While the celebrated Vishy Anand struggling in Candidates Chess Tournament at Moscow, India still earned a name in chess. Nearly 10 days back Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta of India brought laurels to the nation by a formidable display in the 31st edition of Reykjavik Open Chess Tournament. In a format based on 10-round Swiss, Abhijeet was simply brilliant in garnering 8.5 points out of the possible 10 and won the tournament from the Russian GM Dmitry Andreikin. The 26-year old Indian looked calm and collected in all his matches and never lost a single game. His level of play was highly consistent and every analyst regarded him as a worthy winner in the end. This year, Reykjavik Open attracted 250 players and the event was spread over 8 days from March 8-16 in the Icelandic capital. Over the past 30 years, the tournament has enjoyed a great reputation and chess masters from several nations have flocked to the iconic Scandinavian city year after year. The organizers have ensured that invitations are sent to the young and promising chess talent in the world, both male and female, and thereby make the event unique.
The tournament format was based on 10-round Swiss System with time control, as per which 90 minutes were allowed for 40 moves. After that, 30 minutes to the end of the game with a 30-second increment from move 1. A player could not offer a draw until move 30. There were no rest days but players were a given a flexibility of taking one or two half-point byes in first seven rounds. Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov was the tournament’s top seed and besides him, they were three other 2700 players. Incidentally, Abhijeet Gupta with his 2634 ELO points was seeded 10th.
It must be understood that the Swiss system uses a non-elimination format but unlike round-robin, each competitor doesn’t play every other competitor. The pairings are predetermined and designed to ensure that to the extent possible, a competitor plays competitors with the same current score but cannot play the same opponent more than once. The winner is someone with the highest aggregate points earned in all rounds. In first round, competitors are paired randomly or according to some pattern that is judicious in the best interest of the game. If it is desired for top-ranked participants to meet in the last rounds, such players are placed in different brackets. In subsequent rounds, competitors are decided based on their cumulative scores and are assigned opponents with same or similar scores up to that point.
In his first round, Abhijeet played with Black pieces against Germany’s Michael Raddatz and overwhelmed his opponent in 30 moves. After such a good start, the Indian had white pieces against Lasinskas Povilas of Lithuania and took 59 moves before winning. In third round, Abhijeet scored another victory with black pieces against Awonder Liang of USA and the 3-0 lead already made him a tournament front-runner. Playing with Whites against Nikita Petrov of Russia in fourth round, Abhijeet consolidated his status with a 4-0 lead. In the fifth round, however, Abhijeet settled for a draw with England’s Gawain Jones and another draw ensued in sixth round against Bulgaria’s Ivan Cheparinov. In seventh round, Abhijeet faced USA’s Alexander Shabalov and won with Black pieces to jump to 6-0 lead. The Indian also won the next two rounds. In the eighth, Abhijeet defeated Armenia’s Sergei Movesian with Whites and in the ninth; he outlasted Sweden’s Nils Grandelius.
Going into the last round, Abhijeet had an 8-0 score and all he needed against Italian Francesco Rambaldi was a draw. Though Abhijeet had the advantage of playing with Whites, the weight of the occasion probably proved too much and Abhijeet and he settled for a draw after 30 moves. However, 8½ points were enough for Abhijeet as he was declared the deserved winner of 2016 Reykjavik Open.