Sunday, March 6, 2011

The Icelandic League, Second Weekend

This weekend we finished the Icelandic League. It is played over two weekends, one in October and one in March. Each team has eight boards and it's round-robin 7 rounds. This year my team came painfully close to finally catching the title for the first time. We, Vestmannaeyjar Chess Club (Taflfélag Vestmannaeyja in Icelandic or T.V.) came 2nd with 40,5 out of the possible 56 and only 2 points behind the winners, Bolungarvik Chess Club. We played them in the last round and we won 4,5-3,5 but we needed 5,5-2,5 to get the title. It wasn't to be this time but for a moment it looked like the match could swing our way. I and board 8 both made draws but for a moment it looked like both of us had winning chances so the last round was very exciting and nervewracking for team members, team followers and captains.

The top 3:

Rk.SNoTeamTeamGames  +   =   -  TB1  TB2  TB3 
18TB ATB A750242.5100
24TV ATV A760140.5120
32Hellir AHellir A770039.5140

It's interesting that the 3rd place finisher, my former club Hellir won all their matces but didn't score enough game points vs the "lesser" opponents and so came a little short this time as well. All in all a very interesting competition.

For many players this is also sort of like a family reunion of sorts because the country is so small and most players know each other very well and sometimes for retired players this is the only time you see them each year and is always fun. This also means that for some the quality of the games is less important because many players do a lot of walking a round to see people, look at positions and have a short chat in the hallway. One of my favourite weekends each year!

Here is my morning game from Saturdays rounds.

Here is my second round game in the deciding match. Like I said in earlier entry, my opponent was 1977 World Cadet Champion (U-16) ahead of Kasparov and Short!

The earlier game finished around 15:00 and then I went and drove my teammates, Jan Gustafsson, Tomi Nyback, Kamil Miton and Jon Ludvig Hammer to the hotel to get some sleep for the 17:00 second round. I myself went downtown to a restaurant and had myself a good seafood soup while contemplating what to do against my opponent.  Even though he is retired from tournament chess, he plays some games in the league and actually more in the last few years than before and also I have played him many times in blitz tournaments so I know his repertoire fairly well. He is one of those players that more or less always played the same and stuck to his guns and still does more or less. It has pros and cons, it means he usually has a familiar position but also he is easy to prepare for but that is a bigger problem in this era than it might have been back in his playing days.

Ok so basically I knew the game would start 1.e4 e6 2.d4 d5 which is my beloved French Defence. What I didn't know was what would be his 3rd move. He has played both 3.Nc3 and 3.Nd2 against me in blitz games and during his career he played both and switched between the two a lot.

I have been playing more Winawers recently so I more or less decided not to prepare that as I feel pretty good in those lines and think I can just show up more or less and get a decent game in that line. Vs the Tarrasch however I have gone back and forth between 3...c5, 3...Be7 and 3...Nf6 a lot so I needed to decide in this short one hour+ what to do against the Tarrasch if he played that. I remembered our blitz game which was mainline stuff there with Bd6/Qc7. I looked up some games and saw a game of his vs Hjartarson which gave me an idea what to play. I had played ...g6 myself in the blitz game but saw that Hjartarson played ...h6 in the same position. Now this didn't score very well in the database but I still saw some recent games with encouraging results from for instance Emanuel Berg. So during the next hour I looked at these games and played around with the position with the engine running to get an idea what I wanted to do vs certain moves. Long story short my preparation worked out perfectly and I got a playable good position with a good time edge.....lets go on to the game:

A good game I felt and I think I played pretty good. Slightly frustrating not to win but still can't see clearcut improvement on where the win should be.

After the game it was the closing ceremony where prized were handed out, some beers were consumed and some interesting chats with some interesting people. For instance I talked a lot with GM Olafsson and GM Arnason and we talked a bit about old masters and some old stories. For instance it was pointed out to me that Levenfish was a great talent in the USSR, not less as such than Botvinnik but in those times being a communist was more imporant and therefore Botvinnik got all the chances.

Also some chat about his career. He felt that of all the players he faced against Smyslov and Petrosian he truly felt like he didn't have a break. He managed though to draw against Petrosian but also mentioned an ending he felt he would have held against anybody in the world but lost against Smyslov. You decide for yourself:
(show chess board)(hide chess board)
We also talked about some old adjourned game where another Icelandic player was playing against a Romanian GM, this was in 1978. The Romanian called the Icelandic player and said they should accept a draw. The Icelandic player accepted but when he came to the board the morning after (of course not having analysed the game at all) the Romanian player pretended to know nothing about the draw offer and they played on.

Years later Arnason had an adjourned game with the same player. In a dinner the night before he told Tal this story. Tal became absolutely furious when he heard this....he couldn't believe what the Romanian GM did. So Tal invited Arnason to come to his room the next day and analyse the adjourned game. Needless to say Arnason punished the guy and won the full point!

As a final random note I'll add that we somehow had three US Chess Leauge GOTY judges sitting almost completely next to each other. I was judge this year and on my team was fellow judge Jan Gustafsson and Robert Hess from the USA was also playing for another team in the league. Quite a coincidence!

BS! the final note is of course this link: I was top scorer in the whole league although my good friend Stefan had higher percentage in fewer games and some players had 3 out of 3.


  1. Heyas! Interesting games and nice narrative!
    I had made some research about your position against Arnason, and looks like it's not so rare as I thought...
    The same position arose after for example Venkatesh x Ganguly 2006, or Kotronias x Willians 2005.
    In my research white gets 3 wins, black 07 and 10 drawns. Not a bad score I think.
    Anyway, intersting fight and good result!
    Thanks for your analisis and for tell us a little about history and chess atmosphere on Iceland!
    Best regards!


  2. Hey if you have a .pgn with those games, could you send me, xbitinn77 is e-mail and
    But only if it's no extra work!