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Reykjavik Open Rd 1: Adhiban suffers an early upset

by Aditya Pai - 07/03/2018

The Reykjavik Open kicked off at the Icelandic capital city last night. At the end of round one, nearly every rating favourite on the top board came out unscathed. However, the day wasn't as merry for Adhiban Baskaran who had to sweat it out for 78 long moves against the 2275 rated Soham Das and still settle for a draw. Slightly lower down the pairing chart, wunderkinds, R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin both won their games while Erwin L'ami demolished Nisha Mohota with a monstrous kingside attack on board 6. Round 1 report. 

The 2018 edition of the Reykjavik Open kicked off at the Harpa Concert Hall and Conference Centre in the Icelandic capital yesterday evening. This year, the tournament is being hosted as the “Bobby Fischer Memorial” commemorating the eleventh chess world champion who both won his world championship title in Reykjavik and spent his final days in Reykjavik.


The field this year boasts of more than 30 grandmasters of whom two are rated above 2700. Some top names include Pavel Eljanov, Richard Rapport, Gata Kamsky and Adly Ahmed. Adhiban Baskaran is the top rated player from India at the event. Some other Indians in the fray are GM Vaibhav Suri and the two wunderkinds R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin.


The tournament is a 9 round Swiss League with a time control of 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and then 30 minutes to the end of the game with a 30-second increment from move 1. Draw offers are not allowed until the 30th move.


In the first round, almost all the rating favourites won their games. Among the exceptions was the highest rated Indian in the fray, Adhiban Baskaran. Adhiban was pitted against compatriot Soham Das, who is rated around 400 points below him. Adhiban had the black pieces and went for the Paulsen variation of the Sicilian. Players castled on opposite wings and, in the middle game, and tried to break through to each other’s king. On his 18th turn, Das gave up an exchange in order to get a speedy attack on the white king but Adhiban returned his extra material soon enough and liquidated into a bishop endgame.

Adhiban Baskaran tried hard but was unable to break through the defences of...| Photo: Lennart Ootes

...the 16-year-old Soham Das | Photo: Lennart Ootes

At the outset, it looked like Adhiban should have the advantage because of his central passed pawn and Adhiban did try everything for 78 moves his way to victory. However, Das defended tenaciously and did not allow his Grandmaster opponent any opportunity of scraping out a win. In the end, the players decided to settle for a draw.

On the 20th board, 13-year-old Nihal Sarin was playing Lars Laustsen, a 2200 rated player from Denmark. | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Sarin deployed the Queen’s Indian Defence to counter his opponent’s 1.d4. Equalizing comfortably, Sarin began to exert pressure on White's position after his opponent let him get his pawns rolling in the centre. After a few more errors by his opponent, Sarin first gained space with his pawns and then won a full piece on move 33. It took Sarin only three moves after this to force resignation.

Erwin L'ami demolished IM Nisha Mohota with a monstrous kingside attack | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Tournament’s sixth seed, GM Erwin L’ami avoided a mainline Italian with the black pieces in his game against Nisha Mohota and utterly crushed his opponent. As the middle game commenced, L’ami flung all of his pawns and pieces towards the kingside and generated a monstrous attack on the white monarch. Of course, Mohota’s position wasn’t dead lost yet but with almost with so many black pieces lurking around, she fumbled a couple of times and that was enough for the Dutch number four to finish off the game in his favour.

Top board encounter between Rapport and Der Manuelian | Photo: Lennart Ootes

Talking of attacking games, one just cannot discount Richard Rapport. Given even half the chance to create complications, this Hungarian GM just pounces in! So when an opportunity arose in his game against Haik Der Manuelian, Rapport just hacked off the black knight with his rook to up lines against the enemy king. As play progressed, more pieces huddled towards the kingside and by the 28th move, the black king was caught in a mating net.

Two more rounds will be played on day two of the event, post which the tournament will resume its one round per day schedule. Given that players are allowed to take one or two half-point byes in the first seven rounds, it might be that some players choose to take the bye in one of the two rounds of the second day.


About the Author

Aditya Pai is an ardent chess fan, avid reader, and a film lover. He holds a Master's in English Literature and used to work as an advertising copywriter before joining the ChessBase India team.