- Jonathan Bell
A Bermuda knight in Azerbaijan (Royal Gazette)
Little Bermuda may not stand high in the world ranks of chess, but the island enjoys special fame for its Bermuda Party at one of the sport’s signature international events.
The latest Bermuda bash, at the 42nd Chess Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan, shows how the party has grown from an impromptu celebration with rum swizzle into the Olympiad’s top social event.
The island’s players also punched above their weight, with one proud newcomer, Don Dacres, who runs a chess group from his barbershop and who is elated by his performance.
“It was a great achievement for me,” Dacres, the proprietor of Don’s Barbershop at 190 Front Street, said. “I’ve been playing professionally for just six months.”
Any day of the week, interested players are welcome to drop by Don’s, where Dacres said tables are always at the ready.
Nick De Firmian, a grandmaster and three-times American chess champion, led Bermuda’s team this year.
“Nick is a great leader and inspiration, almost too good for us,” Sami Lill, who teaches the game at Warwick Academy, said.
De Firmian, the captain, coach and the author of the classic Modern Chess Openings, ensured that the styles of whichever players they would face next were rigorously analysed.
Also on the team were Mark Flanagan, Serguei Gontcharov, Carlton Simmons and Adrian Woodley. They were accompanied by Larry Ebbin, who heads the Bermuda Chess Club.
With the exception of Lill, who has played in three Olympiads, the rest of the Bermuda team were making their debuts.
Nonetheless, Flanagan notably achieved the rank of candidate master, while Dacres was offered a draw on the opening day by a 2,200-ranked player.
Ebbin won notoriety of his own at the 2010 World Chess Federation elections in Siberia, in which the Bermuda delegate intervened, to applause from spectators, and silenced Garry Kasparov, the famed Russian grandmaster, after he started agitatedly heckling delegates.
Kasparov hails from Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, described as the “Riviera of the Caspian Sea”, where the tournaments were held from September 1 to 14.
The Olympiad was a first for Azerbaijan, which pulled out all the stops with a budget of about $15 million — and Bermuda stood out disproportionately, as its eponymous party was hotly anticipated.
The big bash grew from humble origins, Ebbin said.
“It started off with a player called James Dill, who took along a boom box to the Olympiad, and threw a party with a little black room in a stairwell where the sound was good. Now it gets thousands of people.”
The group gave special thanks to Doyle Butterfield, who offered time and space at the Oxford Learning Centre for the team to practise, along with Norbert Simons, of the Department of Youth, Sports and Recreation.
The Bermuda Chess Club is keen to grow its ranks, especially now that it is assembling a national women’s chess team. The club plays at Oxford Learning Centre on King Street on Wednesday and Sunday nights.
To learn more, contact Larry Ebbin at 236-1622, email@example.com, or Sami Lill at firstname.lastname@example.org