Hammer New Year!!

Welcome to 2018!! Christmas may just be over, but the chess calendar does not have a holiday with the small matter of FOURTEEN games coming up in January! It’s going to be busy…

On top of that, we have the latest round of our RapidPlay tournament to think about too. Round 4 pairings are now out, and tournament controller Adam brings us the story of festive Round 3 in December:

RapidPlay – December Results, and January Pairings

Round 3 is now complete, with the full results below. Shoutouts to John, Simon, Wyatt, Andy and Ken, who all scored wins against higher-graded opponents.

The Round 4 pairings throw up some tasty offerings in the form of Wyatt pairing up with John – what a result that could be!! Can Chris rediscover his sensational giant-killing form when he takes on Matteo??

In addition our two strongest players face off at the top as Tony takes on Bajrush, and further down the order sees the “Battle of Amsterdam“, with Andy taking on Ken. Sparks could fly!!

Remember, January is a very busy month for matches, so be sure to contact your opponent asap to secure a date. Monday nights at The Anvil are as follows:

  • 8th January – FREE
  • 15th January – one 8x board match
  • 22nd January – FREE
  • 29th January – two 8x board matches

If you have any problems at all, please contact Adam or Dave.

Good luck!!!

The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt VI

“On the sixth day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

“… Thames Valley, by Bajrush Kelmendi”

I’m delighted to report that our Thames Valley team has finished the year with a 100% record!

Our season began with a win in the TV Cup against Uxbridge, with a strong 4.5-1.5 victory.

Win aside, the match was notable for an appeal on our only losing board – following an illegal move by the Uxbridge opponent, Jim claimed the penalty. In the ensuing reset of positions – which rather confusingly involved another (non-captain) member of the Uxbridge side, Jims clock was not stopped, leading to him being a couple of minutes down through no fault of his own. The game played out to a finish with Jim losing on time… We shall await the results of the adjudication!

This was followed swiftly by a win over Surbiton B at The Anvil – our first league game proper of the season.

Perhaps our best result so far was an away win at Kingston in November. Not a single Hammer player lost their game, with the score sitting at an impressive 6-1, with one adjournment.

This leaves the table looking very interesting for us. With 2 wins from 2, we sit in second place:

The New Year brings a very busy period for the Thames Valley team, with six matches between 8th January and 5th February, all 7.30pm starts.

  • Monday 8th Jan – Ealing away
  • Monday 15th Jan – Kingston home
  • Thursday 18th Jan – Richmond away
  • Wednesday 24th Jan – Surbiton A away
  • Wednesday 31st Jan – Surbiton B away
  • Monday 5th Feb – Ealing home

I have highlighted our most important matches in red in the battle for survival. This period only has a couple of other senior games (1 x London 3, and 1 x Middlesex 2), so January is effectively the Thames Valley month for first teamers. I would therefore like to field the strongest team possible, so would really appreciate if all high-graded players can make themselves available on these dates!

Thanks for your commitment, and have a Happy Christmas!


The Last Hammer Hurrah of 2017

Yes, the calendar year of activity finished at The Anvil on Monday night and we went out with a moderately-sized bang, and definitely not a whimper.

Our Christmas finale was the first leg in the Handicapped Blitz trilogy of tournaments this season. Named after our late Chairman, the Tourney has always provided the perfect Christmas send-off for Hammerites to go off and enjoy the festive season.

This is chess played at its most furious and basic level. No quarter given and none asked for – it is when all members are equal as the time handicap ensures a level(ish) playing field.

Traditionally the format is so suited to the playing approach of our illustrious Chairman – Wily – he invariably tops the hustings. Balls of Steel chess are perfect in this environment. Would he triumph again?

Robin aka Wannabe, takes the award for Correspondent of the Year for 2017

The scene is set, so let’s look at the evening…

Before reporting on the events of the night, I think it’s fair that we continue the designation of nicknames for those with no name. Adding to the roll of honour:

  • RobinWannabe (self-nominated!)
  • NickTriple X
  • BenHitman (for reasons that will become apparent later)
  • SimonBond (move over Daniel Craig)
  • James TThe Future

There is also a re-designation. More may follow later in the year:

  • Charlie – aka Sorted, will now be known as Kiev (obscure Fast Show reference)

Onto the chess.

There were four preliminary groups rather originally named as Groups 1, 2, 3 and 4. Four players were placed into each group:

Group 1 – T-Bone, Gandalf, Bond and The Future

Group 2 – RU Serious, Eco-Prof, Wily and XXX

Group 3 – The Great Dane, Hitman, Wannabe and Clueless

Group 4 – Zeus, Dead-Eye, Mad Dog and Kiev

Cunningly, the harassed tournament controller had put a strong player in each of the groups. With that sort of planning why isn’t he running the country, I hear you ask – answers please are needed!

The top two from each group would go through to the knock-out, whilst the best of the rest would fight for the minor places.

The beauty of chess – and especially handicapped chess – is that it can occasionally send you a curve ball. For example, last week Kiev making his debut for Hammer 1 in the Middlesex League beat an opponent who was graded 50+ points above him – a stellar performance and a most welcomed and unexpected result. A definite curve ball.

The Great Dane receives his award, with Clueless looking on

Caissa was at it again in the group stages.

Wily lost to Eco-Prof, Zeus succumbed to Dead-Eye, and Clueless got annihilated and taken out by Hitman.

In an intense hour of blitz chess, the following souls were left standing and had earned the right to progress to the knock-out stages:

From Group 1 – T-Bone and Bond; Group 2 – Eco-Prof and Wily; Group 3 – The Great Dane and Hitman; Group 4 – Dead-Eye and Zeus.

There were two heavyweight clashes with Zeus taking out T-Bone and Wily beating the Great Dane. The latter was gutted as he was definitely better, but the Balls of Steel King would just not go down.

The other two quarter-finals saw wins for Hitman and Dead-Eye. The former dispatching Eco-Prof and the latter Bond. Dead-Eye definitely has the air of a man with Blofeld tendencies. Hitman was playing outstanding blitz chess using one of his strongest weapons – his time advantage – to full effect.

The semi-finals saw those two old protagonists Wily and Dead-Eye cross swords again – they have met many times over the years. This time it was Wily’s turn to triumph and again he turned an iffy position into a win – his Houdini magic was flowing.

In the other clash Hitman carried on with the approach that had served him so well. Zeus, despite being a Rook up lost to that most relentless of enemies – Time. Hitman had done it.

A final to savour: Wily vs The Hitman. The old against the new. So many questions to be answered. Could the ultra-lightning solid chess of Hitman ruin the continued reign of Wily?

I have to confess at one stage I thought yes – Hitman moved quickly and logically, dealing with the usual Wily setup of c4, d3, e4, with g4 and h4 in motion. Things were looking promising for the Hitman until he allowed his Knight to be pinned on h7. Wily sensed blood and although there was a rescue move, the Hitman did not find it. A piece to the good, Wily swapped off all the major pieces, started hoovering up pawns and then forced a passed pawn.

The Hitman graciously conceded and Wily once again emerged the winner.

A great recovery after the early reversal at the hands of Eco-Prof.

The full results were as follows:

The club were also treated to the usual snacks and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) delights by our generous Chairman.

A cracking good time was had by all and roll on the next instalment – pencilled in for March.

Remember, it is your two best scores in the three rounds that count towards the final result. So there is still time to stop the march of Wily to another title. The gauntlet has been thrown down – who will pick it up?

Remember – you have to be in it, to win it!

Merry Christmas to all Hammerites!


The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt V

“On the fifth day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

… Middlesex League 3, by Adam Cranston

It has been a pleasure to captain Hammer’s brand new team this year in the Middlesex League. With several new faces at the club, demand for places has never been higher. Indeed, over the first six matches no fewer than 19 players have turned out, 10 of whom joined the club in 2017.

One of the key challenges for the season was our first ever attempt to cram 16 match boards into The Anvil. The brand new boards, sets and digital clocks arrived just in time for the first round, and we managed to squeeze everyone in, albeit with little room to manoeuvre and not much spare furniture! We started to experiment with new room layouts, and eventually managed to get hold of some more chairs and tables from the council. In the second half of the season the club will host fewer of these double-headers, but we’re certainly now better equipped to do so.

On to the chess…

Our first match couldn’t have gone much better – a 6.5-1.5 thrashing of Ealing 2 at home, with not a single loss on the scorecard. Pouya and Dipender won playing their first games for Hammer, and Simon’s debut ended in a hard fought draw against a very experienced opponent.

A week later we played host to Willesden, the strongest team in the league – on paper. An even better performance saw us come out 4.5-3.5 victors, the star of the show this time being John White. He played extremely accurately to clinch a vital draw with the black pieces against the 181-graded county captain.

Had this momentum continued we’d surely now be a favourite for promotion, however match three on a cold rainy night in Harrow was a big disappointment. This time playing the weakest time in the league, a no-show forced us to start 1-0 down, and blunders on several of the other boards only widened the gap. Pouya and Dave picked up the only wins and we went down 5.5-2.5.

We welcomed them back at The Anvil the following week, determined to enact our revenge. Alexander, Charlie and Nadim made their debuts on this occasion, and all scored fine victories! We came out 6.5-1.5 winners, proving there’s something to be said for home advantage!

Our last two games before Christmas were literally too close to call. Firstly, we travelled to Ealing where some dubious tactics lead to defeats on the top boards. Fortunately we were saved by heroic wins from the board 6-8 trio of Ken, Wyatt and Dan. A 4-4 draw.

And finally we welcomed junior team Hendon 5 to The Anvil. This was Ben’s chance to make his debut, and won very comfortably! Again, uncharacteristic blunders on the top boards let us down – the match frustratingly finishing 4-4 again.

So with exactly half of the season remaining, promotion hopes are hanging in the balance. We sit joint top of the table on four match points, alongside our main rivals Willesden and Muswell Hill, but crucially having played an extra game. Hendon could easily mount a late surge, so we’ll need to play some fine chess in the new year to stay in the hunt. Get studying, everyone!!

Last but not least a shout out to our highest flyers – John and Ken – both with 2.5 from 3:

Merry Christmas!


Christmas Blitz & GM Keith Arkell

Hammerites, you can read a beautiful write-up of our Simultaneous against GM Keith Arkell below, but first a quick reminder of our annual Blitz Tournament tomorrow evening.

Christmas Blitz Tournament

The John R White Blitz Tournament is in its third year and we’re kicking things off at the Anvil (aka Lytton Hall) tomorrow night from 7.30pm.

First up is the small matter of our annual awards for our best players, tournament winners and other contributors to the club – always great to give a small gesture of appreciation!

This will be followed in short order by the handicap Blitz tournament, named in memory of our former Chairman and life-long member, John R White. It’s a fast & furious display of attacking chess, where gradings and form go out of the window, as the ridiculously quick games throw up blunders and sacrifices at every turn. Don’t miss it!

We’ll also be laying on snacks & drinks to help everyone get into the festive spirit! It’ll be a cracker!!

A Night at the Anvil, with GM Keith Arkell

The background – Keith Arkell became a Chess GrandMaster in 1995. His career achievements are mind-boggling:

  • British Rapid Play Champion 1998
  • English Chess Champion 2006
  • Joint British Champion in 2008, losing in a play-off to Stuart Conquest
  • European over-50 Champion in 2014
  • Joint World Champion over 50 in 2014. Awarded the silver medal on tie-break
  • Winner of literally hundreds of chess tournaments
  • A peak ELO rating of 2545

Not bad for a Brummie lad who learned chess at the age of 13!

However, all these achievements pale into insignificance thanks to a chance and momentous encounter on the 12th December 2016 in a pub called the Albion, situated in Hammersmith. Keith, relaxing after a hard days chess at the London Classic, ran into the Hammer posse indulging in their passion for beer (and chess). Contact was made and what followed will enter folklore.

Yes, he agreed to do a simultaneous at the Anvil in December 2017…… read on!

First of all, for the record, Keith “The Legend” Arkell is not only a great chess player, he is really good company, a beer connoisseur and an all-round first class human being.

Due to flu and Christmas commitments, the Hammerite contingent was much depleted, however we did mange 14 boards.

The Legend, in the spirit of the occasion, decided it was best to do a clock simultaneous. The clocks were set at 80 minutes – meaning that on average “The Ledge” would only have less than 10 minutes per board, A serious challenge alone, but on top of that he gave his opponent choice of colour.

In time-honoured tradition the designation of nicknames from Clueless now follows:

  • Chris – “RU Serious”
  • Shiraz – “Vintage”
  • John R – “Eco-Prof”
  • Charlie – “Sorted”
  • Wyatt – “Gandalf”
  • Mike Mac – “Mad Dog”
  • Thomas – “T-Bone”

The rest of the Hammer posse consisted of Wily, Spock, Brexit, Clueless, Pickle and the Great Dane. Plus a guest for the evening called A.N.Other.

Brexit was on wine duty and tried to impair the Legend’s powers by giving him a bottle of Soave to aid his progress. Excellent idea, but did it work?

Brexit also gave the rallying cry to the Hammer troops urging us all to rise to the challenge and help each other. For the greater good was the mantra we would all adopt!

On Board One the Ledge faced the balls of steel chess approach from Wily. An unbelievably fascinating game followed that ultimately ended in the rare scenario of King and Queen v King and Rook, with the Legend in the driving seat. Wily deployed all his powers but could not withstand the inevitable loss. Indeed, it could be said Wily was just “Out-Wilyied” (Hammer yet again expanding the English language). Acme Industries could not have planned it better.

On Board Two Spock struggled valiantly and with huge invention nearly saved the game. Unfortunately, he had the Bad Bishop versus Good Knight situation and two vulnerable advanced pawns. The Legend smoothly converted. Hammer 2-0 down.

Board Three Brexit, unlike real political life, was playing a Peaky Blinder. He was in control of his destiny and everything seemed in order. Unfortunately, when you deal with a Brummie/Devonian chess technocrat they have a way of lulling you into a false sense of security. Brexit thought he had the advantage but the Legend had prepared a devious tactical pin. It had all been so promising…. Hammer 3-0 to the bad.

Board Five had Pickle, playing white and his preferred London System, win the exchange and achieve a definite edge. Although, the position was hugely complicated with tactical possibilities abundant. This caused Pickle to use up huge amounts of time and in the end time pressure told and one of the tactics struck home. Hammer now at 4-0 down.

The next few boards saw RU Serious, Vintage, Eco Prof, Sorted and Gandalf all take a Hammering. RU Serious and Sorted played well beyond the point of no return to give the other Hammerites extra thinking time. Their efforts were not in vain, but more on that later. The other games I cannot comment on as my game totally absorbed my time. The tale of the tape now stood at 9-0 to the Legend.

The best moment of the night was to see Mad Dog take the Legend to the line. Although Keith had it all under control his courtesy and recognition of Mad Dog’s efforts were spot on post-match. He really is a gentleman. Mad Dog was over the moon with happiness. However, the scorecard moved relentlessly onwards to 10-0 in favour of The Legend.

Mad Dog, lording it

A guest of the night whose name escapes me, he shall be known as A.N.Other, also succumbed at the hands of The Legend. The Ledge was cruising at 11-0.

Arriving late but always up for a fight was our Top Dog – the Great Dane. With only forty minutes to play with, this was not his preferred format. He fell for a mate and now The Legend was looking at a whitewash of the Hammer Posse.

Thankfully, the honour of the Club was preserved by T-Bone and your correspondent, Clueless.

T-Bone was under pressure and the Legend misplayed a sequence of moves that allowed T-Bone to pounce with a mate in one. Analysing the position later both players agreed The Legend definitely held the advantage, but a win is a win. Hammer had stopped the rot.

Finally, to Clueless. Playing Black and a Benoni, Clueless took the Legend on in a no-holds-barred contest. There was going to be a result one way or the other. Fortunately for Clueless, Caissa decided the fates should fall his way. With only 90 seconds left on his clock Clueless accepted the Legend’s resignation.

To be frank I think he felt he morally owed me – bribes of accommodation, food, beer, free wi-fi etc. undermined the determination of the Legend. Having said that, I will take the win regardless. My first, and probably only, triumph against a GM.

The evening finished with a win for the Legend 12-2 in his favour Considering his exertions at the Classic and social enterprises over the past 10 days, the score line was amazing. His durability and energy are incredible.

The evening ended up full circle with a return to where it all started – The Albion. The conversation was great and the Legend stated for the record that whenever he is in London and there isa match on, he will turn out for Hammer! This commitment was met with great enthusiasm by the Hammer crew and reinforced our good opinion of him.

The Legend has chosen Hammer as his London home. Enough said.

Happy Christmas one and all and especially to GM Keith Arkell – now a Hammer Legend.

Clueless signing off.


The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt IV

“On the fourth day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

… London League 5, by Robin Lee

December brings us Yuletide and groaning sideboards of food and liquids, also (groan) a recap of London League 5 matches.

In summary, we have Lost 1 and Drawn 2 – not exactly championship form.

Our leaders so far are Nadhmi (1W), Dipender (1W) and John R (1W).

Draws so far from Brian, David and Nick.

Bringing up the rear, myself and Gokhan have hit a slump – myself with 3 losses in a row, and Gokhan with 2.

So, in a less than spectacular showing so far this season, one luminary moment comes to mind, when Nadhmi took down a veteran of Kings Head, and a ray of light appeared over the chaos of battle – Turner’s Quillebeuf at the Mouth of the Seine springs to mind.

Quillebeuf, Mouth of the Seine – J.M.W. Turner

The remainder of the season in 2018 shows some interesting opponents ahead. I’m hoping we can see the return of our top players from last year including, but not limited to, Nadhmi, Gokhan, Dipender, and proven stalwarts like Chris Moore who have yet to debut this season. We also hope for a return to form in general!

In summary – Div 5, a tough, competitive league, not for the faint of heart.



The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt III

“On the third day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

… London League 6 (Hedger), by Mike Mackenzie

With more than five seasons past piloting London League Division 6, I have seen many improvement in its organization, and none more so than this year.

With our growing membership we have once again entered two teams in London 6, and I have 12 nominated players available for selection!

Our first match was against our home-club rivals from League 6, Hammersmith MI, which ended in a draw with a win a piece and two boards sharing the spoils. Compare this to last seasons result, where the Hedger team scraped a 2.5-1.5 win – the standard in the League is clearly rising!

Our second match was also a draw against the Wanstead 2 side, with two wins a piece. This saw us make our debut in the plush surroundings of the London League’s new venue – the Citadines Hotel in Holborn.

Our third and final game so far saw us take a bruising defeat at Morley College, going down 1-3 – the less said about that, the better!

To date we have utilized 6 of our nominated players, with a further 6 waiting in the wings – strength in depth for the run-in next year!

An exciting second half to the season is ahead, with us kicking things off on Jan 16th against DHSS.

Merry Christmas to you all!


Puzzle of the Week #008

Absence makes the heart grow fonder, and none more so than when it comes to chess puzzles!

It was way back in June that we last saw a puzzle, and word on the street is that people have been clamouring for the next one!

The first correct answer for puzzle #007 was from Paul “Dead Eye” Kennelly – well done sir!

Without further ado, let’s see what this week brings us…

White to move – answers on a postcard (in comments!)

RapidPlay Round III – Reminder

And the usual reminder – you have until the end of December to complete your third round games in the RapidPlay competition and let Adam and Dave know the result.

The Pairings are below, if you’re having any problems please get in touch:

The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt II

“On the second day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

…London League 3, by John White

It seems strange giving a report on the team with only three matches played – the London League fixture list is heavily weighted towards after Christmas, with eight games to come in the New Year.

That said, if your aim is promotion you have to start well and overall the Starship Hammer have achieved that.

Our debut at the Citadines in our first match saw a convincing 7.5-2.5 win against Hackney. This match saw the welcome return of Sydney to the Hammer colours, and the introduction of the Prof and Loco to the Hammer ranks. It also featured the debut of Zeus on Board One.

This was the best performance of Hammer pre-Christmas. The team was in deadly form and was capped off by a Wily escape of Houdini proportions. How does he do it?!

Match two saw us at the home of GLCC. This was a tough gig with first-choice player availability an issue for the Hammer squad. Luckily, we were able to call on some fighting gauchos in the form of the Hat and the Gift.

However, the reality is we were out-graded, out-fought and out-thought on the night and went down 6.5-3.5. This was a tough night for Hammer 1 and really took the wind out of our sails. Maybe a hard dose of reality was needed after the Hackney canter.

Our final game was against DHSS and saw us return to winning ways with a comfortable 6.5-3.5 win, although as non-playing captain on the night it was not an easy watch!

The tale of the evening saw the first appearance for nearly 14 months by Sauvignon, and great performances from Wily and Pandit in particular. This match was a very professional and disciplined performance from the Hammer crew, and a good bounce back after the GLCC setback.

The main thing after three games is we are in the mix with some tough matches to come.

I must acknowledge certain matters in this report:

  • No defaults so far – excellent
  • The Prof at 2/2 for the season, he is relishing competitive chess again
  • Dead-eye smouldering on 2/2
  • The Gift, probably the youngest debutant in Hammer LL history
  • The return of Sydney and Sauvignon to Mother Hammer’s loving bosom
  • The form of Zeus, Loco, Wily and Pandit
  • The fact that Thomas will be playing for us in 2018
  • The addition of Tommaso to the squad of players available
  • Finally, the funniest moment of the season so far, maybe the funniest of the whole season – Spock, aka Pavel, doing the “Live Long and Prosper” sign with a straight face

The overall conclusion is so far, so good!


The 8 Teams of Christmas… pt I

Crack open the mulled wine & get your tinsel ready – here at Hammer we’re putting a festive spin on our mid-term Team Captain’s reports as we present… The 8 Teams of Christmas (c)!!!

With most of our League Games now done until the new year, every few days we’ll be hearing from one of our captains how their team has done so far this season.

So, without further ado…

“On the first day of Christmas, HammerChess gave to me…”

…London League 4, by Dave Lambert!

Without a match in Division 4 since early November, I’ve very little excuse for not writing a short mid-term report at Christmas to tide us over! I’ve also just noticed that all the 2017 matches across the league have now completed, so the timing seems apt.

We’ve only played 3 of our 12 matches, but have made a positive start. We’ve chalked-up 2 points on the scoreboard and sit in 5th place as we approach the New  Year.

A convincing early win against Morley College (7-1) was followed with another decisive win against Alfil (5.5-1.5).

Our defeat came at the hands of Metropolitan (2.5-5.5) whose home advantage saw them triumph. Despite the scoreline, we ran them really close with a couple of results turning their way at the death.

It’s a really competitive league this time around – perhaps more so than ever – and there’s probably around 6 sides capable of stealing promotion (top 2 finish required). We have to count ourselves amongst that number, but will need to bring our A-game against the likes of Streatham, Lewisham and Athenaeum to really put ourselves in the mix.

I can include the latest view of our individual records below, but in truth, it’s too early to get excited about this stuff. Most of us have only played one or two games! Still, it’s nice to see so many players getting games across the squad, particularly as we’ve been able to welcome the likes of Charlie, Simon, Pouya, Wyatt, Matteo and Shiraz to make their debuts this season. That’s nearly half our number! What a reflection of how far we’ve come as a club over the last 12 months.

We’ll find out what we’re made of in January when we face a couple of main contenders in quick succession!

Have a great Christmas and New Year! Let’s hope for a successful 2018.