Icelandic Impressions

The tournaments are organized in memory of our beloved Champion Bobby Fisher
“When ingenious Mikhail Tal sacrificed his queen in the first Reykjavik open back in 1964 against Jon Kristinsson no one really believed that is it right. Tal said that he did not come that far only to make draws, but to play a good chess and went on to win the tournament with 12.5/13. This is all we ask from you-fight over the board and you will make us happy” said Lilja Gretarsdottir at her speech at the opening ceremony. Lilja is no only a president of the Icelandic Chess Federation. She is a deputy in the Iceland Parliament from the Left Green Party. One of the sixty three deputy members there. “I am not a typical politician. I just could not stand what they are doing with our nature, and decided to do the best that I can to stop them.” One of the days the Icelandic Prime-Minister Geir Haarde paid a visit to the hall. He once worked as a chess journalist for Morgunbladid newspaper back in 1972. “Geir is from the opposite party but we strongly connected with our chess passion”, smiles Lilja.
This year the tournament was in memory of the great champion Robert James Fisher, who recently passed away.

It all started with a sensation when the tournament organizer Bjorn Thorfinsson beated the elo favorite Wang Yue from China. Actually all the three winners had a bad start. Stefansson drew his first game, and only Wang Hao won the first encounter, but then drew two games. Wang was very motivated and in the coming five rounds he scored five consecutive wins. In the meanwhile Fabiano Caruana was leading the tournament with 4.5/5 (and missed to convert his pawn up in the game against Halkias.) Stefansson as well did fine winning four games. Seventh round was disastrous for the Italian GM. Something went wrong with his home preparation, which gave a chance to his opponent Wang Hao to win convincingly. In the penultimate round the two Chinese players made a short draw, and local Hannes Stefansson managed to outplay V. Mikhalevski from Israel to join in the lead. In the final round Wang Hao tried to win solely the tournament against Stefansson but the Icelander was defending well and soon before the time control draw was agreed. This gave a chance for one of the winner in the game Halkias-Wang Yue to join the overall victory. In a very tense and nervous game in severe time trouble the Greek GM missed a forced draw shortly before he resigned.
Queen sacrifice for two light pieces was very fashionable in the last 2 rounds. Fashionable, but hardly profitable. Both Al Modiaki and Tiger Hilarp Person lost their games against Kveinys and Mikhalevski respectively. But while Al Modiaki’s sacrifice was a kind of overoptimistic, the Swedish GM prepared something very interesting and unusual in the opening which needs practical tests.

There were some young players having the sign FM in front of their names. Do you know why? Because they are all current or future youth world champions. Three of them made IM norms. Sahaj Grover from India was the happiest of them scoring 6 points and achieving his second IM norm. In the decisive round he managed to beat Ray Robson, USA’s biggest hope for the moment. By the way Ray already did all his IM norms, and this was his fourth one. Grandelius Nils from Sweden scored a norm as well. But you will listen more about Iljya Nyzhnik from Ukraine and Srinath Narayanan from India.
GM norms:
Another valuable achievement was Inna Gaponenko’s GM norm. She had a very good start, but in the penultimate round lost and decided that her chances are over. That is why she prepared a drawish line against me in the final round, but failed to make the draw, and beated me, which appeared to be enough. Espen Lie from Norway scored a norm as well. He is very solid, plays strictly on the position. Even in the last round when he needed only a win against Adly he did not risk too much, and gave to his opponent the chance to go astray.
Honoree Group:
Four of Fishers best friends were invited to play a rapid tournament in his honor. This is the first tournament after Fishers death named after him, and sure more will follow. Annotator of the games was William Lombardy, and referees no one less but the tenth world champion, and historical rival of Fisher Boris Spassky. Boris Vasilievich would not mind taking part in the event himself, but he had just suffered from eye operation, and had to carry dark glasses. With his typical sense of humor he advised his friends from the honoree group: “To avoid forks, spoons, discovered checks, and doubled checks, and most of all-mate!” Lajosh Portish and Vlastimil Hort followed his advices, won two games and drew the rest to share the overall victory.
I keep on admiring the chess culture in this country. You meet different people here, and they are all very found in chess. Like the fisherman in the hotel, who told me that he did not play chess since 1972, but he would like to have a game with anyone from the tournament. Or the man from the hotel reception who appeared to be an IM. I guess that Bjorn is right by stating that 98 % of the Icelanders know how to play the game.

Runar is a sailor. And because of the fact that he waited his boat to go to job he did not play the tournament. Then the weather changed, and he stayed. He did not miss a single game in the tournament. For him Bjorn says:” His tactical skill is enormous, his memory-stunning. He knows by heart plenty of games, all of them with sharp sacrifices, and beautiful tactical strokes. Beware of him at the chess board. But although he is that big (1.99 m height, 109 kilograms) he is your best friend if you are a chess player. He often plays at the European Club Team Competitions and knows most of the players there.” I remember a phrase of his to the foreign players when we went to a discothèque once:” You want to drink something-just order-I pay for it…”
The Bear
Bjorn in Icelandic means “bear”. “He totally underestimated me”, said the happy Bjorn after his game against Wang Yue in the first round. His performance in the tournament was great-he scored an IM norm, and had even chances for a GM one if he had won his final effort against Kietel Lie. Bjorn is a special case. Glitnir Bank was one of the sponsors of the tournament, but the works for their rivals-Kaupthing. By the way Kauphing Bank will again organize the open tournament in Luxembourg this May. Reykjavik open is usually organized on every two years, but the chess players have already the assurance of the Reykjavik state that it will be organized every year.
Check my recent chessbase reports for more.

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