Three leaders after three rounds

After three rounds we still have three players on a perfect score. Lets have a look at what happened in the 3rd round.

GM Johann Hjartarson – IM Bjorn Thorfinnsson

Johann opened with 1.e4 and Bjorn went with his trusted Cozio defence in the Ruy Lopez.

Bjorn more or less got his last GM norm using this variation and he also played it in last years championship. Indeed he had the same position after 10 moves as in the games against Jon Arnason last year. Johann in fact jokingly said in the post-mortem that he just copied Arnason because he is usually very sensible about what he is doing 😉

Bjorn now played 10…a6 which is supposed to be the best move but last year he played 10…Kg7 and held a draw though white had some initiative.

Johann unfamilar with the line decided to play solidly with 11.Be2 but that move is supposed to be non-threatening and after 11…d5 black has more or less equalized and indeed an ending that should be maximum what Johann said:

Isn’t this + zero point ten today

Still….Bjorn managed to find a very cunning trick that Johann admitted that he almost fell for.

After 15….Bf5 (from previous diagram) 16.Nc5 Ne6 Johann captured on b7 17.Nxb7 and after 17…Ra8 we have this position:

Here Johann reached for his bishop intending 18.Bxa6? there would have followed a forcing sequence with 18…Be4 attacking the knight 19.Na5 Ra8 20.Bb7 seems like this should save white since he gets out of the double attack. However after 20…Bxb7 21.Nxb7 black has the cunning 21…Ra7 and it turns out the knight is trapped.

The next critical stage was here:

Bjorn had to exchange rooks here and then play …Be4 and he should be able to hold on. Instead white gained the upper hand and white’s a-pawn and better placed pieces meant white all of a sudden had the advantage. Johann played the last stage of the game in vintage style and never let go of his grip on the position.

Here the final assault started with 35.Bxd5 cxd5 and 36.Rb6+ white has penetrated black’s position and the pawns started to drop off. That coupled with the black pieces not working together at all meant a quick collapse and a nice win for Johann who moves to 2,5 and is firmly in the leader group.

IM Jon Viktor Gunnarsson – FM Gudmundur Gislason  

Another Taimanov Sicilian for Gudmundur Gislason in this game. Much like in the first round against Hjartarson it was a variation where black was lagging a bit in development.

Things started to happen around here. Jon Viktor took on d6 which allowed a curious but lonely passed black e-pawn but also problems with developing the queenside for black. White looked better at this point but black started to fight back and couple with white missing the best moves black seemed to get well into the game and perhaps grabbing a small edge.

Despite the attack on f7, black seems to keep things well under control and is even slightly to be preferred.

Fortunately for Jon Viktor he found a plan. He simply remembered the maxim:

Passed pawns must be pushed!

The white a-pawn was already good for a “touchdown” in round 2 when Bjorn Thorfinnsson queened his against Einar Hjalti Jensson. Can you believe that white simply pushed the a-pawn and unhindered the moves a3-a4-a5-a6-a7-a8=Q simply happened!

The material black ate up in the meantime simply wasn’t enough and Jon Viktor won easily from here bringing him a nice result after losing his opening edge and having nothing more than an equal ending to work with.

 GM Hedinn Steingrimsson – Johann Ingvason

Things developed quietly from an English opening in this game. Hedinn perhaps intent on using his rating edge in a strategic game, avoiding complications.

This first critical point was probably here.

Black seems quite solid here and probably should have preserved his bishop with 16…Be7 as if white captures on e5, black takes on a3 and should be very close to equal.

Instead after 16…Rfd8?! 17.a4 Nxc3 18.Nxf6 the black kingside pawn structure became damaged and this was the imbalance that enabled Steingrimsson to win the game eventually. A heavy piece ending ensued and the weaknesses on the kingside started to tell.

Here already with the weaknesses and the passive rook on a7, black is in a near critical state.

The rook maneuvers from Steingrimsson were nice and very instructive in this game.

Here he simply moved the rook over to the week kingside. 34.Rb3! this rook is simply heading over to the kingside Rb4-b3-f3-f5 and then to g5 or h5 depending on circumstances.

Johann Ingvason fought on but it was all in vain.

Steingrimsson added insult to injury near the end when he didn’t even capture the queen with Rxe7. Instead he went 43.Qh5!? black resigned in a few more moves about to be mated.

IM Einar Hjalti Jensson – IM Guðmundur Kjartansson

The longest game of the round (we’ve heard this one before when it comes to Gudmundur Kjartansson! He had the longest game last round as well and something like 85% of the rounds a few years ago!).

A slight surprise for Einar probably that Gudmundur went for the French defence. A Winawer variation was on the table and we saw the “Black Queen Blues” as Viktor Moskalenko likes to call the …Qa5 variation.

I like this variation a lot personally and picked it up from the Moskalenko book “Flexible French”. I also remember Lev Psahkhis playing this variation (even against an Icelandic player:

Einar went for the aggressive 8.Qg4 line where black must decide on either 8…Kf8 losing castling right or 8…g6 which gives white more of a hook to attack with h4-h5. Gudmundur went for the …Kf8 move. Losing the castling rights is less of an issue with the centre closed.

As a french player of course I had a bias for the black position and the computer agrees. The position is probably more dynamically balanced as the computer tends to somewhat overestimate the doubled white c-pawns in black’s favour. Though it looks scary black has the typical plan of moving his king simply to h7. He can protect f7 if needed with …Nd8.

Again, it looks scary but for white it’s very hard to break through and black is about ready to start harassing the queenside. Instead Gudmundur went with the king to e8 which is also always an option.

Play was still dynamically balanced….and again excuse me for preferring black 😉

Here the computer recommends the evil 27…Rf4! the mainline (just capture everything and white then goes g5) most likely ends in a better queen ending for black so perhaps this was the way to go for black here. Instead the tide shifted towards white after 27…Qc8?! and 28.a5.

Black lost the b-pawn and all of a sudden white had more or less a risk-free ending a pawn up.

White didn’t manage to make anything off it and gave up the pawn trying to penetrate. On and on they played reaching this ending:

This should be drawn but one would expect that if anything were to happen that white would torture black in a R+B vs R ending for 40+ moves. Now…..I left the venue so I didn’t see what happened and have no explanation. White somehow lost his bishop and I don’t know if it was a pure brainfart or if Einar jokingly wanted to point out how drawn the game was the he could give up his material and still R+N vs R is very easily drawn.

Well….R+N vs R was reached.  This is one of the easiest endings to defend. I’ve personally gotten this 2-3 times in my playing career and never had any problems. Just pin the knight or something, there really isn’t much to it. Circumstances have to be very specific to lose this….just ask Judit Polgar! (vs Kasparov).

Anyway, Kjartansson didn’t get the joke if it was one and tortured Einar for 45 moves as he should….after all even if it’s a draw it is a freeroll of sorts for black as he can play on, will never lose but there is a very very slight chance that the lone rook will lose his patience. So a draw in 137 moves which surely moves into the top 5 for longest game in the history of the Icelandic Championship!

For those with no time on their hands, I’ve provided the record setting game from 1994 here:

….you are extremely welcome! If you still have too much time on your hands, try: …again you are either welcome or you can blame me for ruining your life if you click this link!

IM Bragi Þorfinnsson – FM David Kjartansson

David played the Nimzo and Bragi countered with the Saemisch variation 4.a3

…now I just reviewed a 135 move game and being a masochist apparantely I actually also looked at the 180 move Hjartarson-Vidarsson game….so forgive me if this is not called the Saemisch I can’t be bothered to google it, sorry!

Anwyhow, the game became extremely strategically interesting when David with black took on f3 and saddled white with doubled doubled pawns!

White has the bishop pair but the structure is very fixed. White really has only the plan found in the game with ganging up on the g-file and pushing his f- and/or h-pawns up the board. Black always had interesting positional exchange sacrifices on the white squared bishop but David decided against that.

Again, complications ensued…

Bragi pushed with f5 here as otherwise he risks black blocking that square with a knight. Really no choice.

The computer preferred black a bit (again maybe the doubled pawns like in the French game) but I would say dynamically balanced 😉

Black first erred here when he played …Nc6. White then has two good moves, computer liked hxg6 but e6 as played by Bragi seems good also.

The pressure mounted and …Kxf7 was too much in an already difficult position when fxg6++ more or less hammered the final nail in the coffin.

A nice win in a tough interesting game for Bragi who now has 3/3 as well. Good start for him.

GM Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson – Orn Leo Johannsson

The nightmarish start to the tournament continued for rating favourite Hjorvar Steinn Gretarsson. He failed to win against one of the botttom two seeds with the white pieces and this really dents his tournament hopes.

Another English opening was on the board in this one and Hjorvar didn’t get much of anything from the opening.

Black is quite solid here and doesn’t need to fear much. To black’s credit he played actively and sought his own chances on the queenside. Soon we have white’s strong center against passed a- and b-pawns. Very much in Noteboom variation style.

Computer thinks black is fine and even almost slightly more!

In the end, Hjorvar couldn’t managed to drum up anything to confuse his opponent. He had to settle for a queen ending.

Unfortunately almost completely unwinnable and easily holdable. A draw was soon agreed.

This puts Orn Leo on the board and he now holds bragging rights over his father Johann Ingvason as they will undoubtedly battle hard in this tournament.


So another very interesting round with plenty of decisive and very interesting games….I’ll add the word interesting here out of context just so that it’s clear that it was indeed interesting!

Results from the round:



The 4th round starts as 15:00 local time, as do all rounds except the last one.


Still no GM matchups and nobody with 3/3 faces each other. The marquee matchup for tomorrow though has to be Johann Hjartarson on 2,5 against Bragi Thorfinnsson who has a perfect 3/3.

This is how the predictions stand. Hjorvar had a big lead before the tournament but more people are voting for Hedinn now: