2nd Malta Open: an open-air museum

11/27/2012 – Malta, an island with a rich history, architecture, and beautiful beaches, is not known as a typical destination for chess, yet with its second international open in a breathtaking setting in Valletta, it may be becoming one. The guide books describe the Maltese Islands as being one big open-air museum, which might seem like a marketing ploy. Or is it? A beautiful pictorial by Alina L'Ami.

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2nd Malta Open: an open-air museum

By Alina L'Ami


The beautiful view over the Grand Harbour as seen from the Upper Barracca Gardens in Valletta

For the last couple of days, since the moment I set foot on Malta, I have worried I kept myself to myself. An alternate way to put it is that I was being ‘social’ in a way that my grandmother from the eastern block thinks of the word. That’s because time is precious, especially on an island with such a rich history, architecture and, yes, beaches!

If you are like me, ready to explore and absorb everything, you can get into serious trouble here…it’s nearly impossible to see even half of it the first time. Actually I may be understating, so I will rephrase that: it’s nearly impossible to see even a quarter of everything this island nation has to offer!


Churches' inflation! I was told that on all three islands, Malta, Gozo and Comino, there
are as many churches as days in the year. Incredible, for such a tiny area...I eventually
gave up trying to photograph them all.

Before travelling I always reserve some time for research, to see what hidden treasures the new place has. It’s true that my strategy partly takes away the surprise element, but on the other hand, you avoid the unpleasant situation of being like as we say in Romanian: you go as an ox and you return as a cow, missing beautiful places because you failed to do your homework. Armed with loads of information and plans, I was still indulgently smiling: “Maltese Islands: one big open-air museum – yeah right. Ok, I agree it’s beautiful but this rings like a marketing ploy!” And how wrong this thought proved to be…Malta surpassed all my expectations.


I always find something that I particularly like in a new country. In Malta I couldn't overlook
the....balconies. And also the statues which can be found absolutely everywhere. It's
unique to live in an open air museum, with a statue or church right under or next to your house.


A typical square in Valetta, Malta

With these thoughts in mind I was lingering over a cup of coffee at breakfast. In a room filled with people at their wisest age, enjoying their holiday, I couldn’t help but sympathize. Here are we, the chess players, in full swing, without having to wait years for such chances. A bit of luck and preparation and you can fully enjoy a chess tournament in a spectacular location. In this case, for me and for the other participants it is: the Malta Open!

In its second edition, the tournament promises to shoulder its way on the regular annual chess maps. If normally speaking, Malta is not really a chess destination per se, the increased number of participants (161 this year compared to 124 for the first edition) might prove to be the beginning of a flourishing chess movement.


Traditional Maltese fishing boats, called luzzu-s, brightly painted in shades of yellow,
red, green and blue. Their design is believed to date back at least to the Phoenician times.

What is also nice, for the inveterate travelers or amateur players, is that the rounds usually start late in the evening, at 17h, giving one the opportunity to actually see something or to spash around the swimming pools. This is, by the way, from the cycle “how I tricked winter” once again! And if the morning hours are not enough (they aren’t, trust me), you can still take a bye and wonder off to the baroque architecture of Valletta for example. The special detail would be here that one gets a full point for it instead of only half, as is usually the case in other tournaments. Thinking of it, I kind of started to understand the idea: the amateur players might get a really good chance to face a grandmaster, something that does happen everyday. So just be careful to always ask for the tournament rules instead of taking them for granted! Time and tide wait for no man.

Gallery of pictures


The Malta view of the horizon


Marian Petrov with Azer Mirzoev


Karina Szczepkowska-Horo, WGM from Poland


Azer Mirzoev, the top seed in the tournament


There were daily prizes for those who won a game as underdogs


Morning trip to Gozo, Malta's sister island


Another view of the beautiful bay


Margarida Coimbra, WFM from Portugal


Clarence Psaila, co-organizer of Malta Open (together with ChessOrg)
enjoying the tournament as well.


The first half of chess tourism


Here is the second half


A street seller of hand-knits


A fish market with all manner of fresh options


Marsaxlokk, probably the best known fishing village in the country thanks to its
prevalence in many Malta related photographs.


St. John's Co-Cathedral, located in Valletta, was built by the Knights of Malta between 1573 and 1578


The Oratory contains the painting 'The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist', considered
one of Caravaggio's masterpieces and the only painting signed by the artist.


The Blue Grotto, a popular destination for tourists in Malta. It was also used for a scene
from the 2004 film 'Troy', starring Brad Pitt.


The Mediterranean influences can be felt everywhere, especially in the local cuisine, architecture...


...and on Valletta's streets.


In Mdina, Malta's ancient capital, commonly called 'The Silent City'.
I am not sure how true is that, when hordes of tourist are picturing
everything around, but the moment I was there was relatively quiet.
And beautiful of course.

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