Start of the GAMMA Reykjavik Open

by André Schulz
4/10/2019 – The 33rd Reykjavik International started at the Harpa Concert Hall (pictured) in the Icelandic capital Reykjavik on Monday. The two sometime-2700s Gawain Jones and Nils Grandelius have both dropped half points, leaving two GMs, an IM, a class A and even a class B player (!) as the only perfect scores through three rounds. Highlights and live commentary of Round 4 (from 17:00 UTC / 19:00 CEST / 13:00 EDT) | Photo: Lennart Ootes /

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The pre-eminent Icelandic chess event

Reykjavik hosted a round-robin tournament with international participation as far back as 1957 and, in 1960, Bobby Fischer won a smaller tournament against four Icelanders. Nevertheless, the official count of the "Reykjavik International" does not begin until 1964. The "pedigree" on the tournament page lists Mikhail Tal as the first winner — a round-robin tournament with fourteen players, including nine Icelanders. The first tournament using the "open" (Swiss) format was organized in 1982 and was won by GM Lev Alburt, who had defected from the USSR to the USA three years earlier.

In recent years, the sparking Harpa Concert Hall has served as the magnificent venue for the tournament, and every player who has participated there has stories of the great atmosphere in the city, around Iceland, and the tournament itself.

The XXXIII Reykjavik International takes place from the 8th to the 16th of April. Some 240 players have turned up. Although there are fewer elite GMs rated over 2700 Elo than usual, the best players in the starting list are all ones with entertaining playing styles and plenty of fighting spirit.

Starting rank (top 25)

No. Name Rtg
1 Jones Gawain C B 2698
2 Grandelius Nils 2687
3 Firouzja Alireza 2669
4 l'Ami Erwin 2647
5 Movsesian Sergei 2637
6 Lupulescu Constantin 2634
7 Parligras Mircea-Emilian 2633
8 Hovhannisyan Robert 2630
9 Tari Aryan 2615
10 Lagarde Maxime 2612
11 Petrosian Tigran L. 2605
12 Gupta Abhijeet 2602
13 Van Foreest Jorden 2598
14 Potkin Vladimir 2597
15 Christiansen Johan-Sebastian 2571
16 Gretarsson Hjorvar Steinn 2571
17 Fier Alexandr 2570
18 Djukic Nikola 2566
19 Stefansson Hannes 2558
20 Cornette Matthieu 2556
21 Praggnanandhaa R 2537
22 Gukesh D 2536
23 Brunello Sabino 2534
24 Sadzikowski Daniel 2523
25 Hjartarson Johann 2520

...240 Players

The list is headed by Gawain Jones, who is well on his way to crossing the 2700 mark and perhaps becoming number one in England. Even as an author, Jones is brilliant. His two volumes on the Sicilian Dragon variation are probably the best ever released for this opening.

Of course for those who prefer video-based learning, you'd be hard pressed to find a better openings guru than Carlsen-second GM Peter Heine Nielsen who has authored a two-volume set of his own for ChessBase!

The Sicilian Dragon Vol. 1: Main Line with 9.Bc4

Volume one of the DVD deals with 9.Bc4, White's sharpest option, and shows how Black can counter this ambitious try by White with the main lines of the Soltis variation (12.h5), which was played by Magnus Carlsen regularly as well.

Second seed is Nils Grandelius. The Swedish Grandmaster is also currently flying high and will soon be an established 2700 GM. 

Behind Jones and Grandelius, the Iranian youngster Alireza Firouzja and Dutch veteran Erwin l'Ami are third and fourth. Erwin is accompanied by his wife Alina, who belongs to the photographic '2700-club'.

Erwin and Alina l'Ami

Erwin and Alina l'Ami | Photos: Lennart Ootes

The Icelandic former world-class player Johan Hjartarsson has been inactive for long stretches but has now found fun in chess and has not forgotten how the pieces move.

Among the many Indian talents at the start, Praggnanandhaa and Gukesh are two to follow closely. Both of them, along with Prithu Gupta started with wins, but only Prithu remains perfect after three rounds.

Pragnanandhaa and Gukesh

Praagnanandhaa and Gukesh | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni /

Lets look at some of the chess action:

Alireza Firouzja's exemplary attacking skills were on display in his smooth first round demolition of German Julius Chittka.


Chittka vs Firouzja

Chittka and Firouzja | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

IM Lawrence Trent focused his Weekly Show on 2138-rated Stephan Briem's upset of American GM Andrew Tang:

Lawrence is live most Tuesdays at 16:00 UTC (18:00 CEST / 12 Noon EDT)

Jones dropped a half point with Black against the young and strong Kazakh IM Dinara Saduakassova. Ironically, Saduakassova started her tournament with a win over Jones' wife WIM Sue Maroroa, before facing Gawain on board one in round two.


After 37.e7 g7 38.c6 c3 from Jones, headed for the inevitable draw, avoiding a thoughtless move, like 38...h5? which could still have ruined Black's day: 38.♘xa5 and the two black pieces would have been very unhappy.

Saduakassova, with white, in round one | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

As a reward for her draw against the top seed, Saduakassova was paired with the second seed, Grandelius, in the next round. This time she was gradually ground down by the Swedish ace.


With 59...♞e5 Black could preserve good drawing chances. But Saduakassova's 59...c5 made her task difficult. 60.g3+ e5+ 61.c3 looks like a case for the endgame expert Karsten Müller to investigate considering he literally wrote the book on the subject. Grandelius managed to convert, but he had already given up a half a point a round before against the completely unknown IM Low Zhen Yu Cyrus from Singapore.

As for Jones, he shed a second half point in round three against the always-dangerous Icelandic IM Gudmundur Kjartansson. That one will surely sting after the missed opportunity Jones had in the following position:


Can you spot the winning continuation?

65.c4! ♜db7 (Black was in Zugzwang) 65.c5 and the weak position of the black king gives White an easy win.

So, after three rounds, the number of players with 100% scores has already been reduced to five. Armenian GMs Sergei Movsesian and Robert Hobhanisyan top the leading quintet, followed by the young Indian Prithu.

In the third round, Movsesian met one of the other Indian talents in the field, Gukesh, and  succeeded with the Closed Sicilian in scoring his third victory.


Black played 34...f8? and lost material to 35.xb5 xb5 36.e5+.


Gukesh has 2/3 to start | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Surprisingly, 1905-rated Aasef Alashtar from France and Soren Pedersen from the USA who has just a 1724 FIDE rating (although his US Chess rating is 2079) have also reached 3/3. Neither of these last two has yet made it to the live broadcast boards, but both will face Grandmasters in the fourth round.

Even Erwin l'Ami was not completely unscathed in the first three rounds. After his victory over German FM Oliver Bewersdorff, the Dutchman also scored a full point win over IM Tania Sachdev. 


Here l'Ami broke the Gordian knot with 32.xd4 and took the initiative after 32...cxd4 33. b4 etc.

Round three brought Erwin another opponent from the most likely country of chess' origins. Young Grandmaster Praggnanandhaa kept the game balanced and took a half a point.

Standings after Round 4 (top 20)

Rk. Name Pts.
1 Firouzja Alireza 3,5
  Movsesian Sergei 3,5
  Hovhannisyan Robert 3,5
4 Grandelius Nils 3,5
  Potkin Vladimir 3,5
6 Lupulescu Constantin 3,5
  Cornette Matthieu 3,5
8 Stefansson Hannes 3,5
  Thorfinnsson Bragi 3,5
10 Lagarde Maxime 3,0
11 Tari Aryan 3,0
12 Prithu Gupta 3,0
13 l'Ami Erwin 3,0
  Hambleton Aman 3,0
15 Petrosian Tigran L. 3,0
  Van Foreest Jorden 3,0
  Fier Alexandr 3,0
  Brunello Sabino 3,0
  Salomon Johan 3,0
  Sarkar Justin 3,0

All available games


Translation from German and additional reporting: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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