Whether you heard about it via The Moscow Times or CNN, MSNBC or The Guardian, The Gulf Daily News or The Washington Post, The BBC or ABC, or just good old Chessbase - chances are you heard about it. I mean the Moscow-London Chess Ice Match, in which a team headed by Anatoly Karpov took on a team headed by Nigel Short, at around this painful time yesterday morning. & what can little old us add to all that reporting, I hear you ask? Ah! A rather splendid eye-witness account and some exclusive photos (click to enlarge, see end of article for more) all courtesy of R J Christie:
"It was all a bit surreal: Trafalgar Square on a chilly January morning, spotlights, camera crews, a giant TV screen, a small crowd of onlookers, not to mention a giant chessboard (64 square metres) complete with 32 one metre high pieces sculpted entirely from ice!
"A similar scene could be seen on the big screen – beamed live from Pushkin Square in Moscow, just slightly later in the day and a little colder.
"The occasion - A chess game to launch the 3rd annual Russian Winter Festival.
"The chess set - The absolutely stunning pieces (some even in the shapes of significant London and Moscovian landmarks like the ‘Gherkin’) were carved out by Sergey Tselebrovsky, current world champion in ice sculpting.
"The participants – An English team captained by former world title challenger and reigning Commonwealth and European Union Champion Nigel Short, writer Peter Ackroyd and England’s 8 year old chess prodigy, Darius Parvizi-Wayne. And, in Russia, a team led by former World Chess Champion, Anatoly Karpov, along with a Russian chess prodigy, 8 year old Konstantin Savenkov, Olympic champion gymnast Alina Kabaeva and author Viktor Erofeev.
"Hosted by GM Daniel King, who provided lively and upbeat commentary, the match got underway just after 8am. The Russian team drew the White pieces and with 1.e4 the game began. Left without a pen and paper I was unable to record the moves, but the game was a risky variation of the Two Knights Defence – played mainly, it must be said, between the 2 eight year old prodigies!
"Nigel Short provided some analysis for the crowd, the only snag being that he could be heard in Moscow via the satellite link. This was only discovered when, after telling the crowd that his microphone wasn’t linked to the satellite feed, Nigel was bemused to hear Anatoly saying 'We can hear you!' No surprises for the Russians then!
"Anatoly Karpov was doing similar commentary in Moscow, sometimes breaking into English, but mainly speaking in his native Russian – luckily there was a translator on hand so we didn’t miss anything!
"As the clocks ran down, the temperature rose and the pieces started to melt, requiring the odd bit of mopping up before play could resume. The Russian team gained an advantage over the board and a win on time seemed the best the English team could hope for – the match was played as a quickplay game, with 30 minutes per side.
"Sadly work called before the game had ended, but from what I hear the Russian team, running short of time, offered the English team a draw – which was accepted. So honours even on the day!
"By the time I left just before 9am, a sizeable crowd had gathered; somewhere in the region of 150 I would estimate. Not bad for a cold winter's morning.
Thanks a million to R J Christie for that.
PS. You can find all the photos we have of the event archived here, where once again, you can click the images to enlarge.
PPS. UPDATE! Andrew's comment - the fifth one down, as 'anonymous' - provides more detail about the game itself. Sounds like an intriguing battle!