Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson wins Icelandic Championship

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
5/5/2021 – The 2021 Icelandic Championship took place on April 22-30 in Kópavogur. It was a 10-player single round robin. Rating favourite Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson finished in sole first place with a 7/9 score. Jóhann Hjartarson came second with 6½ points, while defending champion Guðmundur Kjartansson got third place after collecting 6 points. | Pictured: Grétarsson during round 7 | Photos: Official site

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No draws for the champion

In August 2020, Iceland was one of the first countries to organize its national championship as an over-the-board tournament. The 108th edition of the championship was held about nine months later in Kópavogur, Iceland’s second-largest municipality by population. The city is located south of Reykjavík and is part of the Capital Region.

Defending champion Guðmundur Kjartansson was among the participants, as was 13-time champion Hannes Stefánsson, who won the tournament for a last time in 2019. The rating favourite, however, was 27-year-old Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson (rated 2588).

Icelandic Chess Championship 2021

The playing hall in Kópavogur

Going into the final round Grétarsson was leading the tournament with 6 points despite having lost against both of his closest pursuers — Jóhann Hjartarson (5½) and Kjartansson (5/8). 

Playing black against Stefánsson, second-placed Hjartarson obtained a 48-move victory.

 

White is a whole rook up, but Black’s three connected passers not only threaten to promote but also to create mating nets. After thinking for 7 minutes, Stefánsson played the clever-looking but mistaken 48.Rd5. Probably the experienced grandmaster was mostly calculating 48...Nxd5 (28..Rxd5 is bad for Black as his strongest threat is to play ...Rg1), when after 49.cxd5 Rg1 50.Ke2 d3+ 51.Kxd3 Rxf1 the rook endgame is drawn.   

 

What Stefánsson had missed is that Black can simply ignore the fact that his rook is en prise on g5 and immediately push his pawn with 48...d3

 

White resigned. Capturing the rook on g5, of course, loses to 49...e2+, while 49.Rxd3 fails to 49...Rg1 50.Rxe3 Rxf1+ 51.Kd2 Rd1+ 52.Kxd1 f1Q and the queen and knight are unstoppable.

In the first diagrammed position, Stefánsson needed to go for 48.Ra4, activating the other rook to create counterplay against the black king.

Hannes Stefánsson, Jóhann Hjartarson

Hannes Stefánsson v Jóhann Hjartarson

Hjartarsson’s victory meant Grétarsson needed to win to get first place, since a draw would have given Hjartarsson tournament victory based on the first tiebreak criterion — direct encounter; Hartarsson defeated Grétarsson in round 2. The eventual champion had a superior position against Sigurbjörn Björnsson.

 

Bjornsson, playing black, is already in trouble, and his best chance in this position is to grab the pawn with 45...Rxf4, looking to create counterplay on the kingside. Much like Stefansson in the aforementioned game, though, he chose the wrong rook manoeuvre to find himself in a lost position — 45...Rc7 is too passive, as White will be the one creating threats against the opposite king after 46.h6 while Black is no longer in time to create counterchances.

Grétarsson won the game in 60 moves, securing sole first place.


Final standings

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Gretarsson Hjorvar Steinn 7,0 0,0
2 Hjartarson Johann 6,5 0,0
3 Kjartansson Gudmundur 6,0 0,0
4 Thorfinnsson Bragi 5,5 0,0
5 Stefansson Vignir Vatnar 5,0 1,0
6 Gretarsson Helgi Ass 5,0 0,0
7 Stefansson Hannes 4,0 0,0
8 Thorfinnsson Bjorn 3,5 0,0
9 Bjornsson Sigurbjorn 2,0 0,0
10 Mai Alexander Oliver 0,5 0,0

All games

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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