An eventful round 3 finished today with four decisive games in the Masters section of the Icelandic Chess Championship. The only draw of the round was between the leader Hannes Stefansson and Bragi Thorfinnsson who was chasing him half a point behind. This allowed Hjörvar Steinn Grétarsson to catch up with a hard fought victory against Einar Hjalti Jensson.
The first game to finish was indeed the draw between Thorfinnsson with white against Stefansson. The game can be summed up in the following picture:
Already around move 20 it was clear that simplifications would lead to super drawish opposite colored bishops and no chances to play for a win. It turned out this was the first time in three rounds that the 30-move draw rule was a factor as the players had to wheel out a bunch of meaningless moves to reach move 30 so they could agree to a draw.
Most of the attention in the round was on the game Helgi Áss Grétarsson against Henrik Danielsen. Danielsen employed the Philidor Defense, an opening he has employed quite regularly in recent years and at first it looked like we might have a quiet positional game. Gretarsson had other ideas when he lashed out with the move g4 signalling aggressive intentions on the kingside.
The first interesting point was around move 15 when instead of 15.Be3 the move 15.g5!? was quite interesting. Following 15…Nfd7 16.f6!? gxf6 17.gxf6 the natural recapture of 17…Bxf6 surprisingly meets with…
18.Bxf7! when black collapses. Black can also take with a knight on f6 however and white can probably pick up an exchange there at some point with Bh6 but black will have compensation.
Helgi postponed the aggressive g5 move wanting to get his bishop out first and then played it when it looked like black had prevented it. Helgi not discouraged in any ways just gave up his kingside pawns to open lines.
Here Helgi once again was aggressive with 20.Rxe7 but remarkably 20.Ne4!? might even be the best move!! After 20…Rxe7 21.Qxh4 the best move according to the computer was 21…Qb4 which is hard to find and give back the exchange but leaves black close to winning. The positoin had many dangers and one of the ideas of Rxe7/Qh4 was after say…21…f6 to play 22.Kg2 and swing the rook to the h-file!
This never materialized and neither did the beautiful mating idea which was discussed during the live commentary:
Overall a fantastic fighting game with chances for both sides and if it wasn’t for the timetrouble maybe Helgi would have held on. His final mistake was around here…
Here Kg2 likely holds the balance but after 32.Qd3 black got in 32…Qe8 when the dangerous Qh5+ looms large. White missed his last chance with 33.Bg2? (Bxg5 was only chance) and 33…Qh5+ 34.Kg3 Rg1 ended resistance.
Important win for Henrik with the black pieces who now moves closer to the leaders after missing chances of converting promising positions in the first two rounds.
Gislason vs Kjartansson, the battle of the “Gummi’s” was also important for Kjartansson to win to stay in contention. Gummi Gisla played the London system and despite and unusual move order a fairly standard London system positoin was reached and most likely white held a very slight edge into the endgame. White had some pressure on black’s pawns but nothing really materialized for him until this position:
This is most likely hovering around the equal mark and with 35.Nxe7 white has a rook and two pawns versus two knights. Surely white shouldn’t lose that so the decision 35.Rxf6 was quite surprising when white decided to play with 3 pawns against a piece but perhaps inviting the option of losing over for a cup of coffee.
Gummi Kjartans then managed to make his few remaining pawns count and in the end the c-pawn was too dangerous and decided the game.
With a position that should have around equal Throstur decided to create some chances of his own and started undermining the white king with the push of the h-pawn. Then Thorhallsson brought his pieces to the kingside and eventually built up too much pressure for white to cope with. Especially …Be1! was a thing of beauty in this position
All the black pieces are contributing, a thing of beauty. Steingrimsson had to resign with imminent mate on move 40.
In fact it might actually be black who should start thinking about being somewhat better here with the more compact and weakness free pawn structure.
In what followed the material balance became very interesting with white getting three pieces for the Queen and a very dangerous passed pawn on e7.
That was always going to be a little tougher for black to play and indeed Hjörvar had a big chance in this position when he could have virtually mated with Ne5! instead of Rd2. Ne5 simply has the idea of Nf5+ or Nd5+ and the black king will not be able to withstand the power of four pieces around him and black has to shave a lot of material not to get mated.
Instead we got a very interesting ending with 3 minor pieces vs a rook and a passed a-pawn and the underlying battle in this ending was that black was always looking to sacrifice his rook for the bishop if he could get white’s f-pawn.
The ending was very complex, the feeling was white should be able to maneuvre and win but “solving” the position over the board is always very difficult. In the end Gretarsson managed to get black’s g-pawn caught offside and then it was just a matter of technique to convert the win.
Gretarsson will face co-leader Hannes Stefansson with black tomorrow in what surely is the marquee matchup of the round. With several players now half a point behind, there will be plenty to look for at 16:00pm local time tomorrow for round 4!
Challengers & Womens
Three players remain with full house after 3 rounds in the challengers. FM Sigurdur Sigfusson, IM Sævar Bjarnason and Magnús Teitsson. Rating favourite FM David Kjartansson had to concede a draw vs veteran player Gylfi Thorhallsson despite pressing for most of the game. Sigurdur will play against Magnus while the veterans Gylfi and IM Bjarnason battle it out.
On the women’s side, Lenka Ptacnikova moved up to 2,5 points and faces a tough challenge in young Oliver Johannesson tomorrow. With 2 points and chasing here are Johanna Björg and Hallgerdur Helga
Games of the 3rd round in PGN for download
Round 3 Commentary: