Dutch Grandmaster Erwin l’Ami’s stunning 8.5/9 start meant he could afford to lose his final game to Ukraine’s Pavel Eljanov and still finish in clear first place at the 2015 Reykjavik Open. That win with Black gave Eljanov second place, while Frenchman Fabien Libiszewski also defeated Gawain Jones with the black pieces to claim third. There was disappointment for top seeds Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and David Navara.
Erwin laid the foundation for his triumph with three consecutive wins against world-class opposition: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2756), Julio Granda (2646) and Hrant Melkumyan (2676). That first scalp was a fine miniature, where Erwin had a little help from his wife:
1. d4 d6 2. c4 e5 This central break injects some adrenaline into the game from the start, since it obliges White to take a decision. As we'll see, Erwin is going to follow in the footsteps of two recent games played by his wife, Alina. This is very normal for a chess-playing couple, especially if both are strong, since they work together and share analysis. Who did the line occur to first? That's something only they know!
One of the main moves, transposing to an English. I remember being surprised to learn as a child that the ending after
5... ♘f6 6. b3 a5 , where Black sacrifices a pawn on the next move to create a very dynamic position. In my view, this is the more correct alternative, since it's an effective means of hindering White's development.
10... ♗f5 This has the idea of playing Ne4 and completely equalising the game.
11... ♗e6 was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave's choice against Alina l'Ami. The bishop looks a little more active on e6, where it fights for d5 and puts pressure on c4, so that the plan of a5-a4 makes more sense. 12. O-O a5 13. ♘d5 a4 14. e4 ♘a5 15. ♗c3 c6 16. ♘xf6+ ♗xf6 17. ♗xf6 ♕xf6 18. ♕xd6 axb3 19. axb3 ♘xc4 20. ♕d1 ♘a3 21. f4 ♕c3 22. f5 ♗xb3 23. ♕g4 ♘c2 24. ♖xa8 ♖xa8 25. fxg6 hxg6 26. ♘f5 ♘e3 27. ♘xe3 ♕xe3+ 28. ♔h1 ♗c4 29. ♖g1 ♖a2 30. ♕c8+ ♔g7 31. ♕xb7 ♖xg2 32. ♔xg2 ♕xe4+ 33. ♔h3 ♗e6+ 34. g4 ♕f3+ 35. ♖g3 ♗xg4+ 0-1 (35) l'Ami,A (2386)-Vachier Lagrave,M (2757) Douglas 2014
13. ♖fe1 A typical response to Black's plan, intending to keep the light-squared bishop on the board.
15. ♘g2 Preventing Qh5, since the knight would jump to f4.
15... ♕d4 The only good way out for the queen, aiming to simplify.
15... ♕h5 would be met by 16. ♘f4 ♕h6 17. ♘cd5 and Black's attacking ideas come to nothing, since after 17... ♘g4 18. ♗xg7 ♔xg7 White can win in various ways. The simplest is perhaps 19. f3 followed by capturing on c7.
16. ♖ad1 The most solid option.
16... ♘e4? A mistake that leads to a critical position for Black.
19... ♘g5? This seems to save a piece...
19... ♘xc3 was the only chance, and after 20. ♗xc3 you needed to follow up with 20... g5! 21. ♗xd4 gxf4 22. ♗xb7 White has a bishop pair that can dominate the board as well as an extra pawn (with the a7-pawn a strong candidate to be next). His position is promising, and it's perfectly possible L'Ami would have gone on to win in any case.
20. ♘xh3 ♘xh3+ 21. ♔f1 And despite being a clear exchange up, Mamedyarov resigned! His problems are legion. The h3-knight is a move away from being trapped (with f4) and the white knight coming to d5 threatens one fork on c7 and another on f6, while the bishop will simultaneously attack the d4-knight. Too many threats to stop! It's not often we see an elite player fall in only 21 moves. Congratulations, Erwin!
Top seed Mamedyarov started off with 5/5, but things began to go wrong in the second half of the tournament... and it could have been much worse!
Mamedyarov has just played 11.Qb5? – a bad mistake, since his opponent, IM Jacek Stopa (2544) had the reply 11…a6! It’s impossible to take on b7, since 12.Qxb7 runs into 12…Na5!, trapping the queen! Instead the Polish grandmaster took mercy on his opponent and even went on to lose after 12...Qb6?.
Spanish no. 1 Paco Vallejo, tuning in via our Android app, attached more question marks
also suffered in the final round, after a bad opening against Abhijeet
The Indian player took back immediately on f4, allowing Mamedyarov to close the position with 14...d5. More dangerous was the zwischenzug 14.Bf7, which would have posed Black’s uncoordinated forces far more problems.
Second seed David Navara’s crazy schedule, coming straight from the European Championship in Jerusalem to a tournament with one double round and no rest day, finally caught up with him. The warning signs were there in Round 6, when he missed a gilt-edged chance against – you guessed it! – Mamedyarov.
A highly-rated commentator felt it might have been a sign of fatigue to try and force play:
After that it was perhaps a case of something Peter Svidler once said when faced with a similar schedule: “I came up with the analogy of a shark that has to swim so as not to die”. David stopped swimming by taking a half-point bye in Round 7, which provoked an outburst from Hikaru Nakamura:
That ultimately looked like kicking a man when he’s down, though, since Navara went on to lose two of his final three games (to Alexandr Fier and Henrik Danielsen), dropping 13 rating points and finishing the tournament all the way down in 32nd place.
The final standings at the top were as follows:
Congratulations poured in for Erwin l'Ami, who had won the tournament with a round to spare and an out-of-this-world performance.
Even the last-round disappointment couldn't take too much of the shine off.
So that’s all for the 30th edition of the Reykjavik Open! Let’s hope for many more to come.
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