Return to Lucca (Part 1&2)

On Thursday morning I left rainy England from London Stansted and a couple hours later arrived in a roasting Pisa. An old friend of mine, Luca Bernardini, met me at the airport and kindly drove me what should be only 30km or so to Lucca. Unfortunately, whilst trying to avoid the centre of Pisa he got a little lost and the trip took longer than it should have done but we weren’t in a rush and it was nice to see the beautiful countryside surrounding the cities.

My old club are running this tournament and they’re kindly putting me up at the Hotel Bernardino (no relation to Luca!) just outside the city walls. A pleasant small hotel; unfortunately it doesn’t have a phone in the rooms or reasonably priced internet (€2 for 20minutes is too steep!) and so I’m a little cut off from the outside world. Therefore this update won’t appear on the site when written (Friday evening) but you’ll have to wait till a future point.

After checking in, Luca and I went for a passeggiata around the old city before a big group of us went to a restaurant for pizza for dinner. It was nice to catch up with some old friends – most of whom are too busy these days to play in the tournament unfortunately. Post dinner we went to the chess club and I showed off a few recent games followed by playing a little blitz before heading back to the hotel around midnight.

This morning I went for a walk around the wall, grabbed some stuff from the supermarket and did a little chess work before the first round at 15:30 (although true to form with all tournaments the first round actually started after 4pm). I was paired with Luca Onesti, a fellow player from Lucca who’s rated 1954. The opening was a line of the Scotch that I know fairly well and had a good opening picking up a pawn. However he defended well and it took me 54 moves to convert the point.

Next round is at 9am tomorrow and with 3 other GMs playing it’s certainly not a walk over. Just received a text from Luca with my pairing so better start preparing. I’ll write more

Round Two I was paired with Leandro Zucconi, a friendly guy Sue actually beat in Montecatini! Hence I knew I had to win and indeed managed it fairly easily. With black I played a …Nbd7 Kings Indian to prevent the Exchange Variation and he didn’t really know what to do. He played sensibly but after exchanging on e5 followed by h3 he’d created big holes on his dark squares which I exploited with …Nf6-h5-f4 and …Nd7-c5-e6-d4 when I had total control of the position.

After wandering back to the hotel to kill a couple hours before the next round I found that I’d been moved from my double to a very small single but at least I have a phone here!

Round Three I played another of Sue’s opponents from Montecatini, Simone de Filomeno, the top Tuscan. I decided on following the repertoire from my new book and so plumped for the Rossolimo. He didn’t play the opening particularly accurately and I managed to weaken his queenside and, apart from one blip, won quite easily.

Tomorrow I’m black against Igor Efimov, a player I actually tied or first with here back in 2002. Unfortunately I can’t find any games against him but he’s a Russian GM who has lived in Italy for many years and currently represents Monaco. Hopefully I can take him down!

I am now back in London for a few hours before heading to Johannesburg, where I hope I will be able to update you more frequently!

Photos and more info to come..