There’s something special about this year’s Reykjavik Open. Not only do we have a record number of 227 participants from no less than 37 federations, but there’s an especially big delegation from China: GM Ding Liren (2709), GM Yu Yangyi (2688), GM Bu Xiangzhi (2675), GM Xiu Deshun (2530), IM Wei Yi (2501), WGM Huang Qian (2478), IM Lou Yiping (2468), WGM Tan Zhongyi (2466), WGM Guo Qi (2431), IM Li Wenliang (2411), WGM Wang Jue (2375) and Wang Yiye (2226).
These 12 players travelled to Reykjavik a few days before the tournament and also participated in the Iceland-China match. This match was held in conjunction with the 60 year anniversary of the Chinese-Icelandic Culture Association, who organized the event along with the Icelandic Chess Federation.
Overall the “Chinese team” is doing more than alright in the tournament so far. After eight rounds only three players have a slight minus score, and the other nine are gaining Elo. Especially the lowest rated players seem to be underrated: Wang Yiye at the moment gains 19.65 points, Wang Jue (not to be confused with China’s third grandmaster Wang Yue) is up 23.55 points and Li Wenliang, the delegation leader, would add 15.8 points if the tournament had finished.
There’s even better news: four Chinese players are in contention for norms. Huang Qian and Tan Zhongyi need a draw in round 9 for an IM norm and Wang Jue only needs her opponent to show up! But there’s more.
The youngest team member from the People’s Republic, Wei Yi, must be the biggest talent in the country (in the world!) right now. The 13-year-old IM, who was born 2 June 1999, scored two GM norms last year and has now secured his third here in Reykjavik. He can lose his round 9 game and his TPR will still be way over 2600. His rating is already over 2500 and so since yesterday we have a new youngest GM in the world. (You heard it here first!)
Wei Yi got the title nicely: in round 8 he refuted over-optimistic play from the French number one.
Wei Yi (2501) – Vachier-Lagrave,Maxime (2715)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 d6 4.0–0 Bd7 5.Re1 Nf6 6.c3 a6 7.Bf1 Bg4 8.d4 cxd4 9.cxd4 e5 10.d5 Nd4 11.Be3 Nxf3+ 12.gxf3 Bd7 13.a4
13…Nh5!? This move, played with aggressive intentions, is a novelty. 13…Be7 14.Nd2 0–0 15.Nc4 Nh5 16.Nb6 Rb8 17.Kh1 Be8 18.a5 Bg5 was played in Areshchenko-Moiseenko, Kiev 2011. 14.Qb3 g5!? 15.Qxb7! Showing no fear. 15…Rg8 16.Nd2 g4 17.fxg4 Rb8 18.Qxa6 Rxg4+ 19.Kh1
19…f5!? The Frenchman seems to be playing “all or nothing”. 20.exf5 Rxb2 21.Be2 Nf6 22.Nc4!
Things got out of control for Black, who still hasn’t gotten close to the white king and here has to give an exchange. 22…Rxe2 23.Rxe2 Bxf5 24.f3 Rg6 25.Rg1 Kf7 26.Rxg6 hxg6 27.Bg5 Be7
28.Bxf6! Winning more material. 28…Kxf6 28…Bxf6 29.Nxd6+ 29.Nxe5 Qb8 30.Ng4+ Kg5 31.Rxe7 Qb1+ 32.Kg2 Bd3 33.Qa7 1–0
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The top four boards all ended in draws. Yu Yangyi (China) and Wesley So (Philippines) already split the point at move 22 in a Berlin Ruy Lopez. Grzegorz Gajewski (Poland) played very solidly against Pavel Eljanov (Ukraine), who didn’t take too many risks with a quiet line of the English Opening.
Top seed Anish Giri played the Alekhine Defence against Egypt’s number one Bassem Amin and the two quickly reached an ending (or rather: queenless middlegame). The Dutchman pushed both his a- and h-pawns, but soon it became clear that he had weakened too many squares. After the time control White was a healthy pawn up and eight moves later the following position was reached:
Amin,Bassem (2631) – Giri,Anish (2722)
Normally the bishop pair and two extra pawns would guarantee an easy win, but here it’s incredibly difficult and Amin quickly lost his c-pawn when it was just a draw.
Ding Liren (China) is one of the five 2700 players in the tournament, but due to draws in rounds 1, 4 and 6 he couldn’t be found on the top boards. Meanwhile he has sneaked up on the leaders.
Ipatov,Alexander (2569) – Ding Liren (2709)
The Ukrainian-born GM, who now plays for Turkey, felt that 25.Bxf3 Rxc3 26.Bxc3 exf3 was too dangerous because of the threat 27…g5. It’s not so clear, however, after 27.Qd1 g5 28.Qxf3 gxf4 29.gxf4. 25…Rb8 26.h4 c6
27.Bxf3?! White was already in big trouble but this loses by force. 27…exf3 28.e4 Bh3!
Black now also threatens 29…Bh6, 30…Bxf4, 31…Bg2+ and 32…Qh3. 29.Re1?! White should have tried 29.Rb1 Rxb1+ (29…Bh6? is too brilliant: 30.Rxb8+ Kh7 31.Nce2!) 30.Qxb1 Bh6 31.Kg1 Bxf4 32.Bxf4 Bg2 33.Qb8+ Kh7 34.Qf8
but 34…Ne8! 35.Qh6+ Kg8 wins here too. 36.g4 Qxg4 37.Qg5 is forced and now 37…Qe6! (attacking c4) 38.d5 cxd5 39.cxd5 Qc8!
and White cannot play 40.Bd2 because of 40…Qh3 so the knight has to move and the black queen will enter the queenside with decisive effect. 29…Bh6 30.Kg1 Bxf4 31.Bxf4 Bg2
We’ll finish with a nice combination by the charming Georgian lady whom we interviewed a few days ago:
Gretarsson,Hjorvar Steinn (2509) – Guramishvili,Sopiko (2414)
22…Bxf2+! 23.Kxf2 Rd4! and because 24.Qc2 Ng4+ 25…Qxg3 is killing, White gave his queen with 24.Qxd4 but lost anyway.
With two rounds to go, six players are tied for first place and they are paired against each other like this: Ding Liren-Eljanov, So-Dziuba and Gajewski-Wei Yi. Anything can happen!