The Chess River Valley Walk – 30th July 2023

The summer period in the chess calendar is a strange time of year – the British Championship takes centre whilst club league chess goes into sleep mode. In other words, chess kind of takes a holiday.

So, in holiday mode the Hammers will be taking on the challenge of the Chess River Valley walk – from Rickmansworth to Chesham. The Hammer Summer Chess Challenge Walk.

The walk will take approximately 4 hours and is a low to medium challenge with some amazing countryside on offer.

The chance to encounter some raw nature with likely appearances from red kites, grazing horses, and livestock and slightly bizarrely…… alpacas.

The river is chalk-based so at times the water is crystal clear- indeed if it a warm day at about halfway there is a chance to dip your bare feet in the river whilst sitting on a low-bridge.

The reward, if you commit to the walk, is not only great camaraderie but the lure of the Mad Squirrel Brewery.  All great physical exertion deserves the reward of a decent pint of beer. The Mad Squirrel delivers.

There is an option as well to have a curry afterwards or journey back into London for something to eat but let’s take it as it comes – by the way there is a Waitrose close to Rickmansworth station if you want to pick up a sandwich. Finally, some more detail can be found at this link:

https://www.chilternsaonb.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/12/Chess-Valley-Walk-Leaflet-For-Web.pdf

So, come and join us -we will meet at midday at Rickmansworth tube station and take on the challenge of the Chess River Valley.

If you are interested drop me an email or whatsapp so I have an idea of the numbers.

Lord Clueless

Important Announcement – 2023 AGM

Dear Members, the club’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) is approaching – this year it will be held on Monday 3rd 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 a number of match postponements caused by tube strikes.

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

  • President – John White
  • Treasurer – Matteo Bezzini
  • Secretary – Adam Cranston
  • Club Captain – Robin Sarfas
  • Diversity Officer – Tom Rendle
  • Auditor – Nadim Osseiran
  • PR & Events Officer – Chris Skulte

We are sad to announce that Benji Portheault and Jim Stevenson have decided to step down from the Committee this year. As Webmaster for the last two years, Benji has spearheaded the development of our fantastic new logo. This now features prominently on all the Hammer stash we sell via our new merchandise store, again set up by Benji. As Junior Officer for a year, Jim has continued to grow the size of our junior club, leading a new subcommittee instrumental in providing a high level of coaching to juniors of varying abilities. The Committee is grateful for Benji and Jim’s contributions.

With this in mind, Gastón Franco plans to stand for election as Webmaster, and Tom Townsend plans to stand for Junior Officer.

The Committee proposes to make a few amendments to the club constitution as follows:

The Annual General Meeting
  • The AGM will take place on the first Monday in June, every year, when the club meets within 45 days after the 31st May each year.
  • The minutes of the previous AGM will be displayed by the Secretary on the information board 30 days before the AGM sent out by the Secretary with the information pack for the AGM.
  • The notification of the AGM will take place in a form of an announcement on the club website 45 30 days prior to the actual meeting.
  • Any member can propose a motion for consideration by the AGM provided he or she they have a seconder and has done this in writing to the Secretary 30 21 days before the AGM.
Committee Rules
  • Any member can stand for any position on the Committee but must have their nomination seconded by another member and give notice to the Secretary 30 21 days before the AGM.
Duties of The Officers of The Club – The Club Captain
  • Must be a team captain of a Hammersmith team in the London League, Central London League, Thames Valley League or Middlesex League

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 3rd July – that is, 4th 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: adam1234321@gmail.com

Thank you for your continued support!

Strong finish for Hammersmith in London League Division 1

Hammersmith won a very exciting match against strong opposition, and we present you with some of the games, including analysis from our First team players.

As the League season is coming to an end, our last match for the First team in Division 1 was against none other than Cavendish Chess Club, a real powerhouse of the London chess community. We were sitting in second place (behind Wood Green, who had already secured the title), but since Cavendish had played fewer matches than us, they were one of the clubs with chances to catch us – the other one being Hackney. We were expecting them to bring their very best, so naturally we tried to do the same. The result was a thrilling match full of interesting games between the strongest players from both clubs!

We all gathered at Cavendish’s venue close to Russell Square, everyone was on time (yes, even Bajrush!) and ready for the big fight. Our Captain Jim Stevenson did not play, but he was present in support of the team and, as he had promised, he won the toss so we would get white on odd boards. Before the start of the games, we observed a minute of silence after hearing the tragic news of the passing of dear Hammer (and former board 1 for our club) WIM Sue Maroroa Jones earlier that day and our opponents respectfully joined us.

The games were entertaining from the start and Carsten drew first blood on board 6, not only defending against what looked like a scary kingside attack, but also setting up a devilish trap with precise calculation, which allowed him to win a piece when his opponent failed to see the danger. Carsten Pedersen’s thoughts on the game are below:

Cavendish hit back by winning on board 1, but Hammersmith took the lead again on board 8, with Bajrush ending his Div 1 season with an astonishing 6/6! Soon the score became 3-1 in our favour, with a win on board 7 full of tactics and hanging pieces. Comments by Gaston Franco:

Alex skilfully made a draw on board 3, in a game where it looked like one of his bishops might have been trapped at some point, but the rest of his pieces came to its rescue. We only needed one more win and we got it on board 4 with a positional masterpiece after his opponent got a weak pawn in the centre. Alistair Hill explains it below:

On board 6, Thomas was pressing with a strong initiative, but had given up some material and both players got in time trouble. As we all know, “T-Bone” is ruthless when it comes to blitz and spotted a nice tactic that ended the game immediately. The last game of the match was, as usual, played by Marco on board 2. His GM opponent sacrificed a pawn for initiative in the opening but black also had his chances and soon started playing for a win. Marco Gallana shares his ideas from a few instructive moments of the game:

Thus, the match ended with an impressive 6-2 win for our Firsts and the team went for a celebratory pint at a nearby pub, where we discussed the games and Jim may or may not have promised to stay as captain for one more season.

L to R: Marco, Gastón, Carsten, Alex, James, Ali. Photo Credit: Captain Jim Stevenson

The win helps us remain in second place, and pending some results from other clubs it could mean we are the best (real) chess club in all of London! After getting some rest over the summer, we’ll be ready to try to defeat Wood Green next year once and for all.

While we still have a few more games to go for other teams/leagues, personally I might have to give them a miss. Wishing everyone a great summer and see you back soon at the board!

Gastón

Free Bridge Taster Session – 16th May

Now we share a home with other Mindsports, especially bridge players, a number of members and spouses / partners have mentioned they would really like to try bridge.

So we have organised something for you. We think it’s going to be really special.

You may not know it but fellow London Mindsports club, the YC bridge club, is the strongest in the land, and boasts umpteen national and international champions as members. Strangely enough, they look just like us!

We are truly delighted to be able to say that former English champion and renowned bridge teacher, David Parry, has agreed to run a special taster session for HCC members and friends and spouses / partners. We are also going to invite other London chess players and if you have someone you would like to bring along, please do so. This is one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. Don’t miss it!

This is for complete beginners. If you know what a playing card looks like then you’re halfway there, jokes David. But if you have played a little in the past and want to pop along, then please feel free to do so.

The taster will take place at the London MindSports Centre on Tuesday 16 May 2023.

It will be a 90-minute session followed by blitz chess for those who want it, and general drinks and socialising in the bar for those who don’t.

And it’s all free! Well, apart from your drinks.

Schedule
  • 7.15pm Arrive
  • 7.30pm Prompt Start
  • 9.00pm End
  • 9.15pm Blitz Chess and Gossip

The taster is just that, a taster. David will be following up with a full Saturday Bridge for Beginners session later.

We can only accommodate as many people as will fit in the room, so if you want to come, please, please do sign up asap. Entry is strictly on a first come, first served basis, but as HCC members you have 24 hours to register before we open it up to all of London.

To register, just fill out this very short form: https://forms.gle/2yqqYEc4QCCLpH7s8

We will confirm places in due course, and look forward to seeing you there! 🙂

Chris Skulte

Hammer supporting chess in the community

In October 2019, Hammersmith (along with our arch-rivals Battersea), combined forces to head into Wandsworth Prison for a day of training and rapid matches which turned out to be an amazing experience for those both inside and outside of the prison. (Link attached below)

The Big House Chess Match

We have been contacted once again (by Peter Sullivan) to support some initiatives within some of London’s prisons (Pentonville and Wormwood Scrubs). It would be great if someone was keen on providing regular support (to backup an existing team), but I am also putting together a list of people that may be interested for ‘one-off’ events at these locations too.

Ultimately, everyone who has participated before has said the experience has been extremely rewarding. Please note that this is open to both men & women.

Highlights:

  • We are looking for volunteers to help out with chess sessions at Wormwood Scrubs and Pentonville prisons.
  • We run weekly, two hour sessions during the week and we are looking for a team of three or four to cover them.
  • The men really appreciate the opportunity to play and some improve rapidly.
  • Peter Sullivan runs a chess club at Wandsworth and it is one of the most challenging and rewarding things he has ever done.
  • Prisons in the UK enter teams in the World Internet Prisons Chess Championships in which the players have the opportunities to compete against prisons in countries like Argentina, Zimbabwe, India, Iran and the US.

Anyone thinking of volunteering will undoubtedly have a whole host of questions. We will setup a session to learn more for those that are interested.

If you are interested in any of the above, please fill out the form below and we will be in contact with more details:

https://forms.gle/cGMdvyyQMVKA1jzh8

Thanks all for considering taking a moment to really provide support to a positive initiative.

Chris Skulte

County Chess: Middlesex Seniors (18+) vs Middlesex Juniors (u18) – 6th May 2023

Hammersmith is an affiliated club of Middlesex County Chess Team, with many of our players playing for the various rating divisions to fight it out for the number one county in the country. See more about Middlesex here: https://middlesexchess.blogspot.com/

To commemorate the King’s Coronation and celebrate Middlesex Chess, they are organising a Seniors vs Juniors match.

If you would like to play (or are interested in learning more to play for the county), please contact with Anthony, or Keith on the details below. (with an extra shout-out for 1600+ juniors to get involved)

Mid-Season Update on the Hammer Internal Tournaments (2022/23)

Time is running so fast and February 2023 is almost over. League chess season is at its peak now and many hammers are defending our club colours week-in week-out and achieving very good results. Meanwhile, the club continues to offer its members year-long opportunities to play ECF-graded internal tournaments.

As a reminder, this year we have three different handicap year-long cups:

  • The Sledgehammer Cup for Standard Play
  • The Rockhammer Cup for Rapid Play
  • The Hammersmith Handicap Blitz Cup

The current interim mid-season standings are as follows:

  • Sledgehammer Cup: Charlie Rigby first, Peter Rose second
  • The Rockhammer Cup: Ljubomir Koncar first, Andreas Antoniades second
  • The Hammersmith Handicap Blitz Cup: Bajrush Kelmendi first, Harry Bryant Second

Those tournaments are open to all playing levels, and are based on a handicap framework so every player has very good chances to score. They are meant to be as flexible as possible and members are encouraged to contact other club members and organise their own OTB games for standard chess and rapidplay. This will encourage members to meet each other and play serious rated games at the time and place of their convenience, particularly during Monday club nights. With more than 200 players in the club, you could play a very large number of rated games during the year both in standard and rapidplay. We have a specially dedicated Whatsapp group for those tournaments where we publish the results and standings regularly and you are encouraged to come forward on this channel to contact other players and organise your games.

Additionally, the club secretariat will continue organising Sledgehammer, Rockhammer and Blitz special club nights, and in those special events participants will be paired for several games during the night.

Those tournaments are open to all Hammersmith Chess Club members. All you need to do is to contact your fellow club members, agree on an appointment for an OTB game, and then submit the game result via this link to the game submission form.

Please note that

  • This year those tournaments will be OTB only.
  • All OTB games are ECF-graded (except for Blitz), online games will not count towards the tournament.
  • Players must be ECF-registered to play OTB games.
  • Game results will only be accepted via the provided game submission form, results by email will not be accepted.

For complete information and rules, please have a look at the Hammer Tournaments Documentation

Good luck with the rest of the 2022/23 Hammer Tournaments Season!

The Internal Tournaments Team

League Season Update – January 2023

Happy New Year to all our members and friends! As the 2022-23 season reaches its halfway point, we would like to share an update on how our teams have been doing so far.

As of the 15th of January, our 17 teams have played in 72 matches, which means over 400 games of chess for our members! Around 90 different players have joined the competition proudly representing Hammersmith Chess Club and have shared a lot of fun -the kind you only get on team matches – and there’s still more to come!

Below is a list of the current standings for all of our teams. Many of them are sitting in the top 3 in their respective divisions and keep good chances to take the title:

Special thanks go to all our Captains who do a lot of work to ensure we get good lineups for every match, and to Club Captain Robin Sarfas who always assists on the coordination, especially whenever we have more than one match on the same night.

If you haven’t had the chance to play this season yet, or if you are a new member of the club, we strongly encourage you to get in touch with a team captain and try to get involved – it’s a great way to get to play high quality games and a chance to improve your rating (or to get your first one!). We have teams of all strengths and everyone is more than welcome to join. Please have a look at the Calendar to see if there is an upcoming match you would like to participate in.

Gastón

Heavens Evans – it must be Oostende!

It had been a long time coming. Following highly successful excursions to Amsterdam, Cork and Wroclaw in recent years, the small matter of a global pandemic had put a hold on the annual Hammer trip abroad for the last 2 years.

But the Hammer spirit is restless. The urge to travel beyond this sceptred isle, visit foreign shores and bring our unique blend of chess, camaraderie and appreciation for the finer things in life, returned in 2022 as we paid homage to the resting place of Captain Evans with a visit to the capital of the Belgian Riviera – destination Ostend.

Friday

A total of 18 Hammers plus wives, girlfriends and families, made the extremely civilised journey from St Pancras to Brussels, then on to Ostend, expertly shepherded by Hammer’s very own Tomas Cocinero (aka. Frank). The destination was the Royal Ostend Chess Club, or KOSK, a hook-up made possible by the generous introduction from Hammer’s GM Danny King.

With a warm greeting from KOSK President Jose providing a delightful antidote to the North Sea windchill, our Friday night activity was to be a 3-minute blitz tourney against the Belgian locals. But first a scenic walk across town to reach the club, including a stroll through the expansive German market where the fragrant odours of sizzling sausages and mulled wine proved too much to resist for some.

The Hammer Train arrives in Oostende!
It was very festive

It must be said at the outset, the hospitality from KOSK was truly exceptional from the word Go. Free beers and croque monsieur’s were laid on for the weary Hammer crew as we arrived at the fantastic KOSK club-house. The KOSK players were eager to make friends, put the world to rights, and many a trappist beer was consumed with our comrades. 

KOSK’s clubhouse is also deserving of a mention – a charming old school building complex housing a range of sporting and other activities. The purpose-made desks the club uses had inlaid chess boards and the club has a collection of 60-year old vintage chess clocks – the ticking and operation of which was a real novelty to some younger Hammers.

The stunning KOSK clubhouse

What a welcome by KOSK!

It had been planned that we’d all play the Evans Gambit, however that idea was quickly discarded and we freestyled. Truth be told, the outcome of the evening was something of a blur. Those Belgian beers really creep up on you! However, our more sober companions informed us that KOSK comfortably won the round. No shame for Hammersmith, however – 3 minutes + increment is a really tough time control. A game can be lost in a flash by overthinking a couple of moves as the clock continues to tick and the move-pressure piles on. Aided and abetted by the occasional 12% ale we were beaten fair and square. Still, tomorrow would bring a chance to go again in a pair of long-games.

As the chess finished and the beers continued to flow, we ended the evening firmly as comrades with our Belgian club mates. Some Hammers trickled back to base, while others took the opportunity for a nightcap.

Chairman’s award for ‘Best Christmas Jumper’ goes to…

Saturday

The following morning was a slow start for many in the group. Luckily the next round of wood-pushing was set for 2pm, so plenty of time to blow away the cobwebs & get back in the groove for a pair of long-play matches.

Taking advantage of the Baltic breeze, some hardy Hammers took the opportunity to explore the Ostend seafront. “Extensive” doesn’t really do it justice, as a beautiful sandy beach stretches down the coastline for miles, fringed by a combination of modernist, classical and other monumental architecture. Even in the depths of Winter it’s a sight to behold & one can really appreciate why it’s such a jewel in the crown for Belgium.

Hammer Brian found the temptation for a dip too much to resist. Indeed, he reported it was a comfortable 12 degrees in the water! Thankfully he’s an experienced outdoor swimmer and well used to the frigid climbs of ice swimming in Russia. But still, his exploits were met with howls of disbelief!

After the morning’s exertions, Hammers re-assembled at KOSK for 2pm sharp for the second round of the chess festivities. A pair of long-play (1 hour each, no increment) matches against the same opponent.

Pride was on the line for Hammersmith, after the entirely reasonable but nevertheless rather painful drubbing the evening before. The first round of pairings with Hammer as White ended in a dead-heat, so the pressure was on for the second-round pairings.

The Three Hammersmith Amigos

Despite the statistical disadvantage, Hammersmith were soon off to a strong start with the Black pieces, building a comfortable four-point lead through a strong set of finishes in our middle order. The score line narrowed as we succumbed to a series of very tight results across our top and lower boards setting up a tight but ultimately persuasive victory as the results came in. As is often the case in competitive games, a tense crowd gathered around one of the final boards to go, as Chris Skulte was narrowly defeated on time.

All told, Hammer took the win by 3 points with a rather ruthless display of our long(er) game prowess, leaving us tied with KOSK over the two days of chess. A fair result all things considered and the bonhomie with our hosts continued after the match had finished with an exceptionally well-received trophy presentation. KOSK retained the trophy and will bring it back to Hammersmith next year for their return visit, where we’ll reconvene!

There followed more drinks, and the excellent conversation and interest from both clubs in learning about our new pals continued apace. A large contingent from KOSK then joined us back at Hammer base camp (the Rubens Hotel by the seafront) for a fine evening of steak & frites, beers, wine and high sprits. It really was a joyful occasion as we broke bread with new friends and learned more about our near neighbours and their ways.

A small diversion from our antipodean contingent to catch their World Cup knockout game followed – sadly not the result they wanted, but it segued nicely to another evening of fun and games in the local watering holes.

You can take the Aussies out of Australia, however..
Sunday

Sunday brought a welcome respite from the chess, and – for some Hammers – the drinking. It allowed the more intrepid amongst the group to further our explorations of the beautiful city that is Ostend, with a sub-group even taking the short train ride to explore the stunning neighbouring settlement of Bruges. Restorative food, the occasional restorative beverage, and an appreciation of all things Belgian were the order of the day.

The weather was particularly bracing with a stiff breeze dipping temperatures comfortably below zero. Windchill is no barrier for true Hammer grit though, and in homage to our surroundings and shared pastime, Christof and Andy braved a near 40-minute walk to search for the final resting spot of our eponymous gambit hero, Captain Evans.

Perhaps surprisingly for such a lauded maverick of his time, contemporary accounts of the location of his grave are somewhat sparse and recent photographs even rarer. In what took on the feel of an Anneka Rice-style treasure hunt, our two history-seekers initially turned up at the wrong cemetery (the Ostend New Communal Cemetery). After a fruitless search of gravestones and some further research, they took a punt on the Old Kerkhof cemetery – located nearer to the coast and appearing to be much closer in epoch to the demise of the infamous seafarer. After another 20 minutes walking and some frantic searching, the grave was located.

Pleasingly, the cemetery and indeed Captain Evans grave site both appear to have seen some degree of significant restoration since the last available photograph we could find. The striking geometric stone slab atop his tomb has been cleaned up and now sits alone as a fitting memorial to this celebrated gentleman.

As a tribute to Captain Evans, Christof setup his chess board with the famous gambit and placed it atop the monumental stone. Hopefully our Captain would be proud that his legacy remains intact.

As the afternoon wore on, our intrepid crew re-assembled and made the short walk to Ostend station for the journey back to London. Picking up the rest of the team at Bruges, the train continued its journey back through the Belgian countryside en route to Brussels. A short pit-stop at Brussels midi allowed the travellers a chance to recuperate, with the Europa Brasserie proving a welcome spot for food, drinks and the chance to refresh ahead of our final stretch to London.

Fully immersing ourselves in local culture

Two hours on the Eurostar and some last-minute chess (and snoozing for some) later, the familiar surroundings of North London emerged as our trip drew to a close. A chance for some to catch the England v Senegal game at the Betjeman Arms, others headed home. However, we all felt a nostalgia for the weekend just gone.

A note of thanks

Success has many fathers, and the list of people deserving thanks for helping organise this most excellent jaunt is too lengthy to mention in full. However, the following individuals deserve our special thanks: Danny King, John White, Frank Valle, Chris Skulte, Adam Cranston, and Oostende Chairman Jose.

Hammersmith salutes you!

 

The Reykjavik Open 2023

The historic Reykjavik Open will be taking place in Iceland from the 29th March to the 4th April next year in the Harpa conference hall and we’re aiming to get together a ragtag group of Hammers to go take Iceland by storm! The current schedule for the tournament is as follows:

Wednesday March 29th 15:00 Round 1
Thursday March 30th 09:00 Round 2
Thursday March 30th 16:00 Round 3
Friday March 31st 15:00 Round 4
Saturday April 1st 09:00 Round 5
Saturday April 1st 16:00 Round 6
Sunday April 2nd 15:00 Round 7
Monday April 3rd 15:00 Round 8
Tuesday April 4th 11:00 Round 9

*Times are currently subject to change but the dates are set in stone

Each game is played at 90 minutes for the first 40 moves + 30 minutes after move 40, with an increment of 30 seconds for every move starting from move 1.

2022 winner Praggnanandhaa | photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni, 2022

This tournament has, in recent years, consistently been voted as one of the best tournaments in the world by the ACP and has played host to some of the world top players including current world champion Magnus Carlsen, world championship challenger Fabiano Caruana and the first winner of the tournament in 1964, 8th world champion Mikhail Tal. In recent years the tournament has also featured such world class players as Ding Liren, Alexander Grischuk, Alexei Shirov, Hikaru Nakamura, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, and Wesley So.

As well as being a fantastic opportunity to rub shoulders with some of the greatest players of this generation this tournament also offers a wealth of additional benefits. The early April schedule aims to allow players an even better opportunity to enjoy Iceland with the warmer temperatures and stunning landscape. Similarly to previous years, several other chess themed events will also be on offer including the Reykjavík Open Chess Pub Quiz and the Golden Circle sightseeing tour that includes stops at Geysir and Bobby Fischer’s final resting place in the southern part of Iceland.

The Northern Lights | GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCK PHOTO

If you want to express an interest in joining us on this adventure, please do so by filling out this form by Tuesday 10th January.

We will follow up with additional logistical details & cost estimates once we have a better idea of the level of interest. Thanks, and I look forward to joining you in Iceland!

Charlie Rigby