Chess: Bobby Fischer v Boris Spassky 1972 remembered at Reykjavik Open

Half a century on from 1972, the Bobby Fischer v Boris Spassky series in Reykjavik remains the most famous of all world championship matches. It triggered a global chess boom, not least in Britain where for a brief period a galaxy of talent made England the No 2 chess nation behind the Soviet Union.

Reykjavik has another tradition, its annual international open first staged in 1964 when the legendary Mikhail Tal outclassed the field with 12.5/13. The 2022 edition at the Harpa Conference Centre from 6-12 April has a tight schedule of nine rounds in seven days, zero Covid restrictions, and morning excursions which include a visit to Fischer’s grave.

There are no Russians or Ukrainians, few Americans, and the four top seeds are all from India. England has one of the largest contingents, 31, most of whom are amateurs rated below 2000.

GM Simon Williams is the leading English player, and Reykjavik will also test England’s most promising juniors. Jonah Willow, 19, of Nottingham, and Harry Grieve, 20, of Guildford, already have international master norms and are closing in on the title, while Shreyas Royal, 13, missed his first norm by just half a point at Ilkley last week.

Grieve also represents Cambridge in the annual varsity match, first staged in 1873 and the longest running annual fixture in world chess. This Saturday’s renewal at its traditional venue, the RAC in Pall Mall, London, will be online at (12.30pm start).

GMs Michael Adams, Luke McShane and Gawain Jones were on top board for their German clubs when the 2022 Bundesliga season opened last week. All six games were halved, with the pick being McShane’s eventful draw with the new German star Vincent Keymer, 17.

Keymer looked superior with his mobile central pawns until McShane, after half an hour’s thought, found the tactic 17 Bf4! This could have given the English GM the full point with 20 Nf5! regaining the sacrificed piece with advantage, but instead he settled for perpetual check.

England’s other active top grandmaster, David Howell, is currently playing a £15,000 10-game classical match in London against Sweden’s No 1, Nils Grandelius. Games are viewable live online (2pm start). Howell took a 4.5-3.5 lead on Thursday with the best game of the match.

The first major weekend congress of 2022 takes place at the Imperial Hotel, Blackpool, from Friday until Sunday, with 350-400 entries expected, five sections, and £6,700 in prizes including £700 for the Lancashire Open winner. Due to the pandemic and/or venue problems, many popular congresses were cancelled in 2021, so players are eager for action.

An exception seems to be experts and near-masters. Blackpool’s top seed is 2520-rated Danny Gormally, the England No 12, but only four others are rated above 2300. This is a distinct weakening compared with many previous years, when Michael Adams, Matthew Sadler, and Stuart Conquest were listed among the winners.

Blackpool’s experience seems to reflect a general downsizing of weekend events, which in turn relates to the boom in online play, One-day rapidplays rather than two-day weekenders are becoming the norm, opens rarely have a prize structure to attract masters, let alone GMs, while the ECF seems to have quietly abandoned its long established congress Grand Prix for the best overall performances in a season. In the 1970s, the heyday of English weekend congresses, the Grand Prix had a £1,000 first prize and even had an opening named after it – the Grand Prix Attack against the Sicilian 1 e4 c5 with Nc3, Bc4, f4, Nf3, 0-0, Qe1-h4, f5 and an easy to play assault against the black king.

Richard Rapport defeated Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 1.5-0.5 in the Belgrade semi-final of the Fide Grand Prix, as the Hungarian sprung the rare move 12 Rc3! which provoked errors by the Frenchman in his favourite Grünfeld Defence. Anish Giri (Netherlands) and Dmitry Andreikin (Russia) drew both their classical games and will play speed tie-breaks on Friday to decide who meets Rapport in the final.

The groups for the third and final Grand Prix leg in Berlin have been announced, and include an unpleasant surprise for Hikaru Nakamura and Levon Aronian, who dominated the first leg in February. The two Americans are both in Group A along with Andreikin, whereas none of the other three groups has more than one potential qualifier. As it stands, Nakamura and Aronian cannot both qualify.

3806 1 Qxd5! exd5 2 Nf6+! gxf6 3 exf6+ Be7 4 Rxe7+ Kf8 5 Re8+! Kxe8 6 Re1 mate. 1 Qxd5 Qxd5 2 Rxd5 Be7 delays mate, but Black is a knight down with a poor position.

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