Midweek Roundup – London & Middlesex Leagues

Middlesex League – Final Game & Season Roundup!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bring on next year!
Adam.

Hammer 1 Goes Into Fischer Mode in WC1V

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

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

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

Pjesa Dhjetë

Star Date – 9/05/2018

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

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

What would the response be?

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

The landing part in board order:

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

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

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

Hammer now at warp speed 2.

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

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

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

That was the only setback of the evening.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I leave you with the match card and latest table:

 

An Urgent Call to Arms!

Hammerites!! With only days to go, we need your help this weekend.

Hammersmith Chess Club is again teaming up with our friends at Hammersmith MIND, the local branch of a national mental health charity, for a day of chess & fundraising in Hammersmith town centre.

On Saturday 19th May, we take chess to the streets – Lyric Square, next to Hammersmith tube station – to raise awareness of an excellent charity, spread the good word of Hammer Chess, and enjoy our favourite game against the public!

We need volunteers!! Even if you can only spare a few hours, all help is gratefully received! If you can offer your services for any of the following, we would be extremely grateful:

  • Logistics: 8am onwards to help transfer equipment from our club, to Lyric Square
  • Setup in Lyric Square: from 9am, to help organise our stalls & chessboards in the square
  • Leafleting: from 10am to 4pm (or anytime in between), handing out leaflets for MIND and for Hammer Chess, helping to spread the good word to the public
  • Playing Chess: from 10am to 4pm (or anytime in between), playing chess against the public at the tables and chairs we setup in the square
  • Packing up & The Pub: from 4pm, helping close down the site, pack up our equipment, and retire to The Albion for the wash-up

Even an hour of your time would make a huge difference. Last year’s event was a massive success, raising hundreds of pounds and helping sign up dozens of members of public to the good ship HammerChess.

If you can spare any time, please get in touch ASAP: john.white49@ntlworld.com

Thanks from all at HammerChess

 

A Greek Tragedy in W1

Επεισόδιο Εννέα

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

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

Captains Log – Star date 30/4/2018

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

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

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

 

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

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

The team, in board order:

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

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

Grand surroundings for a game of chess

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Suit, looking good

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clueless over & out.

RapidPlay – Round VIII – The Grand Finale!

It was back on September 6th 2017 when we first announced our new, season-long RapidPlay competition. Over 7 gruelling rounds since, we’ve edged ever closer to discovering our first Champion in the inaugural Hammersmith RapidPlay Championship!

Round 7 – played across the month of April – didn’t turn up too many surprises, with most results running largely to form. However, there are two results worthy of note, both of which may well be instrumental in deciding the award winners at the end of May, as our 8th and FINAL Round draws to a close.

  • Tony triumphed against Marios in the battle of the big hitters, leaving Bajrush out in front to secure the overall prize
  • Ben edged out Wyatt in the hotly-contested “Battle of the Captains”, which might just have a hand in deciding the prize in the <100 category

As we look ahead to the pairings for Round 8, let’s remind ourselves of the 4 award categories as well as the runners & riders still in contention to claim victory:

  • OpenOverall winner
    • Bajrush is the man to beat here. A positive result against Nadhmi will bring home the silverware…
    • Marios and Tony will be hoping young gun Nadhmi can spring an upset so they can usurp our all-conquering Chairman
  • KingsUnder 160
    • Matteothe SuitBezzini leads the way, with 5 points from 7
    • A whole host of players lie in wait, hoping for a slip-up; John White and Nadhmi could be the beneficiaries
  • BishopsUnder 130
    • Simon and Ben are jostling for top position with 4 points from 7
    • Rich Wingfield is best placed to steal-in if Simon and Ben oblige
  • KnightsUnder 100
    • Ben’s destiny is in his own hands here. A draw/win will clinch it
    • Beyond that, it could still be anyone’s… very tight!

Monday 21st May has been allocated a “RapidPlay Night” at the club, so we’d love you to play your match there if you can.

However, we know that won’t be possible for everyone; not least Bajrush, Tony and Marios who are in action that night. Either way, please get in touch with your opponent asap so you can organise your match as quickly as possible. We’d love to have the tournament sewn up by that Monday if possible so we can hand out the gongs on the night!

Good luck all.

London 4 Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Volunteers Needed!! & The Return of Summer Chess

Calling all Hammers!! – we need your help on Saturday 19th May as we take chess back to the streets of Hammersmith & help our local branch of MIND raise money for a good cause!

As you may have read this week – we are returning to Lyric Square, W6 next month for a day of chess, activities and fundraising. Your support is critical – and we want to smash this out of the park.

It was a massive, massive success when we did this last year, and a brilliant day out for all involved, raising over £400 for MIND.

We need help with logistics, leafleting, playing chess, taking contact details & new inquiries, fundraising and much more. Even if you can only spare a few hours between the hours of 9am and 4pm, we will be enormously grateful!

If you’re willing to get involved – brilliant! Please drop John an email: john.white49@ntlworld.com

We need to know how many of you are willing to help out ASAP – so please get in touch by Friday 4th May, so that we can plan accordingly!

The Return of Summer Chess

Yes, the rumours are correct… after a truly amazing first season, the Summer Chess League is back for 2018!

It’s going to be even bigger & better this year with the number of team entries having doubled from last time – not including the many clubs still to confirm their entries – and Hammer looking to field an additional couple of teams from last time too! We’re also aiming to introduce a divisional structure to help even out the matches & retain the competitiveness.

Nevermind the Summer of Love – this will be the Summer of Chess!

As with last year, the league will be played over five Tuesday evenings, all at Battersea’s spacious, technologically advanced & beer-fuelled home venue.

Final details are still to be confirmed, but rest assured – you will be the first to know!

Hammer & MIND Takeover Lyric Square – Saturday 19th May 2018

Calling all Volunteers!

SAVE THE DATE – The importance of 19th May 2018 cannot be stressed enough – not only are Harry & Megan tying the knot with the FA Cup final kicking off later in the day, but the BIG news is that Hammer will be bringing chess to the streets of Hammersmith again – or to be precise, Lyric Square.

After our hugely successful event last year in conjunction with mental health charity, Hammersmith MIND, we are again venturing forth to raise awareness of mental health, raise some funds for that worthy organisation, and raise the profile of Hammersmith Chess Club.

This is a quick reminder to pledge your time & attendance in some capacity on the day – whether the full day, a few hours, or just some help with logistics, it is all hugely appreciated!

We will be setting up from 8.30am in the morning, with the official start at 10am. We’re scheduled to be there until 4pm, and then probably retiring to the Albion to enjoy the FA Cup final.

Those of us who took part last year will recall what a memorable and worthy event it was. There is a huge appetite for the game amongst the good people of Hammersmith, and they are generous folk when it comes to giving to charity too, as we raised over £400 for the Hammersmith branch of MIND – a total we are hoping to smash this time round.

So please, if you can spare any time – please get in touch with John ASAP: john.white49@ntlworld.com

We saw around 25 members take part last year, and are hoping to top that this time! Link to last years event below:

Chess Bosses Lyric Square, W6

The “El Chessico” – 2018 Variation

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

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

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

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

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

How would matters unfold?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hammer 1 are the new definition of Mean Machine.

Here for your delight is the current League 3 table:

An ecstatic Clueless over & out!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

11.04.18 – London Division 5: Hammersmith v Lewisham

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final score: Hammer 3 – 1 Lewisham