Impressions from the Reykjavik Open

by Gerd Densing
3/31/2023 – When they hear ‘Reykjavik Open’, many chess players spontaneously express the wish to be there. Our author Gerd Densing belongs to this group: he is currently in the Icelandic capital, playing in the tournament, writing and taking photographs. In the first three rounds, he has met not only the rating favourite, Vasyl Ivanchuk (photo), but also many other interesting personalities.

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Reykjavik Open 2023

The 2023 edition of the tradition-steeped Reykjavik Open has a massive number of participants at 401, which means that the previous record of 270 participants has been clearly exceeded. Local players are the most strongly represented with 85, ‘closely’ followed by 59 players from Germany and 38 from the USA. The tournament is quite popular internationally, with players from 46 nations competing. The players who have travelled the furthest are probably two Australians and a player from Mongolia. There is also a German player under the flag of the Isle of Man.

With a total of 130 titleholders, including 34 GMs and 34 IMs, the tournament is quite strong. Unfortunately, players with a 2700+ rating are missing. However, the legendary Vasyl Ivanchuk, a former member of the absolute elite, is the top seed.

The very popular Reykjavik Open

Indian Grandmaster Magesh Chandran Panchanathan had to acknowledge the superiority of Vasyl Ivanchuk in round 3

The venue is the beautiful Harpa Conference Centre (or concert hall) near the city centre. The tournament format is unchanged — a 9-round Swiss open. For some years already, the accelerated Swiss system has been employed for better chances to achieve norms. For the first time, two rounds will be played on two tournament days. The aim was to be able to complete the tournament in a week, thus making it even more appealing for participants. For players who dislike double rounds, there is the flexible option of taking up to three ½-point byes in the first 7 rounds.

The Harpa Conference Centre

As in previous years, an enjoyable social programme is spread over the tournament week in the form of an opening party, a pub quiz, a blitz tournament and a Golden Circle round trip.

As usual, the tournament is very well-organized. All participants receive a pen from the organizer as well as a small bottle of Icelandic water for each round, plus a small card that gives a discount on food and drinks in the restaurant in the entrance area of Harpa.

A special feature is that not only one handicapped player (rear table) but also some other players are allocated separate DGT boards in the front area right next to the stage. These are the streamers GM Simon Williams (ENG), WFM Anna Cramling Bellon (SWE), WFM Alexandra Botez (CAN) and WGM Dina Belenkaya (ISR), who are well known in the chess world.

With their own equipment (camera/smartphone + tripod), their tournament games are broadcast live on the internet via their own channels. Alexandra Botez, with 20,000 live followers, even brought her own photographer to Reykjavik in order to always be perfectly in the limelight. 

Alexandra Botez

Anna Cramling Bellon is the daughter of a grandmaster couple: Pia Cramling and Juan Bellon

Tournament Director Gunnar Bjornsson welcomed the youngest Icelandic GM, Vignir Vatnar Stefánsson, as well as former top player and FIDE President Friðrik Ólafsson. The mayor of the city of Reykjavik, Dagur B. Eggertsson, made the first move on the top board to open the tournament.

Rainer Knaak, grandmaster from Germany and long-time ChessBase employee

The first big surprise of the tournament came in the first round from the U12 European Champion from Poland, FM Patryk Cieslak (ELO 2207). He played a very nice game with white on board 7 against the Brazilian ‘open specialist’ Alexandr Fier and won after a strong finish. 21-year-old Norwegian FM Andre Nielsen (ELO 2201) won on board 10 against GM Grzegorz Gajewski. From the German point of view, the draw of Vitaliy Garbuz against G Kjetil A. Lie should be highlighted. GM Lev Yankelevich, on the other hand, had to settle for a draw against the young CM Neeraj Harish from the USA.

The second round did not bring any big surprises on the front 15 boards, except a few draws, since the difference in playing strength is not as big as in the first round due to the accelerated Swiss system. By the way, some players, even stronger ones like GM Aryan Tari and another 4 GMs and 1 IM took a ½-point bye without a fight in the second round. Round 3 did not bring any big surprises.

The only photo our author could not take himself: Gerd Densing with his round-3 opponent, 7-year-old US player Milan Rajendran 

Standings - Round 4

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Abhijeet Gupta 4 0
  V Pranav 4 0
3 Vasyl Ivanchuk 3,5 0
4 Maxime Lagarde 3,5 0
  Matthieu Cornette 3,5 0
  Leon Mons 3,5 0
7 Emre Can 3,5 0
  P Shyaamnikhil 3,5 0
  Evgenios Ioannidis 3,5 0
10 Mustafa Yilmaz 3,5 0
11 Dmitriy Grigoriev 3,5 0
12 Jinghan Cameron Goh 3,5 0
  Henry Adams 3,5 0
14 Leon Livaic 3,5 0
15 Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson 3,5 0
16 Brandon Jacobson 3,5 0
17 Hamish Olson 3 0
18 Tamas Banusz 3 0
  Mohapatra Sidhant 3 0
20 N R Visakh 3 0
  Bala Chandra Prasad Dhulipalla 3 0
22 S Ajay Krishna 3 0
  Thomas Willemze 3 0
24 Kjetil A. Lie 3 0
  Michael Richter 3 0
  Dimitar Mardov 3 0
  Hilmir Freyr Heimisson 3 0
  Kyron Griffith 3 0
29 N R Vignesh 3 0
  Kassa Korley 3 0

...401 players

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Gerd is an avid club player who enjoys competing in tournaments. He has recorded his impressions in many reports on the ChessBase news page.