Chess on the mythical hill of Erice

by Diana Mihajlova
8/4/2014 – We are spoiled with choice of beautiful venues where chess tournaments are staged: from seaside resorts, to alpine villages, exotic islands – and now the Arctic Circle where the Chess Olympiad has just started. But a small town, tucked up on a misty hill on the Italian island of Sicily, is yet to be discovered by chess adventurers looking for a wonderful chess holiday. Diana Mihajlova reports.

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Chess on the mythical hill of Erice

By Diana Mihajlova

Erice, in the land of Elimi, hosted its 5th Open International Tournament, which has grown steadily in strength by players’ ratings and popularity since its inception. From 19 – 25 July, 108 players, a record for Sicily in the last ten years, from 15 nations, landed at this medieval, mysterious city. Split in three groups according to rating, with no less that 23 FIDE titled players, it was a feast for the chess aficionados.

Erice is loacated in western Sicily (Italy) and is a true and proper tourist pearl of Sicily. Low-cost air lines are serving Sicilian cities Palermo, Catania and Trapani, which is the nearest to Erice. The organisers had made available a minibus to bring players from the airport to the main hotel, Villa san Giovanni in Erice.

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The first traces of this splendid medieval town go back to the Neolithic era; according to legend it was founded by Erice (Eryx), mythical son of Venere and Bute (Venus and Butes), king of the Elymians. Erice is actually constructed on a hill; it is also known as Mount of Erice or Mount of the Myth, because mythical figures like Acestes, Heracles, Daedalus and Aeneas are said to have dwelled on these shores. Erice has been changing its name over its long history. It was called Eryx in the Greek-Roman times, Gebel-Hamed by the Arabs, Monte San Giuliano under the Normans, and only recently (1934) was named Erice by Mussolini.

The Norman Castle or Venus Temple of Erice sits right on the top of the hill

A corner of Erice with the players’ favourite cafe (John Hickman, England, photo-bombing)

Medieval, narrow, cobbled streets of Erice, with Kevin Winter, England, taking a stroll

Brent Burg of The Netherlands out and about in the inspiring nature of Erice

At about 700 meters above sea level, on the Trapani coast, Erice can be reached by funicular from Trapani or by roads that wind up the side of the mountain. As the welcoming and able organiser, Alessandro Monaco says: “From any point of Erice, you can enjoy breathtaking views and even see Mount Etna in the distance.”

Spectacular views of sea, hills, the city of Trapani, stretch to the Aegadian Islands;
on a clear day, the north African shores of Tunisia can be discerned.

One had to live with this beauty every day throughout the Erice tournament –
the hills and the town ‘down under’ in the early morning are still bathed in clouds

Greek-Roman theatres, temples and various other archaeological remains are scattered throughout the Terre degli Elimi (the Lands of the Elymians).

Plenty of castles in Erice and the close-by surrounding area create a feeling of a fairytale.
Venere (Venus) Castle was built by the Normans to the Goddess guardian of the navigators.

The church of San Giovanni (background), built in 1339 in a panoramic position of great
beauty. Today it is used as an auditorium since it is no longer a place of worship.

The little Pepoli Tower (Torretta Pepoli), built by the Count Agostino Pepoli between 1872 and 1880,
has been recently fully renovated and turned into an Interactive Multimedia Museum.
See if you can spot the chess chess piece that it incorporates!

In the afternoons, bus tours were organized to visit the Doric temple of Segesta, built around
500 BC on Mount Barbaro, and considered one of the best preserved Greek temple ruins in Europe

San Vito lo Capo, the most north-western point on the island

Scopello, Guidaloca beach

From the very start of the tournament, the organisers showed their subtle touches of hospitality: all women players, like WIM Anna Iwanow from Poland above, were presented a welcome rose by local and guest children participants.

WFM Tea Gueci from Palermo (5.0/9) v WIM Amalia Aranaz Murillo (5.5/9)

Amalia won the Best Woman prize. 15-year-old Sicilian Tea Gueci from Palermo, got two norms: WIM and the FSI (Italian Chess Federation) Master norm. Tea was Italian Woman Champion last year and is currently playing at at the Tromsø Olympiad.

English GM Jonathan Levitt vs Alessandro Santagati (ITA, 5.5/6) Jonathan made a come-back
at the Erice Open after seven years of absence from chess. Below is a nice combination.

[Event "5th Terre degli Elimi Open 2014"] [Site "Erice ITA"] [Date "2014.07.19"] [Round "1.7"] [White "Peat, M."] [Black "Levitt, J."] [Result "0-1"] [ECO "A20"] [WhiteElo "2056"] [BlackElo "2420"] [PlyCount "50"] [EventDate "2014.07.19"] 1. c4 e5 2. g3 d6 3. Bg2 g6 4. Nc3 Bg7 5. e4 Nc6 6. Nge2 f5 7. O-O Nf6 8. d3 O-O 9. Nd5 Nxd5 10. cxd5 Nd4 11. Nxd4 exd4 12. b4 Bd7 13. Qb3 fxe4 14. Bxe4 Bh3 15. Re1 Qf6 16. f3 Rae8 17. Rb1 $2 Qxf3 $3 18. Bxf3 (18. Bf4 Rxe4 $1 19. Qb2 Rexf4 20. gxf4 Rxf4 {and mate to follow in four moves.}) 18... Rxe1+ 19. Kf2 Rf1+ 20. Ke2 R8xf3 21. Be3 Rxe3+ 22. Kd2 Rf2+ 23. Kd1 Bg4+ 24. Kc1 Re1+ 25. Qd1 Rxd1# 0-1

Top final standings

Pos Title Name Rtg Pts Perf. Buc1 BucT ARO S-B
1 GM Iordachescu Viorel 2593 8.0 2732 49.50 54.00 2381.33 46.50
2 GM Maiorov Nikita 2531 8.0 2686 47.00 51.00 2335.22 43.50
3 IM Burg Twan 2508 7.0 2597 49.00 53.50 2376.89 40.00
4 IM Sieciechowicz Marcin 2438 6.5 2446 46.50 51.50 2280.00 35.50
5 WGM Manakova Maria 2273 6.0 2465 50.50 54.50 2340.11 32.25
6 -- Van Der Eijk Martijn 2198 6.0 2406 46.00 49.00 2280.67 31.25
7 IM Warakomski Tomasz 2501 6.0 2399 44.50 48.50 2274.22 29.25
8 -- Ferro Mario 2242 6.0 2329 44.00 47.00 2203.89 28.00
9 -- Senders Mischa 2183 6.0 2373 42.00 46.00 2248.22 28.50
10 FM Amato Andrea 2350 6.0 2294 41.00 45.00 2169.44 27.50
11 IM Sadzikowski Daniel 2481 5.5 2349 47.00 49.50 2268.67 26.75
12 GM Petkov Vladimir 2538 5.5 2393 46.00 49.00 2252.00 26.50
13 GM Levitt Jonathan P 2420 5.5 2361 45.50 49.50 2280.56 27.50
14 WIM Aranaz Murillo Amalia 2298 5.5 2338 44.50 46.50 2258.11 25.75
15 FM Dijkhuis Tycho 2321 5.5 2299 44.00 48.00 2218.78 28.00
16 M Santagati Alessandro 2216 5.5 2337 41.00 42.50 2257.00 23.00
17 FM Larsen Karsten 2265 5.5 2274 40.00 44.00 2193.56 24.00
18 -- Bijlsma Nick 2210 5.5 2262 39.00 41.00 2181.89 22.00

Sicilian chess master Mario Ferro (6.0/9) was the
best among the Italians, finishing in eighth place

FM Andrea Amato, a Sicilian, had a good result with 6.0/9.
He was a surprise winner at the last year’s edition..

Dutch IM Twan Burg finished third at 7.0/9

Twan won the third place and a got a second GM norm thanks to the decisive victory against the Polish IM Sadzikowski in the last round. His father, Henk Burg, also participated, in the B group.

WGM Maria Manakova (SRB), finished fifth overall and made her second IM norm

Slovenian Matic Dolinar won the Open B

Mischa Senders finished ninth and first among the U-20, winning the
special prize “Targa Monaco” in memory of the organizer’s father Francesco

FM Tycho Dijkhuis (NED) got the prize for the best U16

Photo: Jean Francoise Dathie
Jean Francoise Dathie (FRA), was best senior player, +60

Seven-year-old Kazakh Batyrkhan Muratov, winner of the Open C

Moldovan GM Viorel Iordachescu edged out Belarusian
GM Nikita Maiorov on tie-break after both scored 8.0/9.

The Englishmen Kevin Winter, Ihor Lewyk, Matthew Peat did not lack beer on Sicily,
the local brand proving quite satisfactory thank you very much!

The island of Sicily has a very rich history, marked by the The Punic Wars between Rome and Carthage (264 BC to 146 BC). The island also played a prominent role in more recent times, the 19th century Italian Unification (Risorgimento), which unified the many states of the Italian peninsula into a single Kingdom of Italy.

The events in Sicily during this political and social movement are depicted in one of the most remarkable cinematic achievements in the 1960s, by Luchino Visconti, winning the Palme d’Or – The Leopard (Il Gattopardo). Made after the novel by the island’s native writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa (1896 – 1957) it is a cinematic masterpiece, a must-see for anyone interested in cinema and the glorious history and beauty of the fascinating island that is Sicily.

The organisers wish to express heartfelt thanks to their sponsors: the Municipality of Erice, “Lilybetana Scacchi”, “Scacco Mazara” and “Chess Bazaar”; Yuri Garrett whose “Caissa Italia” donated prizes in book worth more over 400 Euros; and special thanks to Gabriella Morvay and Pinola Savalli of Hotel Villa San Giovanni of Erice, for their professionalism and kindness.

Photos in this report are a collective contribution by several delighted participants
at the tournament, including: Ovaskainen, Gigante, Lewik, Burg, Winter


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A former university lecturer in Romance philology, she is currently a painter as well as a chess journalist, and reports regularly from the international tournament scene.


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