Lance Henderson wins European Small Nations Championship

by Klaus Besenthal
10/3/2022 – Each of the ten European mini-states which make up the European Small Nations Association sent one player to this single round-robin tournament with a classical time control. The event took place in Vaduz, the capital of Liechtenstein, and ended Saturday. The winner of the tournament was GM Lance Henderson de la Fuente, from Andorra, who obtained an 8/9 score. The matter was only decided in the last round, when Henderson defeated Luitjen Akselsson Apol from the Faroe Islands. | Photos: European Chess Union

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Ten players from ten small countries

Tax havens, golden passports — small nations often do not have the best reputation here in Germany. This criticism is often unjustified to a greater or lesser degree, depending on which country you are talking about. So let us see which countries were allowed to send a player to this tournament.

Andorra - The small Pyrenean state, situated between France and Spain, is probably best known to sports fans for various mountain finishes in the Tour de France. The country is ranked 97th in the world chess rankings, but has two grandmasters, of whom Lance Henderson, the winner of this tournament, is the stronger one. 

Monaco - Here we come closer to the "tax paradise". The principality on the Mediterranean coast, surrounded by France, is of course known mainly for its Formula 1 race. From a chess point of view, 84th place in the world rankings is not that impressive, but Monaco also has two grandmasters: Georgian-born Igor Efimov and Iranian-born Amir Bagheri. Efimov came second in the tournament in Vaduz. 

A completely different country is the Faroe Islands, a group of islands north of Scotland in the Atlantic Ocean. Luitjen Akselsson Apol, who lost to Henderson in the final round, hails from this part of the world. Apol is not a grandmaster, but is likely to become one. The youngster is only 16 years old. In the world chess rankings, the country’s 78th position is stronger than Monaco’s and Andorra’s. Apol is number 16 in the Faroe Islands' country rankings, with a grandmaster named Helgi Dam Ziska at number 1.

Luxembourg, ranked 79th in the world, one place behind Faroe Islands, sent IM Fred Berend to Vaduz.

The Mediterranean islands of Malta and Cyprus (the two EU states have recently been criticized over the issue of "golden passports") took 5th and 6th place in this tournament.

The Channel Islands of Guernsey and Jersey, which some Germans might regard as part of Great Britain, are also considered independent states. However, this is not the case from a purely legal point of view, as the islands are neither part of Great Britain nor crown colonies, but crown dependencies. As such, they are directly subject to the King and can enact their own (tax!) laws. The Isle of Man, which is very well known among chess players, enjoys a similar status. The places in the world rankings: Jersey 140, Guernsey 143.

And, last but not least, Liechtenstein (130th) and San Marino (168th) should not be missing from this list of European mini-states.

Henderson gets clear first place

The 19-year-old grandmaster Lance Henderson de la Fuente plays for the small state of Andorra. In his home country, Spain, where he was born in Malaga to an American father and a Spanish mother, he would not exactly be lost in the mass of 40 or even more grandmasters, but he would be less visible than as an Andorran player.

In the decisive game against Apol from the Faroe Islands, Henderson came to an unchallenged victory thanks to remarkable patient play.



European Small Nations Chess Championship

The playing hall

3.h4 against the King's Indian and Grünfeld

It's a great idea to take Grunfeld and King’s Indian players out of their comfort-zone right from the start! Let’s go 1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 first and now play 3.h4!?

Final standings

Rg. Name Pkt.  Wtg1 
1 Henderson de la Fuente Lance 8 0
2 Efimov Igor 7,5 0
3 Apol Luitjen Akselsson 7 0
4 Berend Fred 6 0
5 Mizzi Jack 5,5 0
6 Michaelides Konstantinos 4 0
7 Kirby Peter J. 3 0
8 Frick Renato 1,5 1
9 Carpenter Paul A. 1,5 0
10 Volpinari Danilo 1 0

All games



Klaus Besenthal is computer scientist, has followed and still follows the chess scene avidly since 1972 and since then has also regularly played in tournaments.