Small Nations with big dreams

by Albert Silver
12/5/2013 – The European Small Nation Team Championship was organized by the Monaco Chess Federation in Monte Carlo. Ten nations competed in the round robin tournament, and in spite of the seemingly modest lineups compared to the World Team, for them it was just as important since dreams and goals lay behind a grand result. The event brought in anecdotes and history with Bobby Fischer and Princess Grace.

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Small Nations with big dreams

The European Small Nation Team Championship was organized by the Monaco Chess Federation from 25th November to 1st December in Monte Carlo.

Ten nations competed in the round robin tournament. In spite of the seemingly modest lineups compared to an elite competition such as the World Team, for these nations it might as well have been the World Team, since dreams and goals lay behind a grand result.


Avg Elo
Faroe Islands
San Marino

Chess in Monaco

The first noteworthy chess event to be held in Monaco was the prestigious international tournament of 1902, held at the Monte Carlo Casino that pitted the best competitors in the world. The weekly Le Monde Illustré (NdT: The Illustrated World) reported it was "sponsored by His Highness the Prince of Monaco and for which a sum of 22,000 francs in prizes and art objects was reserved." This event opposed twenty of the best players of the time and was won by the Hungarian Geza Maroczy, ahead of Harry Pillsbury and Polish-born Frenchman David Janovsky.

Thirteen of the twenty participants of Monte-Carlo 1902 - (left to right) Tarrasch,
Mason, Wolf, Napier, Marshall, Maroczy, Mortimer, Pillsbury, Gunsberg, Schlechter,
Albin, Eisenberg, Von Scheve

In 1967 a strong international tournament was held, and the lineup included none other than Bobby Fischer, brought at the invitation of the Monagesque Federation and Europe Echecs magazine.

Fischer greets his compatriot Lombardy at Monaco 1967

The commemorative stamp of the great tournament

Meister Kock

Thanks to a 'newcomer' the next page of history is brought from the recollections of Liechtenstein's newest team member... the 74-year-old FIDE Master Hans Uwe Kock. "I am German by birth and lived there for almost 70 years. However for the last five years I have resided in Liechtenstein. This is the first time I play a tournament with my new country."

His young teammate, Mario Kobler, says with a smile: "Hans-Uwe is our team's new hope!" This friendly wink plunges the venerable Meister Kock into his past.

Igor Efimov, Hans-Uwe Kock and Mario Kobler

Monaco 1976 - Memories of Princess Grace

Indeed, Hans-Uwe had already played in the Principality: "I won the Monaco Open in 1976 when we played at the Café de Paris, next to the Casino. The closing ceremony was held at the Jardin Exotique. The city has changed a lot, but I remember that there were already a lot of Rolls Royces and Ferraris parked in front of the Casino, just like today!"

After many years, chess is once more graced with the incomparable luxury of Monaco

"In 1977 I came in fourth and participated in all subsequent editions of the tournament. 1982 was the last year of the event, and I do not know if the decision was linked to the death of Princess Grace, which took place on September 14, 1982. I also do not know if the Princess Grace was the one behind the tournament taking place. I only remember that she came to see us play several times, including in 1976 when I won. This is a great memory."

The teams get ready for the first round in the Trianon Salon

FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov officially starts the competition

Cyprus - the 14-year-old hope

Vrahimis Boulos, 35 years old, is the vice-president of the Cyprus chess federation and spoke of chess in Cyprus and their aspirations: "The crisis has hit Cypriots, but chess continues to grow, even if football is by far the most popular sport. We rely heavily on our best hope Andreas Kelires.

At age fourteen, Andreas Kelires is the great Cypriot hope

It is very good for him to play a tournament of this level on first board. It gives him experience and it is worth adding that at 14 years old he was already crowned champion of Cyprus in 2013. He is a model for our youth. He made ​​an IM norm in August and has already beaten three grandmasters, including Fedorchuk. We hope he becomes the first grandmaster of Cyprus." Still, Vrahmis admitted that his main interest there was to observe the level of organization since in April 2014, Cyprus will host the Zonal for the European Small Nation Team Championship

From Cyprus: Pavlos, Andreas, Vrahimis and Antonis

Andorra - chess paradise

Josep Onna Amargant is the Vice President of the Andorran federation, twinned with Monaco since 1967. A solid player rated 1983 Elo, this time he has come as the team captain. For this 51-year-old company owner, just like all Andorrans ("or almost," he adds), chess is second nature.

"On the eve of our departure to Monaco, the government President, Toni Marti, received us with Francesc Rechi, the president of the federation, to wish us luck. Our media such as newspapers and radio will provide daily coverage of the tournament. The TV network also follows our results. If we win the title, all Andorrans will be proud of their team."

The team is received by the Andorran president Toni Marti (second from left)
(© Andorran Chess Federation)

"The game has been taught in almost all schools for nearly 25 years. Chess teaches one to take decisions, to analyze, and to understand life. Andorra were pioneers in the movement to teach chess in schools. On a personal level, the game has helped me in my work. I started with a single bus, and today I have 250 employees. Through chess I learned to manage my time better, to put strategies in place. I decided very quickly, I think faster. For me, chess covers it all! It is a global game that contains life in its very self."

Faroe Islands - The Carlsen Effect

Finnbjorn Vang, 35, is the president of the Federation of Faroe Islands since 2008 a post he had already held from 1998 to 2000. At Monaco, where he is also captain, there is only one goal: the title!

"The tournament is very important to us. Our team is the ELo favorite based on the average, ahead of Andorra. We want to win the title, which is why we decided to bring our strongest team with our four best players and one junior. Two years ago we had lined up two different teams in order to help train them.

John Rødgaard, Finnbjorn Vang and John Arni Nilssen

FM Olaf Berg (2304) scored 3.5/4 on fourth board

Our media is following our results closely, including national television. This title would show our government that we are worthy of its financial support. This year, it was around 45 000 Euros, but it has been declining in recent years because of the crisis. With the title we could ask for more money and hopefully find private sponsors. We hardly have any. Winning at Monaco would allow us to continue our development.


Here is an example of what a bit of funding and goodwill can accomplish

There is now a strong interest in chess in our country. It is not quite the same madness as in Norway, where everyone wants to get to play, but I can already tell you that Magnus Carlsen's world title has set off numerous demands. People have followed his results on television, which is another reason why our victory at Monaco is so important. We could benefit even more from the Carlsen Effect!"

Fiona Steil-Antoni, 24 years old, was the ony female in the tournament, enjoying
one of the unique aspects of chess: allow men and women to compete directly
against one another on equal terms. Here she is standing under the famous
glass and steel dome of the Jardin d'Hiver (Winter Garden) signed by Gustave Eiffel.

Fiona and the four musketeers (team Luxembourg) at the Hotel Hermitage, the opulent venue

John Cummins, Andrew Hale, Peter Rowe and Fred Hamperl from Guernesey

Louis Jouault, Graham Mooney and Chris Tandy from Jersey

The proud team from Malta brandishes its colors

The meeting of the delegates of the Small Nations of Europe with Geoffrey Borg from FIDE

The group photo of the competitors, organizers and FIDE bigwigs

The compeititon was won by Faroe Islands, winning eight of their nine matches, and losing only one (against Andorra) to take clear first place with sixteen match points. Andorra finished second with fourteen points, while Monaco was third with thirteen points.

Final standings

1 Faroe Islands - 16
2 Andorra - 14
3 Monaco - 13
4 Cyprus - 12
5 Luxembourg - 10
6 Malta - 8
7 Liechtenstein - 8
8 San Marino - 5
9 Guernsey - 4
10 Jersey - 0

The victorious team from Faroe Islands with FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov
and Jean-Michel Rapaire. president of the Monaco Chess Federation

Pictures and material by Europe Echecs


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Born in the US, he grew up in Paris, France, where he completed his Baccalaureat, and after college moved to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He had a peak rating of 2240 FIDE, and was a key designer of Chess Assistant 6. In 2010 he joined the ChessBase family as an editor and writer at ChessBase News. He is also a passionate photographer with work appearing in numerous publications, and the content creator of the YouTube channel, Chess & Tech.


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