My quest for a FIDE rating led me to Bergamo Italy. I had tried to get one playing in the United States but never could win against a player with a FIDE Rating at a FIDE tournament. I did beat some 1700 rated players, but they were not FIDE rated or we were not in a FIDE rated event. I was disappointed, but then I realized that in Italy all they play is FIDE rated chess and there was a large pool of lower rated players. My mother wanted to go to Italy for her 75th birthday, and I said I would take her, but we had to go to a chess tournament.
Timing was a little off trying to coordinate with my Mother, Brother, Sister and my wife’s schedules. So I booked my flight to arrive at 9:30am the morning of the tournament. I had to miss round 1 and requested a ½ point bye. My mother and I arrived in Milan, I had to rent a car and drive an hour and ½ to Bergamo and settle my mother and I into our Bed and Breakfast. Renting a car and driving in Italy is a little dicey and not something I enjoy, I rented a room walking distance to the Tournament Hall. I arrived at 1pm to the tournament and walked into the Hall. I quickly found out that players are not allowed into the playing hall more than 15 min prior to the round start time. One of the Tournament Directors asked me to leave, but I said, “Take me to your leader, I come bearing gifts.” Ok well that is what google translate said. I arrived at the main TD area, and handed out IASCA pint glasses and my business card. I smiled and shook hands. Their demeanor changed into a warm and friendly greeting of a fellow chess professional. I was impressed by the tournament hall. Every board had a clock set on it and each player’s names on the board with scoresheets in the middle waiting for you. Once into the playing area you had to use player bathrooms and they randomly scanned players with Garrett Wands for electronics. Cell phones must be turned into a desk prior to the start of every round.
Daniel Raileanu Miha (1581) - Eric golf vigil (1440) [C65]
OK why am I playing a player rated 1581? Well after asking the pairing chief (god love google translate) I found out they were using accelerated pairings and I was assigned a rating of 1440 because I didn’t have a FIDE rating. In accelerated pairing in Italy, they add one point to your score for round 2. So I had 1.5 total, 0.5 bye for round 1 and then 1 point as my 1440 put me in the upper half of the scoregroup. What about my 1386 USCF rating? They hadn’t even looked at it. Everyone without a FIDE rating gets a 1440 for pairing purposes, standard rules in Italy. Ok, when close to Rome, do as the Romans.....
All standard stuff so far…. I should have taken back with the d pawn, but I was following the adage, take to the middle.
6. ……bxc6 7.Nxe5 It cost me my epawn. I was thinking sleep… sleep…. I think at this point I closed my eyes and drooped my head, which appeared to annoy my opponent. I wasn’t trying to be disrespectful, I was just dead tired. I couldn’t tell him I hadn’t slept in 36 hours. He only spoke Romanian, Italian and Russian.
All my bishop wrangling, trying to overload a piece simply backfires. Again the need for sleep my head droops, did I snore?
13.Nbd2 c5 14.Nc4 Nxe4
Did Daniel just give me back my pawn? Am I dreaming… perhaps he thought the pin the knight in from of the queen couldn’t be broken. He was going after my bishop pair to be sure. But he didn’t get away with it.
15.Ng5 d5 16.Nxb6 cxb6
What? Daniel just fixed my pawn structure? Giving me a good bishop? I am skeptical of his generosity! Time to celebrate with an overpriced bottle of sparkling water. If only I had someone to go get me an espresso from the café. I will say, I am awake now, adrenaline kicking in thinking I have a chance at winning.
17.Nxe4 dxe4 18.Be3 Rad8
Two can play at the pin the piece guarding the queen game.
I reinforced the lead pawn.
20.dxc5 bxc5 21.Rad1 Ba6 22.Qa4 Bd3
I love it my bishop is strong! He is a strong bishop. Standing deep into enemy territory. I am worried that my king is slightly exposed on the white diagonal, but he doesn’t have a light squared bishop…
Looks like he is trying to pick a pawn. I simply defend. Computer gives this position 0.00 I felt it too. I was tempted to ask for a draw to go to sleep. How do I ask him?
24.a3 Rf6 25.Bf2
He thinks that his next move is (26. Bh4! Skewering the queen and the rook) what he doesn’t see is.
I trapped his queen!
26.Qxc5 Rxc5 27.Rxd3
A desperate move for desperate times. Hope chess at its best that I take the rook and he takes my queen, a simple move out of the way and the game is now overwhelming in my favor.
A rook trade and there is no more resistance. FIDE rated first win!
Even though we couldn’t speak each others language we became friends during the tournament sharing a meal and I met his 10 year old daughter who was also playing in the tournament. A little google translate and all is good. We had good laughs and enjoyed going over the games together.
Eric g vigil (1440) - Roberto Biffi (1591) [A45]
I got a good night’s sleep, excited and ready for action. Time to pull out the London system.
All pretty standard so far until Bd3. Man… Bb3…. Arrgh… I was going toe for toe up until that point. Roberto was a technician, slowly grinding me down always looking for a better position. Not a hope chess guy at all.
14.cxd3 Qa6 15.Ne1
Arrgh again the move was Qb3 not Ne1, I didn’t want to lose my pawn… but it puts my knight out of the action and my back clogged. A more active counterplay was needed.
15. ….Nbd5 16.Nxd5 Nxd5 17.Qb3
Now the queen comes to b3, but too late for the advantage that could have been had on move 15. Day late and a dollar short.
What was I thinking? Hand a pawn over with biscuits and Jam. He doesn’t take the pawn on d4. But he figures it out the next move. The rest of the game is a slow descent into hell. Pawn after pawn slowly falling until ultimately minor pieces start falling. My mojo of the day before had been shattered. Roberto was a no nonsense sort of guy. I resigned instead of grinding it out to go have lunch with my mother and sister.
Man this kid is aggressive! But, is he too aggressive?
10.g3 Qe4 11.Bxe5 Qxh1
Computer says take on g7 and it will give me a 1.25 point lead? I don’t see it. Not that the computer is with me at the table in Bergamo as they have Garrett wands and separate player bathrooms with random wand checks. You had to check your cell phone in at the desk, and if you didn’t and got caught…. I don’t even want to know. These guys were not fooling around.
Still the computer says Bxg7… but I have weak knees and try to protect my knight.
13.Kf2 Bxf3 14.Qxf3 Qxf3+ 15.Kxf3
Down an exchange and an uncastled king. I fear the worst. Again the computer gives me an even shake. My opponent however, (and me too) am feeling like I am about to get taken apart. However, as Dan Brashaw and his bishop pair like to say… come to think of it, what does he say about having the bishop pair? He likes to tell me my pieces are sad :-(
(Ke8 goes back and forth to a stalemate) Mr. Purty thought he could continue the aggressive streak and march his king down my throat. His fast paced attacking had worked so far. But in this case his blitzkrieg was about to run out of gas…… He didn’t want the draw, especially because I was rated lower than he.
21.Bd3 Kg5 22.h4+
Can’t take the pawn because (22. ….Kxh4. 23.Rh1+ Kg5 24Bf4#)
Man being in a foreign country does mess with you. Although, I probably could have done that move in Iowa too. Luckily I had a spare passed pawn in my back pocket. I wanted this game to be done to go back and catch up on sleep. I still felt wonky.
Ah finally. The kid didn’t give up. I mean after my last queen move I wouldn’t have given up either as I showed him my propensity for mucking up my own position.
Noe’s dad came up after the game and chatted. He spoke English and we laughed and smiled about my silly queen move. He thought his son was winning during the first part of the game (I did too.) The next day we cheered each other on in the tournament.
The next day rounds 5 and 6 I didn’t play well. Round 6 especially, I wanted to get moving as I had a long car drive in the Italian Alps to Lake Como where my brother had rented a house. My last game I played fast and hard, win or lose. I lost.
Emir Pakis (1274) - Eric golf vigil (1440) [B00]
All I can say about Emir, he saw my mistakes and pounced on them like a tiger. He ended tying for second. He was a Turkish lad who had been practicing his chess and not playing in tournaments.
When browsing at the player list I noticed three players from South Africa; GM Kenneth Solomon, Vusimuzi Mlahleki, and Khanya Mazibuko. So I went over to chat with them. “Hey how come you are in Italy playing chess?”
They told me their story. They played GM Hikaru Nakamura in a simul in S. Africa a few months ago and Vusimuzi and Khanya defeated GM Nakamura in the simul. The Nakamura Chess Foundation paid for these two players to come to Italy and stay with GM Kenneth Solomon (who lives in Italy) and play in some tournaments. I am friends with Sunil Weeramantry Hikaru’s father and texted him the picture and asked if he knew these fine chess players. He didn’t at first, but then I told him these were the players his foundation had paid to come to Italy and play, and then his eyes lit up with excitement and recognition and we saluted the small world theory.
I loved playing in Europe, in 5 rounds I played people from 4 different countries. I need to brush up on languages but google translate is good in a pinch. Oh and don’t play the Sicilian in Sicily, I learned that two years ago at the Palermo chess club!