Riga is the capital of Latvia and the largest city of the Baltic states, despite a relatively small population of about 700,000. Interestingly Riga is home to more than one third of Latvia’s population. It has a large Old Town, which stretches alongside the Daugava river, and boasts a number of historic monuments, the most striking of which are the Riga Cathedral and St. Peter’s Church; also the center of the city is famous for its Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) architecture. The Historic Centre of Riga as a whole is included on the UNESCO world heritage list. The city is an important seaport and a major industrial, commercial, cultural and financial centre of the Baltic Sea region.
Old Riga is the historical and geographical center of Riga on the right bank of the Daugava. Old Riga covers a relatively small inner area of the 13th-18th century fortifications, where unique monuments of medieval architecture which, surprisingly, have survived two world wars are concentrated. One can enjoy the aura of an ancient city in the narrow streets. Unique complexes of residential houses and sacral buildings are found here – Riga Cathedral, construction of which started in the 13th century, Gothic style St. Peter’s Church, St. Jacob’s Cathedral which houses the Seat of the Roman Catholic Church, St. George’s Church, called the White Stone Palace, the beautiful Synagogue of Old Riga, the yard of the Convent of the Holy Spirit, the Dannenstern House, the complex of residential houses “The Three Brethren”, Riga Castle, and others.
Chess in Latvia has long lasting and strong traditions and many great grandmasters come from Latvia such as Hermanis Matisons, Mikhail Tal, Alexei Shirov and many others. Hermanis Matisons was the 1st Latvian chess master and the 1st winner of World Amateur Chess Championship, he significantly influenced chess popularity and traditions in the early 20th century. Mihail Tal was and is one of the most famous Latvian chess players. He was not only a great grandmaster and 8th World Chess Champion, but also a bright personality with a very distinct, tactical and aggressive chess playing style. One of the most famous Latvian chess players nowadays is grandmaster Alexei Shirov (vice champion of the world), who is also known for his creative and aggressive chess style and has won many significant tournaments in his career, he is often compared to Mikhail Tal.
Not only these influential grandmasters and fellow chess players of their time have maintained and developed chess traditions in Latvia, but also significant role has been played by Riga Chess School, Latvian Chess Federation and international tournament organizers.
There are many international chess tournaments organized in Latvia, the most significant that are planned in the following years are: Riga Technical University open (one of the strongest classical chess tournaments in Europe, usually gathers more than 400 participants and it’s included in the ACP tour), International Chess Festival “Liepajas Rokade” (one of the best traditional tournaments of Latvian chess calendar, next year it will be the 24th time in a row), Vladimir Petrov Memorial (usually gathers top level grandmasters from the world, organized by legendary Alexei Shirov), European Youth Chess Championship (for the 1st time held in Latvia) and many others.
Latvian Chess Federation is a member of European Chess Union (ECU) and World Chess Federation (FIDE). There are almost 600 FIDE rated Latvian chess players and two of them are in the FIDE top 100 players list (December 2016) – Igor Kovalenko and Alexei Shirov. Overall in the FIDE rating list Latvian men are in the 34th place and Latvian women chess players – 37th in the world. Latvian players participate in all the most significant international chess events – World Chess Olympiad, World Mind Games, World and European Team Championships, European and World Championships (also among senior and youth players) and many others.
The president of Latvian Chess Federation since 2015 is IO Aris Ozolins.
For more information about Latvian Chess Federation visit: https://www.sahafederacija.lv/