The 31st edition of the Reykjavik Open chess tournament started today in the beautiful surroundings of the Harpa concert hall and convention centre situated in the heart of the city overlooking on one side the North Atlantic ocean and the surrounding mountains of Iceland receding in the distance on the other. There were twenty four grandmasters who have accepted the challenge of becoming this years champion in the total field of two hundred and thirty five participants.
The top seeds are headed by Azerbaijani grandmaster Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who has belonged to the world’s elite for over a third of his 30 years. “Shak” as he is known is the only player to have won the World Junior Championship twice before participating in numerous elite events. Known for his aggressive style of play coupled with a wonderful feeling for the initiative has led to many attractive games over his young career making him a popular player to follow closely. The second seed Dmitry Andreikin from Russia is known as very hard man to beat when playing against other super grandmasters but can also adapt his style to be able to unbalance the positions depending on his tournament circumstances. At twenty six of age he has only recently broken into the world’s elite but with winning the 2012 Russian Championship followed by reaching the final of the 2013 World Cup 2013 allowing him to qualify for the 2014 candidates tournament he now seems a permanent fixture at the top table of world chess.
The third seed is the exciting Hungarian superstar Richard Rapport who at 19 years of age is considered one of the greatest new chess talents in world chess, the former chess prodigy has quickly achieved the magical figure of 2700+ while playing in an uncompromising style that frequently sees very unusual opening schemes in the first ten moves of many of his games. Rapport is known for finding creative ideas early on in his games that would not appeal to many classically trained grandmasters but often lead to positions where he can show his tactical prowess.
All three top seeds were able to defeat their lower rated opponents in the first round with little difficulties but that is not to say that all the titled players were having a peaceful day in the spacious hall of the Harpa centre in Reykjavik.
In the first round pairing there were rating differences of around 600 points on the top boards but it did not mean that the top players were going to have it their own way. Alexander Beliavsky has played everywhere in the world in his long and illustrious career of 62 years. He has represented the Soviet Union, Ukraine and now his adopted land of Slovenia but he must have wondered what had gone wrong to reach the following position. Here it can be seen that the experienced grandmaster is in serious trouble with Black having multiple threats after his last move 29….Rb3.
After a few more moves with the white position going downhill Beliavsky, who is known for his indomitable fighting spirit and with his opponent being in the form of local youngster Bárður Örn Birkisson in serious time trouble he faced a difficult decision. After his opponents last move of 34…Be4 he had the option of forcing a draw with 35.Rxe4! And 36.Qxf7 with perpetual check being inevitable but instead preferred the choice of 35.Be3 which led after the exchanges on the e2 square to the following position.
Here the young Icelandic player could have converted his excellent play with 38,…d4! but after 34,…Qd1+ he allowed Beliavsky to escape with a half point in a queen ending
Here Birksson was happy to share the point with his far more experienced and illustrious opponent with perpetual check after Qh4+ and Qe1+.
The upset of the day though must be in the game of leading Swedish grandmaster Nils Grandelius as black who reached this position against local player Einar Valdimarsson. The game is now level and faced with perpetual check after 44,…Ke5, 45.Ng6+ he instead played 44,…Kg4?? which leads to mate after 45.Kf2!,Rc1 46.h3+,Kf5 47.Ng6+,Kf5 48.g4 mate. It is unclear what the young 22 year player from Sweden missed but it is sure he will fight back after his many many stellar results in 2015 including winning the prestigious Abu Dhabi Masters tournament.
The second day of the 31st edition of the Reykjavik open is an arduous one with two rounds scheduled for play beginning with an early start at 10am as many of the higher rated players being to face higher rated played before starting to face off against each other in the third round starting at 5:00pm.
Replay the 1st round live commentary: