1. GM Normunds Miezis
3. FM Lars V. Jakobsen
5. FM Bjarte Leer-Salvesen
7. Andreas G. R. Moen
9. Matts Unander
2. GM Heikki Westerinen
4. FM Niclas Hjelm
6. Helge A. Nordahl
8. Øystein Hole
10. Frode R. Lund
1. GM NORMUNDS MIEZIS (Riga, Latvia - Elo 2483 - born 11.05.71)
Not among the more extreme latecomers in this field, Miezis still started late and did not win any great attention until in his final junior years. From then on he however become a very active player, and advanced "steadily fast" - from being a 2300-junior in 1991 he reached the IM-mark of 2400 in 1993 and the GM-mark of 2500 in 1995. Later he has been stable in a seven years perspective, but those statistics are misleading: Having been above 2550 in 1997 Miezis later dived below 2500 again, but suddenly speeding up in a very active period two years ago he peaked around 2600 last spring. One out of very few GMs (and players overall) I have met claiming himself to be overrated at that stage ("Impossible. I have not lost that little in any tournament!" was his comment when the April list of last year showed, Miezis later has demonstrated that he was right by falling below 2500 again. Curiously enough he seems to be in an even better mood now than when having 2601.
Miezis outside the board may be registered as "evidence one" against all prejudices about boring and over-serious Eastern European Grandmasters. As his pupils discovered when Miezis was to give them lessons during last year’s tournament: It is in fact impressing being able to make up so many sarcasms and witty remarks wile using so few English words. IM Leif Erlend Johannessen got "Calculations: OK. Preparations: OK. Understanding: Not at all!" as his grade from the teacher, while two other members of the national Norwegian youth team (who I guess would like to remain unmentioned by name) were categorized as "Two alcoholics who only make stupid moves". Needless to say the players enjoyed the training, but still no repetition of that experiment this year: Norwegian players soon feel exhausted when having to play and analyse in the same day, and Miezis himself "Like to play chess - but do not like to train chess!". Instead he then offered to play in an IM-group beside the GM-group - and so I got the idea about inviting him for a try in that group. Miezis (following hard, but humorous negotiations) soon came to accept "as Gausdal is a nice place to have a rest". As usual I do not know how and when the image star arrived to Norway, but I actually stopped worrying about such details related to Miezis following his first Gausdal visit in 1999 - while I called around Norway and parts of Europe for him, Miezis then turned out to be less than one meter away...
Chess master Miezis of course is a difficult opponent to meet, but that is despite obvious weaknesses: There is some jealousy, but also much truth, in the critics stating that Miezis’ opening repertoire basically consists of one harmless system as white and two dubious ones as black. Even when he actually is able to vary with a large number of openings if he wants to do, his openings especially as black are hardly worthy to serve a GM. Having played them hundreds of times Miezis however knows the resulting positions very well, and he has a sharp tactical look. First and foremost his strength however is a result of a superb chess understanding and intelligence - many of his winning games qualifies as excellent illustrations of advanced chess logics. The man almost certainly is a chess genius having capacity to reach a 2700-level, but still being too lazy and/or unstructured to stabilize even at 2600 - his principal stand against morning rounds and opening preparations survived all the way too 2600. Everything fine to me as long as he himself is satisfied to jump up and down a medium point of something like 2525, and to travel around playing chess and having fun all around the globe: He is a great chess entertainer giving every tournament more colour both inside and outside the playing room, and so we are all happy to have him back. As Miezis use to be very fast and efficient against players below 2400, he is the odds-one favourite for first place in this group - everything else will be a sensation. I am however exited to see how hard he will try to win his games this time. The dilemma is that he probably does not need to win that many to assure the first prize, but on the other hand he will have to win most of them to gain ELO - and then he of course is exposed for surprises too. Miezis’ Gausdal tournaments of 1999, 2000 and 2001 all brought him 6½/9 - is he hungry enough to go for a new record in 2002?
2. GM HEIKKI M. J. WESTERINEN (Kuopio SY, Finland - ELO 2403 - born 27.04.44)
Present at the start in 1970 and seemingly at most later occasions, "GM Gausdal" has got the local record of participations and will almost certainly keep it forever: No one knows his exact number of starts at Gausdal, but all taken together it is probably above 100 now! As an honour to the best of all Gausdal friends, Arnold Cup in 1994 was dedicated to Heikki's 50th Birthday - and according to rumours he is included in the Hotel's furniture insurance! Whether there is any tournament to dedicate to anyone in 2004 remains to see, but Heikki will of course be welcome in the meantime as well. Hardly ever rated as number one here, Heikki has kept his age good and generally he has been doing well at Gausdal. His Troll Masters-comeback in the 2000-edition became a very happy one, when Heikki finished fourth in a strong field with the outstanding score of 6½/9. I then described him as a serve-and-volley-player without a serve, but several of his pet variations as white actually can serve as aces too. His openings however are uneven, and as Black he often falls back on much less exciting variations than those he in his heart would like to play. Probably at his best in the endgame, Westerinen then combines a fine technique with a still fresh look for counter-chances. Often too eager to win, Westerinen on the way through his fourth decade at Gausdal of course has produced a series of life time memories to a large number of Norwegian underdogs - but please do not forget that he has risen up at "nine" to counterattack against an even larger number of them.
Against other titleholders Heikki appears more peaceful now than earlier, but still it is difficult as well as dangerous to try to defeat him. Having GM-results recently both in Reykjavik 1998 and Copenhagen 1999, Westerinen has proven that he is still dynamic enough to defeat players close to 2600 - just ask GM Simen Agdestein. In 2001 the veteran once more did well in Troll Masters, when finishing eight with 5½/9 after defeating IM Frode Elsness and drawing the younger GM colleagues Rune Djurhuus and Maris Krakops. Westerinen should be less satisfied with having finished third in one of the IM-groups of Gausdal Classics last april, but once more his will to play the tournament out at least resulted in a money prize. The start of 2002 was less good, as Heikki following a double loss in the end managed just 4½/9 in Troll Masters, and obviously not happy with the new FIDE-time he blundered down to the last place in a closed GM-tournament in Oslo. Obviously never running out of his "Sisu" (= famous Finn fighting will), Heikki however returns once more to fight for honour, rating and money against a field of much younger opponents.
3. FM LARS VENØ JAKOBSEN (Aalborg SK, Denmark - Elo 2320 - born 05.11.70)
The story about Lars Venø Jakobsen’s chess career is a strange hero story, about an intelligent and hard working human keeping his goal about becoming a strong chess player despite obviously not being much of a talent from birth. The slowest of all slow starters, Lars Venø had less than 1600 in national rating when aged 20 - despite being a very interested player and having played a lots of tournaments for several years. But shortly afterwards, something happened: Venø Jakobsen came to improve steadily during the next ten years, and making an unofficial Nordic record in the discipline of "improving during the 20s" he went all the way up to pass 2300. Building up a still better opening repertoire, technique and understanding while blundering still more seldom, he has all the more become a merciless opponent for players below 2350. Seldom crushing, he in normal weather hardly ever loses to anyone below 2300 as black and 2400 as white.
Probably still suffering from too much respect, Lars’ score against titleholders on the other hand has been poor to an extreme extent, which has denied him all norm chances so far: Getting 1/9 when trying to play a GM Round Robin in Denmark, Lars Venø was not even willing to think about entering that group here last year. Instead he with an ELO of 2364 entered an IM-group, but landed into another nightmare of tactical and positional blunders: Seeded third Venø Jakobsen finished tenth with 2½/9 and lost 45 points of ELO. Venø Jakobsen rather unbelievably managed to smile all the way through the disasters, and finally got something worth to remember in the last round: His draw against the tournament winner Bela Badea then increased his score against GMs to ½-23½...
Back in his familiar terrain of local Danish ELO-tournaments, Venø Jakobsen soon returned to the upside going track - and so he should be around 2350 again, if/when all his results are registered by FIDE. Due to his Gausdal nightmare last year I actually was in doubt whether I should dare to send him an invitation this year, but just like last year one of the first positive answers came from him: Not blaming anyone else for his play last year and still a social being himself, Lars got happy memories about the skiing, the food and the atmosphere from last year. While not having his strength as a player (and probably not his good humour either) I was a late starter having to work myself up too - and so really would be happy to see him succeeding this year. For a player below 1600 aged 20 and above 2300 aged 30, being an IM aged 40 must be a realistic goal - his chances to become a GM aged 50 can be discussed then.
4. FM NICLAS HJELM (Farsta, Sweden - ELO 2313 - born 10.01.71)
Present among the best Swedish players at least during his junior years, Hjelm was a frontrunner candidate for the national junior championship of 1990. Leading before the last round, he following a strange mixture of chess dramas and juridical complications during the last round, ended second some months later. (A gentle player, Hjelm himself reportedly was a totally innocent victim of the complications which started when his opponent resigned in an overwhelming position.) Probably following this shock Hjelm looked less inspired, was less active and even lost some points of ELO during the next three years. Aged 22 he was down at 2250 and did not seem to be any IM-candidate. When increasing his play and training Hjelm suddenly showed up another dimension, and having 2375 aged 23 he was a hot IM-candidate. Despite several good tries he however did not achieve any norms, and since seven years now he has been found somewhere between 2310 and 2350 thanks to stable tournament results - never making any disasters, he has seldom had the norm within short reach.
Niclas’ style of play is, as one should expect from his results, more solid than exciting. A conventional player never ever blundering and having built up a solid opening repertoire, he is hardly ever crushed by anyone below 2500 as black - and hardly ever crushed by anyone as white. Very much a logical, intelligent and serious player, Hjelm by nature probably is too much of a scientist and too little of a killer - and too much a realist instead of an optimist. Usually accepting a few short draws during his international tournaments, his remaining games often becomes long and hard-fought ones: Hjelm is a patient man with a heavy technique, but he has lacked the little extra magic and creativity to win games a little bit too often to reach a 2400-level. Of course having been shanghaied into some sharp tactical battles through the years, Hjelm has demonstrated that he might be tough in that role too - but he still needs help from his opponents to get into them.
Recently having won the Swedish championship and fulfilled his IM-title in the chess marathon discipline known as correspondence chess, Hjelm arriving Gausdal now probably got a stronger theoretical backbone than ever before. Probably having reached an important crossroad of his career, he is intending to play at least four international tournaments in 2002. This one is the first one, but it might also be the tournament offering the best chances. Hjelm himself made a few tries in the summer opens at Gausdal about ten years ago; they did not change anything of importance in his life. His long time friend and team-fellow Erik Hedman came to make a well-timed and successful run for his first IM-norm last year; this year Niclas is the best Swedish hope for an IM-norm.
5. FM BJARTE LEER-SALVESEN (SOSS, Norway - ELO 2304 - born 13.11.78)
Present in the Norwegian elite at least since aged 12, the "Bompi" of our hearts has picked up several Norwegian youth championships and a mass of money-prizes from local weekend tournaments along the way. He even in his early teenage years became a catch-all player, hiding tactical artillery as well as a very practical endgame technique behind a solid opening wall. Still the best player ever to come out of Norway's "deep dark south", he may register both "lack of better players at home" and "the difficult geography of Norway", as reasons why he so far has not climbed all the way into a titleholder level. Part of the explanation however might be lack of ambitions during his late teenage years, and his laid-back intelligence cannot fully compensate his lack of creativity without more work than he has been willing to invest.
Giving his openings a necessary update, being more willing to play international tournaments and joining the national group for players aged 17-23, Leer-Salvesen however has improved again during the post-junior years. Slowly climbing against 2300 by help of 5½/9 in Troll Masters, 4/9 in the championship class of the Norwegian Championship and 4½/9 in Lost Boys during 2000, he peaked with a marvellous start in Troll Masters 2001. Leer-Salvesen's IM-norm looked granted after five rounds, when he had defeated 2600-GM Eduard Rozentalis and IM Leif Erlend Johannessen, and drawn GMs Heikki Westerinen and Joe Gallagher as well as GM-candidate Stellan Brynell (!). Unfortunately "Bompi" was run down by attacking monsters Reefat and Lie in the next rounds, and then two half points in the final rounds was one bitter step away from the norm. Still Leer-Salvesen climbed well above 2300 both nationally and internationally thanks to this 2400-performance, and so is qualified for the FM-title. He however lost some rating again with results below his average in Gausdal Classics (once more: Sorry that I forced you to play, my friend - but the whole round robin was at stake!) and a tournament in Korinthos this summer. Feeling more inspired for Gausdal Troll Masters 2002 he following a good start was a serious IM-candidate until round seven, and making a solid plus he again passed 2300.
Most of Leer-Salvesen's openings now work well against most players below 2300, but playing sharper as black than as white he may lack the punch to challenge the titleholders here. Apart from the openings, Leer-Salvesen now appears as the king of pragmatics among the young Norwegian - mixing sound positional play up with short tactics, and always being awake for any transpositions into winning endgames. He may look almost too relaxed during the first three hours, but you should not be misled by this - the man is able to make ten sensitive moves within half a minute, and will never lose on the clock unless being lost on the board. Now being the only remaining chessplayer out of three once promising brothers, former Kristiansand and Porsgrunn player Leer-Salvesen still remembers his ethnical roots by representing the small and eccentric "Selskapet av Osloemigrerte Sørlandssjakkspillere" (still meaning something like "The Society for chessplayers from the South who have emigrated to Oslo") - now in the top league. As the other half of the organising committee he has prepared for everything except his own games the last week, and so the two first rounds of his tournament now might be critical.
6. HELGE A. NORDAHL ("Black Knights and White Widows", Norway - ELO 2277 - born 26.06.75)
Extremely active and probably the hardest working Norwegian of his age from 14 to 18, Helge A increased his strength enough to stay in the top of the national championships every year - and just not enough ever to win them (much because he was unlucky to be born the same year as the whiz-kid Roy Fyllingen). Reportedly having finished second or third in Norwegian youth championships about ten times before leaving the junior ranks, he finally ended the curse when winning a nine months delayed play-off for the Junior title of 1995 three months later. Ironically (or probably just naturally?) Helge’s first national title came at a stage in which he had reduced his ambitions and training sessions, instead concentrating upon his economy studies in Bergen.
Despite a number of decent results from Nordic championships as well as from the European and World Championships, Helge’s international career never got any real take-off. Thanks among other to his Gausdal results he achieved an ELO around 2250 aged 18, but later "just" stabilized around that level. As a post-junior he has won the national blitz championship as well as the highly unofficial café-championship, and during his brief army stay in Stavanger he in 1999 finished second in the Norwegian team championship. Claiming to have lost all ambitions, he has later seldom tested the ice of international title tournaments. His two probably best tries for an IM-norm both came at Gausdal: In 1995 he finished shared third in an IM-qualifying round robin with 5½/9, and four years later he finished eight with 4½/9 in his first taste on the championship class of Norway.
Helge used to a tough serve-and-volley player - in between a well prepared and sharp opening repertoire and a skilled endgame technique, he at his best squeezed his opponents with an attacking chess often based upon heavy calculations. As he has an excellent understanding of the pieces, a great intelligence and is a sleazy time trouble fighter, it might appear mysterious why he so far has not reached an IM-level. An explanation might be that he became over-ambitious and cramped in the decisive moments until aged approximately 19, and has been over all too relaxed later - at least he during both stages has suffered from blundering too much, pressuring to hard, and overall not being able to fulfil many of his promising positions against titleholders.
Today Helge is working long days, weeks and months as an economist in Oslo, and claims not to have ambitions. That’s of course one part of the truth: His main openings are rusty now, and admitting that he all the more often prefer experimental lines. But still the man is among the five persons in Norway hating most to lose a game of chess (a complete list can be bought from the arbiter), still he will refuse a draw to sacrifice a piece even against titleholders if smelling a mate - and still the old tournament wolf comes out to yell against the moon at critical stages during tight games. The start may decide much about his tournament, but if things works out then he still got the potential to fight for a norm. Why should he not?
7. ANDREAS GRUNDE RABBEN MOEN (Oslo SS, Norway - ELO 2268 - born 21.09.79)
Son of FM/Gausdal-veteran/top lawyer/attacking-monster Ole Christian Moen, "Andreas GRRR" was almost born into the Gausdal-tournaments - playing his first tournament here at size "Magnus". Being both a son of his father and a close friend of Torbjørn Ringdal Hansen, Moen jr probably also ranks among the top five on the list of "most uneven Norwegian players". To be found just below the very best Norwegians of his age all the way from age 13-20, Moen was unlucky not to get more chances as a representative of Norway. All the way he however mixed up very promising results with really disasterous ones. This confusing habit has been his hallmark straight through a sharp change of style: Starting up as a one-sided attacking player always playing with the tactical glimpse of his father in both eyes, Moen Jr in his later teenage years turned much more positional and sound. Caught between two extremes he now usually starts up his games relatively quiet. Thanks to Moen's natural creativity the games however often turn wild at some later stage, and then end up in some kind of chaotic time-trouble duel. The outcome is of course almost impossible to predict. Travelling on the high roads as a chess improviser Moen may play many different openings, but whether any of them can stand the critical light of this level is a good question. Even having an unforeseeable sense of humour, Moen often can be observed laughing during his games - even when (if) the position appears quiet.
In short: No one knows if Moen is a bird or a fish in this tournament, but he will beyond all doubt be a great rabbit this time too. It should however be noted that Moen except from Gausdal Troll Masters overall did well in 2001, and following his surprising 6/9 in Bergen Chess International both his national rating and his FIDE-ELO was at a historical high mark on the April list. Despite many ups and downs during the tournaments Moen however gained a few points more when taking 5/9 in Troll Masters, and when taking 4/9 in the following closed GM-tournament in Oslo he for the first time really was in the race for a norm. This tournament will be a critical test of whether he has improved for good now, or whether the current rating is just another wave. Moen's ability to discipline himself - more concrete his ability to avoid losing on time, blundering or entering dubious variations just because they look fun - will probably be decisive for the outcome, but he too has obviously got the capacity at least to fight for a norm now.
8. ØYSTEIN HOLE (Akademisk SK Oslo, Norway - ELO 2237 - born 20.10.71)
Born into the then very active youth milieu in Eiker west of Oslo, Hole picked up his first Norwegian championship as a sensible young man aged 16 and the second at 18. He was however unlucky to be born in 1971, and being always careful as a person as well as a player he was overshadowed by several other players born that year. More than any revolutions, Hole's chess career has been a steady rise against the top. He probably has been too careful in seeking challenges, typically getting his first (and modest) FIDE-ELO aged 23 in 1994. Twice a surprise in the championship class of the Norwegian championship after going up "the thorny way" through the master class, he was first mentioned as a possible IM-candidate when taking 4½/9 among the elite at Gausdal the summer in 1999. Now living and working in Oslo, Hole as one of the driving forces in the ambitious university club Akademisk SK also spends much time administering chess.
Very serious in all his behaviour, Hole after some downs in 2000 again got paid for his long time planning when making a good result in Troll Masters 2001, and a sensational one in Gausdal Classics 2001. In this IM-qualifying round robin everything worked for Hole until he had 6/7. Unfortunately 6½/9 was still half a point short of his first IM-norm, but Hole beyond doubt demonstrated his norm capacity and qualified for the championship class of the Norwegian championship. Finishing 17th out of 18 players with just 2½/9 in the Norwegian championship however was a disappointment, and Hole has not been satisfied with the play in his few later tournaments. He however appeared better when winning a rapid tournament in Drammen a few weeks ago, so at least I will not be surprised if he once more strikes back with full time. Having a good general understanding of chess, excellent nerves, a reasonable time spending and a great intelligence, Hole in a longer run should be able to work out his two traditional disadvantages: 1) His openings lack punch as white, and are incomplete (at best) as black. 2) his calculation of variations should become both faster and more exact. 5/9 in Troll Masters 2002 cannot be that bad, but taking into account his opponents this actually was below even his own expectations. By April 2002, Hole still is exposed against opponents above 2400 as well as weaker players able to speed up the game. At his best he however still is an intelligent technician and a stubborn defender, difficult to defeat for anyone present and able to counter against most of them.
9. MATTS UNANDER (SK Caissa, Sweden - ELO 2210 - born 15.08.56)
An active and ambitious player for ten years 1975-85, Unander without getting any international breakthrough continued his advance until 1983-84, when he got two tries in the championship group of the Swedish championship. Finishing 12th and 14th however did not feel that amazing for an ambitious young man, and so Unander when about to reach a 2300-level instead put his civil career and family first. Joining the computer wave ten years ago, he has later concentrated his chess time upon local tournaments and correspondence games. He has done good results in the latter discipline, winning the Swedish team championship of 1993 and now being a 2300-player within ICCF. At the board he had a short down when falling almost to 2150 around 1995, but soon recovering he has overall been stable just above 2200 for the last 15 years, despite a modest level of activity most of the time.
According to himself, Unander now is a "schizophrenic" chess-player - playing safe and positional chess although he is at his best as a tactical attacker. My feeling about his style is more the other way around, but that is based upon a few games being at least five years old. He appears to be a solid 1.d4 player difficult to defeat as white, while he is more exposed with a sharper repertoire as black. Unander's current strength is an open question to be answered this week. Lacking matching from this level he is probably more exposed on the clock now, but on the other hand he following his correspondence career probably has got better openings.
Unander played several Open Norwegian Championships at Gausdal around 20 years ago, when both he and the championship was at it's high mark. Having tested both the food and the skiing possibilities at Gausdal earlier, he was an easy victim to shanghai for this tournament when playing the arbiter on board xx in the Nordic team correspondence championship. Although feeling inspired by the chance to return to an old battle field from his youth, Unander insists that he is now only a happy chess amateur, having interesting games as his only goal for the week.
10. FRODE RYAN LUND (NTG SK, Norway - ELO 2173 - born 22.01.84)
In his home county Østfold, Frode for a long time was known as always interested and positive, but never strikingly successful school player. His interest in chess however increased around age 15-16, as demonstrated when he surprisingly decided to join GM Simen Agdestein's chess class at the top athletics school in Oslo. "Frode who?" (or "who Frode?" as we would say in Porsgrunn) at the moment is not only the best pupil of the chess class, but also the best advertisement for it, as he has become an active player and developed faster than even a die-hard Østfold-supporter could have predicted. Soon reaching a 1500-level, Lund after stabilizing some months suddenly started to create problems even for master players last summer. Making a plus score against players between 2050 and 2250 during his starts in Berlin and Cappelle recently, he is now well into class 1 in the Norwegian rating system - and gained his current FIDE-ELO.
"All the more a positional player - but still not a good one" according to himself, Ryan Lund indeed seems to be another misunderstood 1.e4-child about to get known with himself as a more patient and positional player. Still playing 1.e4 now and then he seems to get on much better with the pieces when asked to build up a position from more quiet and/or closed set-ups. During such conditions he might become an attacker too, but the typical good Ryan Lund game still is a long and tight one. From the few examples I have seen, he seems to enjoy endgames. More exposed if the game speeds up, he might then blunder or fail to catch up with the dynamic demands of the position. His openings are varied, but hardly deep enough to compete on a free market among master-players.
I am not going to pretend that Ryan Lund can defend his FIDE-ELO in such a short run as this week; a very modest and anti-arrogant young man, he himself seems to be aware that it is too high for this moment. In the Open Norwegian Junior Championship just a few weeks ago he finished with 3½/7 against an average somewhere around 1600, and his January rating was just 1686. In the longer run I am however about to become optimistic on his behalf: Frode has already become much stronger than I expected him to become in a few months, and sensible in all his behaviour he still shows no signs upon losing contact with the ground. Obviously much better not to be defeated by better players than to defeat weaker players, he will probably enjoy very much his position as the outsider and death sentenced number ten of this group. He will definitely not fight for any norm, and it will a true sensation if he is a candidate for 50 % at this level - yet. But I feel convinced that he will produce some more game surprises - and that he will use every chance to learn from his first closed IM-tournament.