A while ago, being the opportunistic plagiarist I am, I used a line from the superb speech given by Al Pacino in the movie “Any Given Sunday” in a piece about the Bunratty tournament. The line was my interpretation of the fact that sometimes life gets in the way of what you really want to do.
In a lot of ways, those words could be used to describe Hammer Chess Club and the running of a Chess Congress. Other things always had to take priority – survival, venue, membership, and the financials spring to mind as obvious major distractions. However, with the transformation of our club over the past six years it was time to get the bogeyman off our back.
When your committee gave Chris Skulte and me the authority, with our Diamond Jubilee happening this year, to put on our first chess congress both of us had very little idea what a massive responsibility and task this would be. We had just settled into our new home and with the challenges that were presented along the way I am surprised Chris, and I are not receiving therapy for Chess PTSD (a condition familiar to all chess players).
One thing we decided early on – is we wanted to create a tournament, that encapsulated the ethos of Hammer Chess Club – welcoming, fun, diverse and progressive. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and the Bunratty 2020 tourney gave us the blueprint of what we wanted to achieve. We did not need to look elsewhere.
So, some core principles were quickly agreed
- We wanted everyone to pay the same to enter – no freebies for titled players.
- We wanted a blitz tourney on the eve of the main congress so entrants could embrace the spirit and camaraderie of the congress.
- We wanted to showcase our new home – the Mindsports Centre
- Promote Hammer Chess Club and our way of running a chess club
On reflection I think we over-delivered on those core principles – the rest would be the nitty gritty – sponsorship, time controls, rounds, entry methods, arbiters, PR, tables, rooms, chairs, logistics, the help required etc – the tough stuff.
Here I am going to list the people who were vital in running the festival and making it a huge success. In no particular order….
Chris Skulte – such a source of positivity and support – endless energy, trophy procurer and master of the budget and my successor as PR Events Officer for 2022-23.
Nadim Osseiran – the master of the entry system – worked tirelessly – Hammer are so lucky to have him
Benjamin Portheault – Hammer webmaster – superb work on the promotion front
Adam Cranston – Sadly could not participate but was the voice of common sense when my ideas went too wacky
Adam Raoof – Chief Arbiter and his amazing team – particularly Rob and the true legend that is Lance – ran the tournament and pre-tournament superbly. They were essential in every way.
The Prince of Wales pub and its owners Big Smoke Brewery – are hugely supportive in every way
GM Daniel King – His video and volunteering to give out the main prize made such a huge difference to the congress – plus he is a Hammer !!
Gad Chana – Mindsports centre manager – helped in so many ways – the extra tables and chairs were entirely down to him – big thank you
Rosie White- Of YCBC and Mindsports Property Limited who gave us permission to use the large room upstairs which made having to rent extra space outside the centre redundant. A huge big thank you.
Finally, I want to thank our sponsor – Grenke Leasing – they made the difference between the event breaking even and turning a profit and allowing us to give out rating prizes. They were massive in making Hammratty a considerable success.
So, to the tournament itself.
The welcoming blitz tournament on the Friday night at the Prince of Wales attracted 30 plus participants – it was a riotous assembly with everyone getting the Hammratty vibe. In the end a play-off ensued between Hammer Tom Rendle and Abhinav Reddy Bathula to decide first place. The latter held his nerve and duly triumphed to cap what was a wonderful tournament to kick off the Hammratty festival.
There were great performances from the Hammer crew in this blitz – with top 10 finishes for five Hammers – Tom Rendle, Peter Roberson, Thomas Bonn and Cian Ward
The first round of the “proper” chess started at 10 am on the Saturday with London league time controls (75 plus 15 secs increment).
We had three categories – the Open, The Major and The Minor – All the results can be found on these Links:
The chess was absorbing in all sections of the Congress –
The Open saw Yichen Han triumph in an Armageddon play-off against IM Richard Bates – both had remained undefeated through all five rounds and would split the prize money – however, the trophy went to Yichen.
The competition throughout this section was dominated by decisive results showing the full-bloodied nature of the competition. Hammers’ hopes were high with both IM Peter Roberson and IM Tom Rendle in the hunt. Solid performances by both Thomas Bonn (T-Bone) and Chairman Bajrush Kelmendi (Wily) both came in with three points from the competition.
The Major section was won by West London’s Andy Hayler – a win for the “older” generation. Hammer Liam Fleming (The Quiet Man) came in joint third having a lively encounter with fellow Hammer Frank Valle on the way.
The Minor section saw unrated Alex Stroud win the event with daylight and Rachel Yang came in second – an excellent result.
There were a host of best rating prizes, and the best game prize will be judged by GM Daniel King. I will make sure we publish this on the website
On a personal note I have realised that you cannot play in and organise a Congress at the same time – my chess which has not been good this season was ruthlessly exposed on two occasions – a couple of consolation wins and a long draw with Lawrie summed up my very average chess.
However, I take enormous consolation that the tournament was by the criteria we set ourselves at the beginning a huge success – I think we have created a unique tournament and is something we can turn into an annual event.
There are lessons to be learnt and the key people who helped put this event will have a review and implement any improvements, but I do think the basis of the tournament is right.
To the Hammers who did not or could not participate – we did have a bit of Platinum competition – you missed a fabulous time – please endeavour to join us next year.
John aka Lord Clueless