Although Iceland boasts more Grandmasters per head than any country in the world - 10 in a population of 270,000, in the 1990s the sport struggled for attention against rivals such as soccer, basketball and the national passion, handball. In recent years some of Iceland's GMs have retired from tournament play and taken up jobs in the new economy.
As part of a revival strategy, the Iceland Chess Federation organised a major rapid tournament last weekend *Chess on Top of the World*, featuring six Icelandic and six foreign GMs. Major sponsorship was obtained from companies (Oz.com and Simnet) associated with two of the retired GMs Jon Arnason and Margeir Petursson, the new concert hall in Reykjavik's biggest suburb Kopavogur, was booked, and the top two players in the world were invited.
The plan worked well; Icelandic television provided live coverage and the Icelandic public turned out in force to spectate. The match-up between Garry Kasparov and Viswanathan Anand was given extra spice by Anand's decision to reject a possible world title match against Kasparov in October - Kramnik has since taken up the challenge - and the top seeds comfortably qualified for the final.
Anand struggled to draw both 25 minute games and then self-destructed in the 5 minute play-off games, bizarrely losing on time in the first game after being ahead on time and material. Entering the final two minutes of this game Anand had been 20 seconds ahead on the clock but inexplicably allowed his time to run down. With six seconds remaining, Anand woke up but by then a loss on time was inevitable.
Despite the strange finish, Kasparov fully deserved to win the $US4,500 first prize in Kopavogur. Although his play was far from perfect, Kasparov took his chances incisively, as the following game shows.
Kopavogur Rapid 2000
Opening: Sicilian Defence
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 a6 6.Be3
The modern main line of the Sicilian Najdorf; Kasparov knows it so well that he is equally happy on either side of the board.
6...e6 7.f3 b5 8.g4 Nbd7 9.Qd2 h6 10.0-0-0 Bb7 11.h4 b4 12.Na4 d5 13.Bh3 g5!? 14.hxg5 hxg5 15.e5!?
In Wijk aan Zee in January, Kasparov won easily with 15.Bg2. However Wojtkiewicz had shown that 15...Rg8 was a good answer, so Kasparov tries a new idea.
15...Nxe5 16.Bxg5 Rg8!
This took Kasparov by surprise and he used more than five minutes on his speculative reply.
A terrible oversight. Since 17...Qxb6 18.Bxf6 Nc4 19.Qe2 Rg6 20.g5 gives White a nasty attack, 17...Rb8! was Black's best, after which it is difficult to find a reasonable follow-up for White, e.g. 18.Rhe1 Bd6 19.f4 Rxe5! 20.fxg5 Ne4 21.Rxe4 dxe4 22.Nxe6 fxe6 23.Qxd6 Qxd6 24.Rxd6 Ke7 and Black's prospects in the endgame are bright.
18.Nxc4 dxc4 (Diagram) 19.Bxf6! Qxf6 20.Nxe6! Bh6
This move enables Black to avoid immediate resignation but Black's king remains too exposed for long-term survival to be feasible.
21.g5 fxe6 22.Qd7+ Kf8 23.gxh6 Bd5 24.Qd6+ Qe7 25.Qf4+ Qf7 26.Qe5 1-0
The Canberra Cup, open to all, will begin on Wednesday evening at the
Griffin Centre. Details from Ian Rout 62766379.