Paulius Pultinevicius - Winner of the Prix Mohammed VI tournament

by Diana Mihajlova
11/30/2023 – The recently published articles "The Never Ending Saga of Moroccan Chess, Part 1" and "Part 2" described the sorry state of Moroccan chess and the unfortunate end of the International Prix Mohammed VI tournament, where the winners did not receive their prizes. This bizarre end of the tournament overshadowed the success of the young Lithuanian GM Paulius Pultinevicius, who won the event convincingly. | Photo: Paulius Pultinevicius after winning the Riga Technical University Open 2022 | Photo: RTU Open Facebook.

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Though the abysmal decision to withhold the prizes from the players spoilt the tournament in the end, the international players more or less still praised the excellent conditions and said they had a great time in Casablanca. This was largely due to technical director Salim Belcadi, a member of the production company Checkmate Entertainment, who secured generous sponsorship and attracted a large number of strong international grandmasters.

Salim Belcadi (far left) with the arbiters

The chaos that ensued at the end of the tournament, when it became clear that there would be no prize money, should not distract us from the real protagonists: the players. Open tournaments, and particularly strong ones, have a special appeal because they can launch new names. Sometimes obscure players who have not often had the chance to play on the international circuit can emerge at the top of the final rankings, potentially opening the door to greater opportunities. This time, the International Prix Mohammed VI was dominated by Lithuanian players.

The Baltic states have given us some of the greatest figures in chess history: the Latvian Mikhail Tal and the Estonian Paul Keres and, in more recent times, the Latvian Alexei Shirov.  These former Soviet states have not been very present on the international scene, but times are changing and new talents are emerging.

In the strong International Prix Mohamed VI three Lithuanians took part and two of them climbed the podium. Well-known professional GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, the tournament's top seed, took second place with 6.5/9. Before and after him there were two Lithuanians: GM Paulius Pultinevicius, 1st place with 7.5/9 and GM Titas Stremavicius, 3rd place with 6.5/9.  

Paulius Pultinevicius surrounded by fans after receiving the trophy

Another Lithuanian player, GM Tomas Laurusas, finished 11th with 5.5/9. He is the reigning Lithuanian National Champion.  

Together with GM Valery Kazakouski they are the top four Lithuanian players and the most active at the moment. They are all in their early twenties and succeed GM Sarunas Sulskis and GM Eduardas Rozentalis, who are now representatives of the 'older' generation. Talking about Lithuanian chess, one name cannot be omitted: Viktorija Cmilyte, a successful chess player, European Champion in 2011 and twice (2000 and 2005) Lithuanian national overall champion. She has given up her enviable chess career to become a prominent politician, Speaker of the Lithuanian Parliament.

Paulius Pultinevicius is currently the national number one.  He says:

"I have never won the national championship. Although I have been one of the favourites for the last few years, I have somehow performed below my potential. It could be a psychological thing that I hope to break in the future."

Paulius briefly describes his chess beginnings:

"I started playing chess when I was 6. My father and brother also played, and when I was little we used to test our chess strength against each other. My mum follows my games with the help of my coach's explanations and the evaluation bar.

I started training with my first and only coach, Rolandas Martinkus, who introduced me to the world of chess. Without his immense efforts it would have been very difficult to reach my current heights in chess. I can't thank him enough for his support."

Paulius and his coach Rolandas Martinkus in Marijampole, where they both live | Photo: Etaplius

He was the Lithuanian U-14 junior champion and, at the age of fifteen, he represented Lithuania at the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku (2016) as a reserve.  He won all nine games he played! From there on he was a regular member of the Lithuanian national team. 

Paulius at the age of 14, the most promising Lithuanian chess player | Photo: 15 min

Paulius is a second year student of Public Administration and Leadership at Mykolas Romeris University in Vilnius. But he says:  "I try to combine my studies with being a professional chess player. But I believe that chess will be my main path in life."

Paulius Pultinevicius and Tomas Laurusas, gold and bronze medallists at the 2022 European University Games in Lodz, Poland | Photo: Lithuanian Student Sports Federation

Paulius Pultinevicius, bronze medallist at the European Rapid Championships, 2021 (tied with GM Alexander Motilev (RUS) and GM Alexander Donchenko (GER), all with 9.5/11) | Photo: European Chess Union

Paulius Pultinevicius, winner of the 2022 Riga Technical University Open (RTU Open), the biggest classical chess tournament in the Baltic States | Photo: RTU Open Facebook

At the International Prix Mohamed VI, Paulius was only seeded 20th, but emerged victorious with a performance rating of 2803. He suffered only one defeat, against Mamedjarov.

A short video interview with Paulius at the Mohammed VI Tournament  

Alexei Shirov vs. Paulius Pultinevicius, 0: 1

Paulius commented his game against Shirov. He considers this win to be his most interesting game of the tournament.

Games from the tournament

Final standings after 9 rounds

Rk. Snr Name Country Elo Pts.  Tb1   Tb2 
1 20
GM Pultinevicius, Paulius LTU 2525 7,5 44,5 47,5
2 1
GM Mamedyarov, Shakhriyar AZE 2747 6,5 47,5 51,5
3 17
GM Stremavicius, Titas LTU 2534 6,5 46,5 50,5
4 9
GM Ponkratov, Pavel RUS 2582 6,5 43 47,5
5 12
GM Predojevic, Borki BIH 2565 6 47 51,5
6 5
GM Warmerdam, Max NED 2633 6 46 50,5
7 4
GM Pichot, Alan ESP 2642 6 45 49
8 7
GM Safarli, Eltaj AZE 2600 6 44,5 48
9 11
GM Albornoz Cabrera, Carlos Daniel CUB 2575 6 44 47,5
10 8
GM Yuffa, Daniil ESP 2594 6 43,5 47,5
11 14
GM Laurusas, Tomas LTU 2548 5,5 43 46
12 15
GM Quesada Perez, Luis Ernesto CUB 2544 5,5 41,5 44,5
13 29
GM Cruz, Cristhian PER 2484 5,5 41 44
14 21
GM Moradiabadi, Elshan USA 2524 5,5 40,5 43
15 6
GM Fier, Alexandr BRA 2600 5,5 40 44
16 2
GM Shirov, Alexei ESP 2668 5,5 38,5 42,5
17 10
GM Aditya, Mittal IND 2577 5,5 38 42
18 16
GM Bosiocic, Marin CRO 2541 5,5 34 36,5
19 19
GM Hamdouchi, Hicham MAR 2526 5 44,5 47,5

To be continued...

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.