Fagernes Open: Crowded at the top

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
4/14/2022 – A strong open tournament is taking place at the small Norwegian city of Fagernes. Six players rated 2600 or above made their way to the touristic destination located three hours north of Oslo. After five rounds (out of nine), eight players are sharing the lead on 4 points, including top seed Arjun Erigaisi. | Photo: Tom Eriksen

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Beautiful scenery

Valdres is a traditional district in central, southern Norway, situated between Gudbrandsdalen and Hallingdal. Valdres has about 18,000 inhabitants and is known for its excellent trout fishing and the local dialect.

The district is located approximately midway between Oslo and Bergen. The valley is protected to the west and north by the Jotunheimen mountains (Valdresflye) and to the south by the Gol mountain ridge (Golsfjellet). Historically, Valdres has had an agricultural economy, but tourism has grown in prominence in later years.

Nord-Aurdal is one of eight municipalities in Valdres, and it has the village of Fagernes as its administrative centre. Fagernes is the largest settlement in the valley of Valdres, with a population of around 2,000. Certainly a peaceful environment to hold a chess tournament.

Fagernes, Valdres

The valley of Valdres | Photo: Sigve Kjønnøy

The tournament has become a fixture of the chess calendar since 2011. This year’s edition is taking place at the Scandic Valdres Hotel and has Hans Olav Lahlum as its main organizer.

A total of 71 players registered to participate in the main event, dubbed the GM Swiss Group, including 15 grandmasters. The lineup is headed by three Indian players: Arjun Erigaisi (rated 2675), Krishnan Sasikiran (2650) and Nihal Sarin (2648). They are closely followed by Alexander Donchenko from Germany, Aram Hakobyan from Armenia and S.P. Sethuraman, also from India.

The strongest woman participant in the field is Zhansaya Abdumalik from Kazakhstan, currently ranked 14th in the world among women. Abdumalik won the 2021 Women’s Grand Prix in Gibraltar with a round to spare.

Zhansaya Abdumalik

Zhansaya Abdumalik facing Olga Dolzhikova in the first round | Photo: Tom Eriksen

After five rounds, no fewer than eight players are tied for first place on 4/5 points. Among them is veteran Kaido Kulaots from Estonia, who impressed the chess world three years ago by winning the extremely strong Aeroflot Open.

In round 3, Kulaots defeated two-time Turkish champion Vahap Sanal. The turning point in the game came on move 45, when the 46-year-old grabbed the initiative decisively.


Kaido Kulaots

Kaido Kulaots | Photo: Tom Eriksen

Standings after round 5

Pl Name i-Elo Points TPR
1 GM Arjun Erigaisi 2675 4 2722
2 GM Emre Can 2578 4 2717
3 GM Kaido Kulaots 2529 4 2699
4 GM Aram Hakobyan 2612 4 2683
5 GM Frode Olav Olsen Urkedal 2539 4 2650
6 GM Alexander Donchenko 2619 4 2647
7 GM Tiger Hillarp 2511 4 2629
8 FM Semen Mitusov 2274 4 2579
9 GM Nihal Sarin 2648 2526
10 GM Chopra Aryan 2592 2511
11 IM Tor Fredrik Kaasen 2465 2466
12 GM Krishnan Sasikiran 2650 2444
13 FM Elham Abdulrauf 2427 2444
14 GM Zhansaya Abdumalik 2496 2421
15 FM Anders Hobber 2379 2268

...71 players

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.