1st to 8th APRIL 2017
Photo report by Desmond Rooplal

Our very own magician, Suleman Kharwa, and myself played in the World Amateur Chess Championship, held in the beautiful Italian city of Spoleto. This 9 round swiss tournament ran from 1 April to 8 April, and was hosted inside the over 600 year old monumental fortress Rocca Albornoziana.

Spoleto, seen from the top of the fortress

In the photo, towards the bottom left side of the image, a small blue car can be seen, and there is a bridge next to the car. Every day we were dropped off at this bridge to start walking up to the playing hall.

A view of Rocca Albornoziana, taken while walking back to my accommodation,
which was about 4 kilometres away

Inside the fortress of Rocca Albornoziana

Solly and myself were the only two South African players in the entire event. We both played in the Under 1700 section, which was for players with a published FIDE rating less than 1700. Now there were players in this section that had a zero FIDE rating. Hope Mkhumba, who was clear first in the section, has an ECF grading of 191, which is about 2130 FIDE. There were 69 players in our section, and I played against players from Mexico, Columbia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Russia, Spain, Singapore, and of course I even had one Italian opponent. The games were played at a rate of 90 minutes for 40 moves, plus 30 minutes added when you reach move 40 and a 30 second increment from move 1.

The trip to Italy to play in the FIDE World Amateur Chess Championship was Solly's birthday present from his family. A very impressive jump for someone who only started playing tournament chess 3 years ago. While Solly is rated a very modest +/-1100 he has taken the scalps of a couple of former Durban CC champions - namely Joseph Mwale (in a 4 board simultaneous), and Cyril Danisa in a classical 90/90 game - as well as a few South African junior players that reside in Durban, also in classical rated games. Whilst Solly has almost zero knowledge of opening theory, he does frequently play through master games published by Mark Rubery in his newspaper columns. Solly scored 3/9 in Spoleto, which could have been 4/9 had he not been a little impulsive during his wild attacks. Generally players at his rating level have little understanding of the relationship between the initiative and relative material value, Solly on the other hand has a natural grasp of this relationship, to the extent that he is all too happy to give up material to keep his attack rolling. Unfortunately in about half his games he sacrificed too much material for the attack, allowing his opponent to sacrifice back to defend and come out material up. However this didn't stop Solly from yet another kitchen sink attack in the next game. And for those who have played him, myself included, we know that one has to always be careful against this magician.

Suleman Kharwa on board 19

I finished sharing 5th place with 6 and a half points, made up of 5 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss (which I lost on time). There were no easy games, right from round one, and I ventured into time trouble in many games. Besides some of the minor technical issues in the playing environment (space between boards - little elbow room and space for the notation pad, lighting, distance to rest rooms, and about 10 minutes walk from the bottom of the fortress to the playing hall) I did really enjoy the experience. Here is my game from round 4, with some notes.

Round 9: Chua Jing Yuan (SGP) vs Rooplal (RSA) (0-1)

The accommodation I stayed at had a multinational squad of players, including Italian players from different cities, a Mongolian lady (+/-2200) who spoke no English, Italian, Russian etc; three Polish players (+/-1900) who spoke as much Italian as they did English (which was not much); two players from England (+/-1800), one from UAE (+/-2200), a player from Morocco (+/-2100) he was fluent in English, French and Arabic; and a lady from Greece (+/-2100). With the above in mind, and it being a FIDE tournament where cell phones were banned from the hall, it was loads of fun trying to arrange our transport back to the accommodation after each game. Especially having made the arrangements in Italian and having to convey this to the three from Poland. And no one was able to speak to the Mongolian lady!

The Polish, Italian, Moroccan, English and of course South African players, getting
ready to walk up to the playing hall inside the fortress Rocca Albornoziana

On the last day, after the last round(!) Solly showed me this travelator, which he could access easily from the accommodation he stayed at - which took him from the street level to the top of the fortress. While in Italy, I recorded roughly 83 kilometres of walking. This is not including the walk up to and down from the fortress, as I didn't have my phone with me. This 83 km was spread over Spoleto, Rome and Naples:

The famous Roman Colosseum, which was built almost 2000 years ago,
remains an Architectural feat to date

Thanks to a little adventure in chess, I got to stand inside the Colosseum. Italy was a fantastic and memorable experience.

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