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Pascal on Bermuda: A Two-Hour Trip to Chess Paradise Print E-mail
By GM Pascal Charbonneau   
February 24, 2011
Photo Donna Reis, 2011
In January 2001, I first stepped foot in Bermuda.  A few months prior, I was at the IstanbulOlympiad, staying at a hotel on Taksim Square, where a few teams, such as theAmericans, Canadians, Brits, and of course Bermudians spent a lot of time,especially in the downstairs bar.  As afirst time participant in an event of such magnitude, I thoroughly enjoyed thebanter between, say, Nigel Short and Larry Christiansen.  I also met Nigel Freeman, organizerextraordinaire, who was probably best known in the chess world for puttingtogether a huge party at every Olympiad, aptly named the Bermuda party, wherethe strongest and weakest teams alike had a great time before the usual freeday.  At that Olympiad, a decade ago, Nigelinvited me to the Bermuda Invitational.

I remember first stepping foot on the island, and wishingany part of Canada looked like it.  Witha little bit of effort (actually, I am still surprised I pulled this off) Iconvinced my dad that we should both rent a moped.  Bermuda does not allow tourists to rent cars.  In fact, even residents cannot have morethan one car per household and so, either the husband or wife (ok, usually thehusband..) ends up riding a moped to work in a typical household.  However, tourists are notoriously imprudent onmopeds, and driving on the left side of the road is confusing to many.  That being said, without the need for afurther disclaimer, I always really look forward to the crisp air, incredibleview and thrill of riding around the moped on sinuous roads on the very narrowisland (Bermuda is mostly long and not wide)

And so this year I returned, for the fifth or sixth time.It's easy to get to Bermuda, especially for New Yorkers.  There are three direct flights daily fromNYC, and they are quite cheap too.  Justtwo hours, and you're there.  This year,I flew early enough to take part in all the festivities, which begin with aparty at Larry Ebbin's house, followed by a blitz tournament.  Larry, already a world renowned rum swizzlemaker, obtained further notoriety this year when he had a shouting match withsomeone famous.  If you'd like to seethe video, go to www.bermudachess.com.  

In between the swizzles, walks on the beach (it's notexactly beach weather for Bermudians, but for Canadians living in NY, we'lltake it), there were even some brave souls who went for morning swims. EstherEpstein and Alexander Ivanov go every morning and have done so for years, PolarBear Club anyone? http://www.polarbearclub.org/.To be fair, I went for a swim myself on the Monday following the tournament.

Amidst all this fun, the chess tournament started, and weactually had to play some chess. Taking part in this year's event were fourgrandmasters, Christiansen, De Firmian, Ivanov, and myself, followed by IMDmitri Schneider and FM Charles Riordan. Carol Jarecki runs the tournament excellently as she does every year,  and no problem occurred, except, perhaps,the unusual finish to my game against Larry Christiansen.

In round 3, I hadWhite against Larry. Meanwhile on board two IM Schneider had Black againstIvanov. Ivanov exploited an inaccuracy in the Breyer by black to take over theinitiative in the ending and the game in good technical fashion.

My game turned out to be more entertaining, although it didnot look so from the early beginning. Larry played a sideline against the four-knights, and I decided to keepthe game simple, obtaining a slight but nagging edge.  I then went for a plan that was more fantasy-like than realistic,which allowed black to equalize, and the position was very closed.  However, Larry went for a sacrifice that wasnothing short of crazy.

The following position was reached, on move 40:

Charbonneau,P- Christiansen,L
Of course, Black is down a piece for little, and the greatest problem he faces is with his king.   However, something bizarre happened here.  I saw I was on move 40 on my score sheet, and had about 2 minutes left on the clock, and figured the game was over.  However, Larry continued to move quickly.  I looked at his score sheet, and to my surprise, he was only on move 36!  To be honest, mine looked fairly clean, and while doctors have nothing on me in terms of artistic talent, Larry's was completely abstract work.  I should have trusted mine, which was indeed correct. However, I decided to play a few more moves, because, how hard can it be in this position?  Well, I made just about the four worst moves on the board, and got a position where I may have had winning chances still, but it was very tricky, and, disgusted with myself, I simply allowed a draw. A serious case of scoresheet malfunction: 
40.axb5 Rxe3 41.Qf2 f5!?
This move isobjectively useless but it actually created probably the only chance for me tomess up.
Horrible move, obviously goingfor Nf5, but the simple exf5 followed by f6 would have ended the game rightthere. 42.exf5 threatening both f6 andRxe5, and White will be up more than a piece shortly.
42...f4 43.Nf5+ Rxf5 44.exf5Qd4!
Suddenly black's rook andqueen are coordinated superbly, and the rook on e6 is caught offside.  Black's pawns suddenly look impressive.  White is in no danger, but the win is nolonger trivial at all. 
I decided to just go for adraw. In hindsight, going for the win with 45.Rxc6 e4 (45...Qd3 46.Qg2 e4) 46.Qc2Rc3 was not so risky for white as he always has lots of checks of his own, butit is messy 47.Qg2 Qe5
45...Qd3 46.c7
46.Qg2 Rg3 does not change theoutcome
 46...Rh3+ ½-½
An exotic opening appeared on a top board: 1.e4 c6 2.Nc3 d53.Qf3 , an idea GM Nick DeFirmian obtained from an "untitled" roommate.  It's always a good idea to check out who agrandmaster's friends are while preparing for him.  Truth be told, the opening was a total failure, as white gotnothing, however, Ivanov had sunk into thought and got into time pressure, anda very difficult ending.  He defendedextremely resolutely though and managed to hold a pawn down rook ending and asix-hour game. 

In the meantime, I got a complicated game with Black againstRiordan where he went astray, and caught up with the leaders. 


1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3 Bg74.e4 d6 5.Be2 0-0 6.Nf3 e5 7.0-0 Nbd7 8.Re1 Re8 9.Bf1 a5

Perhaps not the best move butthe idea is to take White off his usual setups.
A good reaction, if Black waits to commit himself, so will White.
Perhaps taking weird one leveltoo far? But if White now plays d5, themove makes sense, supporting f5 (probably with Bf8-Ng7 first)
11.g3 c6 12.Be3 Nhf6
The knight is in the circus,but against the move is not without its ideas, as exd4 and Ng4 are"threats".
13.d5 Ng4
An interesting pawn sacrificeWhite should probably accept.
14.dxc6 bxc6 15.Qxd6 Nxe316.Rxe3 and Black will have a strong dark squared bishop (via Bf8) but thecontinuation here is not simple.  Theposition is probably balanced, but may be easier to play for White.
Now I finally had obtained theset up I wanted.  It's not so easy forwhite to play b3-b4, and black can try to organize either a plan involving f5or b7-b5.
15.h3 Nf6
15...Nh6 was tempting to playfor ...f5 but Be3 is annoying while there is no pressure on e4.
16.b3 Bd7!?
The most sneaky and in a sense,flexible.  However, it gives White a chanceto bail.  ...cxd5 was possible too.

This move is useful in somelines (I had dreams of playing cxd5 cxd5 Qc8 and attack h3 and c3, but that'sfar-fetched honestly) but it weakens f2 and is just too slow. [17.dxc6 Bxc618.Qc2 and white certainly can claim no edge (in fact I like black a bit more)but white is very solid and in no immediate danger.
17...cxd5 18.cxd5 b5!
Seizes the initiative.
19.Bxb5 Bxb5 20.Nxb5 Ncxe4 and Black is better.
19...axb4 20.Rxb4 Qa5!
20...Na6 would have been amistake because after 21.Rxb5! Bxb5 22.Bxb5 things are none too clear.  the bishop can anchor on c6, and white has anice a-pawn.
21.a3 Rec8
This type of move, indirectlyvery useful but not immediately threatening, is the most tricky to deal with
A blunder, but it is hard tocome up with a good move for White.  Thecomputer likes  22.Qd2 but who wants toplay this way?
22...Na6 23.Rb3 Rxc3 24.Bd2Rxf3!? (24...Rc2!? 25.Bxa5 Rxe2 26.Bxe2 Nc5 27.Bc7 Nxb3 28.Bxd6 Nxe4) 25.Bxa5Rxb3 and Black has too much material for the queen and should win withoutproblems but the computer spots the even cleaner.

The last round saw the GM's draw each other, while Schneiderwon and managed to join the fray.  

LarryCslide.jpgWe headed to the closing party where, as is customary, therewas an open bar.  Carol and Nigel had towrap things up, and since we had a five-way tie for first at 4/5, lots of blitzgames were needed.  In the end, I playedLarry with 2/3 and he had 1.5/3, and I had the white pieces.  The game was level but in the last 30seconds on each side (with 2 second increment) Larry got the better of it.  With 2.5 out of 4, he was the only one witha plus score and took home the return trip prize!  Congratulations to Larry!

Martin Huba, a Slovak who was in town for a FIDE meeting(Nigel is also treasurer of FIDE) made a successful return to chess, and wonthe return trip for next year as top amateur with 3.5/5. 

I highly recommend this tournament to anyone looking for achess vacation.  This is one of the fewwhere taking the family is even an option!

Bookmark bermudachess.com so you can stay updated on nextyear's tournament, and join the fun yourself.