Kobalia wins 5th Arctic Chess Challenge

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Kobalia wins 5th Arctic Chess ChallengeMikhail Kobalia won the 5th Arctic Chess Challenge in Tromsø, Norway. The Russian grandmaster beat Loek van Wely in the final round to edge out Manuel Leon Hoyos on tiebreak after both finished on 7.5/9. This report includes many photos and videos.

The 5th Arctic Chess Challenge was a nine round Swiss played from July 31st to August 8th. There were 164 players, including 25 grandmasters competing for a 13,850 Euro prize fund. Favourites in Tromsø included Loek van Wely (NED, 2677), Alexander Moiseenko (UKR, 2667), Mikhail Kobalia (RUS, 2648), Bartosz Socko (POL, 2646) and Chanda Sandipan (IND, 2637). The rate of play was 2 hours for 40 moves plus 1 hour for the rest of the game. For more info see our first report.

Rounds 5-9

We left the tournament after four rounds, when Ivan Ivanisevic, Bartosz Socko, Loek van Wely, Chanda Sandipan, Emanuel Berg and Levon Babujian were sharing the lead with 100% score. Berg indeed went for 1.e4 against Van Wely in round 5, but unfortunately a Sveshnikov ended in a draw rather soon. Socko grabbed sole lead by beating Babujian in a Two Knights Defence, Steinitz Variation- you know, the one with Ng5-h3 which was also played by Fischer.

In round 6 Socko drew with Black against Van Wely, allowing Berg and Sandipan to catch him, but he won again in round 7:

Socko-Sandipan Tromsø 2010 Socko-Sandipan 22.Qxh5! Also strong is first 22.Bc2 Rxd1+ (22...Qe8 23. Qxh5!) 23.Qxd1 Qd7 24.Qxh5!. 22...Bxe3 23.Bb5 Bxf2+ 24.Kxf2 Qc2+ 25.Qe2 Qc5+ 26.Kf1 Ra8 27.Rac1 1-0

A very important moment for the tournament was the following. Thus far Socko had played a fine tournament, but suddenly he faltered in an ending: Confusing Bartosz and Monica Socko here. It was the lady who lost the following ending to the tournament winner:

Kobalia-Socko Tromsø 2010 Kobalia-Socko 56... Ra4?! Not the losing mistake, but 56... Rxg3= would have been easier. 57.Rxf6 Nxe4?! Best was 57...Rc4+ 58.Kb2 Rb4+ 59.Kc3 Nxe4+! 60.Bxe4 Rxe4 61.Rxd6 Kg7=. 58.Re6! Nxg3? This loses the knight. Black's last chance was 58... Nc5! 59.Rxd6 Rc4+ 60.Kb2 (60.Kd2 Ne4+ 61.Bxe4 Rxe4 62.Rh6+ Kg7 63.Rxh5 Kf6 is a theoretical draw) 60... Kg7 with good drawing chances. 59.Rh6+ Kg7 60.Rg6+ Kf7 61.Rxg3 and White won.

The tournament was decided in the last round on board 1, where Kobalia defeated Van Wely in a stormy kingside attack that was over as quickly as it had come. One small pointe (a hanging bishop and so one lost tempo) was decisive.

Kobalia-Van Wely Tromsø 2010 Kobalia-Van Wely 23...Qb7? The final mistake, according to the tournament winner. 24.Bg5 Nd7 25. Be4 g6 26. Bf6+! Kg8 26... Nxf6 27. Qxf6+ loses the bishop on d6. 27. Rd3 Nxf6 28. Rxf6 Be7 29. Rh3 h5

Kobalia-Van Wely 30.Qxh5! and Black resigned because of 31...gxh5 31.Rg3+ Kh8 32.Rh6 mate.

21-year-old Manuel Leon Hoyos played an excellent tournament a well. He almost won the tournament outright but in the end he couldn't beat Chanda Sandipan in the last round. The Mexican shared the 1st-2nd money prize with Kobalia, who won because of a better tiebreak. Leon Hoyos, who entered the tournament as only the sixteenth seed, noted that serving as Vassily Ivanchuk's second has helped him to improve considerably, giving him a new outlook on chess and how to study the game. "I am very fortunate that I can work with him," he said Sunday.

Arctic Chess Challenge 2010 | Round 9 (Final) Standings (Top 20) Arctic Chess Challange 2010 | Round 9 Standings

Macauley Peterson was in the arctic wrangling polar bears, and providing video snapshots from the Arctic Chess Challenge. These videos were running on the tournament website's Videos page, but also appeared on and are available for cross-posting under the Creative Commons license (BY-NC-ND).

Selection of games rounds 5-9

Game viewer by ChessTempo


The population of Tromsø municipality is about 65,000 and the urban area, Norway's ninth most populous, is home to about 55,000 people


The island is connected to the mainland by the Tromsø Bridge and the Tromsøysund Tunnel, and to the island of Kvaløya by the Sandnessund Bridge


Most of Tromsø, including the city centre, is located on the small island of Tromsøya in the county of Troms, 350 kilometres inside the arctic circle.


The area is especially good for boat trips...


...on which you'll meet sceneries like this these


The decisive game on board 1 of the last round: Kobalia-Van Wely, 1-0


3-1-2: Chanda Sandipan, Mikhail Kobalia and Manuel Leon Hoyos

Night falls in Tromsø

Night falls on Tromsø - suitable to end this report, isn't it

Photos © Janis Nisii


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