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Warm Weather Makes Ice Chess Difficult

January 15, 2007

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Blame global warming, anyone?

Seems the Sun came out once too often at the Russian Winter Festival in London recently, dramatically speeding up the amount of time that the massive ice chess pieces were available for gaming. A group of dedicated ice enthusiasts carved life-size chess pieces out of ice and plunked them down on a makeshift chess board that was nearly 700 square feet in area. The idea was to have a fun game of chess, known to be a favorite of people around the world and one that Russians are especially good at.

They had fun, all right, but some of it was laughing at how quickly the ice sculptures turned into pools of water.

Temperatures rarely fall below freezing in London in January, but organizers had hoped to avoid the kind of embarrassment that accompanied last year's festival, in which a sculpture of the vaunted St. Basil's Cathedral melted clean through by the end of the event.

It was unseasonably warm in London—55 degrees Fahrenheit, to be exact. The chess pieces didn't last long, forcing players to move them quickly. Chess players can routinely think about their next move for more than an hour. At the Russian Winter Festival, however, they didn't have that luxury.

One particularly newsworthy element of the Festival also was an international game between British and Russian chess players, connected by satellite link. The British team was captained by British grandmaster Nigel Short. Heading up the Russian team was world champion Anatoly Karpov. Because of the warm weather and the melting pieces, the teams had just 30 seconds between moves, which isn't all that much when a satellite uplink is involved.

A second board was set up in a square in Moscow, and players in both cities enjoyed the spectacle. The weather in Moscow wasn't much colder, although the Russian pieces lasted longer into the day.

The game ended in a draw.

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