Friðrik Ólafsson, Iceland’s first grandmaster in chess, was given the title Honorary Citizen of Reykjavík at a ceremony in Höfði yesterday. Friðrik, who celebrated his 80th birthday on January 26, was made an honorary member of FIDE (the World Chess Federation) at the same occasion.
With the title, Reykjavík City Council would like to thank Friðrik for his achievement in the chess, which is popular in Iceland. No one is considered to have had a bigger impact on the development of chess in Iceland than Friðrik, a press release states.
“Chess fascinated me. I became obsessed and couldn’t escape so [my career path] was a given,” Friðrik told RÚV after yesterday’s ceremony. At the same time, the Icelandic Chess Federation established a fund in his name to encourage young chess players.
“Because I have a relationship with chess, I’m very touched that my life’s work is considered to be this important,” the grandmaster added. “In my youth … I often walked past this house [Höfði] and I never dreamt that one day I would sit here and be given this title.”
Born in 1935, Friðrik became Icelandic champion in chess at only 17 and Nordic champion the following year. In 1958 he became the first Icelandic grandmaster in chess and earned international recognition as a chess player.
He studied law at the University of Iceland and worked at the Ministry of Justice before becoming a professional chess player in 1974. He served as president of FIDE from 1978 to 1982, after which he worked as undersecretary of Alþingi, the Icelandic parliament.
“I never wanted to dedicate my life completely to chess so I reached an agreement with the chess goddess about getting a break after having spent enough time with her,” Friðrik concluded.
Friðrik is the sixth person to be made Honorary Citizen of Reykjavík. Rev. Bjarni Jónsson was given the title in 1961, ophthalmologist Kristján Sveinsson in 1975, former President of Iceland Vigdís Finnbogadóttir in 2010, artist Erró in 2012 and artist Yoko Ono in 2013.