Important Announcement – 2022 AGM

Dear Members, the club’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is approaching – this year it will be held on Monday 4th July at the Mindsports Centre. The observant among you will note that this is a month later than usual. This is due to the chess season being pushed back by the Covid-19 wave in January.

The Committee gives notice that the following members will stand for re-election:

  • Treasurer – Matteo Bezzini
  • Secretary – Adam Cranston
  • Club Captain – Ben Rothwell
  • Webmaster – Benji Portheault
  • Diversity Officer – Tom Rendle
  • Auditor – Nadim Osseiran
  • No Portfolio – Chris Skulte

We are sad to announce that Bajrush Kelmendi has decided to step down from the Committee this year. As Chairman for the last eight years, Bajrush has presided over the rise of a dwindling club with a mere 20 players to a sprawling community of 200 active members. The Committee is grateful for Bajrush’s contributions.

With this in mind, John White plans to stand for election as Chairman, meaning we are actively seeking applicants to John’s former role as PR and Events Officer.

Any member who wishes to stand for a committee position, or to submit a motion for the meeting, should do so at least 30 days prior to 4th July – that is, 5th June.

If you want to support any of the committee roles, we would love to hear from you too, as there is a lot of work to run the club and any time is valued.

Please contact Club Secretary Adam, to submit details:

Thank you for your continued support!

Fast Track your Chess with First Team Training – Monday 9th of May


Next Monday (9th May), on top of the usual casual chess, several first team players (2000 – 2400 FIDE) are donating their time to work with club members to help them improve their chess.

We will be spread out over 3-4 tables from 730pm – 900pm (and maybe longer) to:

  • Go through your games (so bring your scoresheet or electronic copy of a game)
  • Provide our best tips for analysing your games
  • Give general advice on improving your chess

Though it will set up as a 1-1 chat, spectators are welcome if you want to listen in.

Depending on interest, we may only be able to go through 1 game at a time per person, though you can always re-join the back of the line.

A big thanks to the following first team players for volunteering their time:

  • International Master Thomas Rendle
  • Marco Gallana
  • Alistair Hill
  • Fedja Zulfic
  • Carsten Pedersen
  • Jim Stevenson
  • Yours truly (Christopher Skulte)

We look forward to seeing everyone Monday, and I’m sure the players above wouldn’t mind an optional beer donation if you feel they have done an amazing job, or at the start to encourage some creative thinking.

See you Monday.

Hammer bossing it in Middlesex

At the midpoint of the Season, Hammersmith’s second team went to visit Albany with a lot at stake in Division 2 of the Middlesex League: the lead was shared by Hendon, Ealing and Hammersmith all with 6 points, followed closely by Metropolitan and Albany with 5, so it was anyone’s game with a lot of matches still to be played.

Our team was coming from three away wins in a row and looking to continue our good run, while a win for the locals would have placed them at the top of table. After losing to them at home earlier this season, by a crushing 5.5-0.5 no less, we knew it would be a fierce battle and all the games met the expectations!

Our team had strong reinforcements with Chris Skulte joining our ranks on board 1 and the additions of Jake Stones and Anton van Niekerk on boards 4 and 5 respectively, in their first game for this team.

We were white on evens after losing the toss, and soon it looked tough in these 3 games, with Gaston getting a worse position against his opponent’s Najdorf Sicilian on board 2, Jake being an exchange down albeit with some initiative, and Charlie with an unfortunate blunder (after quickly getting a winning position) that gave the first point to Albany on the bottom board.

Meanwhile, the odd-numbered boards were not looking any easier for us with Chris reaching an unclear position in a Chigorin Defense, Anton facing some pressure on the kingside and trying to look for counterplay on the queenside, and Matteo in perhaps the most calm game of the bunch on board 3 as it seemed his opponent was mostly playing safe with the white pieces.

In a sudden turn of events, Anton equalized the match after finding 16… Nxb2! 17. Kxb2 Qb4+ followed by 18… Qxc3.

Soon enough we were leading with Chris sacrificing a piece and capitalizing on a mistake by his opponent with 28… Rg4+, winning the white Queen.

Shortly after that, Gaston won our third point after 26. Nf6+ gxf6 27. Ne4! when white’s attack becomes unstoppable.

All eyes were now on boards 3 and 4, with Jake’s initiative slowly vanishing, leading eventually to a loss and moving the score to 3-2 for the Hammers. Matteo was able to neutralize all of white’s attempts at an advantage, and even ended up playing for a win when a draw was enough to win the match, on another typical display of the Hammers’ fighting spirit. Even then, the position remained balanced and a draw by perpetual check in a Queen endgame was agreed.

The match ended in a win by the narrowest of margins 3.5-2.5, and Hammersmith claimed sole lead of Division 2.

With many more matches to come against strong teams, we’ll be looking to keep it up and finish on a high note this Spring.


Hammratty is Born – Chess Congress in Hammersmith June 2022

On the 4th and 5th June 2022 Hammersmith Chess Club will run its first Chess Congress to celebrate our Diamond Jubilee. In homage to a trip made by several Hammers to the legendary Bunratty tournament in 2020 this congress will be known as Hammratty.

The event will be held at the home of Hammersmith Chess Club – the Mindsports Centre in the heart of Hammersmith West London.

It will be an ECF rated and there will be three sections:

Open – 2000 and above

Major – 1500 to 1999

Minor – <1500

The entry fee will be £40 – all the details of the tournament are on this link. There are guaranteed cash prizes in each category for 1st, 2nd and 3rd. Open (£400, £200,£150), Major (£200, £100, £100), Minor (£100,£50,£50). The best woman in each category will get an additional £50 prize.

There will also be a blitz tournament on the Friday night at the Prince of Wales pub on Dalling Road – if you enter the Chess Congress then entry will be free – otherwise a £10 entry fee is payable. There will be cash prizes available on the evening thanks to the sponsorship of Smoke Brew – 1st prize £100, Second prize – £50 and Third prize £25.

All the information (fact sheet, registration form, current entries, and results) is available here on our website.


2022 Rumbles on and Hammer just keeps rolling along

This has been an amazing year in Hammer history. Some of the highlights

  • We moved into our new home the Mind Sports Centre
  • We are 60 years old this year – our Diamond Jubilee
  • We now have over 180 club members – will we reach 200 before the end of May?
  • We have won the Central London League Division 3 under the expert captaincy of Robin
  • We have teams positioned very well in the Thames Valley, the Middlesex and London Leagues
  • Our Junior section is thriving under the expert and watchful eye of El Loco – aka Jim Stevenson
  • We have had amazing guest lecturers – Nigel Short, Maxime Lagarde, Danny King and Harriet Hunt. All free of charge to Hammer members.
  • We have run simultaneous displays, puzzle evenings, blitz nights. So much work here from Adam our secretary and Ben our club captain
  • The new logo on the website – thanks to webmaster Benji – with Hammer merchandise so to follow
  • The ground-breaking initiative to reduce the fee for women and girls to £10
  • Finally, the first-ever Hammersmith Chess Congress – to be called Hammratty- will be held on the 4th and 5th of June at the Mind Sports Centre. 

This has been a busy year and your Committee has worked hard to keep pace with Covid consequences, a cancelled January match program and a rapidly changing landscape.

I want to thank all the team captains, the volunteers who help with the Junior hour and the Hammers who help clear up at the end of the evening. 

However, I think we need to acknowledge the amount of work put in by our secretary Adam – this club is so lucky to have him.

This brings me to an important date – the club AGM is due on the first Monday evening of June. This is when members get to see the detail, the financial position and question the Committee. This is an important evening and I urge you all to attend.

Furthermore, I urge all of you to consider standing for a position on the Committee – yes at times it can challenging, but it is incredibly rewarding. This is your club not the Committees nor any one individual– indeed historically the club would not be where it is unless key members had not initiated a velvet revolution at an AGM seven years ago.

So, my plea to all members is to get involved – we need help in many areas – Junior Hour, Membership and Captaincy. Plus, there are things we maybe should be doing but are not. New ideas and new blood are essential in any organisation.

If you would like to stand for a position on the Committee then please do, Under the constitution you have 30 days before the AGM to nominate yourself with another Hammer member seconding you, in writing and delivered to the secretary, Similarly, if you wish to propose a motion to the AGM this must follow the same process.

We are a democratic organisation; the AGM is the ultimate authority of the club – your vote and thoughts carry huge weight.

Please value it and get involved.

John – Lord Clueless

A Huntswoman Bosses it At the Home of Hammer

Hammer kicked off the awareness of Women’s International Day a day early with a tremendous lecture from IM Harriet Hunt. Her theme very appropriately was the history of women in Chess.

Harriet is a 5 times British Women’s Chess Champion who has represented England all over the world. As she remarked her chess career took her to countries and cities she would probably never have visited. She is humble and very aware of her good fortune in being born into family that allowed her and her brother Adam to pursue their love of chess. All in all, just a fantastic woman and human being.

She presented to a packed Anvil, sadly very testosterone dominated, but one that was attentive and very appreciative. Before, I report on the night I must put on the record what a tremendous and caring lecturer/tutor Harriet is. Her style is probably partly due to her chosen career, she is a highly qualified academic, but I think it is overwhelmingly about the person she is. She made everybody feel part of the lecture, she listened, she shared, and she gave a superb talk. It was Springsteen in length but never lost its audience.  What was different and very refreshing is she opened the analysis to the whole room at various critical moments. She did not dismiss suggestions but analysed them, with her audience, on the demo board. We were truly blessed and better chess-educated for it.


There are many women in the history of chess who have made their mark. For the basis of the lecture Harriet concentrated on four women. They were

  • Vera Menchik – Woman’s World Champion from 1927 to 1944
  • Nona Gaprindashvili – Woman’s World Champion from 1962-1978
  • Maia Chiburdanidze – Woman’s World Champion from 1978-1991
  • Judit Polgar – The strongest woman’s chess player of all time.

Vera Menchik had an amazing career – she won many notable wins against strong men players – Sultan Khan and George Thomas – however, the game Harriet chose was against Max Euwe. A familiar name to many Hammers, not only a men’s World Chess Champion and FIDE President, but some of us were lucky to visit the Max Euwe centre, in Amsterdam, when we took on Du Pion chess club in match challenge.

This is the game

Played in 1931 when Euwe was approaching the height of his powers, this was a dominant performance by Menchik. A very instructive game. Harriet demonstrated numerous variations and took time to work through the suggestions of the Hammers. A great start.

Next up was Nona Gaprindashvili. The game selected by Harriet was her immortal game against IM Rudolf Servaty. This was an amazing game and showed the dominant characteristics of her play – e4, direct play and actively fighting for the initiative. This was an important theoretical game at the time.

Harriet again went beyond the end of the game analysing that the game was indeed lost. To be honest I am not sure I have the courage to play this sort of chess!

Nona is a fascinating player – obviously back in the news over her fight with Netflix and the reference to her on the “Queens Gambit”. However, I also urge you to check out her game against a 14-year-old Judit Polgar – another amazing game of chess.

Harriet then moved onto Nona’s successor – her fellow Georgian Maia Chiburdandze – and their first serious encounter over the board. Maia was 12 years old at the time and the maturity of her play is simply outstanding. Harriet pointed out the rerouting of the black knight that Maia initiated – this was outstanding chess. Here is the game.

The final game was an outstanding one from Judit Polgar – her opponent was Jan Timman. Once ranked number three in the world and a finalist twice in the Challenger match for the World Chess Championship. This game was a tour de force and very exciting and a fitting finale to the lecture. I urge you to play through it.

Harriet, then spent a long-time answering questions such as… 

  • Why do women make up only about 10% of the population playing chess?
  • How can we get more women into Hammersmith Chess Club?
  • How did she feel about women only tournaments?

She gave very thoughtful and insightful answers and did not duck any question. 

Interspersed with these answers were great anecdotes especially the one when she was playing the final of the Oxford County Championship. Her opponent was her brother Adam. The only time and place they could play was a Saturday afternoon at home. The reason being this was the era of adjournments, multiple games – time was very precious,

In the middle of the game their younger brother came in and reported the latest score from the Liverpool- Manchester United derby match – the score so threw Adam he blundered on his next move and Harriet won the game and became Oxfordshire Champion. Just priceless.

She then played some blitz games against Tomas and Bajrush before departing into the night. 

What an amazing evening.

On behalf of Hammersmith Chess Club, we thank you Harriet for a great evening. You are welcome anytime at the Anvil.

John aka Lord Clueless

Top of the table clash in the Thames Valley Chess League

Monday 31st of January at the Anvil (Hammersmith’s home – The London Mindsports Centre) brought together a top of the table clash between the might of Hammersmith’s Division 1 team against a very strong away team from Richmond & Twickenham.

With a reasonably priced bar and food menu, we welcome all teams to come down early to have a drink and a meal before the match.

A win for Richmond & Twickenham would move them equal on points with Hammersmith at the top of the table, a win for Hammersmith would set them apart and make them likely contenders to take the title once again. It was only 6 boards of chess, but every game was critical!

The Match

Board 5: A quick win on board 5 for Christopher ‘Hurricane’ Skulte, dismantling the disliked London System in quick fashion put Hammers in a strong position, adding pressure to the other boards. 1-0 to Hammersmith

Board 3/4/6: Alas, I wasn’t able to watch the games – though there were many opportunities, critical moments, and missed chances with the results flowing through with a win for Carsten Pedersen, a loss for Jim Stevenson, and a win for one of our regular enforcers Thomas Bonn. A half point more and we would win the 6 board match. 3-1 to Hammersmith

Board 2: Ali ‘Mantis’ Hill vs Mike Healey. An ‘unique’ game in which a wild 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 Nc6 two knights tango, led to deep complications. No matter the rating you must always be focused during complications, which Hill navigated with expert precision – though like the titanic, all that is required is 1 Iceburg you were not ready for to stop you in your tracks. A mate in 1! – Richmond & Twickenham were back in the match! 3-2 to Hammersmith

Board 1: Marco ‘Michelangelo’ Gallana vs International Master Gavin Wall: After an unusual Sicilian, king marches, delayed development, and sacrifices for passed pawns – as Shirov would say, there was fire on the board! Both players were neck & neck on move 25. Wall was playing to get his team back in the game, knowing he probably needed the win. Marco was able to solidify his position, stop the passed pawn, and take the game. 4-2 to Hammersmith

The match ended with a 4-2 win for Hammersmith! A tough encounter where both teams gave it their all, putting Hammersmith in a leading position to take the Thames Valley title once again, adding to the trophies which Chairman & Captain Bajrush Kelmendi has achieved for the club.

Full Results

The Aftermath

After a hard-fought win, and many a pints later, alas the MindSports venue needed to close, after a quick drink at the Plough & Harrow, we headed back to yours truly’s house for a late night time-odds tournament.

Richmond & Twickenham player Healey achieved a picket fence, winning the tournament with 7/7 (unfortunately no revenge today for Ali Hill).

With a running group, tennis group, cooking group, and many other sub-groups, Hammersmith clearly lives by its motto – Més que un chess club (More than a chess club)

Christopher Skulte

International Women’s Day 2022

International Women’s Day 2022

The UN has designated the 8th of March 2022 as International Women’s Day. The theme of this celebration will focus on:

“Women in leadership. Achieving an equal future in a Covid-19 world”.

Some startling facts accompany this

  • Women aged under 30 consist of less than 1% of parliamentarians worldwide.
  • Only 22 countries in the world have a woman either as Head of State or Government.
  • At the current rate of progress, it will be another 130 years before there is gender equality in representation at the government level.
  • Across the health sector – the very people on the Covid frontline- men on average earn 11% more than their woman counterparts.

In chess, there has long been a disparity between what the top women players earn and what the top men players earn. You need to do the research but the contrast between the wealth and pay of the men’s World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his woman counterpart Ju Wenjun is stark.

Women in chess from the great Vera Menchik to Hou Yifan have had an enormous impact on chess and its history. Look at the names of these great world champions

  • Elisaveta Bykova – Twice a world champion.
  • Nona Gaprindashvili – World champion for sixteen years
  • Maia Chiburdanidxe – World Champion for thirteen years
  • Xie Jun – Twice a world champion
  • Susan Polgar – the eldest of the amazing Polgar sisters
  • Hou Yifan – The second highest-rated women’s player of all time, the youngest woman’s GM of all time and a three-time world chess champion.

Other greats include Pia Cramling, Humpy Koneru and Alexandra Kosteniuk.

Finally, the greatest woman’s chess player of all-time Judit Polgar. She was ranked top 10 in the world and has beaten both Kasparov and Carlsen when they were number #1 in the world. She beat Bobby Fischer as well. She also has a plus score against Nigel Short. A truly amazing chess player.

In other words, women have made a huge contribution towards chess since the arrival of Vera Menchik. 

Hence, it is right that Hammer acknowledge this and to celebrate Women’s International Day we are delighted that IM Harriet Hunt has agreed to give us a chess lecture on the 7th of March 2022 at the Mind Sports Centre from 7.30 pm. The theme will be “Women in Chess”.

IM Harriet Hunt

Harriet is a five-time British Women’s Chess Champion – her personal chess odyssey is packed with huge achievements and notable victories – often against her male counterparts. Her highest Elo rating was 2463 – today despite playing less frequently she is still rated at 2400

Today, she is a lecturer, Dr Harriet Hunt, at University College Cork, in Plant Science. I will have to ask if she has visited our friends at Cork Chess Club.

So, Hammers I ask you all to attend on the 7th of March for a fascinating talk and insight into “Women in Chess”


Aka Lord Clueless


The Hammer Chess Congress 2022 – “Hammratty”

This year is a hugely significant year in the history of Hammersmith Chess Club. It is our diamond jubilee – we are 60 years old. The club has had many highs and lows but we are still here – with a membership past the 150 mark you could say we are enjoying our golden era.

To celebrate this huge landmark for the club, we will be running our first ever chess congress. It will take place from the 4th and 5th June at the Mind Sports Centre. On the Friday night (The 3rd of June) we will run a blitz tournament at the Prince of Wales with prize money and open to all.

This is an early heads up and some important notes for all

  • We intend to call the congress “Hammratty” in deference to one of the greatest international chess festivals – Bunratty. Hammersmith has a massive connection to Ireland with the Irish Cultural Centre based here and the numerous reminders around us of its very Irish past.
  • Depending on sponsorship, we are in final negotiations, we hope to run an elite six-player all play all elite tournament – that will not be rated – but just for glory and prize money
  • We intend to run four rating tournaments -like Bunratty- Above 2000, 1600-1999, 1200-1599 and under 1200. There will be prize money available.
  • The time control will be 75 minutes plus 15 seconds increment per move
  • The entry fee will be £40 
  • Adam Raoof will be the arbiter and tournament controller.
  • We intend to open the online registration and payment facility in the second half of March.
  • There will be a nominated charity for the event.

This will be an amazing event and the start of a years’ worth of great events to celebrate the history of our great club and its 60th birthday.

I urge you all to block the dates out in your diary and take part in a glorious celebration of our great game.

Hammer past, Hammer now and Hammer future.


Aka Lord Clueless


Blitz, simuls, training, lectures: an action packed Hammer spring schedule

With the majority of Monday home matches behind us, we’ve been very busy here at Hammer HQ – putting together a varied programme of events for the coming weeks.

As always, everything that has been organised can be found in our club calendar. Here’s a taste of what’s coming up.

Monday 21st February: Handicap Blitz

Round 4 of our infamous handicap blitz tournament. A 7-round Swiss system tournament – in which stronger players get less time on the clock – meaning that anyone can win!

Thomas “T-Bone” Bonn leads the way with 13 points from his best two tournaments, with young Andrew MacLeod just half a point having crushed the field in round 3.

There will be seven rounds in total, with the best four scores counting towards a grand total, and a trophy awarded to the winner at the end of the season!

Monday 28th February: Simul with IM Adam Taylor

International Master Adam Taylor will be taking on club members in a simultaneous exhibition.

IM Adam Taylor | photo: John Upham

You may recall that he played took on six Hammers in a blindfold simul last year, finishing amazingly with five wins and one draw.

Monday 7th March: Special Event – International Women’s Day

Hammer has long been committed to increasing diversity across the game. We have organised an extra-special event for International Women’s Day – watch this space for a full announcement coming soon!

Monday 14th March: Training Session (presenter TBA)

Following Gastón’s superb training session last week, we hope to bring you lots more classes in front of the demo board.

Please get in contact if you’d like to volunteer to run a training session, or indeed if you have any ideas for future Hammer events.

All events will begin at 7:30pm unless otherwise specified, and are open to all club members.

See you on Monday!

Adam Cranston