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Pascal on His Big Win in Bermuda Print E-mail
By GM Pascal Charbonneau   
February 7, 2009
GM Pascal Charbonnea, Photo Polly Wright

“Pascal, how about another glass of red wine?” Nigel Freeman, organizer and one of the main sponsors of the Bermuda International Open, inquired on the afternoon of the first round.  The mood was festive for the twenty-fifth edition of the Bermuda International.  I was returning to Bermuda after seven years of absence to the closest to paradise tournament there is.  Bermuda is famous for two things: the reinsurance business, and, much more pertinent to our story, the party the team holds every Olympiad.  It is attended by all, from the most amateurish of teams to dancing stars above 2700.  

One of the privileges of holding the grandmaster title, I have found, is that I receive an invitation to Nigel's house for lunch on the day of the first round of the open.  This lunch serves multiple purposes.  Firstly, as a warm welcome to the island.  Dessert, for example, was to all a new concoction.  A baked banana, served with walnut ice cream and crème de menthe.  I would highly recommend it.  Secondly, Nigel, being a fine mathematician in his own right, cleverly invites the proper number of players to ensure that one of the Bermudans faces the top seed.  He can then, when the top seed has his eyes on the ocean, about one hundred feet away, stealthily refill his glass.  In doing so he increases the chances of the Bermudan pulling up a huge upset.

Symmetrically, the top players do not mind the refills safe in the knowledge that there will be an 800-point gap in the first round.  This year, Nigel Freeman himself was paired against top seed Nick De Firmian.  Nigel held on to reach a drawn queen ending, where he had a few opportunities to seal the deal with a perpetual. While on that day it was not to be, Nigel later was fully justified in awarding himself the prize for being the Bermudan who lasted the most moves against the top seed. 

Nigel Freeman and Nick De Firmian

Before I forget, I feel it is important to remind our readers of Bermuda's version of China's law on newborns.  Indeed, in Bermuda, a household is only allowed one car.  And so, in support of the law, I have made it a personal challenge to procure myself a moped and play a song in my head with the words “keep left keep left keep left.”  This year, more than in previous visits, I successfully stayed on the right, and by right I mean left, side of the road a passable percentage of the time.

GM Pascal Charbonneau, self portrait 

It was noted at the beginning of the event that one player, Denis Strenzwilk, has participated in all twenty-five events. 

Denis Strenzwilk. Photo Polly Wright

This year the top seeds were De Firmian, Ivanov, Ippolito, David Cummings, a former top junior in England who resides in Canada, and me.   Because the format of the event is one section, like the US Open, it takes a few rounds for the matchups to even out.  In round four, the top four seeds were paired.  This left IM Cummings “floating” to the 2.5/3 point group against Strenzwilk.  Dean drew Nick in a Petroff, which thanks to Dean, I was able to include in this report along with a few annotations by Dean:

Notes by IM Dean Ippolito

1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4 5.d4 d5 6.Bd3 Bd6 7.0–0 0–0 8.c4 c6 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.Nc3 Nxc3 11.bxc3 Bg4 12.Rb1 Nd7 13.h3 Bh5 14.Rxb7 Nb6 15.Qc2!


This is the critical move in the 14.Rxb7 variation. I had studied it a few years ago with my friend IM David Vigorito.
 Thanks to the work of Tansel Turgut, this line is still in good shape for Black.
16.Bxh7+ Kh8 17.gxf3 Qh4 18.Bf5 g6 19.Bg4 f5 20.f4 Rae8!

So far everything has been pretty forced. There were problems with most every other move that each side could have played over the passed several moves.
21.Bf3 g5 22.Bg2
22.fxg5? Qxh3–+
 22...gxf4 23.Qd3

23.Rd1 f3 24.Bxf3 Rg8+ 25.Bg2 Qxh3 26.f4 Qh5 27.Rf1 Re2–+

I had this position against Brad Bournival at the 2007 New England Masters.
24.Kh1? Switching the move order doesn't work 24...Rxg2!!–+  This move along with 24.Qf3 are ideas of Turgut who published a nice article on this variation in the New in Chess Yearbook. 25.Kxg2 Qh5! 25...Rg8+ 26.Kh1 Qh5 27.Rg1 26.Rh1 f3+ 27.Kf1 Re2 28.Rxa7 Qe8 29.Rh7+  29.Be3 Qe4 –+ Turgut. 29...Kxh7 30.Qxf5+ Qg6 31.Qxf3 Rc2 32.Bf4 Qf5 33.Rg1 Rc1+ 34.Kg2 Rxg1+ 35.Kxg1 Qxf4 36.Qd3+ Kg7 37.Qb5 Qh2+ 38.Kf1 Qxh3+ 39.Ke1 Qxc3+ 0–1 Bournival,B (2291)-Ippolito,D (2395)/Peabody United States 2007
 24...Qg5 25.Rxa7
25.Kh1 Re2 is probably critical according to DeFirmian.
25...Rc8 26.Bd2
Rxc3 was threatened.
26...Nc4 27.Bc1
27.Be1 is very passive.
Any other knight move doesn't work. It seems like both sides have to repeat or give a big edge to the opponent.
27...Bb8 28.Ra8 Nb6 29.Ra3 is good for White.
 28.Bd2 Nc4 29.Bc1 Nb6 ½–½

As you can see, it was actually an absolutely wild game, showing that the Petroff is not always a bore.  In fact the ...Bd6 variation, as favored by Dean, leads to wild complications in some lines.   My game with Ivanov was to some extent tamer.  Hoping for a modern, I was slightly disappointed when Ivanov played 1...e5.  I played innocuously, but perhaps maintained a slight edge, only to allow a repetition with both of our times winding down. 
IM David Cumming, Photo Polly Wright

Cummings took all of six hours to grind down Denis in an equal ending. Amusingly enough, over lunch Nick and I opined that it'd have been an interesting “move" to draw, just because then he may have floated down again in the next round!  As luck would have it, pairings did have a significant impact on the final results.  Cummings, who was the only perfect score, had black against Nick.  Ivanov got white against Dean.  Dean was the “unlucky” one...since I had played Ivanov already, he had to play him, and Ivanov had to alternate. So Dean was getting two blacks against two GMs. And I was the “floater” this time, playing black against Cherniack.  My game was the first to finish in my favor after a complicated struggle. 

Ivanov ended up in time trouble against Dean. Observers were amazed by Ivanov's first move.  Not so much that 1.Nf3 was an entirely new concept to them.  But that he took more than a half hour to make it (and the time was spent fully focused, at the board).  Ivanov did speed up and Dean caught up to him soon enough.  The game ended in a draw but not after chances for both sides.  That left Nick's game against Cummings.  As Cummings put it, he was simply moving his knight back and forth when Nick, who had to try to win, grabbed a few pawns.  It was only then that Cummings was able to get very active.  Eventually, the following position was reached:  with precise play, De Firmian should be able to bring the full point home.  But with the flag hanging, it never seemed simple.  Cummings found a puzzle like combination to hold the game and tie for first. 

De Firmian - Cummings

Nick has a lot of pawns but his position looks quite awkward. With the clock winding down, he has to come up with a good move. Ra8+ does not work as the square is protected, so what should White do?


1.Rc4! Bxd2
[1...Rxd2 2.Rc8+ Kh7 3.Qh5+ Nh6 4.Ng5# is the point] 2.Rxc2 Ne3+ 3.Kf2 Nxc2 4.Nxd2 Qc5+ 5.Kg3 Ne3 and White should win, but in time pressure, Nick lost the a-pawn, and the win became problematic.

Despite Nigel's repeated attempts to alter the NFL's plans, the Superbowl had just begun. The participants were taken from the Fairmont Southampton to the Somerset Country Squire for the closing ceremony.  Thankfully, the place was filled with televisions.  They were literally everywhere.  Except, of course, in the private room where we sat.  Given the large crowd at this year's tournament, this may have been a blessing in disguise, as the most fervent fans devoured their food in instants, leaving seats for newcomers.  The buffet and open bar in Somerset has become a tradition of the tournament.  Because there was a tie for first (and a tie for first amateur), it remained to be determined who would be awarded next year's paid return trip to the event.  It surprised few people (or so I like to think) that all four playoff participants were Canadian.  For the championship, I faced IM David Cummings two 5-minute games with two-second delay.  Nigel, whose love for football is, by a pinch, surpassed by his love for chess, insisted that we begin while the Steelers were racing down the field in their final fourth quarter drive.  I somehow did not understand his request correctly and so we started right after the game ended. The crowd gathered around us and we were only separated by my stretching radius which  I threatened could be deployed unsuspectingly at any moment.  I played the first game like a caveman in a KID with black and tried a punt on the kingside.  He went through my queenside linebackers like a knife through butter and the situation was grim.  Then I set a devilish trap with 1...Rc1, which was surprisingly allowed in this paradise of chess:

Position after 1...Rc1

After 2.Ne7 Qb6, White has one move to save himself from Qg1+ Rxg1 Rxg1 mating (and, at least according to the bots, draw), but with a flag hanging, he could not spot it. Can you?

Show Solution

The second game, I played more classically, and though things were not so clear, I managed to win.

Nigel then proceeded to award prizes.  There is little doubt that, in part thanks to an impromptu sponsor, Donna Reis, there were more prizes awarded here than anywhere else.  Most of them were nominal in monetary terms, but Nigel's speech made them appear grandiose.  For some reason, Nigel was awarded numerous prizes himself, from the biggest upset prize, awarded to the loser instead of the more habitual (but naturally more happy) winner, and the person who received the most phone calls from a fellow named Larry.  The clear night ended with a dark and stormy.  Because in Bermuda, I cannot resist to say, all ways lead to Rum. 
Larry Ebbin and Donna Reis. Photo Polly Wright

Nigel has confirmed that the next edition will be held,  in part thanks to the impromptu sponsor, who must have enjoyed the tournament enough to ensure it is held again.  A few more things are certain: Carol Jarecki will be the arbiter, because, as Nigel says, the simplest way to run a tournament is to hire Carol, and do everything she says.  There'll be a closing dinner with open bar for all, and depending on when the NFL finally gets the point, perhaps a Superbowl to watch.  And the organizers have to invite me again.  See you then!

Check out MSA results from Bermuda here.
Also see more photos and reports on Polly Wright's blog.
This coming week, look for another upcoming report by a big victory by an American- GM Alexander Onischuk will report on his win in the 2009 Moscow Open, which he attended with IM Ray Robson.