Opening Ceremony

Tbe Opening Ceremony of the 2016 British Chess Championships took place on Monday, 25th at the Pavilion in Bournemouth. In attendance were special guests from the Bournemouth and District Chess League and the Dorset County Chess Association, Mr Alan Dommett, Mr Martin Simons and Mr Ian Clark.

Proceedings began with Mr Alan Dommett’s opening speech of welcome

“Welcome to Bournemouth everyone …
Protocol decrees that I begin with a reference to the town’s historical British Championship ‘BACKGROUND’ – but in our particular case it really is best described as a long way background.
Eighty years to be precise. Imagine the scene back then – the threat of War hanging over London and over the Chess Championships due to be held in the city – and there you have the very reason why Bournemouth suddenly appeared on the tournament organisers radar pretty much before anything of a military nature ever did. It was also why the British Ladies’ Championship and the Major Open were rescheduled for August of that year, 1936, the events taking place alongside the famous Nottingham International Tournament which, according to unofficial ratings, was one of the strongest of all time.

This meant that only 12 players battled it out for the Championship proper down here on the south coast, the strongest of them being Sir George Thomas and William Winter, who retained his title with an 8/11 score, a point clear of Alfred Lenton and William Ritson-Morry and because chess spans time like no other in sport it is quite amazing to think that some of you present may have actually played these two gentleman… or maybe you have played the then 18yr-old Frank Parr, who went on to play in 25 British Championships, or a 32yr-old Reggie Noel-Johnson, 4-time Kent County Champion, both of whom were also amongst those twelve competitors.  

And Bournemouth’s ‘background’ was destined to be linked in this way once again three years later. War having broken out by that time, the Mens championship was declared ‘no contest’ due to the British team being in Buenos Aires for the 8th Chess Olympiad and a number of other top British chess players seconded for codebreaking at Bletchley Park, we were chosen to host a memorable British Ladies Championship, won by a 13 year old Elaine Saunders.

80 years on and it is all so different – probably a record number of entries and a town bursting at the seams with tourists, many of whom will be curious to witness chess played at this level, just to see what all the fuss is about. We hope it will be the perfect place to showcase the event and our thanks must go to two of my county chess playing colleagues who have done so much to make this happen.

Firstly, to Ian Clark, the President of the Dorset County Chess Association, for all his hard work and co-operation with the B&DCL. Secondly, to our Chairman Martin Simons, a real driving force behind the campaign to bring the event back here and the man who gave us a much-needed measure of belief through the ever-increasing success of his own Bournemouth Grand event.           

It only remains for me to wish all the competitors every success and the best of luck, especially my fellow B&DCL members, and to express the hope that everybody gets to enjoy everything that Bournemouth has to offer – there’s certainly a lot more going on here now, and a lot more enjoyment to be had, than ever there was 80 years ago”.  

The Congress Manager then placed on record his personal thanks, the thanks of the ECF and also all the players to Alan Dommett, Martin Simons and Ian Clark for their immense help in the lead up the Championships over many months in so many ways.

Following this the Congress Manager read a speech of welcome from ECF President Dominic Lawson

“Welcome to the 103rd British Chess Championship. It was 80 years ago when Bournemouth last hosted the Championship: that was an all-play-all of 12 players, more than half of whom came from L0ndon. This year’s event is so much bigger and so much more diverse. It contains many sections for children of different ages, in which we hope to see some of the brightest stars of the future.

At last year’s British chess championships, at the University of Warwick, I met one such player, Michael Uriely, and presented him with his prize for second place in the Under 9 championship. Barely a month later, while competing in the Mind Sports Olympiad, Michael fell ill and died after an acute asthma attack. I am sure his contemporaries here in Bournemouth, and their parents attending, will have memories of this thoughtful, kind and hugely talented boy.

In April, Michael’s parents organised a very special one-day Swiss system event in his memory, which took place at the Westminster Under School, where Michael was a pupil. I’m pleased to say that his coach, Grandmaster Julian Hodgson, came out of tournament play retirement to take part—and Julian won on tie break ahead of Grandmaster Matthew Sadler. It was my great honour to present the prizes. I have never felt such a strong pride in the fraternity of chess players, who gave a long standing ovation to celebrate Michael’s short life”.

A period of applause followed in memory of Michael.

Thanks were then given to Meri Grigoryan for performing a simultaneous display on the seafront the day before in aid of McMillan Cancer Reasearch.

The awards to the prizes winners in the Under 9 Championship concluded the ceremony. Following this the Under 9 Champion made the first move on board 1 of the British Championship.

The ceremony was covered by the Bournemouth Daily Echo and a link to their coverage is here