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9/5/2006 – Spitsbergen lies just 20° south of the North Pole. Anually in this ice-bound Arctic archipelago two mining communities, one from Norway and one from Russia meet for chess festivals. This year Peter Svidler (Russia) took on Magnus Carlsen (Norway). Illustrated report.

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The island of Spitsbergen ("jagged peaks") is located in the Arctic Ocean, 71°-81° north latitude, just over a thousand km south of the North Pole. It is one of three islands in an archipelago, and the largest settlement is the Norwegian town of Longyearbyen, originally built by American coal mining companies. The Russians have similar coal mining cities, Barentsburg and Pyramiden, and for some time now annual chess tournaments have been taking place between the Russian and the Norwegian communities.

The Chess Festival Spitsbergen 2006 took place from September 1st to 4th. It included a two-game rapid chess match between Peter Svidler from St. Petersburg, Russia, and 15-year-old Magnus Carlsen, Norway's top grandmaster.

Svidler defeated Carlsen 1.5-0.5 in their games, where were played on September 2nd in Longyearbyen. The next day GM Nick De Firmian of the US played Norwegian GM Simen Agdestein in Barentsburg, which is after Spitsbergen the second largest settlement on the island. The match ended 1:1, with each player winning his white game. Agdestein was Carlsen's teacher and now is his main rival for the Norwegian championship.

Here's the decisive game from the first match:

Svidler,P (2742) - Carlsen,M (2675) [B30]
Rapid Match Longyearbyen NOR (2), 02.09.2006
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Bb5 Qc7 5.0-0 Nd4 6.Nxd4 cxd4 7.Nd5 Nxd5 8.exd5 a6 9.Ba4 g6 10.d3 h6 11.Qf3 Bg7 12.Bf4 Qa5 13.Rfe1 Qxa4 14.Rxe7+ Kxe7 15.Re1+

15...Kd8? Black had to retreat the king to f8. 16.Bd6. The threat is 17Qxf7 followed by mate. 16...Qa5. The only move that doesn't lose immediately (it threatens ...Qxe1#). 17.b4 Qb6 18.Qf4 g5 19.Be7+ Ke8.

Here White should have continued 20.Qe4 (threatening 21.Bd6 with mate in two) and if 20...Qe6 21.dxe6 wins. However Peter Svidler played 20.Bc5+? and now after 20...Qe6 Black has some counterplay: 21.Qd2 d6 22.Bxd6 Kd7 23.dxe6+ Kxd6. But this is not enough to hold. 24.exf7 Rf8 25.Qe2 Bf6 26.Kf1 Kc7 27.Qh5 Bf5 28.Qf3 Rxf7 29.Qxf5 Raf8 30.f3 Bg7 31.Qc5+ 1-0.

Picture Gallery


The city of Longyearbyen on Spitsbergen


Magnus Carlsen in the first game against Peter Svidler [Photo: Dan Celius]


Barentsburg, the location of the second match


Nick De Firmian, USA vs. Simen Agdestein, Norway


Peter Svidler (dark cap) on the boat from Longyearbyen to Barentsburg


A view of the ice fields from the ship


The banquette in Barentsburg


Magnus Carlsen dancing with Russian miners in Barentsburg


A tournament in the good old days in Barentsburg

All Photo, unless otherwise specified, by Bjoern Berg Johansen – courtesy of the official web site.



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