top of page
  • Nigel Freeman

Bermuda Memories - A chapter written by Nigel Freeman for the new book: "Bermuda Tournament Se

It is Szeged 1994 and prior to the FIDE World Youth Championship, Brazil had just won a game in the FIFA World Cup and the young top Brazilian Under 16 player came down to the hotel lobby draped in the Brazilian flag. Brian Alkon, the father of the Bermudian participant Shimon Alkon, was impressed and offered to buy the player and his friends a drink. Once the tournament began, the Brazilian team moved to the Youth Hostel provided by the Organisers whilst the Bermuda delegation, Brian, Shimon and myself, remained in the hotel. However, the young Brazilian was not so happy about the breakfasts in the hostel, so came every morning to join the Bermudian table. When we returned to Bermuda, Brian was very impressed by the enthusiasm of the events (Shimon participated also in Bratislava in 1993) and remarked in the Bermuda Chess Club that we should have an international chess event in Bermuda. It was pointed out the Bermuda Chess Association, a completely amateur body, could not afford the costs. He said that his hotel (the Mermaid Beach Club) was closed in the winter and he would be happy to open it purely for a tournament at no cost. At this point, Nick Faulks said that this changed matters and that he was willing to fund an event. So began the series of Bermuda tournaments that Efstratios Grivas chronicles in this book. Bermuda had held a five round Open since the early 80s, claimed by GM Robert Byrne to be the last of the old fashioned tournaments, whose participants were a sprinkling of US east coast GMs and IMs, together with amateurs from the US and Canada, lured by the balmy February Bermuda weather, friendly atmosphere and good conditions. However an international all play all event was completely new to us, but we knew where to turn for help. Carol Jarecki was the Arbiter for the Bermuda Opens and we had already learned that a successful tournament only needed Carol to tell us what to do and then to do whatever she tells us. It was decided that the first event would be a GM Tournament with a 'B' tournament which would enable local players a chance to play. The GM Tournament was won by the young Canadian IM, Alexandre Lesiege, who achieved his first GM norm. The main flag draped inspiration for the event, the even younger Brazilian IM, Giovanni Vescovi, also had an excellent result and became a great hit with Bermudians. It is true to say that his name was always the first to be written down and his increasing strength led to us inviting stronger and stronger players. For 1996, we decided on a novel ‘Bermuda Triangle’ event. Giovanni Vescovi and two GMs would play two games against each other, with the top two playing a four game match and the loser disappearing into the Bermuda Triangle. The 'B' tournament was strengthened into an IM event, with John Donaldson winning yet again and young Josh Manion attaining his final IM norm and obtaining the title. One of the highlights for me was listening to the post mortem of Arthur Bisguier's game against local player Richard Black. Among many enlightening comments was the fact that the last time he had had this opening was against a top Soviet GM (I cannot remember which) in one of their radio matches in the 1940s. Before the rest day, David Norwood engaged in an all-night blitz match with Jorge Zamora (now Sammour-Hasbun) and only just winning. Also the closing ceremony was unique in that the main entertainment was provided by Zamora taking on all comers, including several very large Bermudians in a wrestling match and winning every one! By 1997, we were getting into our stride and held a GM tournament and an IM tournament. Julian Hodgson ran away with the GM tournament only giving away 3 draws for probably his best ever result. One evening we had the prize giving for the Bermuda Chess events, with the players presenting the prizes. For the team tournament, I called up six of the players, who were somewhat bemused until I gave each of them to present a copy of ‘Attack with Julian Hodgson’ - all of them had lost to him in the previous rounds! Alexandre Lesiege managed to achieve his third and final GM norm. John Donaldson made it a hattrick of wins in the IM event, though this time shared with Sergey Kudrin, to give him a total of 29 games undefeated in Bermuda. In the five-round Bermuda Open that took place afterwards, Johann Hjartarson achieved the unique distinction of scoring 100%, the only time this ever happened in the 27 years of holding the event. In 1998, we decided on a Scheveningen event Americas vs Europe. Despite having to choose players from the last year's rating list and one European dropping out and having to be replaced at the last minute, the teams were nearly equal in rating. Thanks to the excellent play by Alex Shabalov, Rafael Leitao and Giovanni Vescovi, the Americas came out easy winners 53½ to 46½. Both Leitao and Vescovi scored GM norms; in Giovanni's case it was fitting that his final norm should be in Bermuda. In 1999, we changed format again with a ten game match between Mickey Adams and Yasser Seirawan and a GM tournament. The match was drawn whilst the GM tournament was won by the youngest player, the 15-year old Etienne Bacrot. By 2000, the Mermaid Beach Hotel was closed to turn into luxury apartments and so we decided to take a bit of a breather and just held a match between Mickey Adams and Yasser Seirawan, with a suite in the Hamilton Princess being the venue. This time Adams triumphed. In 2001, we moved to Elbow Beach Hotel, with a six player double round all GM 'A' tournament and a GM 'B' tournament. Bartek Macieja and Giovanni Vescovi both played excellently, with the former just edging out the winner of the previous two tournaments. The 'B' tournament was won by Bojan Vuckovic, who obtained a GM norm. Greg Shahade also obtained a 9-game GM norm. The event was also noticeable for the first introduction to Perrudo, a game that forever became synonymous with the Bermuda tournaments and later spread to many chess players. One day we managed to have twelve players, where Johann Alvarez managed to someone how guess that 30 or 40 something of throw was exactly correct - so gaining the epithet of ‘Senor Exact’! In 2002, we moved to the Southampton Princess and held two GM tournaments. The 'A' was won by Leif Erlend Johannessen, Hikaru Nakamura and Giovanni Vescovi. The first two earning GM norms, for the 13 year old Nakamura, it was his first, whilst Johannessen went on to get his final norm soon after. Pawel Blehm won the 'B' event with a GM norm. In 2003, we held our first 2600+ GM tournament with all the players being GMs, as well as a strong 'B' GM tournament. Giovanni Vescovi won again, this time on his own, with Peter Svidler having to take second place, despite not losing a game. Daniel Fridman won the 'B' tournament, whilst Hikaru Nakamura had to be content with second place and his third and final GM norm. In 2004, we held at Fourways Inn a 2648 6-player, double round event - the strongest tournament in the Americas that year. Giovanni Vescovi attained his best ever result and won the tournament ahead of Boris Gelfand (our only 2700 + visitor), who he defeated in the last round. In 2005, we repeated this by holding at the Harmony Club an even stronger 2656 event, again the strongest tournament in the Americas that year. We also for the first time broadcast the games live. Boris Gelfand and World Junior Champion Pentala Harikrishna shared first place. All good things must unfortunately come to an end and, after 11 years of sponsoring, Nick Faulks decided that he did not wish to continue any more. I, and all the players, owe him the deepest gratitude. I would also like to thank particularly, Carol Jarecki, without whom the success of the tournaments would have been impossible. As David Norwood said that when she offered to keep his bottle of champagne cold in her refrigerator for him, she is the perfect arbiter. I would also like to thank the players who participated, many of whom have become my good friends. l like to think that Bermuda is not only known in the chess world for the Bermuda Party at Olympiads but also for the series of strong all play all tournaments, played in excellent conditions (5 star hotels) and in a very friendly atmosphere. Finally, I thank Efstratios Grivas for preparing this book, his excellent analysis and for giving us back happy memories.

233 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page