Club Profile #4: Hammersmith Chess Club

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Hello ChessJournal Fans,

Today we have another instalment in our popular club profiles feature, Hammersmith Chess Club.  Based in west London, the story of Hammersmith is encouraging to every chess club member nationwide.  As little as three years ago the club was in a very different state, with finances and membership numbers becoming a greater concern.  Fast forward to 2017 and we witness a club that has turned around its fortunes through a clever approach to both digital and how to handle its rent (although I personally think they are just being very Anglo Saxon and enjoying a beer too much in the Summer!).

This interview was conducted with Andy from Hammersmith CC over the last week, enjoy!

Tell us a little bit about your club?

We are a very friendly and welcoming club based in the inner suburb of Hammersmith, West London. With a catchment area that includes Fulham, Kensington, and a few other suburbs, we now count over 50 active members, and growing!

We have 10 teams this year, catering for all levels of chess. The main League we play is the London League, where we field 5 teams ranging from League 6 up to League 3. We also play in the Thames Valley, and Middlesex Leagues, fielding 3 teams there. And most recently we were involved in launching a brand new Summer League involving 4 clubs, allowing us to field 2 teams there. On a busy night we’ll have upwards of 30 players involved in competitive chess, and with the launch of the Summer League we now offer members competitive games all year round.

We are based in a local community hall in the borough during the main season, de-camping to a nearby pub for the Summer months when the main chess season ends.

What kind of person plays for the Club?

In many ways the club is a microcosm of the city we’re based in. We have a very diverse set of players, ranging from our youngest who is barely 10 years old, up to the pensionable mainstays of the club in their 80’s! In addition, we can boast a large & growing foreign legion, featuring players from Italy, Kosovo, America, Turkey and beyond. We also count a handful of female players as members.

Our players range from the chippy amateurs, right up to a top group pushing ECF 200, with a sizeable rump of strong players in the 120-180 range. At present we don’t have any titled players, though recently we did count WIM Sue Maroroa amongst our membership.

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Whilst we don’t yet have a formal junior section, it is on the radar for the future. In the meantime, we have managed to linkup very successfully with a couple of local Junior clubs, playing multi-board Rapid games against them every year. A fun & exciting challenge for all involved!

Can you tell us about the history of the Club?

Our Club was formed in 1962, and there is a full and interesting history behind it located here:

http://hammerchess.co.uk/2016/03/18/a-brief-history-of-hammersmith-chess-club/

By far our most successful former player is four-times British champ Julian Hodgson. He played for us as a junior before going on to bigger & better things!

Who are your fiercest rivals and why?

We have a long-standing and very friendly rivalry with our South West London friends over at Battersea Chess Club. As a similarly well-run club with a lively online presence, we can often be found gently teasing each other over social media and our websites. We even went as far as having a two-legged dual over about 30 boards the other Summer, dubbed “El Chessico”, which we won, naturally!!

What is your favourite thing about the Club?

The best thing about Hammersmith is definitely the ethos – we are on a constant mission to improve what we offer our members, and create as many opportunities for playing & learning the game in a friendly and inclusive atmosphere, as possible.

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For instance, we now have a regular training rota whereby our stronger players teach theory, tactics and openings at the practice board. We introduced competitive games over the Summer (historically the London chess scene takes a break every Summer, but the demand is clearly there!), we frequently take on all-comers at a local cafe. We partnered with our local branch of MIND charity to take chess to the streets of Hammersmith earlier this year – a genuinely brilliant day! And in a nod to our recent past, this year we pioneered a linkup with a foreign club, with 15 of our members taking a trip to De Pion chess club in Amsterdam for a weekend of Chess, friendship and beers!!

Hopefully we offer something for everyone, and we are always looking to offer more.

Is there anything else you would like to add about your Club?

Like many clubs, rent is one of our biggest costs. We took the decision a couple of years ago to give up our community hall venue over the Summer and de-camp to a nearby pub (The Albion, Hammersmith Road). So we now use their function room in the warmer months as our “home venue” – hopefully paying our way in beer – and revert back to our community hall when the main league season re-starts.

Not only has it been a brilliant move for the balance sheet, it’s also actually quite nice playing chess in a pub! It provides a welcoming atmosphere for any first-timers, and generally makes for a more sociable and relaxed time! Highly recommended.

I have to admit to being a bit of a fan boy for Hammersmith’s approach to running a chess club for the past few months.  I particularly enjoyed their club organised trip to Holland to play a local Dutch club “over the board”.  They have also been active in running events to raise money for charity (see below for their support of Mind). A more apt charity for chess players I cannot think of! These kinds of social events are exactly what can unite a club as a community as well as a competitive entity.

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Thanks again for reading.  We are starting to get lots of requests coming in for club features so thank you for all your support and sharing of the blog. Hopefully we can inspire and make a positive difference to clubs around the UK and the world! Please do continue to spread the word about the ChessJournal Blog and if you fancy it, check out our App for club and tournament players.

Until next time

Jon


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