Our summer blockbuster is up and running – JOHN WHITE reports

Sixty chess fanatics descended on Battersea Chess Club on Tuesday, June 13. John White, who’s been steering our Summer Chess League project, was there and this is his report…

What a night! On the menu: a tutorial from a true chess legend; the launch of our new – and very different – Summer Chess League; and, to round off the evening, a mass participation blitz tournament.

Hammersmith's John White
Hammersmith’s John White

Our hosts Battersea put on a superb night with Master of Ceremonies Aldo Camilleri at his creative best. This truly was an epic chess production and it was even filmed… in full CamilleriVision! From now on we will affectionately call Aldo “Dino”. He is the
chess incarnation of the legendary film producer Dino De Laurentiis.

Heading the line-up was the Ginger GM himself, Simon Williams, and his co-presenter, IM Simon Ansell. IM Richard Bates also attended and took part in the Blitz tournament, while GM David Howell made an appearance towards the end of the evening. What more could any chess nut ask for?

The evening kicked off with a fantastic talk from Simon W, ably assisted by Simon A. Using three illustrative examples, they focused on the chess themes of beauty, torture, relaxing too early, and vivid imagination.

The first example was a game from the 1950s where, despite Black being way ahead on material, there was nothing he could do to stop the relentless march of the c pawn and certain checkmate. A true work of art. In my mind, it also conjured up how sadistic chess players can be!

From the floor, young Denis, aged just seven, called out a forcing variation and nabbed himself a well-deserved  “Freeeee DVD”.

The second example showed that even in a “won” game you cannot afford to relax. Simon W very modestly put on the demo board a game he had played as black against IM Peter Sowray. At face value a certain win for Simon, indeed psychologically he was already in the bar celebrating his win. Not so fast: Peter had spotted a fantastic stalemating combination. As Simon related, his guard was down, he was annoyed that Peter was carrying on, and the “Who does he think he is, I am a GM” syndrome had taken hold. All these factors resulted in a fantastic drawing swindle. The moral of the tale? No game of chess is over till the handshake!

The Summer Chess League is launched
The Summer Chess League is launched

The final example was taken from 1858. It featured one of the great tactical chess artists of all time – Paul Morphy. The two Simons posed the question: if you could place the Queen on its dream square to prosecute the attack what would that be? Once you’ve established that, how do you get it there? The answer was the unlikely a3. A rook sacrifice on f2 allowed the striking manoeuvre Qh3 to Qa3. A fantastic concept. This was a valuable lesson for a wood pusher like me and I will endeavour to put it into practice in the coming months, beginning with the Summer Chess League. So, beware!

The Simons were rewarded with a prolonged and well-deserved round of applause.

GMs Simon Williams and David Howell
GMs Simon Williams and David Howell

The next part of the evening was the introduction of the Summer Chess League delivered by yours truly. In a rambling speech, I introduced the six teams, explained the ideas behind the new league and commented briefly on the time limits etc.

Aldo, sorry “Dino”, had prepared a banner and even three T-shirts for the League. This is going to be an exciting summer!

The final event of the evening was a six-round Swiss blitz tournament. The first time I have ever participated in an event with over 50 chess fanatics. The only problem is that you cannot report on a blitz event when you are playing in it, so I will leave others to comment. Do share your experiences by Twitter or online on what was a fascinating competition.

For me, two highlights stand out, one personal and one very Hammer orientated. The latter was the sight of our Chairman, Bajrush, playing the Ginger GM himself on board one. The former was how the hell did I score 3.5/6 and even get to play on board 4?

A great time was had by all. The winner, inevitably, was Simon W although he was trailing by half-a-point at one stage to Richard Bates. The heavyweight clash between them resulted in a victory for Simon and from then on he never surrendered the lead. A worthy winner and he did not take the money!

My final story from a truly memorable night was watching David Howell and Simon W playing blitz chess together. If the bar had not shut and the words “working the next day” had not intruded I think they would still have been playing the next morning!

Just one final thank you to Aldo, Leon and Battersea Chess Club for a great evening.

Make sure you follow the action on our Summer Chess League website.