Marching on in Middlesex

27.02.17 – Middlesex League: Hammersmith v Harrow

The Middlesex League team notched up another fine win last night with a dominant display against Harrow.

Despite being our biggest rivals in the league on paper, Harrow have been struggling to match their home strength at their away fixtures. Last night was no exception – the visitors brought just six players, with only four graded 100+.

Sheikh’s game on board five was the first to finish. His opponent lost a Queen early on, picking up just two Knights in compensation. Black pieces continued to drop, and the inevitable resignation could probably have come several moves earlier. Sheikh now has three wins from three in the league.

Paul, playing on board two, finished second. With the Black pieces and a grade advantage of just six, he was more than content to take a draw in a very equal looking position to leave the team needing just one more point.

New member Marios became the team’s 24th player to play this season. His very young opponent was not able to provide much competition at the board: Mario’s superiority in all departments meant the game was over almost before it started, and Hammersmith had hit the magic 4.5 mark.

Bajrush’s game was not one for the Hammersmith books. A strong opening left him with two passed-pawns that he should have converted into a win. All it took was one oversight, however, and suddenly he had lost a Bishop and pawn. Despite the blunder, his opponent was left with very weak light squares and two uncoordinated Knights. To his credit he defended resolutely, organizing his pieces at the correct moment and before long it was all over for Bajrush.

Yasser’s game on board three opened up very early. Soon both players had pawns on the seventh rank and Black’s King came marching up the board. After some tactical manoeuvres from both players, it was Yasser who came out a pawn up and converted the advantage without a hitch. Yasser also moves to 3/3 for the season.

Despite John spending more time watching Yasser’s game than his own, he played some good chess, establishing an early passed-pawn and a strong hold on the centre of the board. Swapping off most of the pieces he started to push his passed pawn and force White’s King from behind it. It could have been more difficult had his opponent spotted a tactic to gather the pawn, entering a tricky RPP v RP endgame. In winning the game, John becomes the third player now sitting on 3/3.

All-in-all, a pretty convincing win that puts us further in front of the chasing pack. Five matches remain, including a grudge match next Monday against Muswell Hill 2, the only team to have beaten us this season.


From the Archives, part VII

It’s often said that it’s a small world, however that seems to hold particularly true in the upper-echelons of London chess where our newest member, Marios, recognised a recent opponent of Sheikh’s in their last Thames Valley game.

It turns out that Marios had played – and beaten – the 185-rated Timothy Seymour in the rarefied surroundings of the High Wycombe Open in 2012.

Luckily for us, he’s kept an annotated and well-commentated version of the game which you can view here.

It’s a hard-fought and ultimately satisfying game, so thank to Marios for sharing with us! If any other members have a particularly memorable game they’d like to share (victories or defeats – we can learn from both!), do please get in touch so that we can share with all our members.

A Very Bad Night at the Surbiton Office

22.02.17 – Thames Valley League: Surbiton A v Hammersmith

Last night storm Doris blew in – in the form of Surbiton A – and hit Hammer TV with all its might. It was an awesome demonstration of power.

In chess terms it was seismic: Fischer v Taimanov or Larsen comes to mind. It was dark…

After our excellent performance last week against Richmond, we were brought crashing back down to earth. The scoreboard currently stands at 7-0 with one adjournment. The man holding out is Sheikh, in a position where he faces a long fight for a draw.

I think with the exception of Sheikh, Jeremy, and new member Marios, we all played badly.

The first to fall were Bajrush and myself – followed shortly after by Matteo. To be honest, there’s nothing much to say for any of us. Bajrush was a Rook down plus facing a pawn on the 7th rank. Matteo blundered a piece early on and yours truly contrived to lose Rook and pawn for a lone Knight. What followed was death by a thousand cuts.

Following on behind were Marios and Brian. The former is clearly a talented player who is a little ring-rusty but will be a good player for the club in the foreseeable future. Poor Brian had to face one of those rare situations where a bad Bishop is totally dominated by a great Knight in a pawn ending. There was no way out.

Carsten succumbed to a move Nh4!! This allowed him to take his opponent’s Queen, but a Knight sac on g6 was a forced mate. It had all been going so well. In the pub analysis afterwards he berated himself for allowing Bc4 at a critical point in the game. His worst game of the season so far.

Thus, to the unluckiest player of the night…. Jeremy. He had an unbelievably complicated game and achieved a winning, but very double-edged position. The sort of position where one false step leads to an instant loss. Unfortunately, he could not negotiate his way through the complications and sadly fell, with a deserved victory so close.

And so, to Sheikh. He had one of those games that required a lot of piece-shuffling. The adjourned position is tough for him with Black holding most of the winning chances. Fingers crossed he can hold it.

A dark night in all. Although we were out graded by an average of 20 points per board, the result was very hard to take. No amount of alcohol could hide the fact we were simply outclassed on the night.

Here endeth this sorry tale of chess woe!!

Result: Surbiton 7-0 Hammersmith (1 adjournment)

Hammer TV Rise to the Occasion!

13.02.17 – Thames Valley League: Hammersmith v Richmond

Remember the date – 13th February

Remember the place – Lytton Hall

Remember the opponents – Richmond A

Savour the result: 4.5-2.5 in favour of Hammer TV with one game adjourned.

Earlier in the season in the away leg against our esteemed opponents, we were trounced 7-1. This was our worst result of the season and we needed to vastly improve in the return leg.

Things were looking up though, with Hammer fielding our strongest team in recent history. Carsten, Tony and Bajrush: our top three boards are a formidable combination, and in support: Paul, Pavel, Jeremy, Sheikh and my good self. It says something about our team that Sheikh was playing board 8!

To the nitty gritty…

Carsten on board one played a heroic defensive tour de force. He held IM Gavin Wall to a draw with the black pieces in an advanced variation of the French Defence. Post-match he was absolutely convinced he was lost at one stage but in the end, he was able to force a perpetual. A superb rear guard action!

Tony had a tough and unlucky loss. Those of us who have watched Tony play know he is a very correct positional player with an eye for a tactical shot. Within seven moves of this game there was chaos on the board, induced by his opponent. It was unfathomably complicated and in the end Tony, who had been on the edge for most of the game, could not hold it. A real no-holds-barred contest.

Bajrush’s game on board 3 was the second to finish. I was so tied up in my own game I had no chance to see what was happening. However, our Chairman’s skill at creating fire on the board and emerging the victor is unrivalled – especially post-Christmas – and he won in great style.

On board 4 Paul has the advantage in a middle-game that resulted in an off-beat version of the Sicilian Defence. The game is finely poised with Paul having latent pressure against f2. Hopefully he can convert and extend our winning advantage. Hostilities are resumed in three weeks time.

On board 5 Pavel had his first win in the TV League for Hammer. Playing in fine style he forced his pawn through to the eighth rank, sacking a Rook on the way to ensure victory. A great win.

On boards 6 and 7, Jeremy and I had solid draws. I was particularly pleased to draw with my opponent who crushed me in a Schliemann variation last season. Playing against an f4 version of the Sicilian (ed: Najdorf Amsterdam variation?) I was able to negotiate my way through to a level ending.

Jeremy had one of those games where the pawns get stuck, the pieces then get stuck and no progress can be made. We have all had games like that, possibly with the exception of Bajrush, and prudence dictates the draw is the only result.

Finally, to board 8 and Sheikh in fine form and fettle. Playing the white pieces against a Modern Defence he gradually increased his control over the position. Picking up material at the right moment he was able to cruise to victory. Thus, securing Hammer’s victory and a real step on the road to consolidation in Division 1 of the TV League.

A real moral-boosting win and real credit to all our Hammer Heroes on the night!


A Fighting Chance

20.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead

Well done to everybody who fought hard for Hammersmith last night! The story was that we were up against a very strong side who outgraded us by an average of 21 points per board.

We defaulted one board so were 1-0 down initially, but nevertheless we started promisingly. Adam on top board played the London System and held his own solidly to draw against a very strong opponent.

I played as black against the London System on board two, and adopted Bajrush’s plan against an opponent graded 30 above me – fianchettoing both Bishops, then advancing the central pawns to e5 and d5, supported by the Bishops.

White’s King delayed castling and the central pressure enabled me to win first the b2 pawn, then another on d5. I turned down a draw after 20 moves, trying to simplify to arrive at a “won” endgame. However my opponent avoided exchanges, maximized the power of his white-squared Bishop, and in the 20 minute play-off after move 30 he produced a worrying King-side attack with Bishops, two Rooks, Queen and Knight.

I should have sacrificed the Rook for Bishop to relieve the pressure, but I didn’t see it under time pressure, instead taking refuge in a draw with just a few minutes left on the clock.

The heroes of the evening were Chris and Rich, who were first to finish. I didn’t see the intricacies of Rich’s game but he beat an opponent graded 36 higher than him!

Chris survived a hair-raising period of having to blockade the opponent’s 7th-rank pawn for ten moves or so, finally sacrificing a Knight to get rid of it, but emerging two pawns up to win the endgame.

At that stage it looked like we might win the match against all the odds, since I was two pawns up and Josue was a piece up for a pawn. But Josue’s opponent managed a Rook-infiltration of his second rank, gaining a pawn to create a winning Queening threat, and I got too short of time to force a win.

Then John’s game, which had looked pretty even throughout, ended in a loss against an opponent 25 grading points higher.

David, making his debut on board 8, managed an honourable draw.

So of the games played on the night, we drew 3.5-3.5, but lost 4.5-3.5 owing to the default. A credible result against tough opponents!


The “Bajrush” System vs. The London System

A rare treat for you here as our Chairman and “Wiley Old Silver Fox”, Bajrush (183 ECF), provides his analysis of a recent match in which he faced the London System opening.

Having recently attended a training session at the club focused on the London, could Bajrush use the practical knowledge he picked up to his advantage in London League 3?

Find out here.

A “Drawn” Out Battle

09.02.17 – London League 4: Hammersmith v Wanstead

Last night’s match against Wanstead ended as… another 4-4 DRAW. A scoreline that absolutely reflects just how tight the match was from start to finish. Draws are becoming somewhat of our trademark this season! John Woolley would be proud.

Down to the individual games and it’s some irony that the better my own performance, the less I know about the other ones! I was fixated on my board for most of the night so didn’t get much of a chance to look around. Brian, I’m sure your research could easily point out the correlation here! I’m afraid you’re left with the edited highlights.

The most interesting game appeared to be on Board 3 where Josue sacrificed the exchange in order to crank open the h-file and apply some real pressure. He definitely had the initiative, and it looked like there was a mating net to be found. But alas, the London League insistence on banning the use of Fritz at Golden Lane means that’s sometimes easier said than done, and the crushing blow was never dealt. It doesn’t help when your opponent reveals the 3-move mate after the game, but I suppose that’s why we need that post-match pint in the Shakespeare!

Most of the other games looked really tight, with roughly half going right the distance. Both time and pieces on the board were in short supply. Brian and Adam’s games both looked in the balance in their respective endgames; each team eventually taking a point each. In my own game, I faced the Smith-Morra gambit with the Black pieces. I accepted the pawn in the opening and immediately cursed my lack of book knowledge on these lines. Still, I managed to cling onto the extra pawn, repel his attack gained through initiative, and eventually worked my way into an endgame with the same bonus-pawn intact. When the minor pieces were off the board, I was able to convert.

Good win for Nick on Board 8 as well. Thanks for stepping in at the last minute. Much appreciated!

A decent little result all things considered, and builds on our continued improvement relative to last season. We already have 3 points on the board with nearly half the season still to go!

Lest we forget, we ended with just 2 points last time out. It’s also pleasing to see we continue to fill our boards each week – no penalty points thus far. Looking at the league table below, you’ll see that’s no mean feat!


Central London Chess Congress: 21-23 April

Chess fans, just a short update: The Central London Chess Congress has been confirmed for 2017!

The event will be held from Friday 21st April, to Sunday 23rd April, over at Imperial College:

  • Imperial College Union (1st Floor, Union Dining Hall), Beit Quadrangle, Prince Consort Road, London SW7 2BB

It’s a 5-round Swiss setup, with some hefty cash prizes for the winner. Full details can be found here:

Limited to 90 places – better be quick if you want to enter!

Mad Blitz Part 3

On Monday 6th February 2017 at 7.30pm, seventeen souls – the great & the good – gathered in the hallowed surroundings of Lytton Hall for the third round of our blitz cycle.

This time the ranks were reinforced by three potential new members: Kaan, Alex and Marios. With the addition of James to lower the average age of participants by a good margin! Indeed, I predict James will play a big part in the future of Hammer Chess once his academic studies are put to bed. You read it here first! Not quite the “Future of Rock & Roll” statement assigned to Bruce Springsteen by Jon Landau in 1974, but still…

As usual the chess was fast and furious. There is nothing like 10-minute handicapped chess to bring out the cannibal in the club chess player. It allows the imagination to soar and the entertainment of ridiculous possibilities and moves.

The man everyone was gunning for, and the man with the biggest target on his back, was our WOSF, Bajrush – Chairman and blitz expert. Winner of the first leg and runner-up in the second, he was a marked man. Unfortunately, he had other ideas.

WOSF in action… the crowd looks on

Fischer-like, he mowed down the opposition in his qualifying group, despite having a serious time handicap for every game. He had his business hat on! His place in the knock-out phase never in doubt.

The qualifiers from the other groups were Sheikh, Josue, Matteo, your correspondent, plus the new faces Alex and Marios. The final place was taken by James after a nail-biting winner-takes-all game against Brian.

The knockout phase saw Bajrush, Sheikh, Marios and your correspondent advance to the semi-finals.

Sheikh totally crushed me and deservedly progressed to the final.

Bajrush had his toughest match of the night against Marios. An amazing game ensued. The final position had two Rooks v Queen and a possible perpetual check. However, our WOSF did not panic and saw his way through all the traps to emerge the winner.

The final saw Bajrush triumph again.

In the play-off for third, Marios won well against your correspondent. A great performance on his debut at the club.

Thus, the roll of honour for the night reads as follows:

  • 1st – Bajrush (17 points)
  • 2nd – Sheikh (16 points)
  • 3rd – Marios (15 points)

In the overall race for the Hammer Blitz Champion, the pecking order is as follows:

  • 1st – Bajrush (54 points)
  • 2nd – Sheikh (41 points)
  • 3rd – John White (37 points)

One more round to go and the best three scores for each competitor will count.

Well done to all!


Rapid Play vs The Juniors: Players Needed!!

Dear members, we have a number of exciting rapid play games against our local junior clubs coming up and we need volunteers to play!

For those of you not familiar with the format, it’s two games against the same opponent each evening, one as White and one as Black. Time control is 20 minutes with a 5 second increment per move. We’ll be getting the games graded too, so they’ll all count towards your ECF rapid play grade.

The dates are as follows:

  • 20th February vs Fulham Juniors, starting 6.15pm at Lytton Hall. 10 boards required for this one.
  • 1st March vs SW-London Juniors, starting 6.15pm at St Luke’s Church, West Brompton. 15 boards required for this one.
  • 13th March vs SW-London Juniors, starting 6.15pm at Lytton Hall. Again, 15 boards needed! This will be followed by some training, analysis and insights from Tony Niccoli – should be a good one!

Please get in touch if you’d like to play – John White is the man to contact:

These games follow on from our successful double-header against Fulham Juniors last season. It’s a terrific experience, some of the youngsters are amazing players and you’ll undoubtedly have a fast-paced and action-packed pair of games each night. We need players across all grades, reflecting the varied strength of the youngsters.

Hope to see you there!