Kjartansson in pole position – Round 8 report

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If the Icelandic Championship was a Formula 1 race, then for sure Gudmundur Kjartansson sits in pole position with a whole point seperating him from his only rival, 12-time champion Hannes Stefansson.

Today they met in a crucial game

IM Gudmundur Kjartansson 2439 – GM Hannes Stefansson 2548

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A truly fascinating pairing and a very important one. Before the round, Gummi led with a full point and ahead of Stefansson and two other players, Steingrimsson and Danielsen.

Gummi started with 1.c4 which is interesting since he also opens 1.Nf3 but 1.c4 allows 1…e5 so perhaps Gummi had specific preparation in mind. I think however Hannes Stefansson going for the Keres line with …c6 might have caught him off guard. How to react to a surprise?

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Maybe with a surprise of your own? 4.Bh3!??! seems to be a novelty in the position, at least according to database.chessbase.com!  Quite extraordinary at GM level on move 4! An odd coincidence is that Gummi was recently on the “receiving” end of quite and odd novelty recently by GM Richard Rapport in the Reykjavik Open:

1. Nf3 e6 2. g3 g5?! (already crazy) 3. d4 g4?! (borderline insane!!)

Conceptually it doesn’t seem particularly effective for white to seek an exchange of the white squared bishops and probably Hannes easily equalized and even might have had the slightly preferable position.

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Here Hannes played …Nac7!? which was a temporay pawn sacrifice. In what followed black tried to preserve the strong knight on d5 and control of the light squares.

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We got this endgame which was very close to equal but with a microscopic if any edge for black. After further exchanges a draw was the clear result.

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It was agreed in this position when white takes on a3 and then plays g6+ forcing the exchange of black’s last pawn.

This presented a chance for the other GM’s chasing the top spot a chance.

GM Henrik Danielsen 2483 – FM Einar Hjalti Jensson 2350

Henrik also played the English Opening and Einar Hjalti went for his main weapon, the Slav. Henrik sacrificed a pawn early in the opening and usually you don’t have to offer Einar this chance twice…but having been offered it twice, Einar decided to grab it. Korchnoi was always known for his pawn grabbing and his principle was simply “show me…”

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Einar grabbed the pawn here with ...Qxb2. in what followed Henrik failed to demonstrate compensation and Einar managed to trade down. Maybe allowing …Qd3 was the mistake for white. After that only Einar could win with the extra pawn.

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In this position, Henrik’s flag fell and with it his chances of becoming Icelandic Champion this time around were eliminated.

This left only GM Steingrimsson with a chance to close the gap a little bit.

GM Helgi Áss Gretarsson 2462 – GM Hedinn Steingrimsson 2537

This game was never going to be easy for Steingrimsson since Helgi and Hedinn are old rivals from when they were young talents back in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Both of them achieved World Junior Championships and they know well about each others tendencies.

Knowing the usual depth of Steingrimsson’s preparations, Helgi simply went for “muddy theoretical waters”. He just wanted a non theoretical position and knowing that Hedinn needed to win this game was an important factor in his choice.

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Hedinn was quickly in mild timetrouble despite Helgi’s simple approach (Helgi has almost always been the one with less time in this tournament!). In this position black is already in trouble and his last move …Nh5 may have been a step too far in the wrong direction. They say a knight on the rim is dim and here after 21…dxe4 22.Nd5 it was impossible to cover the knight on a5 so black had to give up the exchange.

Up the exchange and with the bishop pair, Helgi had no problems converting and also ended Steingrimsson’s successful chances of winning his 3rd title.

Finally we had a rather meaningless game for the tournament standings with both players having a sub-par tournament.

IM Bragi Thorfinnsson 2459 – GM Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson 2530

Bragi played the London System, 1.d4 d5 2.Bf4 which Kamsky recently used with success to land the US Championship. Queens were exchanged early and the position seemed balanced. Hjorvar perhaps got the slightly better endgame with better minor pieces and a space advantage but probably white should have been able to hold although black definately had some chances.

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Here having just played Bd1 to cover the a4 square, Bragi inexplicably blundered here with 35.Be2? which allows 35…Na4 winning a pawn.

It’s hard to imagine what made Bragi lose his concentration but with the sports hall next to the playing venue hosting the voting for the municipal elections in Iceland, perhaps Bragi saw too many people walking in and out wearing blue and therefore voting for the Indipendent Party. This seems like the consensus explanation for this rare blunder by Bragi ;-)

Finally Throstur got a bye against Gudmundur Gislason who had to withdraw as we mentioned yesterday.

Masters Standings (click for larger view)

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Candidates & Womens Championship

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In the candidates, Lenka made a quick draw with the leader, Sigfusson through an early repetition (remember 30 move draw rule!).

This meant that a win by Kjartansson which he achieved against Loftur Baldvinsson means that they are tied before the last round and if they both win their tiebreaks could be really similar and the win will be decided by results out of their control.

Magnus Teitsson could also have caught up but the very talented and fast improving Vignir Vatnar had other ideas and was even winning against Magnus until he made a blunder at the very end that allowed a draw.Vignir played too fast in the endgame and this time it cost him half a point. Playing too fast is something Iceland’s youngest GM Hjorvar Gretarsson also did when he was young so this is certainly something that can and will improve for Vignir.

WGM Lenka Ptacnikova still leads in the Womens but only half a point behind here is Hallgerdur Thorsteinsdottir after a good win against the strong junior Dagur Ragnarsson. Elsa María Kristinardottir has an outside chance of catching up but she has a tough pairing in the last round as to Lenka and Hallgerdur, facing off against the two leaders (and top seeds!)

Standings

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Games Masters:

Games Candidates/Women

 

Round 8 commentary archived:

 

 

 

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