A weekend Open in Palmanova

by Gerhard Bertagnolli
12/22/2019 – The planned city of Palmanova in north-east Italy cannot be called a chess stronghold, but it was once a real fortress! The small local chess club has been organizing a popular weekend tournament with international participation for eight years, and this time an Italian took home top honours. GERHARD BERTAGNOLLI tells the tale. | Photos: Gerhard Bertagnolli

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Unplanned moves in the planned city


Palmanova is a municipality with about 5,500 inhabitants in the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region in north-east Italy, about 15 km south of Udine immediately east of the A4 (Venice – Trieste) and A23 (junction to Villach) triangle.

The city was founded on October 7th, 1593. Palmanova was designed as a fortress city of the Republic of Venice to protect it from the Turks. Above all, however, the city should have become the most important rural base for the Venetians — a plan that failed. Only the nearly round giant main square, which is completely oversized for the small town, is evidence of this intention.

Palmanova is also known as the "nine-pointed star". The highest security standards known in the 16th century were taken into account during construction, making Palmanova the most secure fortress in Europe for centuries.

During the First World War, Palmanova was an important base for the Italians in the hinterland of the Isonzo front; military hospitals and military training areas were set up accordingly.

In 1960 the city was declared a national monument and was included in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.

Bird's eye view of the city

Bird's-eye view of the city | Image: Google

A look at the main square

A small but nice open

The local chess club “Palmascacchi” was founded eight years ago, has been organizing a small weekend tournament from December 6th to 8th since the beginning — this year for the eighth time — in which a total of 95 players took part.

The tournament "Magistrale" (= master tournament), whose games were broadcast live, had 22 participants, the "Sfidanti" (= candidate) tournament had 24 players, the "Amatori" (= amateurs) tournament attracted 23 fighters and the "Esordienti" (= beginner) tournament was the largest at 26 players.

Five rounds were played, starting on Friday afternoon with a double-round on Saturday and Sunday, each at a time control of 90 minutes plus 30 seconds per move for the whole game.

A trophy designed by the artist Sabrina Alessandrino awaited the winners of the individual categories.

The organizers have invited four young winners of the last Italian youth championship.

The venue

The playing venue

The Championship group

Already in the first round on Friday afternoon the number 1 on the starting list, IM Aleksandar Savanovic (BIH) suffered a surprising defeat after a short game against the local player Sasa Kobal (ITA). The number two by Elo, FM Fulvio Zamengo (ITA) had to struggle to reach a draw against Maksim Savanovic (BIH).

In the second round there was a pretty quick draw on board 1 between IM Dusan Lekic (MNE) and the new U20 champion of Italy, FM Gabriele Lumachi (ITA).

On board two, one of the favourites FM Daniel Beletic (SLO) was converting a winning position against Enrico Ghersinich (CRO) with black...until his cellphone (which he reportedly turned off) somehow made a noise! He was so upset that he withdrew from the tournament. It is surprising that even experienced players make the mistake of taking electronic devices into the playing hall.

After two rounds, there were still three players with perfect scores points: Roland Margl (HUN), Enrico Ghersinich (CRO) and Sasa Kobal (ITA). While Kobal and Margl quickly agreed on a draw in round three, Zamengo took advantage of the opportunity to catch the leaders with a victory over Ghersinich.

In the fourth round on Sunday morning, Zamengo fought a long time to get the full point against Margl, but failed, acquiescing to a draw in the longest game of the round.

Thus, before the last round, the top group consisted of four players with 3 points each: Lekic (MNE), Ghersinich (CRO), Zamengo (ITA) and Margl (HUN).

The top pairings were set:

  • Zamengo vs Lekic
  • Ghersinich vs Margl

With a masterful victory in only 23 moves against Lekic, Zamengo was able to jump to 4 points.


Zamengo and Lekic

Left: FM Fulvio Zamengo (ITA), the winner of the 8th edition
IM Dusan Lekic (MNE)

On the neighbouring board it seemed as if a draw would follow after 42 moves. Margl, with black offered draws at two moments (he correctly assessed the position), but White overestimated his position, declined the draw offers only to get into a lost position soon thereafter. The win also gave Margl 4 points.


The final result of the championship tournament after 5 rounds was:

  1. FM Fulvio Zamengo (ITA) — 4 points
  2. Roland Margl (HUN) — 4 points
  3. FM Gabrile Lumachi — 3½ points
  4. IM Aleksandar Savanovic (BIH) — 3½ points


FM Gabriele Lumachi (ITA), third place for the 16-year-old U20 Italian champion

The victories in the other categories went to Hungary (Open Challenger — Istvan Presznyak), Croatia (Open Amateurs — Giuseppe Ghersinich) and Austria (Open Beginners — Giorgio Gugler).

The 9th edition is expected to take place from December 5th to 8th, 2020 (6 rounds).

Final standings — Open

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Zamengo Fulvio 4,0 13,0
2 Margl Roland 4,0 11,0
3 Lumachi Gabriele 3,5 15,0
4 Savanovic Aleksandar 3,5 12,0
5 Ghersinich Enrico 3,0 15,5
6 Lekic Dusan 3,0 15,5
7 Trussevich Sergey 3,0 13,5
8 Forti Francesco 3,0 13,0
9 Belli Giorgio 3,0 13,0
10 Gregoric Andraz 3,0 12,0
11 Kobal Sasa 2,5 15,5
12 Dappiano Andrea 2,5 13,5
13 Hercegovac Neven 2,5 11,5
14 Bozza Gabriele 2,0 11,5
15 Bisaro Andrea 2,0 11,5
16 Laco Giuseppe 2,0 10,0
17 Herega Nejc 2,0 9,0
18 Maione Melissa 2,0 8,0
19 Savanovic Maksim 1,5 14,0
20 Garau Francesca 1,5 12,5
21 Bordin Silvia 1,0 12,5
22 Beletic Daniel 1,0 12,0

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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