The earliest settlers in Iceland probably weren’t planning to visit the country at all. In fact they had never heard of it, it wasn’t a country yet and it certainly wasn’t called Iceland yet! We’re talking about the 9th century, and brave men listening to names such as Naddoddr (a sailor from Norway) and Gardar (a Swede) were exploring the nordic waters. They were heading to other directions, such as the Faroe Islands, lost their way and drifted to what turned out to be the east coast of an island.
These days Iceland has new settlers, settlers who certainly did not arrive here by chance! We’re talking about the participants of the Reykjavik Open, many of whom apparently enjoyed their time in Reykjavik so much last year, that they decided to deliberately come back this year. This list of returning players is quite long, and includes strong names such as David Navara, Ivan Cheparinov, Gawain Jones, Erwin l’Ami & his wife Alina, Yuriy Kuzubov, Vladimir Baklan and Yuri Shulman. Some grandmasters, such as Ivan Sokolov, have played in Reykjavik many times.
One ‘settler’, or rather, a distinguished inhabitant, already participated in the Reykjavik Open in 1964, when the very first tournament was held. (It was famously won by Mikhail Tal with the almost perfect score of 12.5/13.) You probably guessed it: Iceland’s first grandmaster and former FIDE President, Friðrik Ólafsson. To everyone’s joy, the Icelandic chess legend decided to participate on the last minute. Trivia (which now can’t be used anymore in the pub quiz): when was the last time Ólafsson played at the Reykjavik Open?
Ólafsson (left), who turned 78 on January 26th,
won in the first round. | All photos by Hrafn Jökulsson
The opening ceremony was a bit special this year because for the first time, the tournament had the honor to welcome Iceland’s Prime Minister, Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir. She stressed the importance of chess for the country and pointed out that it is a national sport. She also mentioned the Iceland-China match which was held last weekend.
Only a year ago this was suggested, and thanks to the quick actions by the chess federation, the match was held successfully. The government should take note of such efficiency!
Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir next to the Mayor of Reykjavik, Jón Gnarr
The tournament’s main sponsors are Reykjavik City, N1 and Icelandair. N1’s CEO Eggert Benedikt Guðmundsson, a chess enthusiast himself, gave an inspiring speech. It started like this:
Inspiration, enthusiasm, passion. Just three of the things we so deeply need here in Iceland, as in many other places, and that we sometimes have too little of. We need them not only to get us out of the current economic crisis, but more importantly to create a better future for all of us. And chess is a wonderful source of all three: inspiration, enthusiasm and passion.
In his speech Guðmundsson, a former neighbour (and admirer!) of Friðrik Ólafsson, announced that N1 will also sponsor next year’s edition!
The CEO of N1, Eggert Benedikt Guðmundsson, had some good news
Then the Mayor of Reykjavik, Jón Gnarr, was given the microphone. His was the best quote of the day:
Chess is cool!
Because chess players need to be psychologists, strong-minded and creative at the same time.
After his speech, Gnarr opened the tournament officially by playing the first move on board one for top seed Anish Giri.
Jón Gnarr, who used to be a comedian/writer,
took some time, and then decided to ask Anish!
The tournament has reached its 28th edition, and it keeps on growing. Last year there were 198 participants, while this year there are 240 players registered. 150 of them are foreigners, and this number is growing as well. You can find more details at our Chess-results page.
They’re all playing a 10-round Swiss in one big group, and so the first round saw quite a big rating gap between the respective opponents, sometimes bigger than 500 Elo points. As a result, in almost all cases the stronger player won expectedly.
The first round under way
We kind of felt for Johann Ragnarsson, who desperately tried to get his king to safer waters, only to find new dangers time and again!
Ragnarsson,Johann (2046) – Eljanov,Pavel (2678)
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.f3 c5 5.d5 d6 6.e4 0–0 7.Bg5 exd5 8.cxd5 Nbd7 9.Nh3 h6 10.Bh4 Ne5 11.Nf2 Ng6 12.Bxf6 Qxf6 13.Rc1 Nh4 14.Nd3 Ba5
15.Kf2 A brave way to try to get the king into safety. Alas, it doesn’t really work this way… 15…c4 16.Ne1 Bb6+ Oops, gotta go back! 17.Ke2 Re8 18.Kd2
To the other side then perhaps? 18…Nf5 No! 19.Nc2 19.Kc2 fails to 19…Ne3+. 19…Qg5+ 20.Ke2 Back again… 20…Nh4 21.Qd2 Qh5 22.Ne1 f5
23.Kd1 Maybe quickly to c2 now and hope for the best? There won’t be time… 23…fxe4 24.Nxe4
24…Rxe4! 25.g4 Nxf3 and White resigned because of 26.gxh5 Nxd2 27.Kxd2 Be3+.
The following game saw the most classical of sacrifices. Well, it wasn’t even a sacrifice, really.
Dziuba,Marcin (2602) – Kleinert,Juergen (1991)
17.Bxh7+! Kxh7 18.Ng5+ Kg6 18…Kg8 19.Qh5 Rfb8 20.Qxf7+ Kh8 21.Nxd5 exd5 22.e6 with a winning attack. 19.Qc2+ f5 19…Kh5 20.Qh7+ Kg4 21.h3#. 20.exf6+ Kxf6
21.Nce4+ winning back material. 21…Ke7 22.Qxc5+ Qxc5 23.Nxc5 Bc8 24.Nb3 1–0
Not all the favorites won. On the contrary, it was one of the 2700 players who immediately dropped half a point! China’s Ding Liren faced Sebastian Mihajlov and look what happened there:
Ding Liren (2709) – Mihajlov,Sebastian (2059)
and White wins material after all three king moves:
a) 35…Ke7 36.Re4;
b) 35…Kd7 36.Bc6+ Ke7 37.Re4;
c) 35…Kc8 36.Bh3+ followed by 37.Rxd6.
33…Qxf6 34.Rcxd6 White might still have an edge here, but Mihajlov just didn’t go wrong in the remaining thirty moves.
Dagur Ragnarsson (1961) held GM Mustafa Yilmaz (2531) to a draw Tinna Kristin Finnbogadottir managed to do the same against IM Martin Zumsande (2419). A very happy Ingibjorg Birgisdottir was able to tell her friends that she beat Dutch IM David Miedema (2364)!
Game of the day
Every day the best game of the round will be chosen, and for this first round the choice wasn’t very difficult. It was another big upset, which started with the romantic Muzio Gambit of the King’s Gambit:
Jensen,Soren (1909) – Urkedal,Frode (2473)
1.e4 e5 2.f4 exf4 3.Nf3 g5 4.Bc4 g4 5.0–0
The Muzio Gambit, still one of the most aggressive ways to start a game of chess! (Not counting scholar’s mate.) 5…gxf3 6.Qxf3 Qf6 7.e5 Qxe5 8.Bxf7+ Kxf7 9.d4 Qxd4+ 10.Be3 Qf6 11.Bxf4 “This is how far the theory goes I guess.” (Jensen) 11…Bc5+ 12.Kh1
12…Bd6? Trying to exchange queens, but perhaps Black should have developed either one of his knights here. 13.Qh5+ Ouch. Now against almost any answer the bishop on f4 can move with check. 13…Qg6 13…Ke6 14.Re1+; 13…Kg7 14.Bh6+. 14.Bxd6+ Nf6 15.Qd5+ The immediate 15.Rxf6+! won even quicker, e.g. 15…Kxf6 16.Qe5+ Kf7 17.Qe7+ Kg8 18.Qf8#. 15…Kg7
16.Rxf6! Blow after blow, that’s how the Muzio should be played! 16…Qxf6 17.Be5 Rf8 18.Bxf6+ Rxf6 19.Qg5+ Kf7 20.Nc3 d6 21.Nd5 1–0
The winner posted the following as a comment to the news:
I only used like 20 minutes on my game and there was only like 4 games finished beforehand, if you got to do it do it with style. Odds was like 2% so I was happy even with a loss as long as the game was interesting. (…) Guess I got lucky playing a gambit I knew better than my opponent.
Answer to the trivia question: the last time Friðrik Ólafsson participated in the Reykjavik Open was in 1984, so it’s quite special to have him here behind the board again! He did take up one bye, in the second round (it’s possible to take one bye in rounds 2-7), because “two rounds on one day is too much for an old man”. Three more grandmaster don’t like to get up early either and took a bye on Wednesday morning as well: Hannes Stefánsson, the record holder of Icelandic titles, Stelios Halkias 0f Greece and Ivan Sokolov of Holland.