Six GMs lead in unpredictable Reykjavik

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage

After four rounds at the Reykjavik Open, GMs Fabiano Caruana, David Navara, Ivan Sokolov, Ivan Cheparinov, Gawain Jones and Robert Hess are still on 100%. Outside it's cold, with very unpredictable and changeable weather, while inside the playing hall things are heating up, with GMs facing GMs already in round 4.

The sun shines through the playing hall in Reykjavik, Iceland - but you never know for how long

EventReykjavik Open | PGN via TWIC | Details at Chess-Results
DatesMarch 6th-13th, 2012
LocationReykjavik, Iceland
System9-round Swiss
Top players include Fabiano Caruana, David Navara, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Ivan Cheparinov, Ivan Sokolov, Hou Yifan, Robert Hess, Gawain Jones, Yuriy Kuzubov Yuriy, Vladimir Baklan, Erwin l'Ami, Yuri Shulman and Boris Avrukh
Rate of play90 minutes for 40 moves followed by 30 minutes to finish the game, with 30 seconds increment from move 1
Prizes fund1st € 5000, 2nd € 2000, 3rd € 1250, etc. - see here

Let's start this report by explaining the title, because that will give you a good idea of what it's like to be in the capital of Iceland. During our 15-minute walk from the hotel to the playing hall on Friday, we experienced the following. Yesterday's snow had melted in the sun and was more or less gone, but just when we were leaving the hotel, it was snowing heavily once again.

Bravely, we decided to defy the harsh conditions, despite the fact that the Harpa building, about a kilometer from the hotel, was completely invisible. Just five minutes later it stopped snowing, and before we knew it we saw the sun and a blue sky. And then, about five minutes after that, just hundred metres from the playing hall, we found ourselves in the middle of another snow (or rather hail) storm!

Inside, the temperature was more comfortable and with several "GM vs GM" games already in round 4, so things are actually heating up!

The playing hall, with the top boards on a small stage

The Reykjavik Open's first four round saw not many upsets, but there were a few. In the first round Viktor Thorell (2034, Sweden) held GM Stelios Halkias (Greece) to a draw. US grandmaster Maurice Ashley, who rarely plays chess these days, drew with 1941-rated Vijay Bharat (India). Dagur Ragnarsson (1858, Iceland) even won against IM David Cummings of Canada.

GM Maurice Ashley (2452, USA)

The surprise of round 2 was GM Yuri Shulman (USA) losing against Svetlana Cherednichenko (2279, Ukraine). IM Björn Thorfinsson, who is one of the organizers but plays as well, lost to his compatriot Sverrir Orn Bjornsson (2153).

IM Björn Thorfinsson (2421, Iceland)

The next day IM John Bartholomew managed to hold Yuriy Kryvoruchko (Ukraine), who was more than 200 points higher rated, to a draw. German FM Thomas Trella reached the same result against Women's World Champion Hou Yifan and so did Bragi Thorfinsson, Björn's brother, against Yuriy Kuzubov (Ukraine). In a game between husband and wife, Erwin l'Ami beat Alina.

Yuriy Kuzubov (2615, Ukraine)

After two draws against higher rated players, I lost against a player rated 300 points lower. I must say that Stian Johansen played better than his rating, and I played worse than mine, obviously underestimating him! Besides, he's from Norway, and in recent years there, someone has been showing his compatriots how to move the pieces... Luckily I won quickly the next day, so at the moment of writing "I'm back!"

Selection of games rounds 1-4

PGN file

During the 4th round GM Johann Hjartarson gave commentary...

...while IM Simon Williams and IM Björn Thorfinsson provide daily briefings, produced by Macauley Peterson:

"Daily briefings"

Here are a few more photos of the stunning playing hall Harpa.

The top boards are located next to the northern side of the venue

Where the glass walls have a honeycomb-like structure... and there with multi-colored panes...

...while at the front, the glass wall is beautifully constructed like this

Let's share a few experiences from the many side events that are being organized and that make the tournament extra special. After the first round, a football match was organized between players from Iceland and players from the Rest of the World. It was an exciting affair this year, which eventually ended in 3-3. (Yours truly was responsible for an assist.)

A group photo afterwards, taken by Macauley Peterson

We were back at the hotel at around 01.00, so it was quite tough to get up 07.30 a.m. the next day for the big bus tour to the Golden Circle. The first location where we stopped was Þingvellir, a place in the southwest.

It is the site of a rift valley that marks the crest of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge

The tour guide explained that it is also the location where the oldest parliamentary democracy started in 930, adding "only at the Faroe Islands they started earlier, but they are too small so that doesn't count!"

Unfortunately we could hardly see the site, due to heavy snow, and we were afraid that the whole tour would be like that. How naive! As explained above, the weather changes quite often and so at many other locations things were much better. (At the end of the day we had experienced snow, rain, sunshine, heavy wind and hail...)

Next was the amazing Gulffoss waterfall, which is just spectacular to watch, but to hear as well.

The average amount of water running over this waterfall is 140 m³/s
in the summertime and 80 m³/s in the wintertime!

We then drove to the geothermally active valley of Haukadalur, where the Geysir and Strokkur geysers can be found.

The geyser named Geysir was the first geyser described in a printed source and the first known to modern Europeans. The English word geyser (a spouting hot spring) derives from Geysir.

Yes, in the middle of the snow, that water is quite hot!

At the moment Geysir is not active, but about 50 metres south there is Strokkur, which erupts about every 7 minutes.

Waiting for the Strokkur to erupt...

...and here it goes! (Well, we're cheating a bit)

Next on the program was the Kerið crater, a volcanic crater lake

We finished the tour with a visit to Bobby Fischer's grave

The grave is part of quite a small cemetery belonging to a church in Selfoss - it is placed opposite of the front of the church

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