Hammer and the Holy Grail pt. I

29.05.19 – London League Division 2: Hammersmith vs. Dulwich

Taking the liberty of mis-quoting a verse from one of my favourite old hippy songs:

“Following our fortune now the holy grail is found,
And the holy bread of div one it is given all around,
Farewell sorrow, praise god the open door,
We ain’t got no home in the Division two world no more”

(Ducks on a Pond. The Incredible String Band, from the legendary 1968 album “Wee Tam”.)

Certainly, there has been more than a zany hint of Monty Python, or perhaps more aptly, of the Pickwick Club at times in following Hammers LL Division 2 adventures this season.

Whether your scribe is more Alfred Jingle than Mr. Pickwick I leave for the reader to judge, as in characteristic vein we approached the final round of matches tied for the second promotion spot with the venerable Metropolitan Chess Club, that quintessentially “establishment” LL Club, about as different in every way you could imagine from the brash upstarts of Lytton Hall.

With 9 match points each, 73 game points apiece (following the adjournment heroics of Marios and Bajrush in our rout of Cavendish) and a tied individual match, we all feverishly consulted the obscure LL rulebook to discover that Board Count was the final tiebreak method. The finest mathematical and legal minds of the Hammertime WhatsApp group then set to work deciphering what this arcane system actually entails.

Apparently it favoured the good guys.

Continuing our Dickensian theme – it was the best of club chess, it was the worst of club chess, as now began the week of intrigue that future chess historians will debate and analyse ad infinitum.

What had happened to the result of Metropolitan v Wanstead? The LL website and management committee maintained a frosty silence. Wanstead were not available for comment. Had Metropolitan devised a plan so cunning that you could stick a tail on it and call it a weasel? Secret negotiations spanning five continents, the corridors of Whitehall and even the watering holes of the city, could not prise out the result for love nor money. Twitter banter, classic memes and all sorts of fake news did the rounds.

The unanswered, half-remarkable question, as El Loco and his troops assembled last Wednesday at Citadines at 6:50 prompt: Had the chess Maginot Line held, or did Hammer manage to carve a metaphorical route through the Low Counties and establish what score they needed against Dulwich to secure a historic promotion?

Pt. II to follow with the answers…

A Night with the King

Clueless must first of all offer a fulsome apology for the tardiness in the late publishing of this article – simply work, family and chess commitments proved insurmountable barriers.

At the tale-end of April, Hammer members enjoyed the wit and wisdom of a chess talk from GM Danny King – author, media star, damn good chess player and all-round top bloke.

About 25 Hammers and guests enjoyed a superb evening and to those of you who could not attend, you missed a helluva night of chess and Albion activity.

The evening divided into halves with the lecture at the Anvil and then the nefarious activities and their consequences of a night at the Albion.

This was a night to be remembered!

The theme of the lecture was stalemate – as GM Danny King espoused the concept as a beautiful and legitimate part of our fabulous game – possibly the chess equivalent of the forlorn hope – other parties such as GM Nigel Short, FIDE vice-president, see it is a concept that should be discarded in the modern game.

I must confess, I was probably before this lecture totally guilty of siding with GM Nigel on this matter. How galling it is to outplay your opponent then fall into a stalemate. A certain full-point reduced to a half – the stuff of real chess nightmares. However, changing one’s mind after listening to logical argument, is a sign of a flexible and intelligent person – politicians please take note.

After seeing the various examples that GM DK  used in the opening part of his lecture, I realised that stalemate is not only a legitimate tactic, but also a sting in the tail that Caissa uses to keep all chess players on their toes. Some of the examples, ranging from simple king and pawn scenarios to GM Mark Taimanov’s amazing study-like stalemate, were simply stunning. Definitely challenging and food for thought.

We were then split into foursomes and had to work our way through four stalemate puzzles of increasing complexity – this was a real challenge. The main lessons was that sometimes looking for a draw is just as challenging as searching for that elusive win.

The final challenge was an over-the-board stalemate that a team mate of GM DK found in a match in the Swiss league – this was an amazing solution and I give you the challenge below in Puzzle 5.

The star of the evening was definitely young Jack who garnered a free chess book from GM DK for his contribution – a definite Hammer star of the future.

There then followed a short question and answer session with an emphasis on the recent WCC match in London and the form of Magnus Carlsen since that match.

If you are up to date in your chess news you will know that the form of our World Champion in 2019  has been simply sensational – GM DK reckoned it was down to the phenomenal work he had put in, in preparation for the challenge of Fabiano Caruana. Maybe ELO 2900 will be breached.

GM DK received a rapturous round of applause from a very appreciative audience.

Part one was finished, and the second part of the evening began.

The persuasive powers of the Hammer crew, and the call of the Albion beer proved too much of a temptation for DK and he joined us for a very late night session at our favourite watering hole.

Now what happens in the Albion stays in the Albion – except I will just say the rest of the night involved beer, chess, bump-starting attempts on a car, and finally the Uber rescue service!!!

However, what we did learn is that DK is a legend, and is now a Hammer legend, and I think he has an urge to return to OTB chess despite his work commitments – watch this space!!


Puzzle 1: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 2: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 3: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 4: White to move and save the game:

Puzzle 5: White to move and save the game:

June 3rd – AGM & Final Blitz Night of the Season!

Hammers – your attention please!

Monday 3rd June sees our Annual General Meeting, where we will discuss all things club-related, as well as vote on Officers and a number of proposals from the Committee.

Full details of all that can be found here, and the minutes from last year’s AGM are available on the noticeboard at Lytton Hall every club night for the next few weeks.

Following the formalities, we’ll conclude with the final round of our internal Blitz tourney – the culmination of a season-long competition!

The top 10 currently stands as follows – testament to the old adage “you gotta be in it, to win it”:

Will anybody be able to stop Bajrush re-claiming his crown in 2019, and who will win the best performance? Many questions still to be decided….

The concluding round commences immediately after the Meeting, around 8.30pm. As always, refreshments will be provided!

See you there!!

Special Offer – DGT Centaur Chess Computer!

Here at Hammer, we’ve been sponsored by London’s premier supplier of chess equipment – Chess & Bridge shop – since 2016. As part of our successful relationship, they also provide Hammers with details of special offers from time-to-time, and this one is particularly brilliant….

The New DGT Centaur Chess Computer – Pre-Order and Save £26!

An adaptive, intelligent Chess Computer

The beautifully designed chess board has touch sensors that effortlessly register your moves.

It has a rechargeable battery, e-Paper display, intuitive settings in many languages and weighted plastic chess pieces. The computer moves are indicated by unique circular LED lights.

Its greatest feature is the adaptive intelligent chess program that automatically adjusts itself to your playing strength so that you will always have a suitable playing partner.

Stop using computer screens, tablets or telephones, and start playing chess with Centaur on a real board, with real chess pieces! Simply turn it on and make your move! Centaur is always there to challenge you, to help develop your game and to keep you sharp!

Other chess computers are made to play at the highest strength. They can be impossible to beat. At lower levels they play unnatural and un-human moves. They are simply no fun to play against.

Centaur was made to give everyone a good game. Whether you are a beginner or a strong player, whether you are a home player or a club player, Centaur will adjust to you as soon as you make your first move. Its smart algorithm will automatically adjust to your level and always gives you a challenging game that is both educative and great fun! It has a hint system and the option to set up any position.

Centaur is not compatible to connect to your computer or online chess portals. That is not necessary at all, use the Centaur to play, to learn, to train, to analyse and to improve your skill level. Above all, use it to have fun!

What is new?

  • Adapts to your strength
  • Sensor board
  • LED lights indicate the moves
  • Rechargeable internal battery
  • Weighted chess pieces
  • e-Paper display

Special Pre-Order price, only £323 (RRP £349) – Order Here

One of the Best

2019 marks another successful year at Hammersmith, as we celebrate a first Division 1 League title in the Thames Valley, and a likely couple of promotions in other leagues to follow.

It also marks the 54th Season with the Club for our esteemed Club Secretary, Mike Mackenzie.

Many of you will know Mike as the friendly face who welcomed you to the club on your first visit, or the chap who opens/closes the club on many a Monday evening, or perhaps you played for him when he was a team captain.

He’s been on the Club Committee for many years now, but has decided that this year will be his last on the Committee, and he’ll be stepping down from his role as Secretary.

Whilst we will be losing Mike’s experience on the Committee, we’re delighted to say that Mike will continue to be a member of the club, and he isn’t hanging his chess boots up just yet!

To mark the occasion, and offer our thanks to Mike for his countless years of service to the club through thick & thin, we had a whip round and were able to present Mike and his wife Merceda, with a round-trip to the 2020 Bunratty International Chess Festival.

For the uninitiated, Bunratty is Ireland’s premier chess competition, attracting a huge range of players from all over the world. It’s a prestigious event, and a huge social occasion. We are delighted to be able to offer Mike such a fitting gift to mark his semi-retirement from Committee life!

After being presented with the gift last week, in his true modest fashion, Mike would like us to share the following words of thanks:

“My wife Merceda & I wish to thank all members of the Hammersmith Chess Club for their kindness & generosity in presenting us with such a wonderful gift.

We cannot express in words how thrilled we are to be going to Bunratty Castle for a chess tournament and then on to Cork for a visit with the family.

Thanks again to one & all.

Yours Sincerely,
Mike & Merceda Mackenzie”


On behalf of all Members past & present, Mike – thanks for everything over the years, enjoy your well-earned trip, and we’ll see you over the board soon!

The Champions!

Yes, my fellow Hammerites, your eyes do not deceive you – Hammer has won its first Division 1 title in its 57th year. It has been a long wait, but boy is it worth it!

Cue “We are the Champions” by Queen, copious amounts of fizz and congratulations all round!

Under the superb captaincy of Captain Wily (aka. Bajrush), Hammer sewed up the Thames Valley Division 1 Championship on a glorious night last month, befittingly at the Anvil.

In a dramatic match against Ealing, Hammersmith ran out 5.5-2.5 winners to convincingly win the title. Just take a look at the final table – it is simply fantastic:

A score of nearly 88% in match points – 10 wins, 1 draw, and a solitary defeat – this was a season of domination by the Hammers in a tough division. This is a definite new high for our club.

The match card looked like this:

In honour of this great achievement, here are some of the games from that exciting night.

Board OneRyszard playing like only Ryszard can:

Board TwoThomas the “T-Bone” in awesome form:

Board EightJim tearing up the Smith-Morra:

Chris scored the vital point to secure the victory and was followed by Tony Niccoli (“The Surgeon“) winning a long game – Hammer at 5.5-0.5 – the losses for Wily and the Great Dane did not figure.

I have to say that Carsten deserved a lot more than a cruel loss in time trouble. Bajrush had one of those nights we all want to forget about at the board.

However, those defeats did not dampen the joy of victory and a huge squad effort – Captain Wily had two bottles to share out and boy did they not last! We then retired to the Albion to continue the celebrations well into the night.

Hammer has come of age!!!

Charity Begins at… Lyric Square, this weekend!

The 3rd Annual Hammersmith MIND Charity Day – Saturday 11th May 2019

As the football (and chess!) seasons draw to an exciting end, it’s time again for the annual Hammersmith Chess Club charity jamboree in Lyric Square – where HCC takes chess to the public, in association with Hammersmith & Fulham MIND, to raise awareness and money for a great cause!

We’ll be setting our stall out in Lyric Square, the heart of Hammersmith town centre, and taking on all-comers to drum up support for a worthy cause.

It’s one of the highlights of the year for our club, and a fantastic way to combine chess, charity, and a bit of socializing, whilst raising the profile of MIND and Hammersmith Chess Club in the local community.

We’ll be there from 11am through to about 4pm, so if you’d like to come along and volunteer your chess services, we’d be very grateful. Whether it’s for 30 minutes or 3 hours, your involvement is valuable and much appreciated!

John is organizing, so please drop him an email if you’re keen to get involved in any way – john.white49@ntlworld.com

We look forward to seeing you there!


30.04.19 – Thames Valley Division 3: Hammersmith vs. Ealing

Another no-holds-bared encounter in the Valley – read on…

Welcome to two newcomers – Jack Esiri, and John McDonagh.

Jack, a junior, comes here from Richmond Juniors and has a solid ECF A grading.

John plays like a veteran and I rate him e115, especially when he is wearing his trademark “newsboy or horse-trainer” cap!

With not a draw in sight, the match was drawn 3-3, as we did the previous week. This result skates over the concentrated efforts of the protagonists.

Luckily we had our four veteran top-boarders and I was hopeful we could remedy a previous loss to Ealing.

On board 3, Matteo looked all set for a draw, with his two rooks and knight against his opponent’s two rooks and bishop, but the bishop was landlocked: all its’ open squares were held by Matteo. Matteo moved his knight to attack the bishop, even though well-defended. His opponent thought to move the bishop to Matteo’s back row, where his rook lurked. And the rook woke up and grabbed the errant bishop! Such a simple and harmless looking position, a blunder out of the blue! So, score 1-0.

Next, on board 5, Jack was playing an experienced opponent, ten games this season, mostly losses. Bad luck to be playing him! For well over an hour and a half the game looked winning for Jack, material ahead, I thought. But after a sudden inaccuracy, Jack had to resign. Jack’s opponent has previously beaten Nikolis. Score 1-1.

About this time, on top board, with almost even position, Paul suddenly got up, with him signalling a down thumb. Score 1-2. Total surprise!

Meanwhile I was watching Brian Dodgeon on board 2 with the white pieces, completely eclipse his opponent with a beautiful attack. Enthralling game! Score 2-2.

See the game here with Brian’s comments:

John McD on board 6 was looking good – a minor piece up and winning, his opponent resigning, just after Brian’s win. Nicely done! Score 3-2.

Last to finish was veteran Charlie on board 4, who had a bishop and knight and 3 or 4 pawns, against rook and some 5 or 6 pawns. A very interesting position, and I reckoned it was not a lost cause, as Charlie would fine the one resource to win the game and the match. But it was not to be.

Somehow his opponent gained a winning end-game, and Charlie painfully threw in the towel. His opponent had just recently drawn against a high 140 graded player, but only played 3 or 4 matches this league, so clearly improving.

Match drawn, 3-3.