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

Upcoming Events: International Master Malcolm Pein & MindSports Christmas Party

All I want for Christmas is y…. wait no…how about Malcolm Pein & a Christmas Party!?

IM Malcolm Pein Talk

We are pleased to announce the legendary International Master Malcolm Pein will be visiting the MindSports Centre on Monday 28th November.

Having earned the IM title in 1986, Pein has been an influence in British chess for over thirty years, in the roles of player, coach, journalist, publisher, organizer, fundraiser, and entrepreneur.

In a chess-world recently rocked by computer scandals, he is going to take us back to where it all began, the 1997 match of Deep Blue vs Kasparov followed by an “Ask me anything” Q&A. He was actually on the ground during the match working for Kasparov and IBM.

We are looking to start the lecture as soon as possible once the junior hour has finished. Entry from 7pm with a planned 7:05pm start.

IM Malcolm Pein | credit: Stefan64, Wikipedia
MindSports Christmas Party – Saturday December 17th

We are excited to announce the MindSports Christmas Party on Saturday 17th December. This will be a combined event with the Bridge & Go players, who also use the centre.

Please be aware this is a MindSports organised event – Hammersmith will be running the chess portion only. The format will be as follows:

  • 4-7pm: Chess with a Twist: We will be playing a number of different ‘wild’ chess variants to decide who will be our wildest Christmas Chess Champion.
  • 7:30pm: Dinner
  • 8:30pm onwards: Quiz Night, prepared and presented by a variety of centre users.

The event will cost £15 and places are limited so please fill out this form if you would like to attend.  Please get in touch with me if you are wanting to bring a +1 (non-member).

Christopher Skulte

Lula’s Olympiad experience – Monday 3rd October

On Monday 3rd October we’re delighted to welcome club member Tallulah Roberts – Lula – to the Mindsports Centre.

Lula only started playing chess during lockdown in December 2020 and began her journey as a streamer in February 2021. Since then she has become a successful streamer for Chess.com and played top board for the first ever Jersey Women’s team at the Olympiad in Chennai, India in August this year.

Known also as the ‘meme Queen’ on Twitter and Instagram, Lula will be giving a lecture on Highlights from her Chennai Olympiad experience.

The lecture will run from about 7.30 pm – 8.30 pm, with questions from the audience encouraged. Afterwards, Lula will stay for an evening of casual chess and blitz.

You can find Lula online at:

www.twitch.tv/lularobs
www.instagram.com/lularobs
www.twitter.com/lularobs

The event is free to all Hammer members and instructions for joining the club or renewing your membership are available on our website.

Return of the Sledgehammer and  Rockhammer Tournaments for 2022/23

Return of the Sledgehammer and  Rockhammer Tournaments for 2022/23

Hammersmith Chess Club will continue offering year-long ECF-graded internal tournaments to its members.

We would like those tournaments to be as flexible as possible. Therefore members are still encouraged to contact other club members and organise their own OTB games. This will encourage members to meet each other and play serious rated games at the time and place of their convenience. 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 and Rockhammer special club nights, and in those special events players will be paired to play a game or two during the night. This year the first special Rockhammer night will be organised on Monday 19th September, and we hope many players will participate.

 

This year we will have two different Cups:

  • The Sledgehammer Cup for Standard Play
  • The Rockhammer Cup for Rapid Play

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, online games will not count towards the tournament this year.
  • 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.
  • This year we will not have a cup dedicated to 960 Fischer Random Chess, but there will still be events organised around this format from time to time.

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

Good luck with the 2022/23 Hammer Tournaments Season!

The Internal Tournaments Team

Get your Hammer Chess official T-shirt for the new season!

Dear Hammers,

The new season is approaching fast, it is back-to-school time. No doubt you are full of confidence after your summer training. One way to improve is to work hard on your chess. Another way for easy, additional Elo boost is the AMAZING HAMMER MERCH (results may vary).

Let’s strike fear in the hearts of our competitors by showing up at the board with our fantastic t-shirt, featuring the amazing logo design of the incredibly talented graphic designer Hammer Matt Perchard.  Link to the web store: 

https://hammersmith-chess-club.creator-spring.com/

Grab a mug and an adult or junior t-shirt now – for a fraction of the cost of a three lions shirt!

The store is run at a small profit which goes straight to the club budget. 

By the way, for our members, please check your inboxes for the kind email reminder to renew your club subscription. 

Benji

Opening of the Month: A new initiative for the new season!

Here at Hammer HQ we’re excited to announce a new initiative: Opening of the Month!

Each month of the chess season will be devoted to a separate opening: with that month including lectures, themed tournaments, and high level analysis of members’ games played in that opening.

September’s opening of choice will be the Sicilian Defense!

This Monday 5th September, Christof Brixel will be giving an introductory lecture to the opening. This will be followed by a Sicilian-themed tournament, where every game must begin 1.e4 c5.

If you’re unsure about whether to attend, here’s a quick pitch from Christof himself!

New to the Sicilian? Confused between the Dragon, the Accelerated Dragon and the Hyper-Accelerated Dragon, the English Attack and the Grand-Prix Attack? We provide a brief guidance. Not so much how to play but what you can play, what suits your style. We structure the Sicilian jungle into systems for the more tactical, the more positional and the flexible players. It gives a map for further study at home. There is endless free material on the internet, but you have to know what you are looking for.

The exact openings schedule for the rest of the year is still being discussed. Please get in touch if you want to throw your favourite line into the hat!

Junior Hour Returns!

The start of the school year marks the first junior hour of the season. The junior subcommittee have been hard at work to put together a structured, educational and fun programme.

I look forward to seeing lots of juniors at 6pm, and plenty more for Christof’s lecture at 7:30pm!

Adam

World Champion Candidate Michael Adams is coming to town

On Monday the 26th September, we are blessed to welcome Michael Adams to the Mindsports Centre. Nicknamed ‘The Spider’. He weaves a web around his opponents and likes them to beat themselves.

Having reached the dizzying heights of #4 in the world, he achieved strong performances as a World Championship Candidate, reaching the semifinals in 1997, 1999 and 2000. His best performance was at the 2004 FIDE Championship, where he reached the final, narrowly losing out to Rustam Kasimdzhanov in the tie-break games. He is also a seven-time British Chess Champion.

Michael Adams winning the 2019 British Championship (his 7th) | photo: John Upham

On the Day

The rough format of the day will be as follows:

  • 730pm – 830pm: Lecture
  • 830pm – 900pm: Q&A + Book Signing
  • 900pm – 1030pm: 10 Person Clock Simul  (60min + 10sec/move)

How do I join the simul?

  • 5 Places: On the 12th September, we will be having an ECF-rated blitz tournament. Section winners will gain a place in the simul. Only entrants who have paid their 2022/23 subs will be eligible for a place. Enter here
  • 5 Places: Prize draw selected from paid members, the draw will take place between the 12th and 17th of September. Enter here

Instructions for joining the club or renewing your membership are available on our website.

Can I have my booked signed? | How can I purchase a copy of the book?

If you would like to bring a copy of Michael’s new book he will be signing them on the night. We will also be ordering a number for Hammer members. Keep an eye on the Hammersmith Chess Club WhatsApp Announcements Chat.

If you are not part of the WhatsApp chat, please send an email to chrisskulte@gmail.com and I will ensure you are included.

About the book

Think Like a Super-GM is a unique collaboration combining the chess insights of an elite grandmaster with a scientific investigation into thinking at the chess board.

40 chess puzzles were shown to a panel of players ranging from occasional club players up to Super-GM and co-author Michael Adams. Researcher Philip Hurtado recorded not only the moves chosen, but also the detailed thought processes of every player in order to shed light on the mystery as to what exactly defines superior chess strength.

This book offers a unique opportunity for readers to not only solve the puzzles, but also compare their thinking to that of club players, strong amateurs, IMs, GMs and Michael Adams himself. With an additional Bonus Puzzle section and a fascinating Eyetracker experiment showing where different players focused their attention on the board, this is a chess improvement book like no other.

Read more about Michael’s thoughts on the book on his website.

We look forward to seeing everyone on Monday the 26th September!

Christopher Skulte

Hammer Getting It Done in The Community

As you know Hammer are very active on social media and updating our website. Indeed, the enquiries about our club that we take because of that activity are truly stunning in number. We are blessed to have Benji and previously Andy as our web and social master.

However, there is a section of the population who do not use social media and hence are not aware of our club.

So, when an opportunity arises Hammer are more than willing to step up to the mark.

The management of Hammersmith Broadway Shopping Centre approached the club about doing an event around the giant chessboard they have put out on display in the mall. Swift negotiations took place, and the date of the 27th of August 2022 was agreed on between 11am and 3pm. Chris Skulte and Gaston are masterminding the event – with ideas around chess promotion and distributing leaflets about our club.

I believe a microphone will also be provided – a running commentary on the activities will be provided – blindfold demos, possibly piece odds challenges et al are on the menu.

The critical part is we need true-blue Hammers to help Chris and Gaston on the day so please volunteer on the chat groups or contact them directly and get involved.

Hammers this will be fun and a great chance to promote our club and the game we love.

HOLD THE FRONT PAGE !!

Just hot off the press Hammer has won the ECF Chess in the Community award for 2022. More details to follow………………..

Chairman John aka “Lord Clueless”