Tromsø 2009 – Socko, Petrov and Robson lead

by ChessBase
8/8/2009 – Make no mistake, it is GM Monika Socko, not her top-rated husband Bartosz, who is leading the Arctic Challenge with 6.0/7 and a 2703 performance. No less sensational is that 14-year-old IM Ray Robson is sharing first with a 2679 performance. The action is exciting ("hammer time") and the landscape lovely in the land of the midnight sun. Big illustrated report by Misha Savinov.

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Tromsø – Arctic Chess Challenge 2009

Misha Savinov reports from Tromsø

The Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø is the most important event in Norway this year. In spectacular surroundings, 120 participants from all parts of the world are battling it out on the chess board. The players have already participated in boat trip, fishing trip, mountain trip and football challenge, and can try focusing on doing their best at the finish of the event.

After seven rounds three players are ahead of the peloton. GM Monika Socko and IMs Marijan Petrov and Roy Robson have scored 6.0 points out of seven (conceding just two draws apiece). GM Bartosz Socko, the top rated participant, only has just 5.0 points and is languishing on place 16, while his wife bravely fights for the first place.

Doing well in Tromsø: GM Monika Socko of Poland

The lady from Poland is having an excellent tournament! She dropped half a point against GM Berg, having a rook + pawn against the opponent’s sole bishop. Nalimov tells that the ending was won for Black, but Monica either didn’t knew it, or didn’t find the way to convert her material advantage. She won five games, including those against GMs Turner and Sulskis. After six games her performance was equivalent to 2779, after a seventh round draw against Ray Robson it is 2703!

The next Bobby Fischer? IM Ray Robson of the US

The very determined 14-year-old boy from the US is already an international master, taking lessons from GM Alexander Onischuk, with his game improving faster than we can write. Ray Robson is a new bright hope of the American chess, and can make a serious international impact, if – we always have to say it about the Americans – if he doesn’t quit chess.

In Tromsø Ray defeated GMs Malakhatko and Rasmussen, and dropped half a point to FM Kjetil Stokke, who showed good simplification skill as White in the Catalan. Robson’s play here is very energetic and determined, he does not shy away from complications and is very strong at the technical stage. If he shows sufficient endurance in the final rounds, he may very well be among the eventual winners of the tournament, despite being just the 11th highest rated at the start.

Intermediate standings after Round Seven (4.5 points and higher)

# Player Rtng
Perf. / gain
GM Monika Socko 2449
 2703 (+21.00)
IM Marijan Petrov 2479
 2631 (+11.80)
IM Ray Robson 2491
 2679 (+14.90)
GM Julian Radulski 2539
 2560 (+3.00)
GM Sarunas Sulskis 2559
 2621 (+5.90)
IM Luca Shytaj 2455
 2627 (+15.80)
GM Jon Ludvig Hammer 2583
 2590 (+1.60)
GM Emanuel Berg 2610
 2597 (-0.70)
GM Allan Stig Rasmussen 2536
 2545 (+2.50)
10  GM Igor Khenkin 2634
 2570 (-3.50)
11  GM Yuri Drozdovskij 2620
 2511 (-7.10)
12  IM Kalle Kiik 2475
 2489 (+3.10)
13  Nicolai Getz 2219
 2481 (+30.90)
14  GM Matthew J Turner 2517
 2412 (-6.60)
15  IM Luis Javier Bernal Moro 2446
 2382 (-3.20)
16  GM Bartosz Socko 2656
 2506 (-9.70)
17  IM Bjørn Tiller 2371
 2417 (+8.40)
18  GM Vadim Malakhatko 2570
 2462 (-8.20)
19  IM Fabio Bruno 2455
 2461 (+2.80)
20  IM Torbjørn R. Hansen 2440
 2385 (-2.50)
21  FM Arkadiusz Leniart 2390
 2435 (+6.15)
22  WGM Natalia Zdebskaja 2412
 2382 (-1.00)
23  Peter S Poobalasingam 2224
 2317 (+10.65)
24  IM Gerard Welling 2363
 2355 (+1.35)
25  FM Frode Olav Olsen 2333
 2305 (-1.80)
26  Lasse Østebø Løvik 2296
 2277 (-0.90)
27  IM Nikolaj Mikkelsen 2399
 2152 (-24.00)
28  GM Amon Simutowe 2481
 2431 (-1.30)
29  WFM Katrine Tjølsen 2160
 2280 (+11.55)

Five players have 5.5 points after seven rounds, amongst them Norwegian star GM Jon Ludwig Hammer. And what about the rating favorites, 2600+ players? All of them are yet to make a significant impact at the standings.

Indeed it is, Jon Ludvig

The biggest star in Tromsø is clearly Ray Robson, Both this young lad's victories against grandmasters cannot be praised too highly. Against Malakhatko he showed decent knowledge of the latest updates of the Caro-Kann, and carried out a nice attack.

IM Ray Robson at move 17 in his game against GM Vadim Malakhatko

Robson,Ray (2491) - Malakhatko,Vadim (2570)
Arctic Chess Challenge 2009 Scandic Hotel, Tromsø (5), 01.08.2009
1.e4 c6 2.d4 d5 3.Nc3 dxe4 4.Nxe4 Bf5 5.Ng3 Bg6 6.h4 h6 7.Nf3 Nd7 8.h5 Bh7 9.Bd3 Bxd3 10.Qxd3 e6 11.Bd2 Ngf6 12.0-0-0 Be7 13.Qe2 0-0 14.Nf1 c5 15.g4 cxd4 16.g5 hxg5 17.Bxg5 Nd5 18.Bxe7 Qxe7 19.Rxd4 Qf6 20.Kb1 Qh6 21.c4 Rac8 22.Qd1 N5f6 23.Ne3 Nc5 24.Ne5 Nce4 25.Qf3 Qh7 26.Ka1 Rcd8 27.Rxd8 Rxd8 28.h6 Rd2

Here White has the only way to win, and Ray finds it with amazing ease: 29.N3g4! Qf5 30.Nxf6+ Nxf6 31.Qxb7! The point! The knight cannot be taken due to 31...Qxe5 32.Qc8+ Kh7 33.hxg7+ Kxg7 34.Qh8+ Kg6 35.Qh6+ Kf5 36.Qxd2, and White wins.

31...Qh5 32.a3 Rd1+ 33.Rxd1 Qxd1+ 34.Ka2 Qh5 35.Qa8+ Kh7 36.hxg7! (the knight is immune again) 36...Kxg7 37.f4. White consolidates and quickly converts his material advantage. 37...Qf5 38.Qxa7 Nh5 39.Qd4 Qxf4 40.Qxf4 Nxf4 41.a4. Black resigns: 1-0.

The next game against GM Rasmussen was even more spectacular! Robson sacrificed a bishop for a pawn, but completely cemented the opponent’s queenside, effectively locking a knight, a rook and a king. White could only see how the Black’s king slowly arrived into the White’s camp with his lethal mission...

Rasmussen,Allan Stig (2536) - Robson,Ray (2491)
Arctic Chess Challenge 2009 Scandic Hotel, Tromsø (6), 01.08.2009
1.d4 d5 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.g3 dxc4 5.Bg2 Bb4+ 6.Bd2 c5 7.Bxb4 cxb4 8.Ne5 0-0 9.Nxc4 Nc6 10.e3 e5 11.d5 b5 12.dxc6 Qxd1+ 13.Kxd1 bxc4 14.a3 Bg4+ 15.Kc1 b3 16.Nc3 Rac8 17.h3 Be6 18.Rd1 Rfd8 19.f4 e4 20.g4

20...Nd5! Black starts a very beautiful positional plan. 21.Bxe4 Nxe3 22.Rxd8+ Rxd8 23.c7 Rd4 24.Bb7 h6 25.f5 Bd7 26.c8Q+ Bxc8 27.Bxc8

White is a piece up, but the tragi-comical arrangement of his queenside pieces leaves him with no play other than painful waiting for the enemy break. 27...Kf8 28.Ba6 Rd6 29.Bb7 a5 30.Bf3 Ke7 31.a4 Rd4 32.Be2 Kf6 33.h4 Ke5 34.Rb1 Kf4 35.Nb5 Rd7 36.Nc3 Kg3 37.g5 hxg5 38.hxg5 Kf2 39.Bh5 Ke1 40.f6 gxf6 41.gxf6.

A picturesque position! The computer would announce here: “Mate in seven!” 41...Rd2 42.Ra1 Rc2+ 43.Kb1 Nf1. White resigns: 0-1. One can rarely see such games at a grandmaster level these days!

Bartosz Socko, #1 rating seed, suffered a slow start and seems to lack sufficient aggression. He already made four draws, which is clearly too many for a Swiss event, and find himself in a large group of players with five points.

Igor Khenkin, #2 seed, has also collected just five points. He can blame himself for peacefulness in the round five: having the black pieces against the ultimate leader, Sarunas Sulskis, Khenkin could not resist accepting a draw in a complicated and somewhat unorthodox position.

Sulskis,Sarunas (2559) - Khenkin,Igor (2634)
Arctic Chess Challenge 2009 Scandic Hotel, Tromsø (5), 01.08.2009
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6 5.Nc3 Nc6 6.Nxc6 bxc6 7.e5 Nd5 8.Ne4 Qc7 9.f4 Qb6 10.c4 Bb4+ 11.Ke2 f5 12.Nf2 Ba6 13.Kf3 Ne7 14.Be3 Bc5 15.Bxc5 Qxc5 16.Qd6 Qa5 17.h4 c5 18.Ke3 Rd8 19.Be2 Nc8 draw.

In the post-mortem analysis the players discovered – to mutual surprise, I have to add – that White was in a big trouble and had to fight for survival! Khenkin couldn’t believe it. Not that he missed an easy win, no, there was a lot of play, but he indeed missed a decent chance to knock down one of the most dangerous opponents, and score a valuable Black victory.

Yuri Drozdovskij, #3 seed, also has five points, but all seven of his games were decisive! This is extremely unusual for a player, who in his native Odessa is called “our little Petrosian” – for positionally sound play and great sense of danger. Yet in Norway Drozdovskij already lost two games. In the Round 3 he fell to the Italian IM Luca Shytaj. The Ukrainian was very disappointed about his own play. He told me that they returned from the excursion only 15 minutes before the round start, so he decided to skip on the dinner, which proved terribly wrong. Yuri made a number of mistakes during the game and failed to defend a rook ending without a pawn, which could be drawn with prefect play. After two successive victories in the next rounds he got White against IM Kiik and lost to a crushing attack.

WGM Natalia Zdebskaja, rated 2412, with 4.5/7 and a performance so far of 2382

Yuri’s sense of danger was some place else that day. Should be recall the famous Khalifman rule about the inevitable rating loss after marriage? Yuri’s wife WGM Natalia Zdebskaja also suffered her first defeat in the sixth round.

The tournament has been pretty brutal so far for the local Nordic players. Pål Røyset (2239) and Benjamin Arvola (2144) have 4 points each, which is the best result for Tromsø players, but a long shot for the prize money. Espen Forså, FM with one IM norm, also cannot find his best game – he lost only one game (to Khenkin), but won just two, and made three draws with lower-rated players. Perhaps they are just too hospitable!

Photo impressions from Tromsø

A view of the playing hall with round six under way

IM Luca Shytaj in the process of defeating GM Yuri Drozdovskij in round three

GM Emanuel Berg, and exchange down, survives a 134-mover against GM Monica Socko

GM Jon Ludwig Hammer is desperately looking for a win

The African pioneers of Tromsø: Lawrence Kagambi (Kenya)...

Dericka Figaro (Seychelles)...

... and Isabella Asiema (Kenya)

A football match for the players

An elk resting on the banks of a semi-dry river – a common sight in Tromsø

The weather started to change. It is a bit cooler and less sunny, and in the evening the mountains are covered with milky-white fog. Luckily, most of the outdoors excursions for the participants already took place.

Fog descending to the coastal beach...

... and rising to the high roads in the mountains

The beautiful Arctic landscape around the time of the midnight sun

All photos by Bjørn Berg Johansen and Misha Savinov

Video impressions by Torstein Bae (index of reports at the end)


A selection of games is being broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess server If you are not a member you can download the free PGN reader ChessBase Light, which gives you immediate access. You can also use the program to read, replay and analyse PGN games. New and enhanced: CB Light 2009!

Previous ChessBase reports on Tromsø

Tromsø 2009 – four lead in Arctic Chess Challenge
06.08.2009 – At the Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø 120 players are competing in the year’s most prestigious Norwegian event. After five of nine rounds there are four players in the lead. Three are GMs, one a female, but the fourth is of particular interest: 14-year-old US American IM Ray Robson, whom some people are calling the new Bobby Fischer. Pictorial report by IM Torstein Bae.

Tromsø 2009 – the Arctic Chess Challenge
02.08.2009 The Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø is this year’s most prestigious event in Norway. More than 35 titled players are taking part, including 13 GMs. Top seed is Polish GM Bartosz Socko, rated 2656, with three more super-GMs just below him. The tournament is truly an international open: the 118 participants hail from 26 countries, and from all parts of the world. Pictorial report.

Tromsø 2009 – the Arctic Chess Challenge
22.07.2009 – The city of Tromsø, located within the Arctic Circle in Norway, has become a hot-bed of chess. Not only is Tromsø bidding for the Chess Olympiad 2014 – every year they stage a very attractive chess tournament in this beautiful location. This year the Arctic Challenge will be staged from August 1st to 9th, with 132 entries and lots of title holders – an ideal opportunity to make norms.

Tromsø – a Chess Olympiad in the midnight sun?
18.11.2008 – It lies well within the Arctic Circle and has a history of chess activity. Now the city of Tromsø is bidding to host the 2014 Chess Olympiad in one of the most attractive regions of Europe. A full presentation is being made at the Olympiad in Dresden. We visited the city this summer and support their bid with some WYSIWYG evidence of why it is ideally suited for an Olympiad. Photo report.

Chess in the Arctic Circle – GM Igor Kurnosov triumphs
18.08.2008 – 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.

Moiseenko wins the Arctic Chess Challenge
12.08.2007 – In the end it was a super-GM who took the unshared first place in the Tromsø Midnight Sun tournament: Alexander Moiseenko of the Ukraine scored 7.5/9 to overtake the long-time leader, "Mr Sunshine" Kjetil Lie, who had beaten him in round four. Top seed Magnus Carlsen recovered from a poor start to share 2-4. Like his parents we expect Magnus to scale the Store Blåmannen.

Carlsen vs Carlsen – Magnus beats his dad
10.08.2007 – That is hardly a surprise, since the 16-year-old is over six hundred points stronger than his first teacher. But then again Henrik Carlsen has grounding powers... After seven rounds of the Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø it is Norwegian GM Kjetil A. Lie who is in the lead, with 5.5 points, followed by four players with 5.0 points each. Report with pictures and videos.

Second Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø
07.08.2007 – The Norwegian island town of Tromsø lies well within the Arctic Circle, which means that this time of the year the sun never sets. Tromsø is playing host to a strong GM tournament from August 4th-12th, 2007. Top seed is Magnus Carlsen, who rushed in from his victory in Biel and did not have a great start here (3.0/4, place ten). Two other GMs, Macieja and Lie, lead with 4.0/4. Round four report.

Shipov wins Midnight Sun, Carlsen second
03.07.2006 – The Midnight Sun Chess Challenge in Tromsø, Norway, was won by Russian GM Sergei Shipov, who scored 7.5 points in nine rounds. Second was fifteen-year-old Magnus Carlsen with 7.0, who beat Leif Erland Johannessen on tiebreak points. We bring you a final report with pictures from Whale's Island.

Carlsen leads the Midnight Sun Challenge
28.06.2006 – A fifteen-year-old super-grandmaster, blessed with an Elo of 2646, is leading the Midnight Sun Chess Challenge in Tromsø. Magnus Carlsen of Norway looks set to break a few new records with the form that he is showing these days. The event is being held well within the Arctic Circle, where at this time of year the nights are bright as day. Misha Savinov reports.

Midnight Sun Chess Challenge in Tromsø
26.06.2006 – There are parts in the world where, during a certain period of the year, the sun never sets. The northern Norwegian town of Tromsø, which lies well within the Arctic Circle, is one such place. From June 24th to July 2nd, in the middle of the midnight sun period, it is holding chess festival with GMs like Krasenkow and Magnus Carlsen. Big illustrated report.

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