Impressions from the RTU Open in Riga

by Marco Baldauf
8/22/2017 – The RTU Open took place in Riga from August 7th to 13th, and was won by Ukrainian Grandmaster Vladimir Onischuk with 7½/9. Local hero Alexei Shirov couldn't show his best chess and finished 35th. Strong impressions were made by some youth players, including the world's current female No. 1 in the Under-18 category, Zhansaya Abdumallik | Photos:

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​RTU Open

The 7th RTU Open ended last Sunday, August 13th. It has grown into a huge chess festival which takes place at the Kipsala Exhibition Center in Riga. 319 participants in the A Tournament — including 42 Grandmasters and 55 International Masters — fought for the substantial prize pool of €15,100.

Playing hall and format

The Playing Hall is located on the Kipsala island, which is on the left side of the river Daugava. Although separated from the beautiful center of Riga, it is just a short walk over a bridge to enter the historical center with all its bars and restaurants. The playing hall itself was very large, providing enough space for five tournaments and more than 500 participants.

The spacious playing hall | Photo:

A huge topic — at least from my perspective — was the time control. The players had 90 minutes for the whole game, plus an increment of 30 seconds per move. However, there was no second time control, meaning that after move 40, no additional time is added to the clock. Therefore, once in time trouble, always in time trouble.

Already a major factor at regular time controls, time pressure often became decisive in any given game. On the one hand, a lot of winning positions were spoiled, while on the other hand, players were forced to make use of any practical chances. One drastic example:


Onischuk on top

Ukrainian Grandmaster Vladimir Onischuk dominated the tournament from the very beginning, starting with six victories, before coasting to the finish with three draws. An all important game turned out to be the encounter between Onischuk and the Israeli Grandmaster Tamir Nabaty, who finished in third place.


Vladimir Onischuk was the deserved winner

Young Talents

A huge amount of young and very talented players took part in the A Tournament. I for myself faced four youth players (out of nine games), including the female U16 player Olga Badelka, who is — in her rating category — No. 4 in the world. She is definitely a player to watch out for in the future. In round three she defeated the experienced Italian Grandmaster Michele Godena.

Belarusian U16 player Olga Badelka (2335 Elo)

Another very strong female talent is Zhansaya Abdumallik from Kazakhstan. She won the World Youth Chess Championship twice and came to Riga with a rating of 2423. Two draws against the Russian Grandmasters Evgeny Vorobiov and Kirill Alekseenko, 5.5/9 in the overall standing and the third prize for best woman was her impressive score.

Zhansaya Abdumallik

David Miedema, an International Master from the Netherlands who also participated at the RTU Open, captured his impressions in a short video, where he also interviewed Zhansaya (starting at 1:40):

RTU Impressions by the Chessnomad David Miedema

17 years old Russian Grandmaster Alexey Sarana came from the "Match of the Millenials", where he contributed to the smashing 30.5 to 17.5 victory of the "World Team" against the USA. In Riga, he retained his shape and took the 8th place.

US-talent Andrew Tang left quite a strong impression on me. Although he missed the grandmaster norm in round nine, his play showed very deep understanding. Here is one example, in which he completely outplayed a strong grandmaster:


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In addition to that, Tang won the Blitz Tournament which took place after the closing ceremony.

(Above) Andrew Tang
(Below) Although drawing four Grandmasters, the Iranian U16 player Aryan Gholami missed the GM norm by half a point

Latvian Legend

Alexei Shirov is the Latvian No. 1 and needs no special introduction to any chess player. He was one of the world top players for many years and his ultra-aggressive style inspired tons of chess players. However, in the last years, his Elo went down and Shirov even dropped out of the 2700+ club, of which he was part of for decades. Riga wasn't a good tounament for him neither: with a score of 6.0/9 he finished in 35th place and missed the prize money.

Unfortunately, Alexei Shirov couldn't show all of his class | All photos:

All games (boards 1-36):


Final standings (top 25):

Rk.   Name FED Elo Pts.  TB1   TB2   TB3  Rtg+/-
1 GM Onischuk Vladimir UKR 2610 7,5 45,0 57,0 2737 13,4
2 IM Pavlov Sergey UKR 2475 7,5 40,5 51,0 2717 27,2
3 GM Nabaty Tamir ISR 2654 7,0 43,0 55,0 2712 7,0
4 GM Schroeder Jan-Christian GER 2539 7,0 40,0 51,5 2640 11,5
5 GM Lugovskoy Maxim RUS 2440 7,0 39,0 49,5 2731 33,8
6 GM Kovchan Alexander UKR 2587 7,0 38,5 50,5 2644 7,1
7 GM Zeng Chongsheng CHN 2537 7,0 36,5 47,0 2609 8,8
8 GM Sarana Alexey RUS 2540 7,0 36,5 47,0 2532 0,6
9 GM Boruchovsky Avital ISR 2556 7,0 35,5 47,0 2627 8,8
10 IM Baldauf Marco GER 2460 7,0 34,5 44,0 2611 17,9
11 GM Smirin Ilia ISR 2634 6,5 42,0 54,5 2629 0,6
12 FM Gokerkan Cem Kaan TUR 2357 6,5 41,5 51,5 2639 68,4
13 GM Ladva Ottomar EST 2532 6,5 41,0 50,5 2617 11,2
14   Mu Ke CHN 2411 6,5 40,5 50,5 2625 26,6
15 GM Neiksans Arturs LAT 2582 6,5 40,0 51,0 2585 1,8
16 GM Vishnu Prasanna. V IND 2538 6,5 39,5 52,0 2574 5,1
17 GM Kulaots Kaido EST 2577 6,5 39,5 50,5 2600 3,6
18 GM Zakhartsov Viacheslav V. RUS 2539 6,5 39,0 49,0 2562 3,8
19 GM Bogner Sebastian SUI 2600 6,5 38,5 50,0 2577 -1,0
20 GM Alekseenko Kirill RUS 2575 6,5 38,5 49,5 2588 2,5
21 IM Tang Andrew USA 2475 6,5 38,0 49,0 2557 11,1
22 IM Bailet Pierre FRA 2536 6,5 37,0 48,0 2505 -2,3
23 GM Kryakvin Dmitry RUS 2583 6,5 35,5 45,5 2564 0,0
24 GM Tregubov Pavel V. RUS 2593 6,5 35,0 43,5 2539 -4,5
25 IM Valsecchi Alessio ITA 2493 6,5 34,5 44,0 2509 3,0

...313 players


Marco Baldauf, born 1990, has been playing since he was eight. In 2000 and 2002 he became German Junior Champion, in 2014 he became International Master. He plays for SF Berlin in the Bundesliga.


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