Chess on the Arctic Circle

10/25/2005 – It is unusual when a chess tournament is held in a town that exactly straddles the Arctic Circle. That is the case for Salekhard (or Salegard), where ten teams are playing – with all participants required to be under 17 years of age, and one under ten. Here's a beautifully illustrated report by Eldar Mukhametov.

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The Arctic Cup 2005

Report by Eldar Mukhametov

Salekhard (also spelled Salegard) is an administrative center of Yamalia. It is the only city in the world that is located right on the Polar circle. Yamalia or Yamalo-Nenets (red in the above map) is an autonomous district in the Russian Federation. It is three quarters of a million square kilometers in size, but very sparsely populated, with only around 550,000 inhabitants. The population of Salekhard is 35,000.


The correct attire in Salekhard

The International Youth Chess Tournament “The Arctic Cup” is being held for the second time in Salekhard, Russia, at the initiative of Yury Neelov, who is the Governor of the Yamal-Nenets and also the President of the Yamal-Nenets Chess Federation.


Watch it folks, there's something creeping up behind you! Salekhard in heavy snow

The first tournament took place in Salekhard in November 2003 with the blessing of Anatoly Karpov, the 12th World Champion, Boris Spassky, the 10th Word Champion and Alexander Roshal, the Editor in Chief of the magazine “64 Chess Review”.


Preparing the train museum for the onslaught of visitors

The second “Arctic Cup” started in 2005, October 20. All the foreign participants were really happy to see a lot of snow which fell out just a few days earlier.


Ice sculptured in the park

The tournament became really remarkable and significant due to Geurt Gijssen being the Chief Arbiter. He became a symbol of this year’s Arctic Cup. In his first visit he made a promise to deliver his speech in the opening ceremony of the next tournament in Russian. And he fulfilled his promise. He made his address to the participants, wished them luck, referred to the organizers with the words of honor in Russian. His speech was a real success.


The Greek Greek in front of the "Town of Wood"...


...and with the "living chess" players at the opening ceremony


Living chess pieces in Salekhard


Watching the youngest games in progress

This year ten teams are struggling for the first prize – the Arctic Cup. According to the regulations of this tournament the participants of the tournament should be under 17 and one of members of the team should be under ten years.


The chess tournament under way


A view from the upper deck

This year the following teams are participating in the tournament:

  • Arkhangelsk region
  • Vologda region
  • Samara region
  • Tyumen region
  • Khanty-Mansi Autonomous District
  • Greece
  • The Netherlands

To the great regret of the organizers of the tournament the team of India, the winner of the world championship 2005, did not arrive in Salekhard.


Volunteers and chessplayers at the tournament

The tournament supports different activities. The first excursion took place on the third day of the tournament. Salekhard is the only city situated on the Arctic circle. There is a special Stella symbol of the Polar line. People say if you make a wish and go around the Stella your wish comes true.


Gijssen and the Organising commetee behind Stella monument which marks the exact location of the Arctic Circle


Night in the city of Salekhard (all photos by Andrey Tkachiev)

Standings after 5th round:

1. Yamalo-Nenets autonomous district – 21 (10 team points)
2.Netherlands – 17,5 (8)
3. Arkhangelsk region 15,5 (7)
4.Tyumen region – 15 (7),
5.Khanty-Mansiysky autonomous district – 14,5 (8)
6.Vologda region – 11,5 (6)
7.Samara region – 9,5 (3)
8. Greece – 8 (2)
9.Salekhard 1 – 7,5 (2)
10.Salekhard 2 – 4 (0)

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