Reports | February 25, 2013 13:51

Eljanov, Gajewski, So tied for first place in Reykjavik

Harpa, Reykjavik

Pavel Eljanov, Grzegorz Gajewski and Wesley So are tied for first place at the Reykjavik Open with three more rounds to go. Here's our report of rounds 6 and 7.

Harpa, the playing hall in Reykjavik, as seen from the sea | Photo Arne Moll

"There was a man of the North, Ingólfr, who is truly said to be the first leave it for Iceland, in the time when Haraldr the Fair-Haired was sixteen winters of age (...), he settled south in Reykjavík."

This is taken from Íslendingabók, the Book of Icelanders, written in the 12th century by an Icelandic priest. It is the first source of information about the early Icelandic history.

The quote is about Ingólfur Arnarson, a Norseman who is known to be the first settler. Together with his foster-brother Hjörleifur he went on an exploratory expedition to Iceland and stayed over winter. A few years later, in 874, they returned to settle the land with their men. We'll let Wikipedia tell the story for us:

When they approached the island, Ingólfur cast his high seat pillars overboard and swore that he would settle where they drifted to shore. He then sent his slaves Vífill and Karli to search for the pillars. They found his foster-brother Hjörleifur murdered, and all his men gone. Ingólfur gave his foster-brother a heathen funeral in the Norse style and slew the murderers, who had fled to the Westman Islands.

As winter approached, Ingólfur's slaves found the pillars by Arnarhvol. When summer came, he built a farmstead in Reykjavík and claimed all the land west of the rivers of Ölfusá, Öxará and Brynjudalsá.


Ingólfur commands his high seat pillars to be erected | 'Ingolf tager Island i besiddelse' by John Peter Raadsig, 1850

Simon Williams seems to feel very much at home in Reykjavik. Every day he joins the locals for a chat, a laugh and a drink or two, and in round 6 the English grandmaster even played in the spirit of Ingólfur Arnarson! Early in the game he decided to throw both of his rooks overboard and swore he would checkmate his opponent's king, as if the Danish IM had murdered Simon's brother:

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This game would easily be the game of the day, except that... we had another candidate (and this became the winner): Pavel Eljanov's great achievement against Ivan Cheparinov. The Ukrainian grandmaster "only" sacrificed one of his rooks, for long-term compensation:

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Pavel Eljanov before his great game against Ivan Cheparinov

The two top games Yu Yangyi vs Anish Giri and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Wesley So ended in draws, and so after this round Pavel Eljanov was leading by half a point. Behind him was a group of seven players: Vachier-Lagrave, Giri, Yu, So, Gajewski, Jones and Halkias.

The latter, Greek grandmaster Stelios Halkias, got a free point on Saturday as his opponent, FM Adarsh Jayakumar (USA), had missed the fact that the round started at 13:00 and not at 16:30, as before. Luckily he can still score norms over 9 rounds...


Round 6 in action | Photo Hrafn Jökulsson

There's an interesting story about another American here in Reykjavik. Yaacov Norowitz, a 2432 rated but untitled player, recently decided that his religion shouldn't prevent him from playing chess during the Sabbath. However, it does need some modifications. The problem is that for 24 hours he is not allowed to use electronic devices, so besides having someone to open his hotel room and picking up his phone, Norowitz also needs someone to... press his clock!

In round 5 his opponent Mikhailo Oleksienko showed amazing friendliness and tolerance by agreeing to press the clock for him, and in round 6 an Icelander was found to do it. Norowitz also couldn't write down his moves, which according to one of the arbiters "just deprives him from his rights to claim a draw and such".

It's quite a unique situation (normally Jews prefer not to play at all during Sabbath), and much can be said about it. The author of these lines just prefers to see it as another wonderful example of chess bringing together so many different kinds of people. The story ends, by the way, with Norowitz winning the blitz tournament at night, which started after the Sabbath!

Yaacov Norowitz (USA) in his round 7 game against Aman Hambleton (Canada)

Side events

The Reykjavik Open is more than just a tournament; it should be called a chess festival. In the last few days there have been quite a lot of side events, such as a pub quiz, a blitz tournament and a soccer football match!

It's not easy to be modest and at the same time write about something you won, but the traditional pub quiz cannot remain unmentioned here. The authour of these lines finished first with a huge score (26/30), but this was mainly thanks to my partner GM Ian Rogers.

To the question where "ECO" orginates from, he not only wrote down Chess Informant (something I knew as well), but also the street in Belgrade where they have their office! Another question (obviously number 13) was: "Name at least one of the three players who beat Garry Kasparov at an Olympiad." I would have written down Boris Gulko, but that's wrong. Ian knew two: Krum Georgiev and Yasser Seirawan. (The third name is Veselin Topalov.)

The funny thing with these pub quizes is that there will always be a question you don't know, but you really should. I've read a lot about Bobby Fischer, replayed all his games and still I couldn't remember that he was born in Chicago! (Ian forgot about it as well.)

I'll give two more questions which I particularly liked. Try to find the answers without Google! (In fact that would be silly because I give them at the end of this article.)

1. This chessplayer was born in Kiev which was at that time part of the Russian Empire. He died 63 years later in West Germany after enjoying a successful career as a chessplayer where he among other achievements won the Soviet Championship two times and got an opening named after him. He was also quoted as saying “When I am white I win because I am white. When I am black I win because I am xxx.” Who was he?

2. This chessplayer was nicknamed by no other than Anatoly Karpov as the “World Champion of amateurs” and he was one of the strongest chess player of his nation for a quarter of a century. Despite being a strong GM he rather wanted to work as a lawyer but he nevertheless represented his country at 12 Olympiads and he also won his country’s Championship 6 times. He once played a match agains Keres where they played the Ruy Lopez on all 8 games. He also beat several very strong players as Fischer, Botvinnik, Tal, Keres and Korchnoi. Who was he?

(Ian knew the first, but we had the second one wrong!)

On Saturday night the playing hall saw another side event: a blitz tournament called "Even Steven", with a very interesting time odds system. Basically for every 100 rating poins the gap increases two minutes. So 0-100 play 5 minutes each with 1 second increment. But if it's over 100 it was 6+1 sec vs 4+1 sec. With the rating gap going over 400 we had 9 mins + 1 sec vs 1 min + 1 sec. In such a game, 60 seconds was usually enough for the grandmaster to beat the amateur.

On Sunday night it was time for something completely different: the traditional football match (sometimes mistakenly called soccer) between Icelandic chessplayers and a team of foreign guests. Some GMs played: Alexander Ipatov, Sebastien Mazé, Bartosz Socko and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. Unfortunately their mental skills were not enough to score the winning goal, but only good for a 6-2 loss. I also played, and I realized that the last time I was on a football pitch was... last year in Reykjavik! Needless to say, I played horribly.


The Reykjavik festival includes a lot of activities that are not exactly chess, and so does the tournament itself. In the 7th round a few games were decided in rook endings and time and again this type of endings seems to have nothing to do with chess! They have their own set of rules and players just need a different mindset to be successful.

Here's what happened on one of the top boards.

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The start of the game Gajewski–Vachier-Lagrave | Photo Hrafn Jökulsson

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The following rook ending is also a draw, but l'Ami shows amazing persistance and finally the Chinese lady cracks at the very end.

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You can read a detailed analysis about this ending by GM Ian Rogers here.

Stelios Halkias missed a tactic and saw his position collapse in just one move.

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Wesley So vs Stelios Hakias | Photo Hrafn Jökulsson

We interviewed Wesley So after his game against Vachier-Lagrave in round 6:

We finish with a nice example of "the deceiver deceived".

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On Sunday, which was Women's Day in Iceland, we interviewed two ladies: 

Svetlana Cherednichenko

Sopiko Guramishvili

Pub quiz answers: 1. Efim Bogoljubov. 2. Wolfgang Unzicker. Thanks to FM Sigurbjörn Björnsson who gave permission to use the questions in this report.

Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Sergio Henrique Riedel's picture

Who will take part in the candidates matches?

Remco G's picture

Gelfand, Carlsen, Aronian, Kramnik, Radjabov, Ivanchuk, Grischuk, Svidler.

It's a double round robin tournament, instead of the knockout matches of last time.

Sergio Henrique Riedel's picture


Anonymous's picture

The Great Wes Shark just joined the 2700 club.

Anonymous's picture

Wei Yi put down Vachier Lagrave today ! Two GM in two days ... And tied 1st with 5 others. Incredible young man

ShockeR's picture

Great tournament ! go go Gajewski !

Lee's picture

Great report!

Reports which include equal parts chess and other interesting activities and miscellaneous bits and pieces are always interesting reading.

bronkenstein's picture

Indeed, I especially liked ´he threw his rooks overboard and swore...´ =)

Johnnyballgame's picture

There was a football match? .....Oh, you mean soccer.

Eamonn O'Molloy's picture

This is a great report, thanks

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