The Eve of the Tournament
The atmosphere was convivial as the teams gathered at Les Cotils – the venue for the 2015 European Small Nations Championships – on the eve of the tournament. For most competitors this was the first opportunity to view the playing hall, which is decorated with the flags of all ten competing nations and commands beautiful views over the smaller islands off Guernsey’s east coast.
Jackie Bromley, dressed in traditional Guernsey attire, entertained the players during pre-dinner drinks with accordion renditions of tunes from the Channel Islands, Britain and France, as well as several of the tournament’s participating nations.
During a brief opening ceremony Chief Judge Russell Finch, himself one of the island’s stronger chess players, welcomed the competitors on behalf of the Bailiff of Guernsey, and gave one of the trademark humorous speeches for which he is renowned.
Peter Rowe added his own words of welcome as President of the Guernsey Chess Federation, even managing to include a greeting in Guernésiaise: the ancient but now near-obsolete language of the island, which owes its roots to Mediaeval French.
The President ended his speech by proposing a vote of thanks to Fred Hamperl, in recognition of his tireless work in organising the tournament, and this drew warm applause.
A three-course dinner followed the Opening Ceremony. Shortly before the main course was served, the appearance of the San Marino team – whose flights to the island had precluded an earlier arrival time – confirmed that all competitors were now safely in Guernsey.
After dinner, the ten team captains withdrew to the playing hall for their pre-tournament meeting, and the competitors gradually dispersed to prepare for Sunday afternoon’s crucial first round.