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Bergamo 2018

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.

in front of tournament hall

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.....

Round 2

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 Nf6 4.0-0 Be7 5.Re1 0-0 6.Bxc6

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.

7. … Bb7 8.d3 Bd6 9.f4 Qe7 10.Nf3 Bb4 11.c3 Bc5+ 12.d4 Bb6

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.

19.Qc2 f5

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…

23.Qa5 Rc8

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.

25. …Ra6!

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.

27. ….Rcc6 28.Bd4 h6 29.Rg3 Rg6 30.Ree3 Rxg3 31.Rxg3 g6 32.c4 Qd6 33.Bc3 Qxf4 34.c5 Re6 35.Be1 e3 36.b4 Qc4 37.a4 Qd4 38.Kh1 Qd1 0-1

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]

Round 3

I got a good night’s sleep, excited and ready for action. Time to pull out the London system.

1.d4 Nf6 2.Bf4 d6 3.Nc3 g6 4.h3 Bg7 5.e3 0-0 6.Bd3 c5 7.Nf3 Qb6 8.Rb1 cxd4 9.exd4 Nc6 10.Be3 Nb4 11.Bc4 Qa5 12.0-0 Bf5 13.Bd3 Bxd3

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.

17. …..e6 18.a3 Rac8 19.Nc2 Qb6 20.Qxb6 Nxb6 21.Nb4 a5 22.Na2 Na4 23.Bg5?

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.

d5 24.Bd2 Bxd4 25.Bxa5 Nxb2 26.Nc1 Rc2 27.Nb3 Ba7 28.Na1 Re2 29.Bc3 Nxd3 30.Rxb7 Bxf2+ 31.Kh1 Nc5 32.Rb2 Ne4 33.Rxf2 Rxf2 34.Rxf2 Nxf2+ 35.Kg1 Ne4 36.Bd4 0-1

Eric golf vigil (1440) - Noe Pertuy (1474) [D08]

Round 4

1.d4 d5 2.c4 e5

I hate this center stuff…. Too many options and it makes my brain hurt.

3.dxe5 d4 4.e3 Bb4+ 5.Nd2 dxe3 6.fxe3 Nc6 7.a3 Bxd2+ 8.Bxd2 Nxe5 9.Bc3 Qh4+

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.

12.Nf3 Bg4

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 :-(

15. …f6 16.Bxc7 Ne7 17.Bd6 Nf5 18.c5 Rd8 19.Bb5+ Kf7 20.Bc4+

I offer a draw to which I get

20. …..Kg6?

(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#)

22. ….Nxh4+ 23.gxh4+ Kh5 24.Rg1 Kh6 25.Kg4 g6 26.Kf4 b6 27.b4 Rd7 28.Bb5 Rb7 29.c6 Rg7 30.Ke4 a5 31.Ba6 Ra7 32.Bb5 Re8+ 33.Kd4 Re6 34.Bf4+ Kg7 35.c7 Ra8 36.Bd7 Ree8 37.Bxe8 Rxe8 38.Rc1 Rc8 39.Kd5 Kf7 40.Kd6 Ke8 41.Rc6 axb4 42.axb4 b5 43.Rb6 Ra8 44.Rb8+ Rxb8 45.cxb8Q+ Kf7 46.Qf8+??

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.

Kxf8 47.Kc5 Ke7 48.Kxb5 Ke6 49.Ka6 Kf5 50.b5 g5 51.Bc7 h6 52.hxg5 fxg5 53.b6 Ke4 54.b7 Kxe3 55.b8Q Kf3 56.Qb7+ Kg4 57.Qh1 h5 58.Qg2+ Kf5 59.Qf3+ Kg6 60.Qe4+ Kf6 61.Bd8+ Kg7 62.Bxg5 h4 63.Bxh4 Kh6 64.Qg4 Kh7 65.Kb7 Kh8 66.Kc7 Kh7 67.Kd7 Kh8 68.Ke7 Kh7 69.Kf7 Kh8 70.Qg7# 1-0

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.

Round 5

1.e4 b6 2.d4 Bb7 3.Nc3 e6 4.Nf3 c5 5.Bf4 cxd4 6.Nxd4 Bc5 7.Bc4 Qe7 8.Bg3 Nf6 9.Qd3 0-0 10.a3 d5 11.Bb3 dxe4 12.Qc4 Rd8 13.Nde2 e3 14.0-0 Ba6 15.Qf4 Nc6 16.fxe3 Nd5 17.Bxd5 exd5 18.Rf3 f6 19.b4 Bd6 20.Qh4 Bc4 21.Bxd6 Rxd6 22.Rh3 h6 23.Rg3 Kh7 24.Qh5 Re6 25.Qf5+ Kh8 26.Nf4 Qd7 27.Qxe6 Qxe6 28.Nxe6 g5 29.Nd4 Ne7 30.Rf3 Rf8 31.Nf5 Ng6 32.Rh3 Rf7 33.Rxh6+ Rh7 1-0

Erico vigil (1440) - Alessandro Bartalotti (1434) [D10]

Round 6

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bf4 Bf5 5.e3 e6 6.Be2 Bb4 7.Qb3 Qa5 8.Nf3 Ne4 9.0-0 b6 10.Nxe4 Bxe4 11.a3 Be7 12.c5 Nd7 13.Ne5 Nxe5 14.Bxe5 0-0 15.f3 Bg6 16.e4 dxe4 17.Bc7 Qd2 18.Rae1 Qxd4+ 19.Kh1 Qxc5 20.Rc1 Qd5 21.Bc4 Qd7 22.Bf4 b5 23.Be2 Qd5 24.Qe3 e5 25.Bg3 exf3 26.Bxf3 e4 27.Rfd1 Qe6 28.Be2 Rfc8 29.Rf1 h6 30.h3 Bg5 31.Bf4 Bxf4 32.Qxf4 Qf6 33.Qe3 Qxb2 34.h4 Qe5 35.g4 a6 36.h5 Bh7 37.Rc5 Qe7 38.Kg2 f6 39.Bd1 Qd7 40.Bb3+ Kh8 41.Kh3 Qd3 42.Qxd3 exd3 43.a4 Rc7 44.axb5 axb5 45.Bd5 Rac8 46.Be6 Rd8 47.Bf5 d2 48.Rd1 Bxf5 49.gxf5 Re7 50.Rf1 b4 51.Kg2 Re1 0-1

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!

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