Alimini Open - Chess, sand, and sports

by ChessBase
8/29/2011 – The Alimini Open took place in the beautiful scenery at the south-eastern extreme of Italy. Though fighting chess was displayed to the end, the titled players generously helped weaker players analyze their games. Everyone was treated to a wave of daily activities ranging from football, volleyball (the girls won!) and even poker with a professional dealer. Report and lovely pictures by Martha Fierro.

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Alimini Open - Chess, sand, and sports

by Martha Fierro

In the beautiful scenery of the historical region of Salento, at the south-eastern extreme of Italy, the Alimini Open took place from May 21st through May 28th. The venue was the "Serra degli Alimini" touristic resort, where players were arranged in comfortable apartments with hotel-like room services. These were located approximately 500m from the volcanic sand beach, easily reached either by a nice walk under the umbrella of the pine wood or by a free fable-like train ride. The weather was mostly sunny, soothed by a gentle breeze. Swimming in the clear and calm sea was a real pleasure.

The picturesque Alimini village beach

The main square in Alimini

All this attracted 75 players (seven ladies amongst them), some with families and friends, from fifteen countries; excluding Italy of course, but including faraway lands like South Africa and Iceland. The field comprised nine GMs and ten IMs/WIMs, lead by Russian GM Oleg Korneev and GM Arthur Kogan from Israel. The main Italian representative was GM Sabino Brunello, who at 21 is the second highest rated player in Italy.

The top three from the Open: Luca Shitaj, Arthur Kogan, and Oleg Korneev

The international milieu made for a very relaxed and pleasant atmosphere throughout the tournament; though not on the chess board, which saw hard fought games between the top players. There were no ‘GM draws’ in the last round here: seven decisive games and three long draws in the top 10-boards. The final winner was local darling, IM Luca Shytaj from Bari, who defeated the till-then leader Brunello with the white pieces in a dramatic game in the ninth round. Sabino's mood was somehow relieved by his 17 year-old sister Marina’s excellent performance, good enough for IM and WGM norms. One more IM norm was accomplished by 14 year-old Marco Codenotti, completing a very successful event for young Italian players.

Chiara Palmitessa, an under-18 player from Barletta

WIM Marina Brunello smiling after achieving her IM/WGM norm

The games were relayed on the Internet at the site by the “Scacchi Randagi” team where all 23 boards from the ‘A’ tournament could be followed at their website. The complete results can also be found there.

A few titled players offered free lectures in the morning and in the evening; GM Arthur Kogan, with an instructive report on his activity as a trainer and captain of the Italian team in the 2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Chess Olympiad was particularly appreciated. His concept of “O-la-la Chess” (“make your pieces smile”) was extremely inspiring, leaving everybody with a renewed appetite for the game. Other titled players served as free tutors to untitled ones, helping them to analyze their games from previous rounds.

The football dirty pack!

Night sessions of Texas Hold’em poker conducted by a professional dealer, as well as further sports activities such as soccer and volleyball matches (the girls won!), left the players no time to get bored. There was also a rapid chess tournament with 40 participants, held right after the prize ceremony, won by Serbian GM Sinisa Drazic.

When Matt O'Leary isn't winning the Best Senior prize, he dabbles in a bit of Opera
or Elvis Presley. A perfectly natural combination.

An unexpected show was performed by the implausible trio formed by GM Stuart Conquest of Gibraltarian fame, Mr. Paul Haddock from London, and the Irish-but-Sweden-resident Mr. Matt O’Leary, who showed their singing prowess with a repertoire ranging from Opera arias to Elvis Presley.

Aragonese Castle in Otranto

Otranto cathedral

A view of the Otranto seaside

The Alfonsina entrance is the main access to Old Otranto

The youngest (and cutest) player from Alimini village enjoys a train ride

Touristic excursions to the magnificent baroque city of Lecce and the nearby city of Otranto were organized both for players in off-time and for their families in playing time. In Otranto, with the help of the local chess club, the “Accademia Scacchistica Salentina”, a simultaneous exhibition on 20 boards was held by GM Brunello, who also won the ensuing blitz tournament. There was also a three-day long training session with expert trainer IM Pierluigi Piscopo to conclude this exceptional and very original event.

Children from simul against GM Sabino Brunello in Otranto

The man behind all this was Mr. Matteo Zoldan, an experienced player with a taste for high-standard tournaments. He and his company, Chess Projects A.S.D, are already planning future quality events, always focused on meeting players’ needs and demands.


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase 11 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

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