Chess, tactics and a doorway to inner space

by ChessBase
9/1/2002 – Iceland is probably the only country in the world with more GM's then IM's! This "rock in the Northern Atlantic" easily has the largest GM's per capita ratio of any country. And some spectacular scenery, as you can see in this final report on the Icelandic Championship. There are also ten interesting tactical problems to solve at the end of the article.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


A Rock in the Northern Atlantic

Before we come to the tournament let us take a little tour of Iceland. This is often considered a rock in the Northern Atlantic, conveniently placed between America and Europe, where propeller planes could land and refuel before the jet age. The country's dimensions are indeed about 305 km (190 miles) from north to south and about 485 km (300 miles) from east to west.

Iceland is also a neutral place where super-power leaders meet to settle their differences. It has no trees, and in the summer no night (as Bobby Fischer famously complained during his match against Spassky). Oh yes, and it's where all that delicious frozen fish comes from.

The house in which Ronald Regan and Mikhail Sergeevich Gorbachev
held their famous summit meeting.

But cross your heart, where would you prefer to play a tournament, in Iceland or in an industrialised European city? Before you answer, take a look at the following pictures that were sent to us by the organisers of the Icelandic Championship.

One of Iceland's famous geysers

The Gulfoss waterfall

The Vatnajokull glacier

The Snaefellsnes Peninsula (left) has a story attached to it. On a clear day in Reykjavik one can gaze northwest and see the shining Snaefellsjokull glacier, 60 miles away. Though the glacier is nowhere near in size to some of Iceland's others, it is by far the most mysterious and popular. It was this glacier that French Author Jules Verne chose as his doorway into inner space in his fantastical book, Journey to the Center of the Earth. It rests near lands end on one of Iceland's most beloved landscapes and its bright, mysterious beauty seems to embody the entire region.

So what will it be, Tilburg, Linares, Dortmund – or that rock in the Northern Atlantic?

The Icelandic Championship

Hannes Hlífar Stefánsson

GM Hannes Stefansson won the Icelandic Championship for the fourth time and for the second consecutive year. In fact Stefansson has won the event the last four times he has participated. Stefansson was considered the favourite before the tournament since he was both the highest rated player in the tournament and the highest rated active Icelandic Grandmaster (GM Johann Hjartarson only plays in Icelandic team competition but has the highest rating, 2634).

Helgi Áss Grétarsson


Early on it became clear that Stefansson would win the tournament, he had an amazing 8 out of 8 and a tournament performance rating of over 3300! Only GM Helgi Ass Gretarsson could reach him mathematically but he was already 2.5 points behind after 8 rounds. Gretarsson however managed to put a stop to the perfect score of Stefansson in round 9 and pull within 1.5 points. However two draws in the last two rounds secured Stefansson the title.

Also leaving the tournament with a big smile was FM Bragi Thorfinnsson who secured his final IM norm in round 9 with 6 points. Thorfinnsson now only has to reach 2400 to become IM. The same applies to FM Jon Vidarsson who reached his final norm at the Lost Boys Open shortly before the tournament.

Picture left: Bragi Þorfinnsson

Jón Garðar Viðarsson

Iceland is probably the only country in the world with more GM's then IM's! Iceland has 9 GM's, easily the largest GM's per capita ratio but only 8 IM's. Hopefully Thorfinnsson and Vidarsson will soon make that odd fact a thing of the past.

The venue this time was gracefully supplied by Seltjarnarnes, a suburban town of Reykjavik.


The tournament provided exciting chess. Fairly free of boring short draws (except for last round). The tactics section following this report should do that justice.

Report and pictures by Ingvar Johannesson


Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register