Tromsø – a Chess Olympiad in the midnight sun?

11/18/2008 – 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.

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Press release

Tromsø, Norway, bids for the Chess Olympiad in 2014

The city of Tromsø, backed by the Norwegian Chess Federation, is committed to become the host city for the 41st Chess Olympiad in 2014.

During the Chess Olympiad in Dresden 12-25 November 2008, Tromsø will be present and launch its candidacy. The bidding committee, Chess Tromsø 2014, will operate an information stand at the playing arena, and will host a launch event at Hotel Maritim in the evening of November 22.

With its 75.000 inhabitants, including 10.000 university students, Tromsø has all the amenities of “a small large city”. Chess players around the world will discover a friendly and open-minded population with hotels of excellent international standard, an attractive restaurant scene and a diversity of cultural activities. Tromsø has a very active chess environment, and hosts an annual international Chess festival, Arctic Chess Challenge, in August every year. The tournament will be further upgraded in the coming years in order to prepare for the potential Olympiad in 2014.

“Being elected as the host city of the Chess Olympiad in 2014 is a major ambition for our city”, says Tromsø mayor Arild Hausberg. “We promise the chess world a unique experience combining competent and experienced organizing skills in a friendly and exciting environment. And the event, if we succeed in winning the bid, will engage the whole city to the pleasure of the participants and the population. A comprehensive cultural program will be an integrated part of a Chess Olympiad in Tromsø”, concludes the mayor.


The Mayor of Tromsø, Arild Hausberg, with Norwegian sports hero Magnus Carlsen

The preparation for the bid is well under way, and the bidding committee has been actively engaged for most of 2008. Active working relations with the Norwegian government will secure sufficient support. The bidding committee brings a committee of Olympic and chess expertise. Its chairman is the former managing director of the Lillehammer Olympic Organizing Committee, (17th Winter Olympics 1994), Mr. Henrik Andenæs, a business professional, working alongside the President of the Norwegian Chess Federation, Mr. Jøran Aulin Jansson, as vice chairman. General Manager is Mr. Børge Johan Robertsen.

What makes Tromsø exceptional is its magnificent nature. Located north of the Arctic Circle, Tromsø is blessed with midnight sun all through the summer, and has more polar Northern lights, “Aurora Borealis”, than anywhere else in the world. Being referred to as the entry-port to the Arctic, Tromsø still has a relatively mild climate, and lies a limited three hours flight away from London and Frankfurt, and less than two hours flight from the Norwegian capital, Oslo. This will give easy access to chess participants from all over the world.

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This press release in PDF


Tromsø – Olympiad in the midnight sun?

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 bidding for the 2014 Olympiad. Those who didn't should skip the first section of this article and go to part two, which brings you new pictures and stories.

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 [Graphic by Swinburne University]

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.


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.


Summer in Tromsø

We start our story with a trip to the "ranch" of our host and the organiser of the Arctic Chess Challenge, Jan Sigmund Berglund. All the players of the tournament are invited, and almost all actually accept. In our bus you may spot a rating very close to 2800 – and three members of the Carlsen clan.


Jan Sigmund was one of the best junior players in Northern Norway (with a peak Elo of over 2200) and won the Championship twice.
He has a popular chess column in the newspaper "Nordlys". He is one of the driving forces behind the Tromsø bid to stage the 2014 Chess Olympiad.


The Berglund ranch is a seaside property. It is called a ranch because it has horses and goats.


The Berglund children are assisted by their friends to tend the animals and herd them into the pens.


This is sea front, with a view of one of Norway's famous fjords


Boys will be boys, and no sooner have the chess players emerged from the bus...


...than a football is deployed and serious play begins.


Soccer, like chess, is a violent game. Here two players quite literally fight for the ball

Magnus Carlsen, hundreds of Elo points stronger than any of the others, who are all budding chessplayers themselves, gets the respect due to the super-star of Norwegian sports. He is approached with diffident politenesss and always treated with a great deal of reverence...


All lies: his best friends love to rag him, and it turns out that he is imminently raggable!

Unfortunately clever-clogs is also an excellent football player – if the chess thing doesn't work out he will always have professional soccer as a fallback. Note that in Norway the girls join in the sporting activities. In many other countries they don't – at least not with impunity.

For those chess players who haven't exhausted their energy on the soccer field there is a trampoline to get rid of the last milligrams of excess adrenaline. Watching all of this, it occurred to us that chess is quite an unnatural passtime. Adrenaline (or epinephrine) is a "fight or flight" hormone and is released from the adrenal glands when danger threatens or in an emergency. "Danger" can come in the form of a predator, growling suddenly from the undergrowth, or when your chess opponent plays 12...exf5 out of the blue – or launches a kingside attack, or you launch a kingside attack, or a myriad other common chessboard situations. The natural reaction of the adrenaline-filled body is to dive for cover, grab a spear to confront the enemy, run for dear life. It is not to furrow your brow, wipe away sweat, scratch your head, or raise your eyes to glance at your opponent. We wonder what the body does with all that adrenaline if no vigorous activity follows its release. One solution to this clearly unhealty situation is to give players a field and a football after the games. Another is a trampoline. Chess boxing? But that is subject we will come back to in another report...


This is Anders Hagen, rated around 2100, dealing with a flood of adrenaline in the Arctic Challenge playing hall in Tromsø. Anders is one of Magnus' best friends and the lad who is respectfully pulling the hood of his sweatshirt over his head in a picture above.


Jan Sigmund has provided delicious fresh salad, a choice of red or white wine...


... and is barbecuing meat and fish in aluminium foil, plenty of it for everybody

Beer and soda drinks are cooled by putting them in a brook that flows through the property. We acutally got former FIDE Vice President and legal expert Morten Sand, who like many Norwegian males is almost two meters tall, to climb down the embankment and get us some beer.


Enjoying an evening meal – the initiated will count five Carlsens in this picture

Before we left we asked Jan Sigmund Berglund whether he could, in case Tromsø gets the 2014 Olympiad bid, actually host 2000 players on his ranch. His answer: not all at once...

The next day: Tromsø museum, which contains a lot of interesting geological exhibits, and a breath-taking slide show of the northern lights (aurora borealis), which they unfortunately switch off in the summer. In compensation they keep the sun up all night, so somehow it all evens out.

The geological subduction zone, where oceanic and continental crusts collide. Samples of the different rocks are also nicely put on display on the University campus near the Botanical Garden.


This is how the inhabitants of the Troms region lived many centuries ago

The above chart shows the average temperature in the region over the last 10,000 years, i.e. since the stone age. Note that what we are currently deeply worried about is the last bit of the curve on the right.

The next day we decide to work off the sumptuous feast with some modest mountain climbing. The bridge leads from the island city of Tromsø to the mainland and one of the two popular peaks (the one without the gondola lift)


Scaling the peak begins very gradually, but it is further than you think...


...and steeper, and warmer, in spite of the lofty altitude


Beautiful lakes and pools of the clearest water you've ever seen...


...and patches of – snow! Your intrepid reporter thankfully cools off from the arduous climb


Doesn't this remind you of Caspar David Friedrich's "Wanderer above the Mists"


The flora on the mountain slopes is short-stemmed and beautiful


Near the top a couple of fellow climbers – the indigenous Nordic raindeer


A final view from the top – with a ferry crossing the fjord in idyllic splendor


A final picture: this is Jan Sigmund Berglund's ranch in winter

You think this is all? Not by a long shot. Stand by for part two, where we go fishing in the Norwegian Fjords and whale-watching over the continental shelf. And then tell us with a straight face: this is not the right place for a Chess Olympiad.

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