Monthly Archives: Mar 2015

Karposh Open 2015 Starts

One of the biggest tournaments in Europe (in terms of number of participants and prize fund, together with Reykjavik, Gibraltar and Cappelle), the Karposh Open, started yesterday. It is organised in the closest vicinity of my old neighbourhood where I grew up and lived for 26 years.

I wasn’t able to play this year, but the field is again impressive (even without my participation), both in the number of participants and titled players. One interesting fact is that all the winners of the previous editions are playing.

There weren’t many surprises in the first round, but quite a few in the second. Perhaps the morning round had its toll as for example the German GM Kraemer lost by default. Double-round days are always a torture.

In view of the upcoming ECC also to be held in Skopje, in October and in the same Aleksandar Palace hotel, this tournament strives to put Skopje and Macedonia back in the limelight from the 1970s with the Chess Olympiad and Solidarity Tournaments being the promiment features of the chess calendar of the times.

I hope to be able to visit the playing hall in the following days so stay tuned for more news. In the meantime you can follow the results here.


Reykjavik Open 2015 – Photo Impressions II

Here’s Part 2 of the Reykjavik in photos (click to enlarge). On a sunny day you can see Mount Esja (incidentally, the name of the hotel Spassky was staying in in 1972 was also Esja) across the water:

An attempt to capture the northern lights, not a very successful one, after all I only use a mobile phone. Believe me, it’s amazing:

The Batgirl at the closing ceremony with her IM-norm certificate:

The winners:

And the podium:

The best commentators in the world (you can forget about Peter Svidler and Nigel Short), Fiona and Ingvar Thor:

It’s been great, hope to come soon again later this year!


Reykjavik Open 2015 – Rounds 6-10

After the bye I took in Round 5 things went downhill for me – I played badly and the results were the same. And when it rains, it pours, as the Iceland’s worst winter in known history can attest.

The tournament was won by the Dutch GM L’Ami, who soared to an unbelievable 8.5/9, securing his victory with a round to spare. His mood was slightly spoiled in the last round when he lost to Eljanov, who came second thanks to this win. The podium was completed by the French GM Libiszewski, who beat GM Jones in the last round, another surprise of an underdog beating a rating favourite.

My new favourite player, WGM Zhansaya Abdumalik made an IM norm, a great result for her! She lost unfortunately in the penultimate round to GM Gupta, after a heroic defence, otherwise her result would have been even better! I like the look in her eyes, it shows confidence and daring, plus of course the Batman T-shirt!

The tournament was excellently organised, the Icelanders are a great team, led by the President of the Federation, Gunnar Bjornson. It is one of those rare tournaments where you feel at home and welcome, where everything is taken care of and as it should be. I will be looking forward to the European Team Championship in November for another chance to visit this special country.

In spite of all the stormy weather, I was lucky enough to see the northern lights just before the last round. It was one of the most amazing sights I’ve ever seen! Like a green river flowing in the sky, changing colour, direction and density! A unique phenomenon, if for nothing else, it was worth coming only for those minutes spent watching the sky above Reykjavik.

Tomorrow I’m leaving for London where I’ll be spending the day. From Iceland, the only way is south!

Soon I’ll post some photos of the closing ceremony to complete the photo impression of this year’s edition of the Reykjavik Open.


Reykjavik Open 2015 – Photo Impressions

Unfortunately there was no Magnus Carlsen today at the round, his flight had been delayed because of the typical Icelandic weather of strong wind and heavy rainfall. In the absence of the World Champion here are a few other photo impressions from the playing hall and around (you can click on the image to enlarge).

The playing hall
From the other side, with GM Eric Hansen striking a pose
The look

The look belongs to Zhansaya Abdumalik, a 15-year old WGM with the formidable rating of almost 2400. She’s one of the brightest world talents and possibly a future World Champion. A few more shots of Zhansaya:

The hair goes to her waist

The Batgirl playing the Grunfeld
A derby – the charming Tania Sachdev vs Carlsen’s second Hammer (another Grunfeld)

Carlsen vs WGM Maisuradze (who informed me of the hotel jacuzzi and sauna!)

My very good friend GM Luis Galego
The legendary GM Julio Granda Zuniga

Gunnar Bjornsson, the President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, and generally a very nice guy

The dynamic duo of WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni and FM Ingvar Thor Johannesson doing the live comments

The poster for this year’s edition

The bustling sea outside the Harpa playing hall

View from the hotel terrace – the Harpa and the mountains in the back

And now time for that sauna and jacuzzi!


Reykjavik Open 2015 – Rounds 4&5

Yesterday was one of those days, when I feel uneasy for no particular reason, uncomfortable with myself physically and anxious psychologically. Usually I lose my games when I feel like that, no matter what I do. It’s funny how I still haven’t discovered a way to changed this trend (because these days happen and you cannot do much about it) and perhaps suffer less damage. And I have tried so many things, believe me!

When I arrived at the board the appearance of my opponent (IM Poley, rated 2269) only increased my uneasiness. Negative energy emanating (although he turned out to be quite OK in the post-mortem) and sheer determination not to lose. I don’t like it when I play aggressive and determined guys, they seem to attack my inner peace, which I need to play well (something similar Smyslov said of Geller, he felt the same of Geller’s negativity (“attacking his search for harmony”) and often would accept draws just to finish the game. Take a look at Smyslov’s later results against Geller for proof that this sort of aggression works – starting from their Candidates match in 1965 until their last game in 1995 (30 years!) Geller beat Smyslov 6 times with 0 losses, with many draws. Before 1965 Smyslov dominated Geller with 8-3). In the game I played badly, making many miscalculations and bad judgements and after many adventures the game finally reached a drawn position:

White just checks the king and there’s no place to hide. But quite confidently he played 65…Kg3??? and after my 66 Rh3 the game ended quickly. What can I say? He blamed it on the length of the game and his fatigue, perhaps he’s right.

In Round 5 I decided to take a half-a-point bye, so I’ll be having some rest by visiting the hotel sauna and jacuzzi. World Champion Magnus Carlsen is supposed to come today and visit the tournament, so hopefully I’ll be able to get some shots of him (mobile phones are not allowed in the playing hall for players and that’s the only camera I have. Luckily I don’t play today).


Reykjavik Open 2015 – Rounds 2&3

I scored 1.5/2 on the double-round day, which is always a good result. My morning game was of decent quality, which cannot be said about my afternoon game, but that’s how double-round days go for me. Having been brought up in the 80s and 90s when one game a day was the only possible way (I even played tournaments with adjournments), I do resent these excruciating tortures of something like 10 hours of chess that only show disrespect towards our noble game.

Round 2 saw me white against Quillien (2202) and he opted for a Benoni. One of the worst move you can make in a Benoni is an automatic …a6, and that’s what he did. But I had to be very precise and forceful to refute his plan.

In Round 3 I was black against FM Gulamali (2350) and in the slow maneuvering play I felt outplayed at one moment. In fact, the surprising move that shifted the trend in his favour was a move that gave me a chance for an advantage! This shows how important it is to surprise your opponent and, from the other side of the board, to keep calm and composure when surprised.

Today the round starts at the normal time of 5pm (from tomorrow and until the penultimate it will be 3pm) and I’m playing white against IM Poley.


Reykjavik Open 2015 – Round 1

Before the start of the first round there was a nice opening ceremony in honour of former FIDE President and World Champion candidate Fridrik Olafsson, who this year celebrated his 80th birthday and was awarded an honorary citizenship of the City of Reykjavik, an honour bestowed only 5 times before. It is amazing how he doesn’t look his age, his movements are smooth without the jerkiness that you can see in old people, his posture is straight and his face shows no signs of aging at all. Perhaps the secret is the total absence of stress in Iceland?

The other guests of honour were FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and ECU President Zurab Azmaiparashvili. Iceland was supporting Kasparov in last year’s elections and this is Ilyumzhinov’s first visit here, so perhaps the mispronunciation of both Zurab’s and Kirsan’s surnames on more than one occasion by the speaker was a result of a lack of practice.

I played with black in Round 1 and the game was rather easy, against a 1937-rated opponent, but I should have won faster. Just take a look at the position after my 19th move:

I won after 45 moves in a rook endgame. Tomorrow’s a double round, the first one starting at 10am, so it will be a long day.


Arrival In Reykjavik

It isn’t easy to get that up north. For me it meant flying to London first and then continuing the next day to Reykjavik. The flights were smooth and relaxed and when I landed today at Keflavik airport I was surprised to see everything covered in snow. Now I am surprised I was surprised, knowing where I was going, but coming from continental Europe where spring is slowly approaching and all-white scenery belongs to the memories of January, it is perhaps undestandable.

I checked in in the Arnarholl Hotel across the Harpa (where we will play) and then took a walk, just to refresh my memory of the city. My body also refreshed its memory of the temperatures here, which promptly forced me to go back to the hotel. But one thing caught my attention on my way back. What does a film festival have to do with the strongest engine?

Round 1 is tomorrow so it’s time for some serious stuff – preparation, playing, food and rest. Rinse and repeat in the next 10 days.


Coming Up Next… Reykjavik!

Very soon I’ll be travelling to Reykjavik to participate in one of the best open tournaments in the world, the Reykjavik Open (10-18 March). I played there last year and I was fascinated by everything – the perfect organisation, the landscape, the country, the cold (and I hate cold!), the air, the lack of traffic and the general atmosphere (everything is so cool there, pun fully intended).

Last year’s edition was voted the 2nd best open tournament in the world (behind Gibraltar) and I was happy to be part of it. This year’s edition marks the 80th birthday of Fridrik Olafsson, the legendary grandmaster who was a World Champion candidate in 1959 when he played the Candidates Tournament in Bled-Zagreb-Belgrade. Olafsson was later a FIDE president from 1978-1982.

Last year’s edition saw the visit of Garry Kasparov, who awarded me the prize for the best game in the second round. This year will see another high-profile visit, by the World Champion Magnus Carlsen.

You can see the list of participants here and the highest rated player at the moment is Shakhriyar Mamedyarov.

And here’s the famous photo of Garry not smiling and me smiling a lot: