A Reykjavik retrospective

by Alina l'Ami
4/30/2019 – "A bit of sun and five degrees" — that's how IM ALINA L'AMI begins her photographic tour through the GAMMA Reykjavik Open 2019. In her characteristic way she blends beautiful photography and highlights from the chessboard to paint a picture of one of the most visually stunning tournaments in the world. | Pictured: IM Tania Sachdev who finished with 5½/9 | All photos: Alina l'Ami

Chess News

The Dutch Stonewall - A fighting repertoire against 1.d4 The Dutch Stonewall - A fighting repertoire against 1.d4

In the Dutch Stonewall Black from the very first move fights for the initiative. Let Erwin l'Ami take you on a fascinating journey to the depth and attractions of this unique opening. At the end you will be rewarded with a new repertoire against 1.d4!


Tourist vs Icelander

A bit of sun and five degrees — that's all is needed to tell the difference between a local and a traveller when in Reykjavik. While a tourist would rather deck out in winter parkas, windproof layers and waterproof  boots, the Icelander will simply wrap the frosty sunshine around an overoptimistic-summery-look.

Because... nothing burns like the cold?!


The 'worst' thing about being a tourist is having other tourists recognize you as such.
Her name is surely not ending in -dóttir!

Tip: Click or tap any image to enlarge to full size!

If summer is normally defined by words like hot, sweat, mosquitoes, the Icelandic 'heliophile' style doesn't need high temperatures to forget about the hiking attire. Sunshine is a state of mind in Reykjavik but an unprepared body might scream for knitted hats and snowboard pants instead of ice cream.

Colorful bakery

Who knew the cold could be so colorful?

Leaving the summer fever aside, the notorious weather was quite polite during the 34th edition of the historical Reykjavik Open. I've been playing it for many years already and even though I am very much aware of how meteorologically volatile this place is, I still got caught off guard. The choleric winds would have carried your author away like Mary Poppins, hadn't it been for signposts and fences to cling to.

Where's Alina?

Trying to camouflage in
No hat but having just a t-shirt like the locals was too much for me

There is one safe outdoor activity though which avoids the dramatic fate of being blown away or down to the ground → going back inside, fast! No one is crazy enough to complain about that when the building in question is the movie-like setting “Harpa”.

The chess world would be a better place with more tournament venues like this...

The poetry of Chess is never dead

Speaking of flying, time does just that, never to return. Missing the opportunity of playing in such a compact field of grandmasters and young talents would be indeed a shame.

Escorting children

Children are great imitators and Reykjavik Open gives them something great to imitate


It is easier to relate and look up to someone...

...closer to your age group.

Year after year, the playing hall is jam-packed with chess enthusiasts who would not waste their chance but this time the players outdid themselves. When WOW Air ceased its operations due to bankruptcy less than a week before the tournament was due, one could expect a major change in the starting list too. After all, Reykjavik is not Amsterdam and finding a last minute ticket is more difficult than the canceling-it-all route.


Everyone was present, including the FIDE President!

To my surprise and despite all the travelling difficulties, only five players were unable to make it! The others, as well as two of the tournament winners, the Romanian grandmasters Constantin Lupulescu and Mircea Parligras, invested quite a serious amount of money to just get there and play. Seeing how it paid off, I should have booked with the same flying carrier and maybe get rewarded with a better result.


I can't repress a smile writing this caption: well done Costica!
7/9, best tiebreak and 15 rating points for the tournament winner

It's not just bias here because he is a fellow countryman and a friend I've travelled with to so many European, World and Team Championships — the analysis he made for us, on his win against Firouzja is a highlight. And I will stop here, before I add a few more exclamation marks!


A Classical Guide to the French Defence

This DVD gives you the key to start out with the French Defence. GM Yannick Pelletier is a specialist of this opening, and believes that the most efficient way to understand its ideas, plans, and typical structures is to study classical lines.

Small tidbit

It is not breaking news that, as a Romanian and a friend of the co-winners, I am happy for their performance and for seeing them facing each other in the final round on the top board. It was a non-violent game between friends, a sentence in which only malicious people would place quotation marks on 'friends'.

I would instead focus on something more constructive than speculating on pure nonsense. For example, what distinguished the 2019 edition, was the speeding ticket it received for constantly stirring up the leader board:


Firouzja was having a great tournament and then he lost to Lupulescu, who lost to Jones, who nearly lost to L'Ami (I wish that was me!)

Erwin l'Ami

The former tournament winner missed a good chance of tying for the first place
But I know from a reliable source that he did have a good time:)

Having all the options open is usually the ultimate dream of any calculated chess player and so it was for the organizers who could safely remove the 30 moves drawing rule. Every round was a turf war and I didn't even mention yet the wonder kids.


They have no right to vote but they do posses instead of eyes,
a pair of freshly sharpened ax's blades!

experiencedEvery kid is an artist
The challenge is to remain an artist once they grow up

I am a big fan of brain teasers, so the following is a small selection to work on:


Powerplay 26: Checkmate Challenge — essential knowledge

Checkmate. That's the aim of the game. There are numerous ways to checkmate the enemy king, but there are common patterns that recur over and over again, and having these at our mental fingertips is essential for when we want to finish the game.

Holiday mode: activated

Everyone knows by now how professional yet friendly and relaxed Reykjavik Open is. The laid-back Icelanders, the multitude of side events (Fischer Random, Blitz, football, quiz, golden circle trip), the beautiful views, the unique landscape and unearthly colours are all good reasons to explain the tournament's popularity.

Harpa interior

Having a tournament venue like Harpa is certainly gold too

It feels as if it is not a chess competition but a very active...holiday. Surely going out twice a day for different restaurants has something to do with it but probably the arbitrary starting times of the games also contributed.

Routine is an important word in a chess player's vocabulary and quite challenging to achieve with five different kick-off times — 09, 11, 13, 15 and 17. Chess players however, are creative people, able to introduce order into complete randomness.

young boy

Only the Fischer Random Cup messed with our minds a bit

Pity I couldn't trace back the Fischer Random games which are real gems of chess humour. I did find two classical examples though with motifs I personally don't remember seeing before.


Moves don't come easy


Being a chess parent doesn't come easy either

An island in another world

This is my 'nth' article on Iceland and its beautiful tournament, which makes me reluctant on keep insisting how such a trip will guarantee you seeing something you've never seen except in National Geographic.

People in puffin costumes

Ok... the real puffins should be a little smaller but just as cute!

Harpa at night

This playing hall is lighting up an otherwise Black & White chess life

fondue bistro

To avoid looking like your passport photo and bring you back to that perfect Facebook profile pic — plan ahead and come to Reykjavik!

Final standings (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Lupulescu Constantin 7,0
2 Firouzja Alireza 7,0
3 Grandelius Nils 7,0
4 Jones Gawain C B 7,0
5 Parligras Mircea-Emilian 7,0
6 Petrosian Tigran L. 7,0
7 Tari Aryan 7,0
8 Gupta Abhijeet 7,0
9 Hovhannisyan Robert 6,5
10 Movsesian Sergei 6,5
11 l'Ami Erwin 6,5
12 Van Foreest Jorden 6,5
13 Kevlishvili Robby 6,5
  Korley Kassa 6,5
15 Loiseau Quentin 6,5
16 Tang Andrew 6,5
17 Salomon Johan 6,5
18 Stefansson Hannes 6,5
19 Sadzikowski Daniel 6,0
20 Brunello Sabino 6,0
21 Prithu Gupta 6,0
22 Cornette Matthieu 6,0
23 Potkin Vladimir 6,0
24 Lagarde Maxime 6,0
25 Praggnanandhaa R 6,0

All available games



Alina is an International Master and a very enthusiastic person in everything she does. She loves travelling to the world's most remote places in order to play chess tournaments and report about them here on ChessBase! As chance would have it Alina is also an excellent photographer.


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