5-time Romanian Chess Champion Constantin Lupulescu is the 2019 Reykjavik Open Champion after ending with the best tiebreaks of the 8 players who finished on 7/9. The key victory came in Round 7, when he became the only player to beat Alireza Firouzja, though the 15-year-old Iranian still went on to finish in 2nd place, with a 2682.6 live rating. Top seed Gawain Jones has crossed 2700 after defeating Lupulescu in the penultimate round, though he finished in 4th place, behind Nils Grandelius.
You can replay the games from the 2019 Reykjavik Open, with computer analysis, using the selector below:
On the rest day that came after five rounds we had four leaders of the Reykjavik Open.
In Round 6 two of them, Robert Hovhannisyan and Alireza Firouzja, drew their game, allowing 35-year-old Constantin Lupulescu to snatch the sole lead by convincingly beating Sergei Movsesian with the white pieces.
In Round 7 he extended his lead to a full point, using the French Defence to inflict the only defeat of the tournament on Alireza. Romain Edouard tweeted during the early stages of the game:
It might have just a little to do with this game from the European Championship last month!
That game ended in 27 moves, while it was only on move 16 that Lupulescu varied from Romain’s play, choosing 16…Qa2 instead of 16…Qa1. The tactical themes remained the same, however, and White’s position was just as terrifying to play!
Firouzja survived slightly longer and could have escaped at almost the last moment, after 27…Bxf2? (27…axb2+! was the move) 28.Qxf2 Qa1:
Here it's hard to believe, but after 29.Rxd5!! White’s problems are objectively over, since he can meet 29…a2 with 30.Qf5!.
Instead Firouzja, down to a minute on his clock, played 29.e7, and after 29...a2 it would now be too late to play 30.Qf5 due to that same rook sacrifice played by Edouard: 30…Rxc3+! One key difference to the positions after 29.Rxd5! is clear in the line: 31.bxc3 axb1=Q+ 32.Qxb1 Qxc3+:
The king doesn't have the d1-square to escape to, so it's mate next move! Back in the game play continued 30.e8=Q+ Rxe8 31.Qf5 d4! and it was time to resign:
That game meant Lupulescu had a full point lead, and a good result in the penultimate round might have sealed the fate of first place. Instead top seed Gawain Jones gave hope to the chasing pack by playing the Grünfeld, inflicting tripled (!) isolated f-pawns on White and going on to grind out an 84-move win. We mentioned before that this year’s Reykjavik Open had begun without a 2700 player, but it wouldn't end that way!
Despite the loss, Lupulescu still went into the final round in the lead, and he made a relatively quick draw against his co-leader and compatriot Mircea-Emilian Parligras.
That meant they would both at least share first place, unless the other leader, Gawain Jones, could beat Erwin l’Ami and take clear first.
The English Grandmaster accepted the challenge, but it almost backfired, as Erwin gradually took over and looked as though he would go on to win. It wasn't to be:
They played on for 74 moves to bare kings, which meant an 8-way tie for first place, with Gawain taking 4th and establishing a rating of 2701.8.
3rd place went to Nils Grandelius, who is closing in on 2700 himself, and richly deserved a high finish for his bold play in the final two rounds. He defeated Sabino Brunello in a heavy-piece ending in the last round, but provided the most entertainment in the penultimate round in a wild game against Indian Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta.
That game caught fire on move 21:
21…Bd3!! was a piece sac to be able to follow 22.Bxd3 with 22…Nxg4! and an attack on the white king. After that the game could have gone either way – Nils would surely have found a knock-out blow if he hadn’t been down to a minute just before the time control, but Gupta had chances of a study-like win at the end despite being multiple pawns down.
Things would also end well for Gupta, who went on to beat his 15-year-old namesake Prithu Gupta in the final round to join the tie for first.
The most notable player in that tie was perhaps Alireza Firouzja, who fought back from the Round 7 defeat to win his final two games. It was a triumph of sheer determination, since neither game was going his way until the very end. In the penultimate round he fashioned enough complications to confuse FM Alisher Suleymenov, while in the last round he risked ending up worse against veteran Icelandic GM Johann Hjartarson to unbalance the position. It still seemed it might not be enough until move 62:
Firouzja, playing White, was down to under a minute compared to his opponent’s 23 minutes, but it’s Black who blundered. After a move like 62…Re1 the white b-pawn will cost Black a rook, but his h-pawn should be enough to draw the game. After 62…Rxb2+? 63.Nxb2 Ke5 64.b6, however, it turned out the b-pawn can’t be stopped and the h-pawn won’t be in time. Johann resigned four moves later.
That meant that despite a stumble 15-year-old Alireza is still within one very good tournament of crossing the 2700 mark at an age when only the likes of Wei Yi and Magnus Carlsen have managed before him.
The other players to finish on 7/9 were Tigran Petrosian (who like Gawain Jones didn’t lose a game), and former World Junior Champion Aryan Tari.
The final standings at the top looked as follows:
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