Rejkjavik Open, Rounds 1-3
My attempt to include both the playing venue and the mountains in one picture.

Rejkjavik Open, Rounds 1-3

Mar 8, 2018, 5:12 AM |

The first three rounds of the Rejkjavik Open have completed!

First, a word about the tournament: We're playing in the gorgeous Harpa music in Rejkjavik. I would love to talk more about Iceland and Rejkjavik, but I simply have played too much chess to experience much of it. Having spent time in Sweden and Denmark, the country strikes me as distinctly Scandinavian, with colorful roofs, small cars, and bearded men. I came in with the hope that I will find fish-related fast food, resembling the Tokyo fish market. So far, I have not found such a place, but I will start engaging the locals in this search.

In the tournament, my initial fear was that my sub-2000 rating would put me into the very bottom of the tournament, but I find myself towards the rating middle among 250 players.

It turns out that Icelanders are shockingly good at chess. A nation of less than 400,000 has produced numerous grandmasters but also a large number of high-potential teenagers rated around 2000. Many of those players play on the boards next to me. If I look at players rated below 2000, there'll be many Icelanders, but also many fellow Germans, Norwegians, and Frenchmen. Most surprisingly, on adjacent boards, two players from the Faroe Islands (population 49,000).

Now to the chess: My results so far are

(W) against Heidarsson (1570): Win

(B) against Finsterwalder (2170): Loss

(W) against Hrafnsson (1630): Win 

My first win was not smooth at all. From a closed Ruy Lopez, I brought over pieces to the kingside, without having direct threats - indeed, the computer evaluates the position as about even. In mutual blindness, my opponent got worried about a piece sacrifice of mine (which didn't work), but then his next move actually made the piece sacrifice work. That's amateur chess for you! On a positive note, the final move of the game (a rook sacrifice to disrupt the defense of g7) was fun to play:

The second win was surprisingly straightforward. I think my unusual c4-line against the e6-Sicilian got him into a Maroczy structure which he didn't know how to play well. So he played the position extremely passively. My conversion was far from perfect, but I was consistently better throughout:

My loss to Finsterwalder came out of a King's Indian with h3 that transformed into a Benoni structure. I was out of book early but ended up playing a promising pawn sacrifice leading to a roughly equal position. Then, however, I threw away the game through a bad calculation:

So far, I've won the games I need to win, but I'm clearly not satisfied - especially because of this blunder. For the next games, my resolution is to make sure I look for all reasonable moves when calculating - calculate wide, not deep! My blunder was funny in that regard: I calculated a large number of moves for White, all of which give black decent play, but I missed the most active and threatening move, which is also the move that decides the game.
My next round I'll play with black against an Icelandic player rated around 2200. Preparation is moot, this player plays everything! e4, d4, c4, Nf3. Updates soon.