Ivanchuk is the new pope of Italian chess

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Vassily Ivanchuk in Rocca di PapaRight now he's playing the European Club Cup, but last week Vassily Ivanchuk was the superstar at the 11th edition of the traditional rapid chess tournament in Rocca di Papa, a beautiful village some 20 kms south of Rome. A report on a great player visiting a small Italian town full of chess aficionados.

Rocca di Papa lies in a mounty and volcanic area that has always been chosen by the Popes for their summer holidays, which should be a quality trademark. The tournament that's known under the same name has been organized yearly since 1998, when Yuri Garrett was called by the local administration to start a tournament.

Garrett's Caissa Italia, one of Italy's leading publishing houses which also runs a chess club, took over in 2003, and since then the tournament started to grow: suffice it to say that in the last three years the winners were GMs Sergio Mariotti (2005), Viktor Kortchnoi (2006) and Gata Kamsky (2007). By now, it is indeed one of Italy's most prominent and traditional rapid tournaments.


The Caissa Italia team (Francesca Masini and Augusto Caruso on opposite ends) with
Luca Shytaj and Vasilly Ivanchuk

Participation is remarkable by Italian standards, with an average of about 140 players (the maximum of 171 was reached in 2006, when living legend Kortchnoi simply flabbergasted his Italian audience). This year was no exception.

As from 2006, the tournament is preceded on the Saturday by a conference given by the starring invitee, in the framework of the "Herbert Garrett Scholarship", an annual scheme run by Caissa Italia by which a young and talented Italian player receives a "scholarship" that consists in 750 euro worth of books and further assistance in the development of his chess talent. As from this year, Scottish publishing house Quality Chess joined the scheme and added ten books of theirs to the already quite substantial book prize. Up to present, awardees were IM Daniele Vocaturo (2005), Marina Brunello (the current Italian Women Champion - 2006), GM Fabiano Caruana (2007) and IM Luca Shytaj, who was this year's winner.


Ivanchuk, Garrett and Shytaj during the ?¢‚Ǩ?ìHerbert Garrett scholarship?¢‚Ǩ? awarding ceremony

During the awarding ceremony, the invited Champ acts as a "mentor" and presents the award to the winner, but most of all answers questions from the moderator and the audience on his chess career. This has thus become a very important cultural moment for the Italian chess community, that has been benefiting from the experience of super-Grandmasters they rarely got to see before this scheme was put up.

Ivanchuk came to Italy on a very tight schedule: on Wednesday 8 October he played local star Sergio Mariotti, himself a wonderful ambassador for chess, whom he beat 5-0 (!) in an exciting blitz match that entertained the rather large audience that had gathered for the occasion (some games visible here); he then visited Rome ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú taking his unusual tourist role very seriously.

Hearsay has it that the Grandmaster, brilliantly assisted by his wife Oksana, visited the Capitolium and the Capitoline Museum, Saint Peter's and the Vatican Museums, the Coliseum, the Catacombs, the Imperial Fora, the Trevi fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza di Spagna, the Mouth of the Truth, Piazza Navona, the Circus Maximus and other amenable sites in a mere three days... Also he was reported to have enjoyed traditional Italian cuisine and pizza!

Of course, Chuky also starred in Saturday's award-giving conference, which lasted a good two hours and was also attended by IM Roberto Messa, former Italian champion and publisher of Torre & Cavallo, arguably Italy's leading chess magazine. The Super GM was in a fantastic mood and answered all sorts of questions on his career.

On the Sunday, Chuky won the rapid tournament with a rather convincing 8/9. Although he went undefeated, he conceded two draws to local player Marco Parpinel in round 3 and FM Mario Sibilio, a very well know specialist in 15-minute chess, in the last round. Young IM Daniele Vocaturo thus had one of his finest moments and beat GM Mihail Marin to catch up with Ivanchuk on 8/9. The two blitz play-offs were very exciting (a Sicilian Dragon and a Ruy Lopez) and resulted in a clear win for Chuky. But what a thrill for Vocaturo (who managed to draw his game with White! - replay this game on the chess board on the right) and the audience, that watched the tense showdown in complete silence. Complete results are shown here.


A ?¢‚Ǩ?ìhen's view?¢‚Ǩ? on the playing room

All in all, a fantastic event for Italian chess, that was made possible solely by Ivanchuk's great love for our game (and by the sponsorship granted by Nuova Tirrena, a company of Groupama). Apart from being one of the greatest players of all times, Ivanchuk is also an amazing ambassador for the royal game. It is not every Grandmaster who will accept to play in some relatively unknown place in Italy with an opposition and playing conditions that are far from the Cat. XX-something he is used to. Chuky's greatness can only be enhanced by his loving attitude towards chess. His presence in Rocca di Papa will be remembered by the locals for quite some time.


Serena Capilla Murphy pondering on her next move ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú in a somewhat unusual pose...


Daniele Vocaturo, Chucky's closest rival in Rocca di Papa


A beautiful portrait of former Italian Women Champion WIM Maria De Rosa


GM Mihail Marin, another great guest in Rocca di Papa


The big match between Marin and Ivanchuk


Ivanchuk-Vocaturo, a winning Dragon for the Ukrainian


Ivanchuk and Vocaturo during the playoffs, with the audience seemingly
more concentrated than the players?¢‚Ǩ¬¶


?¢‚Ǩ?ìChestnuts? Is this all I get??¢‚Ǩ? :)


Chuky assaulted by his mini-fans after the closing ceremony

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