Guernsey 2012 - by Ian Campbell

Nick and I were sitting at Gate 7 in Manchester Airport not long ago. Imagine our consternation as our scheduled flight arrived with incoming passengers. The plane had propellers! Worse, the door at the rear opened and a little ladder came out of the plane for the passengers to alight from the "aircraft". Where could we be going? Back to the Stone Age? No! Guernsey.
It's not so bad when the machine condescends to leave the runway in one piece although the seat was a little cramped. A free newspaper and complimentary hot drink help to pass the time. We ran into turbulence crossing over the Channel and the plane was thrown about a bit but it did not disturb such hardy travellers as ourselves. Why, I once auditioned for a part in the Dambusters film, I did.
The first thing I noticed on arrival was the quality of the air and the comparative silence. Cities are a playground for the self but they are noisy. Fancy living in comparative silence and having to go look for some noise. There is some in the capital, St Peter's Port, where we found our hotel and embarked on a wander around the harbour before tucking into a good lunch.

A rest and evening meal preceded a good sleep and the vexed problem of an IM each in round 1. Nick and I have different preparation routines for the game. He likes to find out the openings played by the opponent and prepare for the game while I take the view that my opponent can not prepare for the game if I haven't the faintest idea what I am going to play. Which is better? We both lost to our IM opponents and not the best of starts to the tournament.
The playing venue is a hotel in the north of the island. It is a little off the beaten track but readily accessible by bus from St Peter's Port. There is a cluster of houses at the back of the hotel and an inviting pub by the bus stop. A small cafe leads to a Martello tower from Napoleonic times which is well worth a visit, especially as it is free. Being an island there are any number of views of sea and shore to stir the soul of even the most hardened city dweller. However, the bracing breeze can drive the enthusiastic tourist into the modern hotel with all the usual creature comforts. The playing area is very comfortable with enough room for all and cold water available from dispensers in the corridor outside. Fine as it is but it would be difficult to expand the tournament much more without extra space for the additional players. It might be needed if the tournament becomes more well known on the circuit. 

Although a few titled players are invited to play in the tournament it is mainly aimed at the serious amateur player and has that atmosphere about it. Serious chess by all means but not the tension one finds at Gibraltar or the London classic where many strong GMs give import to the proceedings. Folks in Guernsey take life a little slower and it is relatively easy to slip into a more relaxed way of thinking about the world. A good breakfast only delays the moment when the prospect of the next round has to be addressed and 0/1 is not a good place to be.
Our efforts to salvage something from the tournament are a matter of record on the Guernsey website and I don't want to indulge in a blow by blow account. Suffice to say that a long absence from the tournament scene did neither of us any favours and a few club games played over 3 hours does not cut the mustard when it comes to ELO rated games over a longer time control. I was getting genuinely tired over the last three rounds and was happy to coast in without too much damage while Nick was still giving it plenty with the consequence that he had harder opponents to play. He was rather unfortunate to be paired with Ravi Haria in the last round as this well coached junior is currently representing England at the World Junior Tournament.

Another tournament over with all the usual regrets and missed opportunities to recount. In truth, we played more or less to our grades and, given the lack of recent tournament practice, that might have been as much as we could have expected although one always wants more. It is in the nature of the beast. Tourism and chess are not the best of bedfellows methinks but these outings come at a cost and there is a strong temptation to have it all. A whole morning spent in Guernsey Castle can pale a little when the opponent is looking in determined mood come two o'clock.
There was a blanket of cloud over the Channel Islands for most of the week which kept the temperatures well up although Friday afternoon taught us an exposed bus stop outside the hotel is not the place to be when the wind and rain does intervene in the running of the tournament. Be prepared if you wish to hazard a trip there in October.

All in all, a first rate trip and one I would love to experience again if there is breath in my body and money in my pocket. A nice place, lovely people, good food and a few games of chess. What more do you want? I know, answers on a post card and send to Santa for Christmas.