d rather forget. Paul confessed to never having gotten going, stumbling into unfamiliar territory against the London System, and Matteo was left to rue what could have been after reaching a promising +1.0 position against his much higher graded opponent.

I’ll leave you with Brian and his most unfortunate loss. Again, time played a crucial role here – the material advantage was there, but it’s hard to close out when time is short. Brian has also kindly annotated the game with some of his post-match thoughts.

We ride again on Tuesday 19th against Greater London. More of the same please…!!


The Division 4 table:

Hammersmith Rapid League – Round III

Another cracking night of chess action – with Battersea manoeuvring themselves into contention, The Crazy Gang remaining undefeated, and Hammersmith finally getting off the mark.

Yes, the midway point of the 2019 Hammersmith Rapid League is starting to take shape, as we approach the business end of the tournament.

Hackney vs Battersea

After a first-round hiccup the Frenemies are back with a vengeance. With a winning score line of 7-1, with no draws against Hackney. Tremendous performance from the team – here is the scorecard:

Great credit to captain Gregg – the team are now serious contenders.

Football Radar vs Tony’s Lions

In some ways the Lions have not had the rub of the green in this tournament, and that trend continued against the 100% Radars.

The match card does not tell the full story and the win could have gone either way – this was edge of your seat stuff – or is it that these kids are just damn good?

This was a close encounter but plaudits to the Radar lads who kept focused and keep on winning.

Hammersmith vs. Tony’s Tigers

Both teams had much to gain from victory here – Hammersmith to get on the scoreboard, and the Tigers to maintain their 100% records. Something had to give – who would blink first?

Hammer Captain Kostis shuffled the pack and gave season debuts to Ben and Jakub. The Tigers were men down with no Nadhmi and Connall available they had to call up the reserves.

A tight match was the outcome but some highlights – Ben despite being a piece down in one game still won. Nick Rutherford went 2-0 and Taymour with outs.

So, at the midway point the cross table and league table are given below. Round 4 was up this Tuesday, with many things on the line – watch out for that report soon!

Will Football Radar be halted in their tracks? Can Battersea maintain their form and push for the title? Have the Tigers peaked too soon, and will the Lions get a break? Will Hackney find their mojo? Is the Hammer revival or real?

All these questions and more will be revealed after Round 4 -stay tuned!