by GM Miso Cebalo, for the EICC official website
Don Valerio Piro
The 11th European individual men and women’s chess championship will be remembered not only because of the highest number of participants and number of internet visitors which is greater than in any other sport event organized until now in Croatia, but also thanks to one peculiarity. Here we have for the first time in the chess (and sport in general) history one priest participating in an official sport event, representing (but only unofficially) the State of Vatican.
Unofficially because Vatican doesn’t have an own chess federation and is not a FIDE member yet. The name of the priest is Don Valerio Piro, he comes from a small village near Naples and he got permission for this adventure by the Cardinal Sepe.
Don Piro is a master candidate, officially registered in Italian Chess Federation, his rating is 2069 points, and his presence gave the Championship besides its usual intellectual dimension, a spiritual one as well. In spite of being rather pessimistic about his chances obviously impressed by the strength of this event, with 2,5 points after seven rounds he can be satisfied not only with the result, but also with his play.
We asked him a bit about his chess activities at home. He told us that he is a member of the club called Torre del Greco which participates in Italian team championship. Finally we would like to quote some of his words which we find to be the most interesting ones:
“There are a lot of connections between spiritual and chess. This game helps me to question myself repeatedly, because its philosophy is very simple. You are constantly obliged to make decisions and when you make a move you cannot take it back, while each move has its consequences. In chess you cannot cheat and when you analyze the game you have played, it is possible to make a lot of conclusions thus improving yourself not only as a chess player, but as a person in general.”
Since by now there have been no official championships for priests, such an initiative has been recently made. It would be just the first step toward a foundation of the Vatican Chess Federation while the second one would be its affiliation to FIDE, and finally, why not, maybe one day we will see a Vatican team composed of priests in one of the next Olympiads.
If this seems somewhat strange to some of you, there were many priests who have been good chess players, among them Ruy Lopez (with a famous opening named after him) and William Lombardy, assistant of Bobby Fischer.
by GM Miso Cebalo, for the official website