L'Ami Wins Non-Trivially in Reykjavik
By GM Ian Rogers   
March 20, 2015
Playing hall, Photo Cathy Rogers

The 2015 Reykjavik Open began and ended with a snow storm. In between players experienced hail, horizontal rain, gale-force winds and even a clear day which preceded a spectacular northern lights display that evening.

So nothing unusual about the 2015 Reykjavik Open, you may think - this is Iceland, where the t-shirts say 'Don't Like the Weather? - Just Wait 5 Minutes'.

The tournament was once again held at Harpa - Iceland's remarkable convention centre and concert hall on the Reykjavik harbor, with the feel of a Sydney Opera House. The tournament celebrated the 80th birthday of Icelandic legend Fridrik Olafsson, former Candidate and FIDE President (from the era when that title generated respect).

There was a familiarity about the ever-smiling organisers, the arbiters and the amazing view from the playing hall - boats and giant glaciers (when not obscured by low-lying clouds).
Photo Cathy Rogers

The 274 players from 37 countries included 13 Americans, with Daniel Naroditsky the best performer from the US, finishing tied for fourth.

Reykjavik Open 2015 Round 7

White: D.Naroditsky
Black: Rui Gao
Position after Black's 18th move


At first sight the players have reached a fairly standard Sicilian position but Naroditsky is about to launch a decisive attack from nowhere.
19.g4 h6?!
Underestimating White's next move. Keeping the kingside pawn structure intact would make White's task more difficult, though Black's knights are going to be pushed around in any case.
20.h4! Nxh4?!
It was time for desperate measures such as 20...d5!? with the idea 21.e5 Nxe5! 22.fxe5 Qxe5 with annoying counterplay.
21.g5! Nh7 22.Qh5 hxg5 23.fxg5 Ng6 24.Rf3!


Suddenly Black cannot resist the pressure along the f and h files.
24...Rfd8 25.Raf1 Nhf8 26.Rh3 e5 27.Bc4 d5 28.exd5 Bb5 29.Nxb5 Rxc4 30.Nxc4 axb5 31.Qf3 f6 32.d6 Rxd6 33.Nxd6 Qxd6 34.gxf6 Bxf6 35.Rd1 Qe7 36.Qd5+ Ne6 37.Qd7 Ngf4 38.Bxf4 Nxf4 39.Qc8+ 1-0


After this game against a strong Chinese player Naroditsky finished the tournament with three solid draws, the last of these, against Eric Hansen, offering Naroditsky chances to win and take second place.
GM Daniel Naroditsky, Photo Cathy Rogers

Two more US players, Yaacov Norowitz and Justin Sarkar, finished only half a point behind Naroditsky, with Sarkar playing two of the tournaments most remarkable games.

Reykjavik Open 2015

White: J.Sarkar
Black: V. Hamitevici
Opening: Nimzo-Indian Defence

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.Qc2 c5 5.dxc5 0-0 6.a3 Bxc5 7.Nf3 b6 8.Bf4 Bb7 9.Rd1 Nh5 10.Bc1

10.Ng5 g6 11.Bc1 is considered more dangerous for Black.
10...Nf6 11.Bf4 Nh5 12.Bc1 f5!? 13.e4


Having seen this move, it would be hard for most players to resist playing it, yet 13...Nc6 14.b4 fxe4 15.Nxe4 Be7 or simply 13...Qf6 were objectively stronger.
14.Kxf2! fxe4 15.Nxe4 Qh4+ 16.Ke3! Qf4+ 17.Kd4!

A fantastic position. White's king appears disastrously placed but Sarkar has calculated that Black cannot exploit it. (An extract from Alex Wohl's infamous chess poem 'The Legend of Stephen Solomon' appears appropriate - 'You have to say he sure has guts, and balls the size of coconuts.')
Now Black loses without a fight. 17...Qg4! Was the only way to continue. Then 18.Ne5 fails not because of 18...Bxe4? 19.Qxe4! Qxd1+ 20.Bd3! but rather 18...Nc6+! 19.Nxc6 Bxc6 when White still has problems to solve.
However returning the piece immediately with 18.Bd3! leads to a position after 18...Bxe4 19.Bxe4 d5 20.Ne5 Qxe4+ 21.Qxe4 dxe4 22.Kxe4 Na6 23.Be3 where White's active king and better pieces offer him a large advantage.
18.Bd3 Nc6+ 19.Kc3 d5 20.Neg5 Qf6+ 21.Kb3 g6 22.Ka2 Rac8 23.Rhf1 Na5 24.Nxh7 1-0
IM Justin Sarkar, Photo Cathy Rogers

The following game sees Sarkar beat a GM in just 18 moves.
Reykjavik Open 2015

White: J.Sarkar
Black: A.S.Rasmussen
Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.Nc3 e6 5.Bg5 h6
A reputable method of avoiding the heavily analysed Botvinnik Variation, 5...dxc4 6.e4 b5 7.e5 h6 8.Bh4 g5 9.Nxg5, etc.
6.Bxf6 was at one time considered obligatory, but the last two decades have shown that this pawn sacrifice is not easy for Black.
6...dxc4 7.e4 g5 8.Bg3 b5 9.Be2 Bg7

9...Bb7 is far more popular.
10.e5 Nh5 11.a4 a6 12.Ne4 0-0



Sarkar chooses a poisonous alternative to the main line 13.Nfxg5 Nxg3 14.hxg3 hxg5 15.Bxc4 which offers Black good defensive chances after 15...Qe7! 16.Qh5 Rd8.
Too obliging. 13...g4 keeps the position complicated, e.g. 14.Bh4 Qd5 when anything can happen.
14.hxg3 Re8

15.Rxh6!! f5

15...Bxh6 walks into 16.Nf6+ Kf8 17.Qh7! when Black loses back his extra rook since 17...Bg7 18.Qg8+ Ke7 19.Qxg7 Rh8 20.Qxg5 leaves the Black king helpless since Black's spite checks are nothing.
16.Nf6+ Kf8 17.Rg6! Kf7 18.Nxg5+ 1-0

Black resigned rather than wait to see 18.Nxg5+ Kxg6 19.Bh5+ Kh6 20.Nf7 Checkmate!

For Dutch Grandmaster Erwin l'Ami the 2015 Reykjavik Open was a very special tournament indeed.

The 29-year-old has been coming to the Reykjavik Open for the past four years but only in 2015 did everything go right.

L'Ami, seeded 11th, admitted that his expectations were not high after a disappointing outing in Cappelle la Grande a fortnight earlier;

L'Ami started the Reykjavik tournament looking like the player who had finished mid-field in France, but a 60 move fifth round win over Italian GM Sabino Brunello was the start of a run of endgame victories. L'Ami then beat GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (top seed), Julio Granda Zuniga and Hrant Melkumyan in consecutive rounds to reach 8.5/9 and win the Reykjavik Open with a round to spare, a career-best performance.

"I am completely exhausted," admitted l'Ami after his five hour, 80 move, penultimate round win over Armenia's Melkumyan which gave the 29-year-old Dutchman tournament victory. ""I surprised even myself. It's a once in a life-time thing - well I hope it isn't"  l'Ami added with a smile, possibly thinking "but it probably is!"

On the final day L'Ami played his weakest game of the tournament to lose with White to 2013 winner Pavel Eljanov.

Eljanov, who would probably have been happy with a draw against the rampaging l'Ami at the start of the final round game, had cause to thank the organisers for introducing a 30-move draw rule; by the time the game reached move 30, l'Ami was in trouble. (And the reason for a 30-move draw rule? - a certain 3 move game played by Eljanov in the last round of the 2013 tournament!)


The CLO story on the Reykjavik Open's Pub Quiz, won by Magnus Carlsen and Jon Lugwig Hammer elicited plenty of reaction; many incredulous at the article's sub-heading.

GM Jon Ludwig Hammer, Photo Cathy Rogers
Firstly, it is worth mentioning that you can put yourself in Carlsen's shoes as all 30 questions are now available online.

In addition, Hammer pointed out that the winning score was not all Carlsen's work - the World Champion's second had contributed two answers not known to Carlsen.

The first was that Miles' 1.e4 a6 2.d4 b5 opening had a name - the St George Opening (though other Pub Quiz entrants were peeved to be marked wrong on the night for the equally correct Birmingham Defence).

The second answer which Hammer knew and Carlsen did not was the name of the mate at the end of a given opening trap - Anastacia's Mate.

Hammer knew of this, not by reading 'How to Beat Your Dad at Chess' but because he had been a victim of Anastacia's mate in a World Youth Championship.

What is most remarkable was that the person who beat Hammer in that game was ... Magnus Carlsen!!


After 18.gxh5 Rh4 we have Anastacia's Mate in all its glory.

It is now clear that this game did not finish with Carlsen announcing "It's mate in 2, Anastacia's Mate for your information," as might have been done a century and a half ago. (Or more recently - I tried announcing mate in three at my first World Open back in the 1980s, to which my opponent replied "Shut up!" and allowed mate in 2!)

So Carlsen, despite winning the 2015 Reykjavik Open Pub Quiz , being World Champion and releasing his own brand of sweater, could now be known as the player who pulled off Anastacia's Mate and did not know what it was called (though such a fate is admittedly unlikely).

See GM Rogers' first piece on the Reykjavik Open here.