For many years the city of Bristol has been twinned with Hannover in Germany and exchange visits have been arranged between various groups with common interests. About four years ago, the Bristol Chess League was invited to participate and so a team of ten players went to Hannover. It was a trip into the unknown and the players would have been horrified if they had known the schedule in advance. Arriving in Germany in early afternoon, they were invited to take part in a quickplay tournament later that afternoon. Even though a 7 a.m. start had not left the team with too much excess energy, they did not wish to disappoint their hosts and agreed. The tournament turned out to be a twenty player all-play-all five minute clock event! Reluctantly a visit to a night club was turned down afterwards, especially as most players had managed to down a few beers between games. Serious matches on the following few days were squeezed between hectic sightseeing and a civic reception. A marvellous few days, with the highlight being a slightly tipsy Bristol team spending a long time on hands and knees looking for Mike Goodland's contact lenses.
When the reverse trip was arranged, chess players were overlooked, and so the next time a team was invited we accepted with embarrassment. This time six players went and stayed with their German hosts in their own houses, much better for the spirit of the exchange than the hotel of the previous visit. Again a great time was had by all and the extra day meant more beer drinking time.
At last, we were able to act as hosts in Bristol in Spetember 1981, and ten Germans were our guests. Although it proved difficult to find accommodation for them all, they all appeared to enjoy their stay. A real effort was made to reciprocate the hospitality they had given us in Germany, and they looked as exhausted when they left as we had done. This September we made our third visit, and so it looks as though this event is here to stay. Many friendships have been made and this can only help in our understanding of others in the common market.
1997 postscript: the Exchange has been an annual event since, alternating between Bristol and Hannover, with the occasional missed year. Steve Boniface (Bristol) and Frank Palm (Hannover) have been the principal organisers. - JR