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  • Nick Faulks

Bermuda - A chapter written by Nick Faulks for the new book: "Bermuda Tournament Series" b

I came to live in Bermuda in late 1991 and, having played chess on and off since my schooldays, I decided to check whether there was a chess club. After a couple of false starts (this was before the days of websites) I discovered that there was indeed a thriving bunch of enthusiasts who not only met one evening each week, but also organised an annual International Open tournament and sent a team every two years to play in the Olympiads. Games in club tournaments started at around 8pm, were played to a generous time control and went on into the night. Afterwards, some local players would stay on for casual games. A few years later, when I was Club Secretary, I received a mild complaint from the manager of the venue that her cleaner had arrived next morning to find them still there. I discovered that I was arguably the strongest player on the island - if so it wasn’t by much, but I was quickly able to burnish my credentials by winning the 1992 Bermuda Championship with a score of 7/7. Framed copies of the reports of this performance in the weekly newspaper still hang on my wall. I was unfortunately just too late be eligible to play in the 1992 Olympiad in Manila, by all accounts a very well run event, and instead made my debut two years later in the less salubrious surroundings of the Cosmos Hotel in Moscow. In those days the Bermuda Chess Association was still led mostly by a group of players who had been involved in the birth of the club twenty years earlier, but the President was a relative newcomer, Nigel Freeman, who had arrived following a globetrotting career with HSBC. He was keen to take Bermuda chess to a new level and, as he explains in his own introduction, believed that it could be made a centre for international chess. He was confident that there were plenty of players looking for norms, as well as the titled players required for them to be achieved, who would be willing to come to such a pleasant destination for not much more than an expenses-paid holiday. This left only the question of how accommodation could be arranged, and I was fairly easily persuaded to sponsor the first such tournament. This was such a success that in each successive year it became increasingly difficult to balance the requests of old friends who wished to come back with the desire to introduce new names. We also discovered that the prospect of a couple of February weeks at a nice hotel in Bermuda held great appeal not only for veterans and aspiring youngsters, but for players all the way up to the peak of the world game. While it was of course important to obtain average ratings sufficient for norms to be earned, our priority was chess should be produced which was both interesting and of a high standard. Of course, if the tournament positions are such that a draw is the optimal result for both players then you have to understand that, as professionals, that is the result they will achieve, and I see no advantage in forcing them to playing thirty meaningless moves before agreeing it. However, that is not the same as a general refusal to take any risk, or simply a desire for a day off, and the players were all aware that we were hoping for fighting chess. The penalty for failing to produce this was quite clear - they were less likely to be invited back. Throughout the long series of Bermuda tournaments, very few were crossed off the list in this way. In the years when we held a secondary IM norm event, I was sometimes able to fit myself in. These experiences were highly educational, although I would in general have preferred my own games not to be saved for posterity. However, in the interests of completeness I believe that the scores of nearly every game have been unearthed. This is a remarkable accomplishment, and I am grateful to all who have assisted in this process. I imagine that the problem faced by the author has been not to find sufficient important TNs, sparkling combinations and positional masterpieces, but to decide which ones to leave out. I have to say that it never crossed my mind that a book such as this would be produced. It is a wonderful memoir of an association with so many fine people and excellent chess players. Some were already great players, some were on their way to that status and some were ‘merely’ talented amateurs, but all played their part in creating the unique series of events commemorated here.

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