Have your chess and eat it too!

by Gerhard Bertagnolli
1/7/2019 – About halfway between Milan and Venice lies Lake Garda, with the town of Arco at its northern end, once again the venue of a small but festive amateur tournament between the Christmas and New Year celebrations. The 9th edition of this tournament ended in a dead heat between four players but FM Alessio de Santis from Italy was the lucky winner in the end. Gerhard Bertagnolli sends these highlights — suitable for beginners — and photos from an attractive winter holiday destination.

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Winter chess fun in northern Italy

The time between Christmas and New Years is surprisingly one of the busiest weeks on the chess calendar. In northern Italy — in Arco, to be precise 5 km north of Lake Garda — a small and friendly tournament took place for the ninth time from December 26th to 30th.

In the four-star hotel "Palace Hotel Città", the 72 participants could, depending on their mood, enjoy a peppy espresso or a soothing tea directly in the spacious tournament hall for the seven-round tournament. There were two tournaments, in fact: an A-Open with 32 players and a B-Open with 40 players.

The combination of a hotel and tournament hall has many advantages, which are particularly important in double-round events: lunch and a break is still easily possible between rounds! The time control was 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move.

playing hall

A glimpse of the playing hall

Arco castle and the winner DeSantis

Left: A look into the old town and behind it the castle of Arco (click or tap to enlarge);
Right: The winner on tiebreak, FM Alessio De Santis

An IM and three FMs were the favourites

As usual in such tournaments, exciting and sometimes back-and-forth games were the norm, including some oversights and blunders, which can be most instructive.

Here are some examples:


White is on move with a dominant position — he's in no hurry.


Black was surprised by White's last move of Rf8. Has he given up his edge? Stay calm and calculate: ... Qd8, Rf6+ Qxf6, gxf6 Bf7 and on the next move, Black gets the queen back with (b1=Q)! Mate can't be far behind.

And next a small test:


How could Black win?

After White's last move — Nxe5 — Black quickly recaptured the knight back with his queen, overlooking the chance to mate in two: Rxd1+ and Qxd1# — tragic!

Final standings

It was all Italians at the top!

1. FM Alessio De Santis 5
2. FM Giulio Calavalle 5
3. Alex Dobboletta 5
4. Andrea Difronzo 5
5. Marco Lezzerini 4½

prize giving

The podium: Arbiter Mirko Trasciatti, organizer Cristina Pernici Rigo, FM Giulio Calavalle (2nd), FM Alessio De Santis (winner), Alex Dobboletta (3rd), Ciprian Lupu (hotel director)

old centre

A small Christmas market decorates the cityscape in December

chess mural

In the castle of Arco are frescoes by chess players from another generation

To close there was a gala evening with a specially created chess cake (shown above), a blitz tournament and to top it all off, a raffle with a nice gift. Mark your calendars for the 10th-anniversary tournament next December!

The hotel looks nice at Christmas

All available games


Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


Gerhard Bertagnolli, born in 1976, international arbiter from South Tyrol / Italy with assignments south and north of the Alps, is also available to German-speaking chess fans for questions about tournaments in Italy.


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