In about two weeks, several European players will duke it out for the crown of European Individual Champion as well as the top players battling it out for coveted spots at the World Cup. Twenty-three players will book their tickets to the World Cup and given what a spectacle it was this year, the top players surely want to book their tickets!
The venue this year is at Hotel Natura (previously Hotel Loftleidir), which has a rich history of chess events being held there with several previous editions of the Reykjavik Open, the last one back in 1988. It is safe to say that the atmosphere at these tournaments was something special at the height of the popularity of Icelandic chess. Many Icelandic players are looking forward to revisiting this tournament venue. Bobby Fischer stayed at the hotel during his 1972 World Championship match with Boris Spassky. One can find a replica of the famous chess table used in 1972 at the hotel. The hotel has hosted several other high-level events, including the 1977 Spassky vs Hort candidate match and the GMA World Cup in 1991.
Even though the tournament is a European Championship, the organizers are determined to keep the relaxed atmosphere of the regular Reykjavik Open while also retaining all the strict regulations of the European Championship.
At the time of writing, there are 186 registered players from 35 nations across Europe. Behind Iceland, Germany with 20 and Azerbaijan with 10 have the most number of competitors. In total there are 72 registered Grandmasters and 128 titled players in total. Let us meet the current top contenders!
Gawain has danced around the 2700 barrier for several years now and remains one of England’s top players and a regular on their national team. At the end of last year, Gawain won the online European blitz championship so he will looking to add to his trophy cabinet. Gawain has played several times in Reykjavik and should feel right at home at this years European Individual Championship.
GM Gabriel Sargissian – Armenia – 2682
Sargissian has been a top player for a long time and it seems he is at his best when he plays for the national team. Sargissian has repeatedly performed like a super-GM for his native Armenia. His rating has remained stable just under 2700 with the occasional dance over the 2700-barrier.
GM David Navara – Czech Republic – 2675
Although David is the 3rd seed, he has reached the highest rating out of anyone in the field having previously bested 2750 not to long ago. Navara has had the occasional appearance in super-GM tournaments and remains an elite grandmaster. He will look to improve upon his previously best 2nd place at the European Individual which he achieved in 2015 in Jerusalem.
A pair of German grandmasters come in at the #4 and #5 seed. Slightly higher rated is the relative newcomer to the scene, Matthias Bluebaum, having earned his GM title in 2015. Bluebaum has to his credit a classical win against Anand and has played in a few very strong tournaments, gaining valuable experience.
GM Liviu-Dieter Nisipeanu – Germany -2671
Nisipeanu has always had a reputation as a creative attacking player. He has represented Germany since 2014 and his peak rating was 2707 which placed him 15th in the World at the time. He is a previous winner of this event, having won it in 2005 in Zegrze in Poland.
GM Nils Grandelius – Sweden – 2666
Nils has been Sweden’s top Grandmaster for a while now and represented them on the top board at several team competitions. Nils is another regular here in Reykjavik and should feel right at home. Nils is coming off a great result at the last European Championship where he placed 2nd. Can he do one better in Reykjavik?
GM Constantin Lupulescu – Romania – 2659
The last winner of the Reykjavik Open should come in top form having had his super-tournament debut at the Superbet Chess Classic, part of the Grand Chess Tour. There Lupulescu got to play some of the top players in the world and managed to make a name for himself. A European crown should add to that reputation!
The list of strong GM’s goes on and on and without naming them all, we have to mention the former European Champion, Ivan Saric (2653), Saric won the 2018 edition of the tournament in Batumi in Georgia.
Of the local GM’s, Icelandic chess fans will look forward to seeing how GM Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson will get on.
GM Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson – Iceland – 2603
Hjörvar is the first Icelandic GM to break 2600 in a long time and he recently competed at the World Cup, knocking out Kiril Stupak in the first round before being stopped by Maxim Matlakov. Hjorvar is currently the 33rd seed but by far the most likely of the Icelandic GM’s to fight for a spot in the next World Cup.
The veterans will try to remind us they can still play this game, GM Johann Hjartarson (2519) is the most experienced Icelandic GM in the field and other notable players over 50 include TIger Hillarp Persson (2543) and Lubomir Ftacnik (2513).
The youth movement is also strong as usual with several U18 players in the field, most notably Vincent Keymer (2602) the German youngster who is coming of a strong win in the online Kramnik Challenge, qualifying to play vs Magnus & Co. Denmark’s youngest GM Jonas Bulh Bjerre (2550) also must have ambitions in this tournament.
Reykjavik is looking forward to an exciting European Individual Chess Championship!