Eltaj Safarli prevails at traditional Staufer Open

by Bettina Trabert
1/11/2024 – A number of tournaments are traditionally organised at the turn of the year. The Staufer Open in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany took place for the 34th time. Well over 500 chess enthusiasts took part in two competitions. Eltaj Safarli was the clear winner in the A Open. Bettina Trabert reports.

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Safarli outstanding in Schwäbisch Gmünd

The Staufer Open in Schwäbisch Gmünd, which takes place every year in the first week of January, is undoubtedly one of the largest traditional tournaments in Germany. There was plenty of room for the 538 participants from 23 nations in the Congress-Centrum Stadtgarten: most of the boards were accommodated in the large hall, while part of the B tournament was held in an equally comfortable adjoining room. In the foyer, people could analyse the games between rounds, chat and relax or stock up on new reading material at the large bookstall.

The tournament hall

A different perspective — the first 11 boards were separated from the rest by a barrier. This time Max still had to watch his dad GM Spyridon Skembris from the outside, but in a few years he will certainly make the leap behind the barrier himself!

With only 4 GMs at the top of the starting rank, the tournament was not quite as strong as in previous years. In general, it seems to me that there are currently fewer grandmasters at open tournaments in this country than in the past — presumably many (semi-)professionals have had to look for other sources of income during the coronavirus period. However, with 47 titleholders, there was still a strong field.

The 31-year-old Azerbaijani GM Eltaj Safarli was the favourite going into the race, and he more than lived up to his role as favourite: his eight wins (with only one quick draw) looked almost effortless, which was a pleasure to watch (except for his opponents, of course...)

Eltaj Safarli won with an outstanding 8½/9 score

An example of Safarli’s artistry.

And one more.

IM Valentin Buckels finished in second place, and FM Timo Küppers was also very satisfied with his fourth spot in the final standings

The direct duel for the women’s top prize ended with the victory of Kateryna Dolzhykova — incidentally, the 35-year-old Ukrainian is the reigning German champion.

Final standings

Nr. Teilnehmer Tite ELO Pts Buchh
1 Safarli,Eltaj GM 2604 8.5 45.5
2 Buckels,Valentin IM 2438 7.0 47.0
3 Boder,Jan FM 2284 7.0 46.5
4 Küppers,Timo FM 2198 6.5 53.0
5 Iniyan,Pa GM 2515 6.5 51.0
6 Stork,Oliver FM 2321 6.5 47.5
7 Ciolek,Andreas FM 2270 6.5 46.5
8 Hahn,Markus FM 2314 6.5 45.0
9 Morris,James IM 2416 6.5 44.5
10 Helmer,Jan 2160 6.5 44.5
11 Riehle,Marco FM 2356 6.5 41.0
12 Spriestersbach,Ka 2282 6.5 40.0
13 Nguyen,Alex Dac-V FM 2347 6.5 39.5
14 Unzicker,Ferdinan FM 2292 6.5 38.0
15 Bratu,Mircea 1938 6.5 35.0
16 Krastev,Alexander IM 2470 6.0 46.0
17 Dolzhykova,Katery WIM 2227 6.0 45.5
18 Köllner,Ruben Gid IM 2482 6.0 45.0
19 Velicka,Petr GM 2369 6.0 45.0
20 Garner,Isaac 2303 6.0 45.0
21 Papadopoulos,Ioan 2143 6.0 45.0
22 Duong,Quang Bach 1945 6.0 44.5
23 Chassard,Cedric FM 2253 6.0 44.0
24 Petrovskiy,Vadim IM 2430 6.0 43.5
25 Kolb,Tobias FM 2325 6.0 43.5
26 Gschnitzer,Adrian IM 2411 6.0 43.0
27 Volkov,Mykyta 2281 6.0 43.0
28 Heinemann,Josefin WGM 2361 6.0 42.0
29 Besou,Hussain FM 2277 6.0 41.5
30 Poysti,Nathanael 2163 6.0 41.5

...253 players

In the B tournament, four players finished level on points: Rüdiger Nickel (2nd board with Black) ahead of Lennart Bergmann (not in the picture), Vasilios Telioridis (1st board at the back, with White) and Wong Chun Hei from Hong Kong (front board with White)

It is not all about winning in a tournament. It is also an opportunity to gain experience and train your chess fitness, as 9 rounds in 5 days is pretty exhausting... Accordingly, many young players from the region, but also from further afield, were represented. Artur and Nadja Jussupow looked after the students of their chess school directly on site, and the Hessian School also travelled with over 40 people, including coaches.

The head coach of the Hessian School, IM Uwe Kersten, was busy analysing the games around the clock

The Staufer Open was held for the 34th time since its first editnio in 1989. It was no coincidence that the motto of the tournament was, “Where you meet friends”. Before the last round, the most loyal tournament participants were honoured: Heinz Mück has taken part in all 34 tournaments!

From left: Volker Knolmayer, Andreas Weiss (31 participations each), main organiser Wernfried Tannhäuser, Heinz Mück (34 participations), Andreas Strohmaier (chairman of the Schwäbisch Gmünd chess community).

David Bronstein is quoted in the tournament brochure: “Everyone wins in chess. If you enjoy the game — and that's the main thing — even losing a game is no misfortune”, With this in mind, we eagerly await for the 35th edition of the Staufer Open!


Bettina Trabert, WGM since 2000, took part in several World Youth Championships and played in five Chess Olympiads and two European Team Championships for Germany. She regularly writes tournament reports for ChessBase.