Reykjavik Open 2018 begins

by Gerd Densing
3/6/2018 – The Gamma Reykjavik Open 2018 is all about Robert Fischer, who would have turned 75 this year. In Reykjavik he celebrated his greatest success, and he's also buried in Iceland. Among the participants are over 30 grandmasters. Richard Rapport and Pavel Eljanov lead the ranking list. Live games and commentary, plus a preview and photos by Gerd Densing.

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Sarin simul starts the Reykjavik Open 2018

Today the 33rd edition of the popular Reykjavik Open gets underway in the Icelandic capital. This year the tournament will be hosted as the "Bobby Fischer Memorial" — marking the recent 10th anniversary of Fischer's death.

Unlike in previous years, "only" nine rounds are played, rather than the traditional ten in this Swiss system tournament. On the rest day, there will be a "Fischer Random" / Chess960 rapid tournament, co-organized with the European Chess Union, the winner of which (or the best scoring European player) will then take the official title of European Champion of Fischer Random for 2018.

View from the playing hall

The harbor as seen from the playing hall | Photo: Gerd Densing

Also in honour of Fischer, the festival program has been significantly expanded compared to previous years, including several tours, guided tours and readings. The event kicked off yesterday with the young IM Nihal Sarin, one of the two Indian "prodigies" at the Reykjavik Open in 2018.

At the invitation of the main sponsor, GAMMA, a handpicked group of eleven players took part at the investment firm's headquarters, a beautiful villa in the centre of Reykjavik. It was not an ordinary simul, but rather a Fischer Random simul. A different starting position was drawn for each board via computer. It was also a clock simul — each player only 45 minutes for the whole game plus 15 seconds increment. For the young Indian, these were both firsts.

Sarin simul

Nihal Sarin's clock simul

After some initial nervousness, he found a good rhythm and quickly gained a time edge on the eight boards. The positions developed into relatively "normal" middlegames which caused Sarin few problems. But on some individual boards, he had to fight pretty hard. One game ended in perpetual check, but the biggest challenge was the board of IM Gunnar Bjornsson, the tournament director, which ended up being the last to finish. The two IMs reached an endgame with two knights for Sarin against the Icelandic player's flank pawn, which was drawn. Several boards were also quite close, but the final result of 10 out of 11 was a strong performance for the young guest.

In the basement of GAMMA headquarters featured a mystery, hidden in the modified logo. There it is relatively easy to spot a king in the middle, but on closer inspection, the brain "switches" to focus features of a face that could be Fischer's profile. Easy to miss at first glance.

GAMMA logo



How about now?

The two Indian IMs, Sarin and Ramesh Praggnanandhaa, chasing GM norms, are among the youngest strong players but the only ones. At the opening party last night, a young 13-year-old player sat down at my table and was in the mood for blitz games, later he offered me 5 minutes to 1...and before I knew it, I quickly lost a few games. In the end, I made a draw. Curious, I learned then that the boy was none other than Uzbek talent Nodirbek Abdusattorov, with an Elo over 2500!

Later in the hotel room, I discovered that he already has all the necessary GM norms in his pocket and should be awarded the GM title but FIDE in April, which will make him the youngest GM on the planet, once they do. So there's certainly no shortage of hot-shot youtgh in action in Reykjavik! 

Master Class Vol.1: Bobby Fischer

No other World Champion was more infamous both inside and outside the chess world than Bobby Fischer. On this DVD, a team of experts shows you the winning techniques and strategies employed by the 11th World Champion.

Grandmaster Dorian Rogozenco delves into Fischer’s openings, and retraces the development of his repertoire. What variations did Fischer play, and what sources did he use to arm himself against the best Soviet players? Mihail Marin explains Fischer’s particular style and his special strategic talent in annotated games against Spassky, Taimanov and other greats. Karsten Müller is not just a leading international endgame expert, but also a true Fischer connoisseur.


Live games and commentary


Commentary by Simon Williams and Fiona Steil-Antoni (when available)


Gerd is an avid club player who enjoys competing in tournaments. He has recorded his impressions in many reports on the ChessBase news page.
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psamant psamant 3/8/2018 07:32
" are among the youngest strong players but the only ones"
Perhaps the author means " are among the youngest strong players but NOT the only ones"

Humans are complex people. I guess everyone will have something or the other that we will not approve of. So, we must somehow separate the trait that we admire and honor a person only for that trait. This does not mean condoning other characteristics of that person which may not be admirable.
Fischer had further mitigating circumstances of a tragic childhood and his objectionable behavior seen much more only after he was old and ill. With his brilliance as a chess player, I guess most will be able to separate his chess playing ability and honor him for that specific skill.
tourthefarce tourthefarce 3/7/2018 03:09
I agree that it is hard to separate Fischer the chess player from Fischer the person. I imagine it is even harder if you are Jewish. He was such a brilliant chess player and such a weird person.
fons3 fons3 3/7/2018 11:38
@ caute99

Fischer was not a politician, he was just a chess player. I think that most people are able to forgive his delusional behavior later in life and just focus on Fischer as a chess player.
caute99 caute99 3/7/2018 02:55
I've been to Iceland and it is a lovely place. However, I have a hard time understanding why some there want to adopt Bobby Fischer and make his legacy their own. Sure, he was a great chess player, arguably one of the greatest ever. But he was a also a rabid and unrestrained anti-Semite, not to mention a criminal who had fled the United States on tax evasion charges. These Icelanders should imagine another country, not only giving refuge to someone who broke the laws of Iceland and who continually attacked the Icelandic people in the most extreme way in racial terms, but also honoring the memory of that person for years after his death. Should we make an exception to normal rules of civilized conduct for people who are great at chess? Or is it just ok if they happen to hate Jews?