Europchess is the chess club of the European institutions located in Brussels. All chess players with a professional link to the various institutions, and their family members, are welcome to join.
Johannes Bertram, President (johannes.bertram(at)ec.europa.eu)
Frank Hoffmeister, Vice-President (frank.hoffmeister(at)ec.europa.eu)
Jesper Abrahamsen, Tournament director (jesper.abrahamsen(at)ec.europa.eu)
Benjamín Alberola Mulet, Secretary/Webmaster (benjamin.alberola(at)ep.europa.eu)
Regular activities take place in a building of the European Commission.
Our activities are:
- Regular blitz tournaments on Wednesdays, 13.00-14.00: 5 rounds swiss system. Invitations are sent out every week by our tournament director (in the school holidays, tournaments may be suspended)
- Club Championship: played usually as a 9-round Rapid tournament (20min+10 sec increment), roughly one round per month on a Wednesday, 13.00-14.00 (no blitz on those days), with the possibility to postpone games (until the scheduled date of the following round).
- Training sessions: occasionally on Wednesdays, 13.00-14.00, upon announcement.
- Belgian Team Championships: we participate with five teams in Divisions 1, 3, 4, and 5 (out of five) of the National Interclubs Championship from September till March. Matches roughly every two weeks, on Sundays, starting at 14.00. We also participate in the Regional Championship of the Francophone chess federation: usually 4 Sundays in May-June, also starting from 14.00. For representing Europchess in these competitions a license from the Belgian federation is required.
Since 2011, several Grandmasters have visited Europchess and played simultaneous exhibitions against 20 or more players:
2019 Mihail Marin (Romania)
History of Europchess
- Statutes of our chess club from 1973 (in French)
- Letter from the Soviet Chess Federation. A negative reply to our invitation of Anatoly Karpov (in Russian)
- Newspaper article about our drawn game against Garry Kasparov (in French)
- Photo of GM Veselin Topalov in Brussels as he accepts our invitation to play simoultaneous games!
- Photo of Frank Hoffmeister with Veselin Topalov
- News article about our club in European Commission’s weekly newspaper
- Our notable games
Europchess was founded on 26 September 1972 as a “cercle de loisir” of the European Communities. The official name is “cercle d’échecs des Communautés européennes C.E.C.E”. The thirteen founding members elected Harry Ladage (President), Mrs. M. Friedmann (secretary), N. van de Leur (treasurer), G. Dreyer (director material) and M. Vanmeert (director tournament) to the first executive board. The club soon gained the impressive number of 66 members, out of which 55 participated in the club tournament. The list of 1973 also records that – apparently much more advanced than his government – a member of the Swiss embassy joined Europchess!
In February 1973, the general assembly decided to affiliate the club to the Belgian Royal Chess Federation. As of July 1973, individual members could thus receive a licence via Europchess and participate in official tournaments in Belgium.
II. Club Activities
The minutes of the second general assembly of 28 February 1973 record the ambition of the club as follows:
“A coté des tournois habituels (grand tournoi de midi, tournoi subsidiare de midi, tournoi d’initiation, championnat du cercle) seront organisés quelques séances simultanées, des tournois de parties rapides, des séances de discussions théoriques sur les ouvertures et les milieus de partie, un nouveau cours pour débutant, etc. ».
Happily, Europchess managed to fill this ambition with life.
1. The club tournaments
Europchess always offered internal club tournaments for its members. Among those featured the championship, rapid tournaments or regular blitz tournaments. In the early days, the championship was played under the classical time limit (2h 40 moves). In the 1990ies, this was change into the “20 minutes/Fischer” mode.
2. The simultaneous exhibitions
Another early activity of Europchess was to invite well-known masters to play simultaneous games against members of the club. The first exhibition was held in May 1973 by GM O’Kelly, residing in Brussels. The second event followed already in December 1973 by three masters (Dutch champion G. Sosonko, Belgian Champion R. Willaert, and former Belgian Champion F. Van Seters) on 56 boards. Members of the Club and other inscribed players secured five draws and one win!
In late 1974, President Ladage wrote a letter in Russian to the Soviet Chess Federation, requesting no less than world champion Karpow for a simultaneous exhibition in January 1975. The offer was kindly declined on 23 January 1975. At the time where the European Communities were not recognised as such by the Soviet Union, it was nearly a sensation to receive the official response on the official letterhead from the Soviet Chess Federation. However, the letter was – politically correct – not addressed to chessclub of the European Communities, but the “chessclub of Brussels – Belgium”! Nevertheless, the contact with the Soviet Union bore fruit in the next year: GM Alexander Kotov, ex-champion of the Soviet Union, honoured the club with his simul-demonstration on 8 June 1976!
In 1977, Mrs. Alexandra Van der Mije-Nicolau, ex-champion of Romania and champion of the Netherlands played the first woman simul in the club. The then Belgian champion, Meulders, fought at 30 tables in 1979, followed by the son of the great Akiba Rubinstein, Sammy Rubinstein (champion of Brussels at the year) in 1980, and IM Basman in 1981. In November 1983, the club invited the then 26-year old Belgian talent Michel Jadoul (2414 ELO) who nowadays is one of the country’s international masters.
An extraordinary highlight occurred on 26 June 1997: Europchess managed to participate in a simultaneous game against the then reigning world champion, Garry Kasparov, exhibited in Sevilla! The Spanish daily “El Pais” had invited sixteen teams from all continents to face Kasparov electronically. S. del Pino, L. Garcia Alonso and J. Frederiksen consulted each other before transmitting their move over the internet to Spain. Our players had 2 hours time, whereas the champion had to play another 8 Spanish teams, one Belgian, one British, one Argentinian, one Mexican, one Australian, one Colombien and one American team! Only two teams managed to draw against Kasparov, namely Sergio Altarriba (the champion of the Spanish province Huesca) and ….Europchess! The game was so good that it was later on recorded in the internet as well!
In 2004, the Serbian GM Petar Popovic, whose wife works at the Commission, gave a simul-exhibition, conceding a number of draws.
The most recent simultaneous exhibition was played by the then Bulgarian world champion, Veselin Topalov, in spring 2006. At the eve of Bulgaria’s accession to the European Union, the Bulgarian embassy had suggested that he would play at 12 boards, most of which were nominated by Europchess. Topalov faced tough resistance from our players. The then President C. Keller won his game with Black, and Vice-President F. Hoffmeister and Tournament Director J. Abrahamsen forced a draw. In return, Topalov won a number of nice attacking games, inter alia against FM Wiley, Dominique Dupuis and Jens Frederiksen.
3. The international tournaments
In the second decade of its existence, Europchess also organised a number of open rapid tournaments. With the support of the company “Commodore”, H. Ladage and R. Bonne organised the first “Europchess tournaments” to celebrate the 10th anniversary in 1982. As interesting prices were at stake, the first tournament already attracted over 100 players: the first price went to the German player T. Vogler. The tournament participation quickly rose to 354 players in 1985; in the race, which included 7 international masters, the Argentine IM F. Braga scored best. In 1989, the main attraction was the participation of the three “Polgár-sisters”. As is well-known, Judit Polgár later on became the strongest female chess-player so far.
Another climax occurred on 28 April 1990, when the Belgian champion, several international grandmasters and a number of strong players from East-Germany participated in the international tournament. On 9 September 1990, Europchess co-organised with the circle from St. Gilles a tournament in honour of the sixtieth anniversary of His Majesty, the King Baudouin (“la Coupe du Roi”). It was held in the “salle de l’Europe” of the City Hall in St. Gilles.
4. Internal lectures
One of the club’s ambitions was to popularize the game within the institution. To that effect, it organised courses for beginners, the first of which dates back to October 1974. In the 1980ies, Harry Ladage and Jan Schoonhove offered a number of classes to improve the playing strength in the class. In the last decade, R. Bonnetook care of this important activity.
For the advanced players, the club organised theoretical or practical lectures. Already in 1973, such courses were given by GM O’Kelly. Later on, that activity was not continued. However, under the Presidency of C. Keller, a number of stronger players of the club were motivated to hold lectures for other team mates. Accordingly, in the years 2005-2009, a number of courses were given by, inter alia, IM T. Binham, C. Keller, F. Hoffmeister, R. Bonne, A. Wettach, J. Barta and T. Brinkmann to the benefit of club members.
III. Participation of Europchess teams in Belgian tournaments
Europchess traditionally participated in the “interprofessional” championship, for “corporate” teams. That tournament was first organised in 1976 by the internal chess club of Sabena. As of 1978-1979, the Europchess team showed good results, most often heading for one of the first three places of around ten teams, including the SNCB or the “Royale Belge”. In the years 1979-1981, Europchess actually won the tournament three consecutive times, and even inscribed three teams for the cycle 1982-1983. In 1988, Europchess won the tournament in Ghent, when the treasury, R. Bonne defeated with the Black pieces the Belgian FM F. Cornelis (then 2334 ELO) with a nice combination!
Over the years, the format of the “interprofessionals” changed. Rather than having rounds with teams composed of four players facing each other, the individual results of players were added for the overall result. In this mode, Europchess was generally trying to challenge the dominance of the Banque nationale. Europchess actually won the trophy once and had the second place in 2007 (- see photos).
Although envisaged already in 1973, when Europchess affiliated itself to the Belgian Chess Federation, it did not manage to participate with a team in the Belgian interclubs. Indeed, at its tenth anniversary in 1982, the General Assembly decided with 11 versus 2 votes plus four abstentions not to affiliate the club in the Belgian league “étant donné que la CECE est un simple cercle de loisirs”.
This traditional self-understanding of Europchess is also described in the letter of Secretary Havet in 1987, when asking the President of the chess club of Kappeleveld to play a friendly match between the two clubs:
“Our club dates from 1972, the year of Fischer. Though member of the Belgian Chess Federation, our principal activities are at Brussels in Interprofessional events. We hold many friendly matches to encourage all players of all strengths to represent the club. In effect, we are principally a corporate club [un cercle d’entreprise], playing during lunch break, and we make a point of encouraging our players to support their local clubs. As such, we have contact with many Brussels chess circles. Our members are participating in Etterbeek, Caissa Woluwé, Waterloo, Fous du Roy, among others.
Fraternal greetings in chess
Henri Havet (Secretary)”.
However, the situation changed after EU enlargement in 2004. When a number of gifted players from the new Member States, who did not have traditional ties to other clubs in Belgium, joined the club, the General Assembly decided to set up a Europchess team for the Belgian interclubs. The team for 2008-2009 was to be completed with a second team, composed of players from Caissa Woluwé so that the two teams could jointly use the Caissa location for matches at home. Although tense to the final round, the début of Europchess in the official Belgian ligues was excellent. Europchess 1 and 2 both won their respective 5th division and moved up to the fourth division. That allowed the club to establish Europchess 3 for 2009-2010. That season saw renewed success in the Belgian national league for the teams of Europchess.
3. Other tournaments
Our teams also makes their appearance in other tournaments organised by Belgian Clubs. Europchess won the team tournament “Soete Beese” (playing chess for sweet strawberries) in Landegem twice: in 1983 and in 1988.
Europchess is managed by the board, elected for a two-year term by its members in the General Assembly.
In the founding phase, President Harry Ladage and Secretary M. Friedmann managed the club (1973-1979). Neil Carne, Jan Schoonhoven and F. Colasanti acted as tournament directors and the treasury was vested in Clovis Grégoire. The European Commission supported the club financially by granting a “kick-off” subvention in 1973. President Ladage managed to set up the full range of Europchess activities with great dynamics.
In 1979, the Presidency switched to Armando Inglese (1979-1985). Henri Havet was elected secretary, a function he kept until 1991. During Inglese’s Presidency, Europchess won a number of new members, received additional finances from the European Commission upon application and started to organise the yearly international open tournaments. His presidency was also remarkable for the very successful participation of Europchess in the Interprofessionals. In 1985 Inglese stepped down. The General Assembly asked Harry Ladage to take over the Presidency again, and Inglese became Vice-President of the club (a newly created function in the board at that year). During Ladage’s second term (1985-1990), Maurits Vanmeert, Paolo Caminiti and Laurens de Jonge served as treasury. By the end of 1989, Europchess counted around 100 members and interested persons.
In 1990, the General Assembly elected Jean-Charles Pelayo as the new President (1990-2000), assisted by Luis Garcia-Alonso as secretary. Ronny Bonne took charge of the treasury in 1992 (until today). M. de Jonge became Vice-President, and Jens Frederiksen acted as tournament director. In 1994, Paolo Garzotti took over the function of “responsible for material” from Gérard Gresset, who had been elected to this position since 1979.
After a period of stagnation and decline in membership to merely 18 paying players, Christoph Keller was voted by consensus as the new President in May 2000. Jens Frederiksen became Vice-President and Jesper Abrahamsen took over the direction of the tournaments (until today). Allain Wettach became the Club’s secretary. The new President managed to stabilise the club activities, increase membership and organised the two simul-highlights with GM Popov (2004) and WC Topalov (2006).
In 2009, following the proposal of C. Keller, the General Assembly elected F. Hoffmeister as new President and C. Keller as Vice-President. Having been Vice-President since 2007, F. Hoffmeister had organised the participation of Europchess in the Interclubs as of 2008/2009. The General Assembly also renewed the terms of R. Bonne as treasurer, A. Wettach as secretary and J. Abrahamsen as tournament director. Moreover, the Assembly created the new function of Public relations and Webmaster and elected Milan Pein for that task. As of 2008, Europchess counted 43 paying members and a number of additional interested.
President: Harry Ladage (1973-1979), Armando Inglese (1979-1985), H. Ladage (1985-1989) J. C. Pelayo (1990-2000), C. Keller (2000-2009), F. Hoffmeister (2009-2020), J. Bertram (2020-)
Vice-President (function introduced by statutory modification in 1985): A. Inglese (1985-1988); 1988-1999 (M. L. De Jonge), J. Frederiksen (1999-2007); F. Hoffmeister (2007-2009); C. Keller (2009-2020), F. Hoffmeister (2020-)
Vice-President (in charge of interinstitutional relations – function introduced in 2010): Jenő Czuczai (2010-2012), József Barta (2012-)
Tournament Director: Neil Carne/Jan Schoonhoven/F. Colasanti/T. Vissol (1979-1986); J. Frederiksen (1986-1998) Miguel-Angel Sánchez-Ferriz (1998-1999), M. Delapierre (ad interim), Jesper Abrahamsen (1999-)
Secretary: M. Friedmann (1973-1979), Henri Havet (1979-1991), Garcia Alonso (1991-1999, Alain Wettach (1999-2010), Kristian Pade Frederiksen (2010-2020), B. Alberola Mulet (2020-)
Treasurer: Clovis Grégoire (1979-1984); Maurits Vanmeert (1984-1987); Paolo Caminiti (1987-1989) ; Laurens de Jonge (1989-1991); R. Bonne (1992-2014), Alex Amelotti (2014-)
Responsible for material and library: G. Dreyer (1972-1979); Gérard Gresset (1979-1994), Paolo Garzotti (1994-2000), Martin Müller (2014-)
Public Relations and Webmaster: Milan Pein (2009-2011), József Barta (2011-2014), Johannes Bertram (2014-2020), Benjamín Alberola Mulet (2020-)
Our bank account number is: BE35 3100 7208 5537 (Europchess, Rue de la Loi 200, 1049 Bruxelles)
A short report on the tournament was printed in the German Chess Journal “Rochade”, of October 1982, p. 4.