Chess in the Arctic Circle – GM Igor Kurnosov triumphs

by ChessBase
8/18/2008 – For the third time the Tromsø Chess Club staged an International Open in the Arctic Circle. It ran from August 2nd to 10th 2008, with sky high prizes, by Norwegian standards (total prize fund 11,000 Euros). The venue is spectacular, the atmosphere warm and generous. And the place is full of Carlsens: Magnus, Henrik, Sigrun, Ellen, Ingrid and Signe. Part one of our big pictorial report.

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The event was won by GM Igor Kurnosov from Russia, the highest rated player in the event. The key to his success was an eighth round victory over co-leader Simen Agdestein, the local boy and third seed. In the final round Kurnosov had black against fifth seed Matthew Turner, rated at 2493. On move eight Turner proposed a draw which Kurnosov accepted. Sergey Kasparov (no relative) played eleven moves against Vitaly Kunin before the two agreed to a draw. Meanwhile a determined Simen Agdestein faced off against IM Bjørn Tiller, rated 2374.

Agdestein,Simen (2583) - Tiller,Bjørn (2374)
Arctic Chess Challenge 2008 Scandic Tromsø (9), 02.08.2008
1.d4 g6 2.e4 Bg7 3.Nc3 a6 4.f4 b5 5.Nf3 Bb7 6.Bd3 e6 7.0-0 Nc6 8.e5 f5 9.a4 b4 10.Na2 Nge7 11.a5 d6 12.Qe2 dxe5 13.dxe5 b3 14.cxb3 Nxa5 15.Rd1 Nd5 16.Bc4 0-0 17.Qe1 c6 18.Bd2?!

Here Agdestein allowed a little tactical combination which worked out well enough for him in the end: 18...Nxb3 19.Bxb3 Qb6+ 20.Qf2 Qxb3 21.Nd4 Qb6 22.Nxe6 Qxf2+ 23.Kxf2 Rfe8 24.Nxg7 Kxg7 25.Nc1 c5. Tiller decides to give a pawn to free his light-squared bishop, but the plan backfires. 26.Nb3 Rac8 27.Rac1 Bc6 28.Nxc5 Bb5 29.g3 Rc6

White is a pawn up and has a devastating attack. 30.Ba5 Nb6 31.Rd6 Na4 32.Ne6+ Rxe6 33.Rcxc6 1-0. A nice game, thoroughly enjoyed by spectators who were less enthusiastic about the two super-fast draws on the top boards.

Final standings (after nine rounds of play)

Pl Player Rating
TB1 TB2 TB3 Performance
GM Igor Kurnosov 2617
 2713 (+10.90)
GM Simen Agdestein 2583
45.5  2621 (+6.10)
GM Matthew J Turner 2493
45.0  2585 (+11.80)
GM Vitaly Kunin 2532
44.5  2631 (+12.80)
GM Vadim Malakhatko 2612
45.5  2587 (-0.50)
GM Tomas Likavsky 2485
42.5 47.0 51.5  2465 (+0.90)
IM Amon Simutowe 2459
42.5 47.0 51.0  2428 (-0.30)
GM Sergey Kasparov 2486
43.0  2433 (-3.60)
Peter S Poobalasingam 2203
42.5  2388 (+31.95)
10  FM Espen Forså 2282
39.5 44.0 48.0  2315 (+6.75)
11  IM Anna Zozulia 2346
39.5 44.0 48.0  2314 (-2.55)
12  Lasse Østebø Løvik 2143
39.5 43.0  2372 (+31.50)
13  WIM Tatiana Kasparova 2176
37.5  2240 (+10.35)
14  Pål Røyset 2234
36.5  2237 (+3.30)
15  FM Joachim Thomassen 2357
36.0  2285 (-9.90)
16  Daniel Jakobsen Kovachev 2202
41.0  2247 (+5.55)
17  GM Heikki Westerinen 2376
40.5  2288 (-11.55)
18  IM Bjørn Tiller 2374
39.0  2324 (-6.15)
19  FM Peter J Sowray 2327
38.0  2276 (-5.85)
20  Even Thingstad 2019
37.0 41.5  2295 (+41.40)
21  Gunnar B. Hanssen 2232
37.0 41.0  2242 (+2.55)
22  Espen Haugstad 2032
35.5  2140 (+15.30)
23  Jon Kristian Haarr 1971
34.5 38.5 42.0  2160 (+30.15)
24  Hans Olav Lahlum 2201
34.5 38.5 42.0  2137 (-9.45)
25  Ian A Marks 1934
34.0 38.0  2046 (+10.80)
26  Henrik Carlsen 2067
34.0 37.5  2194 (+18.00)
27  Anders G Hagen 2084
33.0  1985 (-10.20)
28  D Ian W Reynolds 2105
38.5 42.5  2142 (+6.30)
29  Stig K. Martinsen 2161
38.5 42.0  2181 (+1.80)
30  FM Gerrit Prakken 2220
37.0  2087 (-21.90)
31  Vegar Koi Gandrud 2002
36.5 40.5  2174 (+21.30)
32  Sondre Waage Tofte 2122
36.5 39.5  2125 (-0.15)
33  Peter Flermoen 1936
36.0  2139 (+24.75)

Tromsø, the town of the midnight sun

Pictorial report by Frederic Friedel

For all our readers who missed our previous reports on the Arctic Chess Challenge, here is some background information on the spectacularly beautiful location of the event. We can only show you part of it today and will surely return to it with a second report. We would like to encourage players to make the trip in 2009 and will provide photographic evidence to support our recommendation.

The Arctic Circle is one of the major circles of latitude, running 66.56° north of the Equator. It marks the southern extremity of the "polar day", which is when the sun is visible for 24 hours (usually referred to as the "midnight sun") at least once per year, and polar night, when the sun does not appear above the horizon for 24 hours. The midnight sun can be seen in summer for many days, weeks or months, depending on how far north of the arctic circle a place is located.

The Arctic Circle [Graphic by Swinburne University]

The countries where people can see the midnight sun are Alaska, northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, northern Norway, Sweden, Finland, and some extremities of Russia. At Finland's northernmost point, the sun does not set for 73 days during summer.

The city of Tromsø lies in the northern-most region of Norway, 69° 40' 33" N, 18° 55' 10" E,
almost 400 km inside the Arctic Circle (which runs 66° 33' 39" north of the Equator).

The island city of Tromsø as seen in Google Earth

In Tromsø there are remains of settlement that go back to the end of the ice age. The first church was built in 1252, and in the 19th century it became a major centre for Arctic hunting. During World War II it served briefly as the seat of Norwegian government, and the German battleship Tirpitz was sunk off the Tromsøy Island in 1944. Today there are over 100 nationalities in the town's population.

A note on the name: in Europe it is known as "Tromsö", but the Norwegians pronounce it "Troom-sa", the first vowel as in "rook" and the second consisting of a special Norwegian schwa which is not easy to transcribe, describe or even vocalise. But these Nordic people are generous and will accept various pronunciations.

Our trip begins in Oslo, the capital of Norway, from where we transfer to Tromsø

At Oslo airport we pick up an important charge – one youthful chess genius, Magnus Carlsen,
whom we have undertaken to deliver to his family in Tromsø

The Norwegian Airlines flight to the island – a modern budget airline service. One thing to mention: to our great pleasure we saw that the plane was flown by a young female pilot.

On the tail of the plane a portrait of the playwright Henrik Ibsen, one of the personalities Norway is proud of. Others are explorers Roald Amundsen, Fridtjof Nansen, Thor Heyerdahl, composer Edvard Grieg, painter Edvard Munch, novelist Roald Dahl, actress Liv Ullmann, soccer player and ballroom dancer Simen Agdestein, and chess wonderboy Magnus Carlsen.

The plane plastered with avertisement for Chess! A tribute to the world-class GM?

No, it is for a young Norwegian cell-phone provider who has picked a catchy name

The venue, Hotel Scandic, is the long white building behind the indoor football stadium (and mall), adjacent to the airport. During the day you can watch planes take off and land from your hotel window.

We deliver Magnus Carlsen safely at the venue, where he is the guest of honour

United with his family again: mother Sigrun, youngest sister Signe, father Henrik, Magnus, younger sister Ingrid. There is an older sister, Ellen, who was still in the hall finishing her game.

Magnus is received by the Mayor of Tromsø, Arild Hausberg, who has ambitions to bring the Chess Olympiad to the city in 2014 (more about that later) – and the Olympic Winter Games in 2018

The next day the meeting features prominently in the papers,
which says Magnus is "cool with the Olympiad in Tromsø"

Magnus attends a postmortem session between his former teacher Simen Agdestein (right) and German GM Vitaly Kunin from round seven. The games was a hard-fought draw in 57 moves.

And of course there is always time to dissect the game sister Ingrid has just finished

Sibling analysis and support – exhilarating to watch

The playing hall in the Scandic during round eight

The top encounter in round eight – Igor Kurnosov vs Simen Agdestein (Kurnosov won)

Agdestein suffering. Afterwards in best ALF manner, he told us: "I'll get over it... Okay, I'm over it now!"

Another Carlsen – Henrik, at the start of a tough round eight game which he drew

And another one: Ellen Carlsen, 1874, who drew her round eight game in 24 moves

And yet another: Ingrid Øen Carlsen, 1521, who drew her game in 36

Chief arbiter Karl Johan Rist and former FIDE legal expert Morten Sand. We suddenly realised that the latter is Norwegian. "I thought you were Danish – or Kalmyk," I said to him (he has a Kalmykian wife). Morten was horrified to hear that. "'Danish' is a terrible insult," he said. "'Kalmyk' is okay, but to assume I was Danish...!"

An old friend whom we met in Tromsø for the first time in person: Amon Simutowe, a Zambian IM who has completed all his GM norms (the first sub-Saharan African to do this) but is waiting for his rating, currently 2459, to cross 2500 to get the title. Amon is looking for more opportunities to play in Europe – vital if he is to achieve his goal.

Anders Hagen, rated 2084, one of Magnus' best friends. His g-star T-shirt reads "raw adj. 1 fresh, uncooked, unripe. 2 crude, natural, unprocessed, untreated. 3 bare, basic, brutal, harsh, naked, plain, realistic. 4 scraped, scratched, tender. 5 biting, bitter, bleak, chilly, cold. 6 green, inexperienced, untrained." We don't know him well enough to judge how accurated this description is.

Our host Jan Sigmund Berglund, who in the 70s was one of the best junior players in Northern Norway (with a peak Elo of over 2200) and won the Championship twice.
He started a chess column in the newspaper "Nordlys" where he spread the gospel of chess in an inspiring way. He also got a local coffee house to get chessboards and clocks to encourage people to take up the game. Jan Sigmund is one of the driving forces behind the Tromsø bid to stage the 2014 Chess Olympiad.

Coming soon: a report on the visit by the Arctic Chess Challenge 2008 participants to the seaside ranch of Jan Sigmund Berglund, one of the reasons why you are going to be playing in the tournament there next year.

Nightfall in Tromsø, where at this time of the year it never really gets dark


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