Reykjavik Open starts today; Caruana, Navara and Hou Yifan are playing and we're there too
Today the annual chess festival in Reykjavik, Iceland takes off. The open tournament is very strong, with 25 GMs and 20 IMs. Top seeds are Fabiano Caruana and David Navara, who could be found in Wijk aan Zee's top group earlier this year. Reigning World Women's Champion Hou Yifan is in Reykjavif k as well, and so are we!
The tournament takes place in the Harpa Concert and Conference Hall in Reykjavik, Iceland
Reykjavik is one of those places on earth that every chess fan wants to visit. It has that special sound, which gives it that magical "chess aura". The reason of course is the 1972 World Championship match (now exactly 40 years ago), and because Bobby Fischer was living there the last three years of his life. Having met many very nice people from Iceland over the years, and having heard great stories about the festival, the editor-in-chief of this site decided that it was time to go!
I'm in Reykjavik together with Macauley Peterson, and together we'll create an atmosphere video about the event. Besides, I will publish several reports at ChessVibes and Macauley will provide a "light" version of the now well-known live show that he produced at e.g. the London Chess Classic and in Gibraltar. Every night at 22:00 CET there will be a 30-60 minute live broadcast with GM Simon Williams and guests. Afterwards, these sessions will be available for replay in a video playlist.
And... I actually decided to participate in the tournament. It's good to play every now and then, not only to stay in form, but also to know what it's like to actually play a tournament, not just write about it! And it does feel funny and kind of nice to meet people like Fabiano Caruana, Hou Yifan or Ivan Sokolov at breakfast and have a theoretical chance to actually face them over the board!
Macauley and I arrived on Sunday afternoon and spent the free Monday mainly walking around the centre of Reykjavik. So far the weather hasn't been great (a few degrees above zero Celcius and rainy), so we took every opportunity to go inside!
We first visited the Hallgrímskirkja, which you can see from almost anywhere in the city.
It's a Lutheran parish church. At 74.5 metres (244 ft), it is the largest church in Iceland. It is named after the Icelandic poet and clergyman Hallgrímur Pétursson (1614-1674), author of the Passion Hymns. It took 38 years to build the church; construction work began in 1945 and ended in 1986.
In front of the church there's a statue of Leif Eriksson (c. 970 - c.1020), a Norse explorer regarded as the first European to land in North America (excluding Greenland), nearly 500 years before Christopher Columbus.
The statue was a gift from the United States in honor of the 1930 Alþingi Millennial Festival, commemorating the 1000th anniversary of Iceland's parliament at Þingvellir in 930 AD.
We had a coffee in Kaffi Mocca, the oldest coffeeshop in Reykjavik. Its decor has changed little since the 1950s, and kept its original mosaic pillars and copper lights.
We also went to the antique book shop which Bobby Fischer used to visit.
In this corner, where at the moment piles of old National Geographics are stacked, the 11th World Champion could be found reading every now and then.
We could only find one chess book: a beginner's manual from the 1970s by the late Tony Miles.
The book store commemorates Fischer like this - above there's a postcard that depicts the 1972 match.
The Reykjavik Open is becoming bigger and stronger every year. It's amazing to realize that with my 2265 rating I'm 65th seeded!. Top players include Fabiano Caruana, David Navara, Yuriy Kryvoruchko, Ivan Cheparinov, Ivan Sokolov, Hou Yifan, Robert Hess, Gawain Jones, Yuriy Kuzubov Yuriy, Vladimir Baklan, Erwin l'Ami, Yuri Shulman and Boris Avrukh.
Reykjavik Open | Participants (top 75)
|7||GM||Hess Robert L||USA||2635|
|8||GM||Jones Gawain C B||ENG||2635|
|21||GM||Williams Simon K||ENG||2506|
|23||IM||Arnold Marc T||USA||2502|
|26||IM||Gretarsson Hjorvar Steinn||ISL||2460|
|27||IM||Ziska Helgi Dam||FAI||2456|
|31||IM||Zumsande Martin Dr.||GER||2439|
|33||IM||Gunnarsson Jon Viktor||ISL||2424|
|44||FM||Agüera Naredo Javier||ESP||2358|
|53||FM||Johannesson Ingvar Thor||ISL||2331|
|58||Stuvik Holm Kristian||NOR||2290|
|68||Jensson Einar Hjalti||ISL||2245|
|70||FM||Einarsson Halldór Grétar||ISL||2239|
|71||Haarr Jon Kristian||NOR||2226|
|73||Gikas Andreas Basilius||GER||2219|
A number of players travelled to Iceland a few days earlier to play in the Icelandic Team Championship, for example Ivan Sokolov, Vladimir Baklan, our blogger Gawain Jones and commentator Simon Williams.
The tournament has quite a big group of players from the United States, including Robert Hess, Yuri Shulman, Marc Arnold, Irina Krush and even Maurice Ashley, who, like the author of these lines, hasn't played such a tournament in many years, except one event in 2011.
Even if Maurice and I are having a bad tournament, we'll surely enjoy ourselves. There's a nice program of side events, including a football match Iceland-ROW, a tour to the Golden Circle and Fischer's grave, a pub quiz and a blitz tournament. I'll keep you posted!
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