Heroes of Faroes

by Srinath Narayanan
9/20/2018 – Having had the time of his life at the Faroes Open 2017, GM SRINATH NARAYANAN couldn’t resist an opportunity to go back to Europe’s best keep secret of Summer once more. He had no reasons to regret, as apart from the wild winds, warm people, fresh locations, he also won the Faroes Open for the second time. This year’s starting list was headed by GM Gawain Jones and was a strong tournament that had 17 titled players out of 36 players. The tournament included 7 GMs, and 5 IMs, making it a field made up of almost 50% titled players and 33% of them above the International Master title. | Photo: Jógvan Martin Joensen

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Faroes Open 2018

Getting to Faroes was a lot more arduous this time as compared to the previous occasions. I was flying directly from Australia and chose a low-cost airline to make a trip from Singapore to Copenhagen. I got a powerful example of ‘you get what you pay for’ and despite the overnight rest stops, I was thoroughly exhausted from the journey by the time I arrived.

However, it only took me a few moments after I stepped out of the airport to begin the process of revitalization. In India, there’s a yogic process called ‘Bhuta Shuddhi’ meaning “purification of the elements.’’ My rudimentary understanding of the process is that it involves running over the five elements of nature over one’s body.  While there can be no dispute over the role played by environment as to how one feels, there’s something special about the air and the earth of the Faroe Islands that seems to bring out the best in me. Soaking in the wind, sunshine, and letting nature do its magic by being still.

Srinath in a yogic pose

Glad to have arrived after a long journey | Photo: Jógvan Martin Joensen

Gains from the Faroe Islands

After three tournaments in Faroe Islands, I’ve won two and finished second in the other one. Out of 27 classical games I have played here, I’ve lost just once — on time from a position impossible to lose, against the Runavik Open Champion Nikita Maiorov. In case you’re already in a hurry to visit the Faroes, the Runavik Open is confirmed to take place from November 12th to 18th this year.

Srinath pale blue dot

Carl Sagan once enlightened me about a "pale blue dot" in a vast cosmos and I am happy to remind myself once in a while (click or tap to expand) | Photo: Hanna Ólavsdóttir Jacobsen

Faroes Open 2018

My defence of the Faroes Open was clearly not going to be an easy task. The tournament was stronger than the previous year. On one hand, Gawain Jones replaced Julio Granda Zuniga, ensuring the presence of at least one top 100 player. Apart from that, the strength of the supporting cast overall was higher than the previous year. But considering that I was pretty much in the worst possible mental frame in July 2017, I was also in a better shape. 

The beginning wasn’t smooth sailing. I was up against Esteve Sanchez Sergio, who had read the previous ChessBase reports on Faroe Islands and felt that he couldn’t give the location a miss. In a sense, I had invited my own trouble!

 

Nielsen brothers

I got back into contention with a victory over the Nielsen brothers on the double round day. Hogni (right) plays for the national youth team | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

This set up a clash between me and the top seed, Gawain.

 

The game was definitely topsy-turvy, but the final position was definitely not one in which to settle for draw. It’s not the first time I’ve done this in my life and looking back, I am pretty sore at myself for doing this. But during the course of the event, I just kept going with the flow. There was a big tie now at 4.0/5. Anticipating that Gawain might clear out the rest of the field, I tried to make the most of my two whites in a row in the 6th and 7th rounds. 

 

Click or tap the second game in the game list to switch

With these victories, I surged one point clear of Gawain, who to my pleasant surprise had been stuck at +3 with draws against GM Vitaly Kunin, and GM Miezis Normunds. However, he left no doubts as to who’s the boss with a convincing display in the blitz tournament on the evening on the 7th round.

Blitz winners

Gawain and IM Maxim Vavulin scored 8/9, while I finished 3rd with 7½/9 (top three plus rating category winners | Photo: Hjalti Petersen

After having two whites, it was time to defend my lead with two blacks. I fortified my French Defence for the last two games and didn’t really seem to get into trouble at any point. It looked easy, but I was extremely nervous. However, I was lucky that it was a period of time where very little could go past the French, except on certain rare occasions where the goalkeeper passes the ball directly to the opposition’s forward in front of the goal (speaking of course about Croatia’s final goal at the World Cup).

The MC for the closing ceremony was the Mayor of Tórshavn herself! In connection with chess politics, Twitter has been abuzz with discussions about the etymology of certain English words originating from Greek. The word ‘Democracy’ is undisputedly one such word. Democracy goes back really long in time, created with the intention of giving the power to the people. Over the passing of time, a great many changes have taken place and there are several different versions of democracy around. 

Faroe Islands was a revelatory experience for me in the sense that the governance is literally in the hands of the people — in practical terms, like the Prime Minister, Mayor, etc. are elected from among the people and are very much part of the people, even while holding office! It’s a place where the Prime Minister is neither above the normal citizen, nor below, but just a person elected collectively to lead the nation with certain responsibilities. For me personally, the lesson that in a collective group, a little bit of responsibility lies with every individual, not just with the elected leader, and that change begins with oneself, was powerfully learned and reinforced here. ‘Every individual born equal’ is a concept I’ve read a lot in theory. However, if one wants to see the closest model of this idea at work — spending time in the Faroe Islands, interacting with the locals, and experiencing their local life is a must.

Champion's trophy

Receiving the trophy (handmade artwork by Mikalina Glas) from Annika Olsen, Mayor of Tórshavn | Photo: Faroes Open organisers

Prize winners

All the prize winners — a lot of reasons to smile and be happy! | Photo: Faroes Open organisers

Side events

Like the previous year, there were a host of side events this year as well. I didn’t take part in most of them this time for two reasons: One is that I had already visited a large part of the country during my previous visit. The second was that I was just a little more motivated and focused on the chess part of the trip this time. This year’s excursions included a visit to the Gásadalur, the troll finger, aside from the traditional indoor football and the blitz events. The fishing trip was unfortunately not possible due to the weather. However, the highlights of the side events were the traditional rowing contest on the last day with the old wooden boats and the traditional live music event in which a band plays live non-stop from 12:30 to 4:30. I was also fortunate to bump into the Mayor on the dance floor of the event!

Bus trip

All the players aboard away from the board | Photo: Faroes Open organisers

troll fingers

Remember those old trolls that were going to eat all those Dwarves and Bilbo Baggins? Only their fingers remain now | Photo: Jógvan Martin Joensen

Gasadalur

Beautiful Gásadalur — could anyone ever tire of this? | Photo: Jógvan Martin Joensen

Next year’s event will take place in the capital itself — Tórshavn. I can’t wait!

Final standings (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 NARAYANAN Srinath 7,0 0,0
2 KUNIN Vitaly 6,5 0,5
3 JONES Gawain C B 6,5 0,5
4 VAVULIN Maksim 6,0 0,0
5 ZISKA Helgi Dam 6,0 0,0
6 HAUBRO Martin 5,5 0,0
7 MIEZIS Normunds 5,5 0,0
8 GREENFELD Alon 5,5 0,0
9 RODGAARD John 5,5 0,0
10 JOTIC Vladimir 5,5 0,0
11 KRISTIANSEN Jens 5,5 0,0
12 NAKAR Eylon 5,0 0,0
13 NIELSEN Hogni Egilstoft 5,0 0,0
14 NIELSEN Rogvi Egilstoft 5,0 0,0
15 NILSSEN John Arni 5,0 0,0
  HRUBY Milan 5,0 0,0
17 SPIESBERGER Gerhard 4,5 0,0
18 GREGERSEN Einar 4,5 0,0
19 JOENSEN Hans Petur 4,5 0,0
  NIELSEN Suni I Horni 4,5 0,0
21 NIELSEN Torkil 4,5 0,0
22 ESTEVE SANCHEZ Sergio 4,5 0,0
23 SIMONSEN Hans Kristian 4,5 0,0
24 MAROROA Sue 4,0 0,0
25 FJALLHEIM Leif Reinert 4,0 0,0

All games

 

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Srinath is a 23-year-old Indian Grandmaster. A former World Under 12 champion, at the age of fourteen he became an IM and had shown surprising and unswerving loyalty to the title ever since, until March 2017, when he crossed the 2500 mark and completed the requirements to become a grandmaster. He loves chess and likes to play in tournaments all around the globe.
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