A Tightly-Fought First Round
The opening clashes at the European Small Nations Championships illustrated just how closely the tournament is likely to be contested, with no first round match decided by more than one point: the narrowest possible margin of victory.
Round 1 saw the top four seeds paired up against each other and the team from Luxembourg, led by International Masters Fred Berend and Michael Wiedenkeller, lived up to their pre-tournament favouritism, with a fiercely contested victory over Monaco.
Monaco is the only team in the tournament able to field two grandmasters, in the form of GM Igor Efimov and GM Algimantas Butnorius. However, the two powerful Luxembourger IM’s managed to hold their grandmaster opponents to draws and – with Pierre Gengler also drawing with FIDE Master Patrick van Hoolandt on Board 3 – this paved the way to victory, courtesy of a fine win for FM Hubert Mossong on the bottom board.
In the day’s other clash of titans, Andorra’s formidable Grandmaster Oscar de la Riva Aguado – at 2507, the highest graded player at the tournament – emerged victorious against Hogni Egilstoft Nielsen, the Faroe Islands’ strongest competitor. However, with the matches on both middle boards drawn, Joan Hendrik Andreasen’s win on Board 4 halved the match for the Faroese.
An individual win for Candidate Master Ezio Righi of San Marino was the deciding factor in their conquest of Jersey. Similarly, Renato Frick of Liechtenstein’s triumph with the black pieces secured his team’s victory over Cyprus.
The host nation began their campaign against Malta and made a winning start to the tournament, rebounding from CM Toby Brookfield’s early loss to Clarence Psaila. CM Chris Holland drew for Guernsey on the top board, before CM Peter Kirby and Guernsey’s Captain and reigning Channel Island Champion, FM Fred Hamperl, both secured long, hard-earned victories to clinch the match.
Hamperl’s win was only the second game of the day – after Renato Frick’s success for Liechtenstein – to be achieved with the black pieces.
The players will need to rest well on Sunday night, in preparation for Monday: the first of two days this week that will feature a double round of games.