In March I played in my first (and hopefully not last!) international tournament: the Reykjavik Open in Iceland. I strongly recommend this tournament to chess players of any strength. With this series of posts I hope to convince you that Reykjavik is well worth a visit in addition to covering my tournament experience at the board.
One of my favourite aspects of Icelandic culture is the friendliness of its citizens and how accommodating they are to tourists. I found this out first hand before even entering the capital. Iceland’s main airport, Keflavik, is about 30 miles from Reykjavik. There are a couple of excellent coach services that take you straight from the airport right to the door of whichever hotel or guesthouse you desire, and vice versa. I got on a coach at the airport which took me to the Reykjavik bus station, after which the passengers were directed to one of a number of minibuses, each heading towards a specific area of the capital. Very well organised, and very reasonably-priced at about £20 for a return ticket. I stayed at the Centric Guesthouse, one of a few places recommended by the official website. I was greeted enthusiastically by the owner Örvar, who was well aware of the big chess tournament in town and was eager to introduce me to the three other players staying at his guesthouse. He had even brought a chess set to the communal room especially for us!
One last thing before we get to the chess. I cannot talk about the Reykjavik Open without showing the stunning playing venue: the Harpa concert hall.
In my first round I was paired as white against GM Henrik Danielsen, one of Iceland’s top players, who has invented his own opening system – The Polar Bear! It is essentially a Leningrad Dutch with reversed colours.
I was quite happy with how I played. Although I missed some chances for an advantage, I was never significantly worse until I made a bad positional mistake, which was more than enough for Henrik to reach a dominant position. After that there was little hope of saving the game.
The following day was a double round. In the morning I faced a youngster from Norway named Eirik Enersen.
After a disappointing draw I settled in for a match against a local player, Sigurdur Hannesson. It’s not surprising that some of the top seeds chose to take a bye in the evening: it didn’t take long for fatigue to set in during the second game of the day.
I left the playing hall in high spirits as I had 1.5/2 points from the day’s games despite playing poorly. However, I knew I needed to pick up my game if I was going to have any kind of success.
Report by Chris Bak