Record-breaking participation is expected at this afternoon’s Reykjavík chess tournament, reflecting a global surge in chess interest, Vísir reports. Icelandic Chess Federation President Gunnar Björnsson maintains that the event is one of the world’s most prestigious and competitive tournaments.
Over 400 participants
The Reykjavík Open chess tournament began at 3 PM today at the Harpa Music and Conference Hall. The week-long tournament will commence with Mayor Dagur B. Eggertsson playing the first game. Over 400 participants will compete, dwarfing the previous record of 272.
In an interview with Vísir, the President of the Icelandic Chess Federation, Gunnar Björnsson, tried to account for the surge in popularity: “Iceland is, of course, a popular destination. Last year’s anniversary celebration (50 years have passed since the so-called “Duel of the Century,” between Bobby Fischer and defending champion Boris Spassky) also helps. But then there’s also the fact that interest in chess around the world has exploded; there is a huge interest in chess in the world. It has only increased in recent months,” Gunnar observed.
As noted by Vísir, Icelanders are the most numerous competitors at the tournament, or 85 competitors, while the Germans are the most numerous foreign competitors with 60 players. Competitors at the tournament hail from 47 different countries, including Kazakhstan, Singapore, Australia, and Sri Lanka.
Gunnar told Vísir that around 4,000 overnight stays in the city’s hotels could be expected due to the tournament. The Reykjavík Open, which was first held in 1964, has a strong position in the chess world.
“The Reykjavík Open is one of the largest open chess tournaments in the world. I would place it in the top three – or even higher. This is considered one of the most remarkable and classiest tournaments and one of the most famous in history.”
There have also never been more grandmasters competing at the tournament: “Thirty-four, which comes to approximately 10% of competitors; that’s pretty good,” Gunnar observed.
Of those thirty-four grandmasters, six are Icelandic, including the most recent Icelandic grandmaster Vignir Vatnar Stefánsson and the women’s grandmaster Lenka Ptácníková. The top scorer of the competitors is the Ukrainian Vasyl Ivanchuk. Other strong players include Swede Nils Grandelius and Norwegian Aryan Tari.
Gunnar concluded by saying that Ivanchuk was favoured to win the competition, although “the unexpected could always happen.”
The tournament will come to a close on Tuesday, April 4.