Twelve times Icelandic champion already, GM Hannes Stefansson finds himself in a familiar position at the top of the leaderboard of yet another Icelandic Championship. True we’ve only played two rounds and there is a long way to go but lets just say Stefansson has been there before!
Today he faced off against GM Helgi Áss Grétarsson who also won in the first round. Stefansson had White and an early triangle Semi-Slav setup by Black quickly transposed into a closed Catalan where White didn’t seem to get anything special. In face Helgi seemed to have completely equalized and perhaps enjoyed a slight edge if anything when he surprisingly lashed out with an exchange sacrifice.
It’s hard to tell if Gretarsson was too optimistic about his chances or if he missed something because white could easily parry all threats and the fact that Black had to spend time on 22…Bf8 was an indicator that something had gone wrong.
Stefansson had no problems converting so a nice result for him but a disappointing one for Helgi Gretarsson who had a fine position before the exchange sacrifice and might regret this later in the tournament!
The only remaining player with a win in the first round was Bragi Thorfinnsson who had the black pieces against Einar Hjalti Jensson. Even though Einar Hjalti joined last minute, nobody can expect an easy game against Einar who is well versed in a number of opening lines. Bragi seemed to want to avoid any such preparation and after 1.e4 opted for the modern with 1…g6 but we soon transposed into the Austrian Attack of the Pirc.
Einar seemed surprised but it turned out perhaps his concentration wasn’t at its best…..
Either way Jensson got into some timetrouble early but seeked a Queen trade to make things simpler. He managed to get a slightly better endgame with the better structure and a space advantage. This advantage wasn’t enough to turn into something tangible and as it turned out there was absolutely no way through the black defense….so draw!
IM Gudmundur Kjartansson and GM Hedinn Steingrimsson both started out with solid draws and they played a Sicilian Najdorf.
This was a heavyweight fight with exchange of blows the evaluation went a little bit up and down but never heavily in anybodies favour. Gummi seemed to catch Steingrimsson a little bit of guard in the opening and built a time-edge but that soon evened out. After white had stood perhaps a shade better for most of the early middlegame, black started to seize his chances and especially when Kjartansson gave away a centre pawn which he probably didn’t have to.
Steingrimsson had the first chance of an advantage when in this position
Here black can probably just take greedily on g2 and when the h1 rook moves just come back to e4 and the rook still can’t move and we can simply take it later having also collected the g2-pawn.
Instead Hedinn took on d3 eventually but weakened his king too much with the …f5 move and Gummi weakened it further with the h-pawn advance. Gummi took advantage of this and was taking over the game…
Instead of the winning 36.Nf4 he played the tempting 36.Nc7 but then black had the wonderul counter-shot 36…Nd4. Some nice sacrifices followed with black opening up the a1-h8 diagonal and securing a perpetual check.
GM Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson has been playing well lately and he also played the Sicilian with the black pieces against GM Throstur Thorhallsson.
Hjörvar had no problems after the opening and in fact took over and took advantage of the weakened black squares in white’s camp rather nicely.
Hjörvar played the instructive positional maneuvre after 22…Kh7 of Bg7-f6-g5 to exchange of the black squared bishops which further accentuated the weak squares in white’s camp.
In the end black’s knights penetrated on the weakened squares and a kinght on f4 was instrumental in delivering the final checkmate threat. A nice game by Hjörvar.
Henrik Danielsen had his 2nd white game in two rounds and again he let the win slip. Yesterday he missed a win against “Gummi” Kjartans and today the same happened against “Gummi” Gíslason.
After an unexpected sacrifice on d5 by black, things settled into and endgame that was always slightly better for white. Gíslaon defended tenaciously as always and in the end a rook ending was reached where white held an extra pawn. At a critical stage after tenacious defence, the win was there and up for grabs….
In this critical position white could win with Rg5 or allow black to draw with h6. Inexplicably with 31 minutes vs about 2-3 minutes, Henrik spent very little time here and played 61.h6 which allows black the maneuvre 61…Rg6 62.Rh5 Rg3+ black then forces the white king to h1 because of the checks and there the white king is too far away and black draws after the other key move, 72…Kg4.
The win was nice. 61.Rg5 Rxf4 62.h6 (now there are no check on the g-file!) Rf6 63.Rh5 Rf8 64.h7 Rh8 65.Rh4 and then the white king takes a stroll up the g-file to g7 and wins.
Expensive slips for Danielsen and possibly something that could cost him chances at the title but of course plenty of play still left in the tournament!
The Challengers group is still a bit quiet with few upsets. The top seeds will soon start to face and battle for a place in next years Masters group. The only upsets of the day to speak of where draws and Ingvar Örn Birgisson made a good draw against the experienced WGM Lenka Ptacnikova. Ingvar even missed a win after playing quite well and in the end Lenka could be thankful for a draw.
The young Hilmir Freyr Heimisson got a good draw against Oliver Aron Johannesson (not exactly dying of old age himself!). Finally Erlingur Palmarson (1343) also made a good draw.
The challengers is also the Women’s Icelandic Championship and there Hallgerdur Helga leads with 2/2 chased by Lenka with 1.5/2.
Tomorrow in the Masters Bragi Thorfinnsson on 1.5 faces off against GM Hannes Stefansson. The others starting out perhaps “too solidly” with 1/2 will look to catch up a bit with a strong showing tomorrow. The round starts at 13:00 local time and the games are live on icelandicchesschampionship.com and there you can also find live commentary by FM Ingvar Johannesson.
Here is todays commentary: