1. GM Normunds Miezis 4. FM Marco Thinius 7. FM Helge A. Nordahl 10. Carl Fredrik Ekeberg
2. IM Sebastian Siebrecht 5. FM Falko Meyer 8. Linus Olsson 11. Hans Kristian Simonsen
3. GM Heikki Westerinen 6. FM Thorbjørn Bromann 9. Espen Lie 12. Ole Johan Valaker


    1. GM Normunds MIEZIS - Liepaja, Latvia - born 11.05.71 - FIDE-ELO 2525
Not among the more extreme latecomers in this field, Miezis still started late and did not win international attention until his final junior years. From then on he became 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, even though he first got the title in 1997. Later he has been stable in a seven year 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 three years ago, he peaked at 2601 in the spring of 2001. One of the very few GMs (and players overall) I have met who claims thar he was overrated at that stage ("Impossible. I have not lost that little in any tournament!" was his comment when the April list of 2001 showed only -5), Miezis has later demonstrated that he was right by falling below 2500 again. Curiously enough he seemed to be in an even better mood just above 2500 now than he was just above 2600 two years ago.

Miezis outside the board may be registered as "evidence one" against all prejudice about boring and over-serious Eastern European Grandmasters. As his pupils discovered when Miezis gave them lessons during the 2001 tournament: It is in fact impressive to be able to make up so many sarcasms and witty remarks while knowing so few English words. IM (now GM) 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 2002 saw no repetition of that experiment: Norwegian players soon feel totally exhausted when they have to play and analyse during the same day, and Miezis himself "Likes to play chess - but does not like to train chess!". Instead he then offered to play in an IM-group in addition to the GM-group - and so I got the idea to invite him for a try in the IM-group in Gausdal Classics 2002. Miezis (following hard, but humorous negotiations) soon accepted "as Gausdal is a nice place to have a rest", and got 10 ELO-points and 1 first prize out of it by taking 8/9 in between his resting... Repeating the experiment of the IM-group for Gausdal Classics 2003, Miezis despite a slow start then finished very unshared first with 9/11.

Chess master Miezis is of course a difficult opponent to meet, but he is so despite obvious weaknesses: There is some jealousy, but also much truth, in the critic saying that Miezis’s opening repertoire basically consists of one harmless system as white and two dubious ones as black. Even though he actually is able to vary with a large number of openings if he wants to do so, 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 eye (although I do not not know yet which eye that is). First and foremost, however, his strength is a result of a superb chess understanding and chess intelligence - many of his won games qualify as excellent illustrations of advanced chess logics. The man almost certainly is a chess genius having capacity to reach a 2700-level, but he is still too lazy and/or unstructured to stabilize even at 2600 - his principal stand against morning rounds and opening preparations survived all the way up above 2600 and down below 2500... Everything fine to me as long as this chess kangaroo himself is satisfied with jumping up and down around a medium point of something like 2525, playing chess and having fun all around the globe: He is a great chess entertainer who gives every tournament more colour both inside and outside the playing room, and so we are all happy to have him back. Miezis’ Gausdal GM-tournaments of 1999, 2000 and 2001 all brought him 6½/9, while he increased to 7½/10 when finishing unshared second in Troll Masters 2003. Miezis likes Gausdal nearly as much as Gausdal likes Miezis; and remembering very well his results from the earlier IM-groups he himself asked to play in this group this year. I am excited to see how many games he will win this year, but I am not in doubt it will be many - and everything except an unshared first place will be a small sensation. Not as ideal as last time, the drawing of lots giving six whites including Siebrecht in round ten still was a helpful one.

2. IM Sebastian SIEBRECHT - SF Essen-Kanternberg 1913, Germany - FIDE-ELO 2435 - born 16.04.73
The faithful Essen player Sebastian Siebrecht even on a German chess scale was promising around age 16-17, and he won various German championships around then. In his last year as a junior he passed 2350, and finished shared second in a very strong open German junior championship in 1993. Never producing any big bang he later went on his patient way up, passing 2400 and fulfilling his IM-title aged 23. His later advances have been even more patient, but still he steems upward with his current 2435 as the peak so far. Playing only for fight and fun Siebrecht even when it can assure him a moneyprize seldom accepts short draws, and usually wins some knock-out games during eleven rounds. His best result was an outstanding 9/9 in an international tournament in France, but due to too weak opponents this still was not a GM-norm. As white he often starts up with some kind of seemingly quiet closed opening, but suddenly accelerates the game with some kind of kingside attack early in the middle game. As black he is more of a counter-attacker often playing unortodox openings, but the outcome still often becomes a messy tactical battle in which he surprisingly often ends up on the right side. "Endgame" usually is a code for "cleaning up after the party" in Siebrecht's games, and although still a heavy-handed initiative player he might then be less an accurate technician than German IMs at 2435 use to be - at least he is still famous in Germany for having failed to find the mate with bishop and knight against king. Living as a student and being eager to visit Norway for the first time, he preferred a modest offer to play the IM-group instead of taking the costs to play in the GM-group. The only player between 2525 and 2400 in the IM-group, he seems like the obvious choice for the second place. Although such an outcome might be the most likely, it is far from given - as there is an army of 2300-players ready to challenge him as well as Miezis, and as his white game against Miezis of course is an open story which might very well decide the whole thing. When Siebrecht however is very likely at least to get a moneyprize, it is because he being a tough attacking player usually is very efficient to defeat weaker players. Six blacks including Thinius and Miezis was not a helpful drawing of lots, but still these are two open games - and Siebrecht should be able to score very well as white.

3. GM Heikki M. J. WESTERINEN - Kuopio SY, Finland - FIDE-ELO 2358 - born 27.04.44
Present at the start in 1970 and seemingly all later occasions, "GM Gausdal" keeps the local record of participations and will do so forever: No one knows his exact number of starts at Gausdal, but all taken together they are 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 still included in the Hotel's furniture insurance! Whether there is a Gausdal tournament to dedicate to anyone in 2004 remains to find out, but as long as international tournaments are played at Gausdal there will be a room reserved for Heikki. Hardly ever rated as number one here, Heikki has kept his age good and generally he has done 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 work out 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 lion's chess heart would like to play. Probably at his best in the endgame, Heikki then combines a fine technique with a still fresh look for counter-chances. Often too eager to play for a win, Heikki on the way through his fourth decade at Gausdal of course has produced a number of life time memories to 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 on, but still it is difficult as well as dangerous to try to defeat him. As he made GM-results as late as in Reykjavik 1998 and Copenhagen 1999, Westerinen has proven that he is still dynamic enough to defeat players close to 2600 - feel free to ask Norway’s chess hero 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. Heikki should be less satisfied about having finished third in one of the IM-groups of Gausdal Classics 2001, but once more his will to play till the end of the tournament brought him a money prize. 2002 was much less a good Norwegian year for him, as Heikki following a double loss in the end managed just 4½/9 in Troll Masters, obviously not happy with the new FIDE-time blundered down to the last place in a closed GM-tournament in Oslo, and landed outside the prizes with 5/9 in an IM-group of Gausdal Classics. Finishing 22th with 5½/10 in Troll Masters 2003 was no good start of the new chess year, even when Heikki this time made a promising start. He however came back with a result well above expected score last April, after being shanghaied into the GM-group only 48 hours in advance. Never running out of his "Sisu" (= famous Finnish fighting will), Heikki returns in 2003 once more to fight for honour, rating and money against a field of much younger opponents. Of course it will be unfair expecting him to fight for first prize with such a tight schedule - after all he could have been the grandfather of more than one competitior. But aged 59 he still is a remarkable chess fighter, who might very well leave with a moneyprize. Enjoying much more to attack than to defend Heikki was probably very unhappy to get six blacks, but white against Miezis and Thinius compensates a lot.

4. FM Marco THINIUS - SK Grosslehna, Germany - FIDE-ELO 2389 - born 25.03.68
Marco Thinius learned chess aged nine, but very untypically only played correspondence chess during his early teenage years. Having played his first tournament over the board aged 17, he soon demonstrated himself as a remarkable talent. Achieving his first IM-norm in 1991, he could be found as high as 2365 the next year. Around that time he however came to enjoy playing bassoon even more than playing chess - with success, as he has now got the first bassoon in the famous orchestra "Staatskapelle Weimar". Chess he played 1988-99 for the team of "Emperor Berlin" in the first German league, and from this team Marco actually is a former team companion of world stars Vladimir Kramnik and Aleksei Shirov! Following a down refinding himself just above 2300, Marco aged 30 left the Emperor instead to play for the Grosslehna team in Leipzig - and intensified his chess studies as well as playing more tournaments. His results improved markedly in 2002, at best he close to the end of that year won the Gotha open with 8/9. Inspired by this advance he went on for even greater performances in 2003 - taking his second IM-norm during a round robin in Olomouc, and winning the strong Mühlhausen open together with GM Teske at 6/7. Thinius' ambition clearly is to be an universal player, but yet he is primarily a tough attacking one. Typically a repertoire player doing much as white and winning a lot of games in the middle games then, he although seldom crushed has had some long losses against better players. As demonstrated by his results from the last two years he has a great potential to win games. Marco might get some happy dilemmas as he is lacking 11 ELO-points and one IM-norm to get the title - hence for example 6/9 will be the third norm, while 6½/9 will be the norm & and the title.... Odds that he will get the title within a few months anyway of course are overwhelmingly small; I believe his chances to make it now well above 50%. Taking into consideration his astonishing form this year he obviously is the main candidate for a norm in this tight field, and together with Siebrecht he also should be the main challenge for the expected first place of GM Miezis. Six black games were bad news from the drawing of lots, but getting white against Siebrecht and Miezis definitely increases his chances to pass without a loss.

5. FM Falko MEYER - SF Essen-Kanternberg 1913, Germany - FIDE-ELO 2348 - born 24.05.74
A promising Hamburg junior in the first half of the 1990s, Falko Meyer made several top results then - winning the U15 as well as the U20 championship of Hamburg. Never getting any international breakthrough after his junior years, he still came close to an IM-norm several times around 1995-97. Not succeeding he came to prioritize his law studies, which were successfully completed a few weeks ago. Having played little except rapid and team chess during his studies, he is of course a question mark for this tournament. This all the more as Falko Meyer's style of chess reportedly is a difficult one too: Everything but updated regarding opening theory, he varies his openings and often starts his game in trouble. A very dangerous and creative middle game fighter, he however surprisingly often manages to strike back. Meyer might be odd in his positional understanding of chess, but he is a dynamical player seldom missing the tactics - hence he might very well end up as Mr Jumpy in this field. Having the IM title as his long term goal, he in a short term should have good chances for an IM-norm if able to avoid the worst opening disasters now. Six white games should help a lot, and so does postphoning Thinius until round eleven. In short: Absolutely impossible to predict, but hardly a favourite opponent of anynone.

6. FM Thorbjørn BROMANN - Brønshøj SK, Denmark - FIDE-ELO 2323 - born 27.04.79
Not among the very best Danish players of his age before his teenages, Thorbjørn Bromann accelarating around age 14-16 soon became a candidate for IM-norms. A great future was predicted him in 1994, when he won the Nordic Youth Championship U15 with the Fischer score of 6/6. Although Thorbjørn defended his position among the best Danish chess youngsters for the rest of his junior years, he failed to achieve any greater international brakthrough then. Following some less active chess years as he too prioritized his studies, he suddenly became more active last year - and was rewarded with his first IM-norm in the Taastrup IM-tournament. Following several good results last winter he peaked his ELO at 2383 this spring, but fell back following several "below average" this summer. Aged 24 about to fulfill his teacher education and having the IM-title as his main goal, Thorbjørn still is primarily a strong attacking and initiative player - doing much better as white, and still suffering from being uneven in his openings as well as in his positional play. As most of his games develop into complex middle game battles, he is also more than average likely to run short of time. On the positive side he definitely can win enough games to produce a norm in this tournament, the question is whether he can be stable enough and avoid losing too many games. In short another unpredictable player, providing for an exciting tournament. The drawing of lots was truly not a helpful one, giving six black games out of whom Miezis, Meyer, Thinius and Westerinen are the first four coming up. But if Thorbjørn is not succeeding this time, surely he too will make a lot of fun along the road.

7. FM Helge A NORDAHL - Black Knights and White Widows, Norway - FIDE-ELO 2313 - 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 - but just not enough ever to win them (much because he was unlucky to be born the same year as the whiz-kid Roy Fyllingen, now IM and former Norwegian champion). Reportedly having finished second or third in Norwegian youth Championships about ten times when leaving the junior ranks, Helge finally ended the curse by winning a nine months delayed play-off for the Junior title of 1995 in the Easter of 1996. Ironically (or probably just naturally?) Helge’s first national title came when he had reduced his ambitions and training sessions dramatically, instead concentrating on his business studies in Bergen. Despite a number of "honest" results from Nordic Championships as well as from the European and World Championships, his international career has never got a real take-off. Thanks among others 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 stay in the army in Stavanger he in 1999 finished second in the Norwegian team Championship. Claiming to have lost all ambitions, he has relatively seldom tested the ice of international title tournaments. His two probably best tries for an IM-norm so far 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 of the Championship class of the Norwegian Championship.

Helge used to be 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 attacking chess often based on heavy calculations. As he has an excellent chess understanding, 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 overall too relaxed later - at least he has during both stages suffered from blundering too much, pressuring too hard, and overall not being able to fulfil many of his promising positions against titleholders. His chess career however got another lift in 2002, when his working schedule became somewhat more human. 4/9 in an IM-group of Gausdal Classics was an average Gausdal come-back, but probably motivated by being only a substitute for the Championship class in the Norwegian Championship, he ran down the master class walls with 7½/9 and a 2500-performance. Inspired by this he went on to make his first IM-norm in Gausdal Troll Masters last January. Having defeated GM Lugovoi and drawn IM Womacka as well as GM Kallio within the first five rounds then, he landed for a well timed 2451-performance after round nine. Helge's later results have been back on the normal 2300-level again. His main openings still look a little rusty, and he admits that he all the more often prefers experimental lines. But still the man is among the five players in Norway who hate the 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 for his tournament, but if getting a downhill and finding back his Gausdal face he definitely has the potential to fight for another norm. For a start the drawing of lots was close to ideal, including six whites out of whom five seems like a fair winning chance. But to get a norm, he will still have to win a lot of games - and produce something in his difficult black games against Miezis, Westerinen, Meyer and Thinius.

8. Linus OLSSON - Lunds ASK, Sweden - FIDE-ELO 2269 - born 21.02.84
Still living in his home town of Hässleholm, Linus Olsson is now studying philosophy in Lund and playing for the top league team of that city. He can be found among the best Swedish players of his age for at least five years now, having won the Swedish school championship four times. Still he has been much of a "close to" player, having finished second once and third twice in the Swedish Junior Championships and having missed an IM-norm with a small margin at several occasions. Close to 2300 aged 19, he should have excellent chances to reach his IM-title within 2-3 years. He however was even closer to 2300 one year ago, hence his rapid advances aged 16-18 gas been followed by a period of stagnation. Being his first closed title tournament ever, this should be an excellent opportunity to start the wheeling forward again. Talking about style, Linus despite his friendly personality reportedly is at his best as a tactical attacking player and a fighting chess mud wrestler. Reliable in all his moves and having a low percentage of blunders, he is not too much of a chess magician - and a little too often has lacked the little extra depth in his play needed against players above 2300. Linus' openings earlier on have been more an Achilles heel than an asset, but as he has been training regularly with IM Emil Hermansson recently this might be about to turn now. If so he is obviously a 2300-player, but still some margins will be needed to fight for a norm in a tight field like this one. The drawing of lots gave Linus six black games, but might not be that bad in case he is running for a norm - as he will then be white in critical games against Thinius, Siebrecht, Westerinen and Bromann.

9. Espen LIE - Porsgrunn SK, Norway - FIDE-ELO 2268 - born 03.01.84
This is a truly exciting player, for now probably the most promising of the Norwegian hopes in the IM-group. Chess child Espen Lie was a whiz-kid considered even more promising than his elder brother Kjetil A, and won a bunch of Norwegian Championships as well as two Nordic youth championships before age 14. While Kjetil around age 16 suddenly started to work with chess and to seek international challenges. Espen however remained an introvert and somewhat lazy Norwegian chess youth star: Always doing solid results among the best Norwegians of his age and scoring well on the lowest possible board for his beloved team, Espen failed to make any international breakthrough during his starts in the European world championships and European Championships - and was (by me) called a "chess pederast" as he seemingly tried to avoid meeting anyone above 16. In the period 1999-2001 Espen still made strong national youth results and still advanced his ELO, but still he due to lack of tries failed to work up his chess in general and his openings very much in particular. 2002 came to change this as Espen by his frustrated trainer (who in addition to all other problems also happens to be the Gausdal organiser) was more or less forced to play Troll Masters, and obviously enjoying it very much he landed on 5/9 with a performance close to 2300. Bitterly having finished second in the Norwegian junior championship 2001 despite taking 7/9, Espen came back to win that championship with the same sum of points in 2002 - despite a sensational ninth round loss to a 1900-player (true enough disguised behind a 1700-rating). After winning the Junior Championship last year Espen lost three tight games to his brother Kjetil, but apart from that played more than 30 rated games without a single loss - taking 6½/7 for his team in the league and 5/6 when winning the Nordic Championship below 19! His best result so far still came in the IM-group of Gausdal Classics 2003, in which he finished shared second and lacked only half a point for the IM-norm after defeating IMs Rødgaard and Ostrowski. His later results have been normalizing, the only international one being an average 4/9 from the Norwegian Championship 2003.

At his best having a very deep positional understanding and being an efficient and patient technician, Espen also might be a dangerous attacker and tactical boxer when invited to use that gloves. Something has changed: This year Espen was the one to insist upon travelling five hours to get an intensive weekend training with the still young all star team of the Porsgrunn Panthers, and he finally seems about to complete his opening repertoire. The openings, combined with a little too many inaccuracies and a few strange black-outs, still are his main questions to be answered this week. Obviously Espen has gone a long way to get an opening repertoire, but he still is a little bit toothless as white and too often a good second as black. Fighting for an IM-norm without an adequate opening repertoire demands a very good player nowadays. But Espen might be a chessplayer good enough to do it nowadays. Even when my first guess again is for a performance just above 2300, I consider above 2400 as more likely than below 2200. Six blacks increase his opening problems, but like Olsson he for a norm run might still have an exciting run - being white only against higher rated players.

10. Carl Fredrik EKEBERG - Asker SK, Norway - FIDE-ELO 2243 - born 02.08.84
Carl Fredrik Ekeberg became universally recognized as a remarkable talent from about age 10, and despite being born in the strongest year for Norwegian chess since many years, he won a number of top prizes in the youth championships during the next five years. His international breakthrough was proclaimed when he suddenly made a trampoline jump from below 2100 and across 2200 by having chances for a sensational IM-norm until round nine of Bergen Chess international 2001. For the last two years his form however has varied only around an average of 2200-2250. He seemed to be marching again when taking 4/9 in the championship class of this summers Norwegian Championship, but his later starts have hardly confirmed this trend. His openings especially as white are better now than two years ago, and having a low percentage of blunders and time trouble misses he then lose few games against players below 2400. The black repertoire although improving still is more exposed, and a little bit too often he has been lacking the will and/or the power to defeat qualified opponents - despite a great chess intelligence and remarkable understanding about where to place the pieces. The potential for an IM-norm is there if he gets a good start, keeps up his motivation for the whole week, and has some margins regarding the openings - as demonstrated by two wins against GM Leif Erlend Johannessen within the last two years.
Talking about style Carl Fredrik is an over-typical Bærum player, playing chess a la golf: He is very seldom missing a put and might hit good birdies - but dislikes his situation if the ball leaves the grass, insists to be driven home if the rain starts, and can hardly be suspected to start training before 15.00 in a weekend or before 13.00 at day. Being seeded tenth however should give him a promising attacking position in this field, as trying to defeat him is time consuming as well as dangerous. Expected around the midfield should be a good guess - for now. Six white games increase his chances for a plus result, but black against Siebrecht and Miezis hardly help the norm chances - and playing Thinius and Siebrecht in the first two rounds he might start the week crawling uphill.

11. Hans Kristian SIMONSEN - Kollafjørdur, Faroe Islands - FIDE-ELO 2240 - born 06.09.83
Starting his chess career aged 5 (!), Faroese player Hans Kristian Simonsen however left chess at 8 and did not return until 13. Later he has been improving steadily, until making his strongest result when winning the Faroe Championship of 2002 as the second youngest player of all times. His great game potential he demonstrated at latest when defeating former world champion Garry Kasparov in a simultan game two years ago. But now close to the end of his last year as a junior Hans Kristian however still is suffering from problems to complete his tournaments. Following an excellent start he had an IM-norm within reach in Copenhagen this summer, but lost the thread during the final rounds. Back home at the Faroe Islands last week he defeated IM Pilgaard and drew GM McNab, but due to his problems against players below 2300 still did not come close to any norm. His uneven results might appear paradoxical as he himself considers his style very positional, and his main strength probably to be found in the endgame. This might very well be true, as his games often start up in a slow and closed mood. Nevertheless most of them end up in some kind of messy middle game, often decided during mutual time trouble. A field including ten higher rated opponents should suit him fine, and having 3/6 against GMs so far he is not lost in advance against anyone. Hans Kristian himself is optimistic for a norm, and if being a little bit lucky with his openings he is a candidate. But to succeed he will at the very least have to keep his concentration all the way down to round nine. As I suspect his best chance to be an inspiring start, six whites and a relatively soft schedule for the starting rounds should be good news.

12. Ole Johan VALAKER - NTG SK, Norway - FIDE-ELO 2208 - born 29.03.72
Despite trying to do 63 other important things at the same time, Valaker in fact was promising as a junior - at his peak in 1992 sharing the lead of the Norwegian Junior Championship until last round and becoming a Norwegian top-scorer in the Nordic junior matches. His few title-qualifying attempts then were much less successful, and fighting against a limit then being 2205 he did not achieve any FIDE-ELO. Active as a chess trainer and journalist already as a teenager, he later went for a civil journalist career and concentrated his chess hours upon organizing - among others as leader of the Norwegian youth federation during three years. Following five years almost without individual tournaments, Valaker’s chess appetite again has been steadily increasing during the last three years. Having left Bergen to earn his living as a journalist in Oslo, he now plays third board for NTG - behind the Agdestein brothers. Playing his first two international tournaments for seven years in Bergen the summers of 2000 and 2001, he despite wasting several promising positions against strong opponents gained an ELO above 2100. 2002 was a good year, which saw him suddenly advancing across 2200. Having matched himself up under the telling name "OJ" on ICC, he in his Gausdal come-back took 7½/9 and left no doubt about the first place in the ELO-group of Gausdal Classics. Bergen Chess International saw a further advance: Following an elegant endgame win against GM Kualots in the first round Valaker despite many long games and many wasted chances landed on 5/9 and a performance well above 2300. A new personal record still was established a few weeks ago at Isle of Man, when Ole despite wasing chances in several games lacked only half a point for an IM-norm - hence his unofficial ELO is around 2250.

At his best Ole is a very intelligent chess all-rounder, dangerous when allowed to attack, and cleverly hiding his opening weaknesses behind variations seen so seldom that no one else either can remember anything about them. Always looking relaxed before and in between his games, the sleeping competition animal usually wakes up when Valaker at critical stages suddenly turns on his deep concentration. I am excited to find out whether he is overrated or underrated following his latest advance at Isle of Man. The answer might be that he is both, as his strength might be much a question about inspiration and almost certainly will be varying much from game to game. My best guess is that he will suffer some ugly losses and waste some chances, but still score above expected. Getting all the more respect for his intelligence and his fighting instincts, I however still doubt whether his theoretical muscles are strong enough to carry around an IM-norm-candidate for nine rounds in this very tight field. Six white games including Miezis, Meyer, Thinius and Westerinen should be helpful for his norm chances, but worst case this might become a study in backfire.