Tromsø 2009 – the Arctic Chess Challenge

by ChessBase
7/22/2009 – 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.

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Tromsø – Arctic Chess Challenge 2009

Pictorial report by Frederic Friedel

For those of you who missed our previous articles on the subject, here's a geographical rundown of the place that is has become a hot-bed of chess (Tromsø is actually bidding for the 2014 Chess Olympiad). Those of you who have read the articles can skip the intro and proceed to the tournament part.

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

The places 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.

View Larger Map – zoom, pan, and choose map style.
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

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 Tromsø 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.

The field in this years Arctic Chess Challenge is the biggest ever in Tromsø, with far more than 100 participants from over 30 different nations. With 14 grandmasters, 15 IMs and many more titled players its also the most compact challenge we ever have seen in Tromsø. At least eight of the GMs, all with ratings over 2550, have a fair shot at the first prize money. The average of the top ten players are an impressive 2590. Below these ten players we find another twelve with ratings between 2400-2500. That's good news for people trying to take GM or IM norms. In previous years the Arctic Chess Challenge had a strong top, but since ratings fell fast it was still very hard to make those norms. But this time chances to meet enough titled players are great and you also have the chance to meet reasonable opposition throughout the whole tournament, even after a loss or two.

GM Amon Simutowe, the first sub-Saharan chess grandmaster

With 132 participants so far this is also a big opportunity for the average club player to meet grandmasters and other titled players. It's a tournament for the masses, and we are particularly proud of having a delegation of participants from South Africa in the tournament, and Amon Simutowe of Zambia, the first grandmaster of sub-Saharan Africa.

GM Jon Ludvig Hammer, 2566, of Norway

Another interesting start is 19 years old GM Jon Ludvig Hammer (2566) from Norway. He won the Gjøvik 100th anniversary tournament in January this year with 7/9 and became with it Norways 10th and latest grandmaster. It all started with GM Simen Agdestein back in 1985 when he became the first grandmaster of this small nation, and isn't it charming that one of Agdesteins pupils from the Norwegian College for Top Athletes became the tenth GM? Hammer has several other strong results behind him this spring and as the young "up and coming player" in this years Arctic Chess Challenge he is well worth noticing.

Magnus Carlsen with his family last year in Tromsø

Previous years we had winners and participants that found their way to the top pages of every chess web side a short time after leaving Tromsø. Magnus Carlsen was such a great talent when he played here for the first time back in 2006 – that it goes without saying.

But not that many had heard of the winner GM Alexander Moiseenko from 2007 and GM Igor Kurnosov from 2008 when they first visited the capital of Northern Norway. The 2007 winner, Moiseenko, is now a solid 2690-player which the chess audience remembers from Aeroflot Open 2009 where he was beaten only on tiebreaks by Etienne Bacrot. The 2008 winner GM Igor Kurnosov won an impressive victory last year with the same score as Moiseenko the previous year – 7.5/9. He also won the the Hastings Chess Congress 2009 and made his name known among chess fans – but of course his name really got on everybody's lips when he played this infamous game against Mamedyarov where he was accused of cheating.

We also remember GM Vugar Gashimov who got third place during the Arctic Chess Challenge 2007 and now is steadily claiming into the worlds Top Ten! Back then Gashimov was 2655 and told us that he had this dream of getting over 2700. Then he could play among the best players for some years and retire and become a professional chess coach without economical worries. Gashimov worked hard and made it – today he is 2740 and number eleven in the world!

GM Emanuel Berg, the reigning Swedish Champion

Most of the top players during Arctic Chess Challenge 2009 are hardcore professionals who play in what can be called the Euoropean chess circuit. Players like Bartosz Socko 2656, Igor Khenkin 2634, Yuri Drozdovskij 2620, Emanuel Berg 2610, Mikheil Mchedlishvili 2592 and Vadim Malakhatko 2610 travel all over Europe and make a living the hard way, playing tournament after tournament all year around. They also play in different European leagues, but have to rely on a huge number of opens to make their living as chess professionals. Several of them are accompanied by their wives in Tromsø, and yes you guessed right – some of them are chess players too! Bartosz from Poland brings his wife GM Monica Socko (2449) and Malakhatko has with him IM Anna Zozulia (2341). We also have WGM Natalia Zdebskaja (2412), so it will be a hard race even for the women's first prize this year. We look forward to August and chess in the Arctic Circle!

Ray Robson, born 25 October 1994, is the youngest International Master in the United States. He was born in Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean, but now lives in Florida. Ray started playing chess at the age of seven and there has never been any doubt about his great talent. Susan Polgar recently called him the new Bobby Fischer. Ray had been training with Grandmaster Gregory Kaidanov, but hasn't done so for almost two years now. Since last Fall he has been training with Alexander Onischuk and working a lot on his own.

In 2005 Ray defeated a grandmaster for the first time, and after that he started beating them regularly. Naturally, great tournament results followed, and over a period of only six weeks in 2007 he made three IM-norms and became the youngest IM in the United States. In the 2009 US championships Robson finished 11th with 4.5 out of 9 in an extremely strong field. It will not take long before Ray will become a grandmaster, and it will be very interesting to see him play in Tromsø. He is a hot candidate for making a GM norm.

Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, born 1 March, 1979, has won the Norwegian championships in all age groups (U13, U16 and U20) and has represented Norway in World Junior Championships. Although he was very successful as a junior player he had some problems performing when he became older. For a long time he could score miserably in one tournament and do brilliantly in the next. He had to wait a long time before earning an international title, despite having scored IM-norms and a GM-norm.

In 2003 Ringdal Hansen finished third in the Norwegian Championships making an IM-norm, and a few months later he scored his first GM-norm in Rilton Cup 2003/2004. After that Ringdal Hansen did not live up to the expectations, and it took four more years before he made any similar results. In 2008 he made his final IM norm and scored his second GM-norm only a few weeks later. It seems like Ringdal Hansen has become more stable as a player and his rating is now 2440.

IM Ringdal Hansen has an excellent reputation as a coach, and his best pupil so far is no other than Magnus Carlsen. He has coached many of the best young players in Norway and today he coaches many players who will undoubtedly dominate Norwegian chess in the years to come. In 2009 Ringdal Hansen founded the company Sjakkhuset (The Chess House) together with WIM Silje Bjerke and IM Torstein Bae.

Planned side events in 2009 Arctic Chess Challenge

  • Going by boat in the surroundings of Tromsø
  • Trip to one of the many mountains around Tromsø
  • Fishing in the sea (and also eating the fish on the spot!)
  • Barbeque party (?)
  • 2-3 Blitz events in the centre of Tromsø (they have a chess pub downtown this year)
  • Guided tour in the centre of Tromsø

Top participants (Elo 2000 and higher)

Title Name Rtg
GM Bartosz Socko 2656
GM Igor Khenkin 2634
GM Yuri Drozdovskij 2620
GM Emanuel Berg 2610
GM Mikheil Mchedlishvili 2592
GM Jon Ludvig Hammer 2583
GM Vadim Malakhatko 2570
GM Sarunas Sulskis 2559
GM Julian Radulski 2539
GM Allan Stig Rasmussen  2536
GM Matthew J Turner 2517
IM Ray Robson 2491
GM Amon Simutowe 2481
IM Marijan Petrov 2479
IM Kalle Kiik 2475
IM Stefan Macak 2472
IM Fabio Bruno 2455
IM Luca Shytaj 2455
GM Monika Socko 2449
IM Luis Javier Bernal 2446
IM Torbjørn R. Hansen 2440
WGM Natalia Zdebskaja 2412
IM Nikolaj Mikkelsen 2399
FM Arkadiusz Leniart 2390
IM Aleksandar H. Wohl 2387
IM Bjørn Tiller 2371
IM Gerard Welling 2363

Heikki Westerinen

IM Harald Groetz 2350
FM Kjetil Stokke 2347
IM Anna Zozulia 2341
FM Frode Olav Urkedal 2333
FM Espen Forså 2311
  Lasse Østebø Løvik 2296
FM Anastasios Tsiolakidis 2290
IM Leon Piasetski 2288
FM Alexej Sofrigin 2283
FM Kari Tikkanen 2283
  Pål Røyset 2239
WIM Silje Bjerke 2231
  Lars M Andreassen 2226
  Peter Poobalasingam 2224
  Johannes Kvisla 2222
  Nicolai Getz 2219
  Gunnar Berg Hanssen 2215
  Hans Olav Lahlum 2204
FM Daniel H. Fernandez 2200
  Jon Kr. Røyset 2197
  Mikael Rølvåg 2196
  Miguel Angel Gabaldon 2186
  Jeroen van den Bersselaar  2184
  Daniel Ceballos Hornero 2183
  Vegar Koi Gandrud 2169
FM Gerrit Prakken 2168
WFM Katrine Tjølsen 2160
  Torben Søraas 2157
  Timo Porrasmaa 2146
  Benjamin Arvola 2144
  Tobias Pettersson 2138
  Anders G Hagen 2132
  Sondre Waage Tofte 2119
  Jon Kristian Haarr 2110
  Frode Bull Jæger 2105
  Juan Carlos Fernandez 2099
  Elias DeMac 2089
  Simon Pind Jessen 2082
  Arnold Andreassen 2074
  Joachim B. Nilsen 2067
  Even Thingstad 2058
  Dieter Amberger 2057
  Pål Andreas Hansen 2042
  Peter Flermoen 2027
  Kristoffer Madland 2017

All participantsyou can still join! Player count: 132 – Avg. FIDE rating: 2204

Previous ChessBase reports on Tromsø

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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