Reykjavik Open: Firouzja shines

by André Schulz
4/13/2019 – Five out of nine rounds of the Reykjavik Open have been completed, and four players share the lead on 4½/5. Tied with the best tie-break score are Robert Hovhannisyan from Armenia and 15-year-old Alireza Firouzja from Iran, who in addition finished in clear first place at the Fischer Random side event. Also co-leading are Sergei Movsesian and Constantin Lupulescu. Seven players are a half point behind. | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni / Official site

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A future world champion?

It might take him up some years, but it seems very likely that Alireza Firouzja will be fighting for the world crown in the future. At 15, he is currently the third highest rated junior player in the world, behind Wei Yi (20) and Jeffery Xiong (19). He first won the Iranian Championship at age 12 and finished in sixth place at last year's World Rapid Championship in Saint Petersburg. As pointed out by Thorsten Cmiel in his in-depth analysis of the Iranian star, his playing style is clearly tactically oriented and his calculating skill recalls to mind one of the greatest chess players of all time: Mikhail Tal. 

In Reykjavik, he defeated two lower-rated players and signed his only draw against French GM Matthieu Cornette in round three. Then he went on to show his skills in the two rounds prior to the rest day...

Round 4

Alireza was Black against Polish grandmaster Daniel Sadzikowski. The players delved into the Moscow Variation of the Semi-Slav Defence and eventually reached this position:


Black played 25...♝f8, hinting that he might target h2 from e6 with his dark-squared bishop. There followed 26.cc1 c4 27.xc4 dxc4 28.g3 f6 and White was left with the light squares around his king seriously weakened. From this point on, Firouzja used the initiative skilfully until turning it into a material advantage that left him three pawns up in a rook and bishop v rook and knight endgame. Sadzikowski resigned on move 53.

GAMMA Reykjavik Open 2019

A first-rate playing hall | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Board two saw Swedish GM Nils Grandelius face yet another strong Indian youngster: Prithu Gupta. The 15-year-old is less known than his compatriots Nihal Sarin and Praggnanandhaa, for example. In fact, he is only the thirteenth highest U20 player in India. Nonetheless, he still has plenty of time to develop and might as well become 'the one to make it' at the very top.

The Indian tried the English Opening and Grandelius surprised him by playing an unusual plan from the get go — known for his creative style, Nils did not develop his g8-knight, exchanged White's c4-pawn and then launched an early attack against his opponent's queen with his queenside knight:


The number one player from Sweden went 7...b4, then captured on b3 and finally blocked the g2-a8 diagonal with 9...d5 — Grandelius' eight move was already a novelty. White was still fine in the unorthodox position, but apparently Prithu overestimated his position:


Here White needs to carefully improve his position with something like 18.d2. Instead, he went for a material gain with 18.d6 and ended up worse after 18...cxd6 19.xa8 dxe5 20.xe5 h3 21.g2 xg2 22.xg2 c6. By move 25, the youngster considered it useless to keep going and resigned. 

Nils Grandelius

Nils Grandelius | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

All perfect scores disappeared after the fourth round, as nine players shared first place on 3½ points, including Icelanders Hannes Stefansson and Bragi Thorfinnsson.

Round 5

Firouzja's next victim was veteran Russian trainer Vladimir Potkin, who arrived in Reykjavik as the 14th seed. Potkin had the black pieces and had managed to avoid entering a tactical struggle in the middlegame:


The position is even, but now Potkin "erred" by waking up the knight from b3 with 19...a4. In the following moves, the agile piece jumped all around the board — c5, b7, d8, c6, e5, d7, b6, a4 and b6 again. Alireza's Knight Tour resulted in the following position:


Black played 42...c8 and did not take long to resign after the knights were exchanged. The rook endgame is completely hopeless.

Ailreza Firouzja, Vladimir Potkin

Clash of generations | Photo: Official site

The other top clash of the day saw Robert Hovhannisyan take down Nils Grandelius from the black side of an Italian Opening. A tense battle turned into an endgame, in which Black was the one with chances:


The queen and knight tandem works better than White's queen and bishop combo. Black played 34...d5, as the advantage in the knight v bishop endgame would be easier to convert, given the pawn structure. The game continued 35.e4 g5 36.hxg5? (better was 36.e3) and now 36...xe4 would have been the most precise way to continue. Nonetheless, a few moves later Black was left with a passed h-pawn that would eventually give him the victory.

Robert Hovhannisyan

It was a great win for the Armenian | Photo: Official site

Sergei Movsesian and Constantin Lupulescu were the other two players from the 3½ group to get victories, in a round that saw eight out of the ten top boards finishing with decisive results. Gawain Jones, Erwin l'Ami, Aryan Tari, Jorden van Foreest and Maxime Lagarde lead the chasing pack half a point behind the co-leaders.

Gawain Jones

Gawain Jones is the first seed in Iceland | Photo: Fiona Steil-Antoni

Standings after Round 5 (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 4,5 0,0
  Hovhannisyan Robert 4,5 0,0
3 Movsesian Sergei 4,5 0,0
4 Lupulescu Constantin 4,5 0,0
5 Tari Aryan 4,0 0,0
6 l'Ami Erwin 4,0 0,0
7 Van Foreest Jorden 4,0 0,0
8 Lagarde Maxime 4,0 0,0
9 Eggleston David J 4,0 0,0
10 Jones Gawain C B 4,0 0,0
11 Libiszewski Fabien 4,0 0,0
12 Cornette Matthieu 3,5 0,0
13 Fier Alexandr 3,5 0,0
  Brunello Sabino 3,5 0,0
15 Grandelius Nils 3,5 0,0
  Parligras Mircea-Emilian 3,5 0,0
  Bjornsson Sigurbjorn 3,5 0,0
18 Potkin Vladimir 3,5 0,0
  Korley Kassa 3,5 0,0
  Yoo Christopher Woojin 3,5 0,0
  Tania Sachdev 3,5 0,0
22 Petrosian Tigran L. 3,5 0,0
  Salomon Johan 3,5 0,0
24 Djukic Nikola 3,5 0,0
  Sadzikowski Daniel 3,5 0,0

...238 players

All games


Fischer Random: Alireza prevails

On the rest day, the Icelandic Chess Federation organized a Fischer Random event also known as the European Cup in this format. The nine-round Swiss Open was played with a 10+3 time control. A prize fund of 3,000 Euros was at stake, with 1,000 Euros for first place.

This year, 64 players registered to try their luck in the infrequent format. Alireza Firouzja showed both his tactical ability and his speed to finish in clear first place with 8 out of 9. Five players ended up a full point behind the Iranian ace, with online bullet specialist Andrew Tang getting second place on tie-breaks. Romania had a good showing in the Chess960 tournament, as Mircea-Emilian Parligras and Constantin Lupulescu got third and fourth places, respectively. 

Final standings (top 25)

Rk. Name Pts.  TB1 
1 Firouzja Alireza 8,0 49,5
2 Tang Andrew 7,0 51,0
3 Parligras Mircea-Emilian 7,0 50,0
4 Lupulescu Constantin 7,0 49,0
5 Petrosian Tigran L. 7,0 48,5
6 Lagarde Maxime 7,0 46,0
7 Grandelius Nils 6,5 48,0
8 L'ami Erwin 6,0 49,0
9 Jones Gawain C B 6,0 48,5
10 Movsesian Sergei 6,0 45,5
11 Korley Kassa 6,0 45,0
12 Tari Aryan 6,0 43,0
13 Gupta Abhijeet 6,0 42,5
14 Hovhannisyan Robert 5,5 46,5
15 Libiszewski Fabien 5,5 42,5
16 Fier Alexandr 5,5 40,5
17 Brunello Sabino 5,5 39,0
18 Loiseau Quentin 5,5 36,0
19 Van Foreest Jorden 5,0 45,5
20 Cornette Matthieu 5,0 43,5
21 Hambleton Aman 5,0 42,5
22 Tania Sachdev 5,0 41,5
23 Vaishali R 5,0 40,0
24 Stokke Kjetil 5,0 39,0
25 Potkin Vladimir 5,0 38,5

...64 players

Translation from German and additional reporting: Antonio Pereira


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


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