First round of the 2014 Icelandic Chess Championship. In one of the strongest fields in the history of the tournament there is no time to waste in getting off to a good start. Speaking of history of the tournament, it should be mentioned that this is the 100th Icelandic Championship ever held!
The first game to finish was GM Hjörvar Grétarsson against GM Héðinn Steingrímsson. Hjörvar had the white pieces and opened with 1.d4. Steingrimsson known for his solidity went for the Slav defence and they quickly played out a mainline which has been known for a long time since the days of Euwe and other old masters.
Hjörvar could have gone in for complications with 26.f4!? this more or less forces 26…Ng4 after which white has the sacrifice 27.Nxc6+ bxc6 28.Rxc6 and here black has a choice between defending the endgame afer 28…Qe7 29.Qxe7 Bxe7 30.Rc7+ and hoping his activity compensates for the missing pawns or going for 28..Rd1+ 29.Bf1 Rxf1+ 30.Kxf1 Qd8 and trying to defend there. In the Rd1+ variation during the live commentary we thought black could play 29…Qxc6 30.Rxc6 Ne3 winning the bishop on f1 but we missed that 31.Qa6+ followed by 32.Qb6+ wins the e3 knight and the game.
Instead Hjörvar went for 26.Qf4 and quickly an ending with opposite colored bishops an no prospects for either side meant a draw was offered and agreed. Note that players can’t agree to a draw before move 30 unless there is a repetition of moves.
Next it was time for first blood…
Bragi Thorfinnsson played the white pieces against GM Thorhallsson who went for a Double Fianchetto setup for black. Usually Thorhallsson is playing QGD/QGA/Slav type of setups so perhaps he was a little bit out of his comfort zone and the resulting position was more suitable to Bragi’s style.
Bragi opened the floodgates here with 27.f5 after Thorhallsson was put on his backfoot and had to defend. A few moves earlier Thorhallsson missed his chance of the shot 18…Nd3 but perhaps he feared and exchange sacrifice from white in that position taking over the black squares.
After f5 the defence was too difficult and Bragi brought home the point, getting some revenge for their 2012 Championship Match where Thorhallsson grabbed the title after a magnificent battle.
Henrik Danielsen and Guðmundur “Gummi” Kjartansson played an exciting game where the balance seemed to be held for most of the game and both had some slight chances . Gummi probably made an inaccurate move with 26..Qf4 and after that white seemed to have a win in the critical position:
Here Henrik could have won with 28.dxe6! when 28…Rxg3 29.e7+ Kg7 30.Nxf2! gives white an absolutely winning position. Instead Henrik went 28.dxc6 and had to settle for perpetual check.
12-time champion Hannes Stefansson was the next one on the board with a win against late entry Gudmundur Gislason. Gislason replaced IM Bjorn Thorfinnsson just a day or two before the tournament so had little time to prepare for it. Instead of facing perhaps a 1700 player in the Challengers section he played the 12-time Icelandic champion.
The game was actually quite “swingy” with the evaluation going back and forth. At one point it seemed like Stefansson was getting a good game but a few oversights seemed to give Gíslason the better game and perhaps he missed a chance when he could just grab a pawn on d4 after a dubious d-pawn push by Stefansson. In the last stage of the game Stefansson started playing more like “The Robot” he has been for so long and capitalized on some mistakes and ended up a piece up after complicatoins and time-trouble. Despite some technical difficulties in the end Stefansson brought home the point.
Finally GM Gretarsson came out victorious in the “late kick-off” Gretarsson was supposed to play GM Kristjansson who had to withdraw from the tournament. Last minute replacement Einar Hjalti Jensson agreed to play but the game was postponed a few hours back so it just finished.
1.c4 was on the board and soon we had a theoretical position from the Tarrasch Defence. Helgi seemed to handle the quiet/technical position well and perhaps it suited his style too well. Jensson was left with a typical bad ending from a Carlsbad Structure where the minority attack has been successful. Black was left with weakness on c6 and worse minor pieces. Helgi converted very nicely.
Helgi showed that despite his absence from tournament chess for more or less 10+ years he is still a Grandmaster and talent you don’t lose! Helgi was the 1994 World Junior Champion and is always very competitive at whatever he does. So don’t count Helgi out as an outside favourite in this tournament!
The weekend rounds will start at 13:00 local time and feel free to tune in here on icelandicchesschampionship.com where there is live commentary during the rounds by FM Ingvar Johannesson and you can watch the games live with computer analysis on the site!
P.S: Here is the 1st round commentary if you missed it: