Arctic Chess Challenge |

CAT | ACC 2010

Finally, today the Arctic Chess Challenge starts at Scandic Hotel. The mayor of Tromsø officially opens the tournament at 3.45pm, and the first round starts at 4 o’clock. The schedule is 9 rounds in as many days before the final round at 10-16 on August 8th. Tromsø Sjakklubb is proud that we have managed to get a tradition with an international chess tournament, and that it we now have such a challenging event for the fifth consecutive year.

The tournament has slowly grown from its beginnings in 2006 with 62 participants to this year’s super-tournament with 184 registered participants. Not only does the tournament have many players, but they also come from many different countries. There is currently not less than 40 countries represented at the registration list.

The first year we had a total of eight international players on the title starting line, while this year there are 80, of which 25 have the highest title – Grandmaster. Nearly 20 of the participants are women with titles, including last year’s winner, grandmaster Monica Socko of Poland.

This year’s tournament is the biggest and strongest chess tournament ever on Norwegian soil and it is nice considering that we want to be seen by the international chess world.

Tromsø is a candidate to host Chess Olympiad in 2014, and we believe it is important to implement such major chess event in a good and stylish manner.

A tournament brochure can be found here (pdf, 2 MB)

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GM Yuri Drozdovskij (UKR)

GM Yuri Drozdovskij is the other strong grandmaster from Ukraine who are participating in this year’s ACC. With a rating of 2627, he is certainly able to cope with all the field and we guess he wants to copy his countryman’s victory Moiseenko in 2007.

The 26-year-old from Odessa won 1.SCS Int.Open in India this year and also has a shared first place in Capelle La Grande in 2007 on his CV. He has however been particularly noted in the speed chess. In the discipline he may, among other things boast a first place in the Rapid Chess Championship in 2006 and a strong shared first place in the 4 Pivdenny Bank Cup 2008 Odessa (in front of Gelfand and Ponomariov). Drozdovskij participated in the Ukrainian team which took bronze in the European team Championships in Novi Sad, 2009.

His criteria for success are as follows: Never underestimate your opponent regardless of rating, be very well prepared, play with full intensity and exploit every opportunity!




GM Mikhail Kobalia

GM Mikhail Kobalia is one of the great pre-favorites in this year’s ACC, and with his rating of 2648 it’s expected of the 32-year-old Russian to get into the top 3. He became GM at a young age 13 years ago and has been stable above 2600 the last ten years.

His major achievements include victory in the European U-16 in 1994, 1st in Biel Open Masters in 2005 and shared 1st prize the Monarch Assurance Isle of Man 2007. GM Kobalia are not afraid to play for a win with the black pieces, and in the opening he has a preference for the Sicilian Kan and Taimanov.

He beat newly talented Fabiano Caruana with black in the Russian team championships and has also beat strong white players like Sergey Karjakin.

Finally we can also mention that he is an excellent blitz player with several top positions.We expect a little black magic from GM Kobalia in his Arctic Chess debut.




IM Wohl on tour!

IM Alex Wohl is in many ways an unusual chess pro. Firstly, he is from Australia, and this is not a country that one all too often sees represented on the starting line in international tournaments. Second, he bikes to the tournaments he plays in; at least to some of them, and this year it’s the Arctic Chess Challenge.

We have been fortunate in Tromsø to get to know Alexander at last year’s ACC, and we like both his style and charm. We also note that in the past 10 years he has played 1006 rated games! Not many matches this; he beats even Ivanchuk by 106 games.

Less than a week ago he arrived in Levanger in central Norway and intends to cycle his way up to Tromsø! July 21st he celebrated his 47th birthday on the road with some strawberries and a nice meeting with another cyclist, until he stayed in his tent at Camping Holmsen just before Namsos.

On his blog he tells about his experiences along the way, like staying in Bodø last night, listening to Pink Floyd and getting a nice dinner. Obviously his tour works splendidly and he’s excellent in every way. Tonight he has come to Svolvær. We look forward to receive him in a few days here in Tromsø.

Will he arrive on time? We see with concern that tonight he thinks the tournament starts on Sunday and will take a detour! He is now notified, and we hope he reads e-mail!

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IM Frode Elsness (NOR)

IM Frode Elsness

The host country is also represented among the top players in this year’s Arctic Chess Challenge. IM Frode Elsness from Halden, now playing for Moss, is one of the most successful players in the Norwegian chess in recent years. The fact that it is quite a while since he was a junior player, makes the progress for the 37 years old medical doctor all the more impressive.

What Frode Elsness has made in recent years is also very inspiring to anyone with desire and opportunity to improve at chess. His successes show that even as an adult one can learn more about our beloved game to significantly increase one’s playing strength. In the Norwegian Chess Magazine No. 3 for this year Frode tells about how he has succeeded as he has done in recent years. Keywords are systematic training with different aspects of the game separately, like endgames, openings, middle games, calculation, tactics, and more. He already has collected two GM norms looking forward to a possibility for the third when international grandmasters are in line to meet him in the ACC.

IM Elsness became Norwegian Champion in 2008 after winning the playoff in Moss against Jon Ludvig Hammer. The year before he won the Open Norwegian Rapid Chess Championship in Fredrikstad. Frode Elsness has also participated several times in the Norwegian national team in chess olympiads and European Championships. It is great to see Frode play in Tromsø in August, and we are very excited to have him among the starters.




Dr. Thomas Ernst

GM Thomas Ernst (SWE)

Pity on those who are planning to try to capture points in this year’s ACC with delicate positional play and defense chess! That is, it may work, but then it has to be played well, because the start line at the Arctic Chess Challenge has probably more active players with calculation skills, attacking style and love of complications than ever before!

Another of these is Sweden’s Thomas Ernst! This does not prevent the 49-year-old Swedish GM to master most aspects of the game, as grandmasters in general do. But a 1.e4 repertoire with white, and a Sicilian and Grünfeld repertoire as black tells something about his ambitious and in many ways positive and creative chess.

Thomas has played a lot in Norway over the years. This goes back to the 1980’s. His best results came at Gausdal where he won back in 1984, 1987 and 1989. In 1991 he came second in Gausdal Troll Masters behind Alexei Shirov. He earned the grandmaster title the year before, in 1990 and peaked at a rating of 2570 in the early 1990’s. In the same period, namely in 1993, he became Swedish Champion.

Of later year’s achievements can be mentioned that in 2002 Ernst won the Bad Wildbad Open in Switzerland, while in 2004 he won the Bad Ems Open in Germany. In 2005, he came second in Créon Open. He is also a doctor in mathematics since 2002.

We are very pleased to see the Swedish fighter among the starters in Tromsø in August!




GM Chanda Sandipan

GM Chanda Sandipan at Leiden, 2008

GM Chanda Sandipan from India is one of the strongest players in the Indian group behind Anand. He is currently ranked No. 5 in the country with his Elo rating of 2640 and was once in the top 100 in the world. The 26-year-old has previously participated in Gausdal in 2008, and is guaranteed keen on his first tournament victory on Norwegian soil.

Sandipan, who achieved his grandmaster title in 2003, has been terribly close several times to become the Indian champion, but has lost three playoffs against the same player, Surya Ganguly.

Sandipan represented India at table 4 in the Chess Olympics in 2008. He shared first place in this year’s Gibtelecom tournament in Gibraltar, where he met among others Espen Forså and won with his favorite Sicilian opening.




GM Loek van Wely (NED)

GM Loek van Wely (NED)

With the 37-year-old Dutch tactician on the starting line in this year’s ACC, the tournament is ensured interesting, complex and exciting duels on the absolute top tables, to the end of the tournament! As a player Loek is uncompromising and fearless, with an arsenal of sharp opening systems. If you want to learn attacking chess, tactical play and combinations, the Dutchman’s games are a good place to start. Loek van Wely became a grandmaster in 1993. Of his achievements can be mentioned that in the years 2000 to 2004, he was Dutch champion five times in a row, and in the same period he achieved a rating of above 2700, placing him among the world’s top ten chess players. In 2005, Wely was part of the Dutch team that won gold at the European Championships in Gothenburg. As recently as May this year, Loek van Wely won the Chicago Open, showing play that bodes well before this year’s ACC! We look forward to getting one of Holland’s absolute best players of all time on a visit here in Tromsø!




GM Emanuel Berg, Sweden’s #1

Emanuel Berg at the Dresden Olympiad, 2008

For the second year in a row Sweden’s No. 1 will be found among the participants and the favorites in the Arctic Chess Challenge. The 28-year-old sympathetic Swedish grandmaster has an aggressive and dynamic playing style, which makes him a crowd favorite. His games are always characterized by his uncompromising style which makes the fight for the top prize tough and interesting. As organizers, this is something we absolutely love!

Of the achievements can be noted that Emanuel Berg is the reigning Swedish Champion. He won Rilton Cup in Stockholm in 2004/2005 along with Sergei Volkov, won in Soller, Spain in 2006, and took fourth place the same year in the Keres Memorial, behind Ivanchuk, Karpov and Kasimdzhanov. In the Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø in 2009 he got 7 out of 9 and fourth place at the end. We are really happy to have GM Emanuel Berg among the participants in the ACC again and look forward to seeing him play in Tromsø again.




GM Sergei Azarov

GM Sergei Azarov (BLR), Bethune Open 2009 (from

GM Sergei Azarov of Belarus is currently his country’s third strongest chess player with a rating of 2609. He is thus far the strongest representative for his country in the Arctic Chess Challenge. Sergei was born 19.05.1983, and his rating so far is 2630. The 27-year-old made his mark as early as 2001, when he won his first Belarusian championship, a feat he repeated the following year.

In the youth world cup in 2003 in Halkidiki, he showed proof of his strength with 2nd place behind Shakriyar Mamedyarov. Azarov is known to have an aggressive style of play, and has beaten good players like Jobava and Volokitin.


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