Portraits of the 2003 participants

Dear Chessfriend(s)

Spread out across the following xx(x) pages, you will find (more or less) short portraits of all the participants in Gausdal Troll Masters 2003. Please note that the portraits are written by and based upon the subjective impressions of one person (= Hans Olav Lahlum = me), who has a playing strength just above 2200 and who has been in time trouble for years. Please take into account also that my knowledge to and my relations with the players are very varied: I have had the chance to study most of the Norwegian players during one or more earlier tournament(s), and a few of them in depth as I am the brother of one player, the trainer (or former trainer) of at least two, and a friend (or former friend?) of at least three - while I only know some of the foreign players from a few Chessbase games. I will be thankful for reactions in general and corrections in particular, in the interest of accuracy and as it might give less extra work for me on possible later occasions. (Even though I today doubt whether there will be possible later occasions.)

I would like once more to thank the still small, still underpaid and still very efficient ICDTSTELFTL. (= "International Committee Designed To Save The English Language From The Lahlum" - traditionally consisting of Silje Bjerke, for now also supplemented with "big brother" Bendik Bjerke.) Unfortunately I was unable to present the committee all the portraits in time this year, and so the committee has not been able to read over all the portraits. The observant reader will unfortunately have no problems to identify which portraits who did not reach the committee in time....

H@ns Ol@v (hanso.lahlum@c2i.net)

1. GM Eduardas ROZENTALIS 2. GM Alexei LUGOVOI 3. GM Normunds MIEZIS 4. GM Sergei OVSEJEVITSCH 5. IM Mathias WOMACKA 6. GM Heikki KALLIO 7. IM Mark BLUVSHTEIN 8. WGM Ekaterina KOVALEVSKAYA 9. IM Mikael AGOPOV 10. GM Heikki WESTERINEN 11. WGM Tatiana SHUMAIKINA 12. FM Craig HANLEY 13. FM Bjarte LEER-SALVESEN 14. FM Helge A NORDAHL 15. FM Riku MOLANDER 16. Glenn CHARLESHOUSE 17. Daniel L. BISBY 18. FM Magnus CARLSEN 19. Olavur SIMONSEN 20. Geir Sune TALLAKSEN 21. Magnus FÄLDT 22. Øystein HOLE 23. Martin POULSEN 24. Boris BERNING 25. Paul JOHANSEN 26. Hans Krogh HARESTAD 27. Eydun NOLSØE 28. Giuseppe VALENTI 29. Matts UNANDER 30. Björn GAMBÄCK 31. Bjørn-Erik GLENNE 32. Kim NYGREN 33. Nils-Johan OHLZON 34. Corrado ASTENGO 35. Øystein Bøyum FOSSUM 36. Alf R. ANDERSEN 37. Kjetil STOKKE 38. Terje KARLSEN 39. Josef ASK 40. Tobias LöNNGREN 41. Pasi KORHONEN 42. Stig K. MARTINSEN 43. Kai-Roger JOHANSEN 44. Tarjei J. SVENSEN 45. Olaf BERG 46. Øyvind PEDERSEN 47. Rolf SANDER 48. Per JOHANSSON 49. Gunnar BUE 50. Stefan HÖRBING 51. Jean SAULNIER 52. Ragnar KNUDSEN 53. Terje NILSEN 54. Terje TORGERSEN 55. Jon Ludvig HAMMER 56. Tor Kristian LARSEN 57. Askild BRYN 58. Jan A. BJØRGVIK 59. Steinar BRYN 60. Ida LAHLUM

1. GM Eduardas ROZENTALIS - MCT Vilnius, Lithuania - born 27.05.1963 – FIDE-ELO 2585
"He has an impressive ELO, but his secret seems to be that he is doing nothing wrong and as little as possible else", a probably jealous Norwegian opponent remarked when Rozentalis had left after his first visit. The year was 1992 and Rozentalis, rated 2585 and taking 6.5/9 finished an undefeated second in "Oslo Royal Open" (which by the way was a closed round robin, in which most of the Norwegians concentrated on doing everything wrong and as little as possible else). Then and later indeed making very few serious mistakes, Rozentalis signed a subscription for the top place on the Lithuanian ELO-list shortly after getting his GM-title in 1990. Later he was to become the kind, great and distanced chess star of the country, making almost all of his splendid results in international opens and team-matches abroad. Stabilizing right below 2600 in the first part of the nineties, he has been above the "Great-grandmaster"-border most of the lists during the next five years. Not allowed access to the world top round robins, Rozentalis' way has been the thorny one through international tournaments against 95% lower rated opponents. He has earned his living and rating by nearly always being on the prize list, and by winning the first prize more than 20 times. A real chess-lover enjoying all kinds of analysis, Rozentalis even picked up first place in an open Danish Championship of chess puzzles some years ago - reportedly finding all the correct solutions on a time which crushed all records, without ever using his right to move the pieces!

Above everything else a strategic genius who has an excellent understanding of chess in general and his openings very much in particular, Rozentalis certainly ranks among the top tacticians of this tournament too. Seemingly on the road to the real world top when peaking his ELO at 2650 in 1997, he has later had several ups and downs in the area 2550-2650. The explanation is probably just that he has played more opens during the last five years, and even when doing well he has then too often not won enough games to defend his high ELO. As an alternative explanation, Rozentalis is not enough of a killer to fight for a place in the absolute world top. Surprisingly knocked out 0-2 by GM Aronian in the FIDE World Championships of 1999, Rozentalis did not even try to qualify for the next World Championships. His Norwegian come-back in Troll Masters 2002 can hardly be accepted as anything else than a total failure for such a player: Having 2630 and being top seeded with some 80 points he for a while managed to turn the tide after a first round collapse, but following a second loss landed on 5.5/9, and even outside of top ten. By far too serious to blame anyone except himself, the great master and great human Rozentalis now returns once more to defend the difficult position as seeded number one. Much too humble for his playing strength, he now accepts an offer many lower rated GMs reject for principal reasons, adds a thanks to the organiser for his positive attitude, and offers to keep an evening lecture about endgames for the other participants. For mysterious reasons Lithuania’s great little chessman has failed to stabilize above 2600 in 2002 as well, but his best results have demonstrated more than ever before his true potential: At the beginning of 2002 he won the greatest chess mammoth tournament of his time, Capelle la Grande, and in the end of the year he made a performance close to 2700 in the Bled Olympics - despite his chess art feelings against the FIDE-time used then. If Eduardas Rozentalis does not start 2003 by winning Troll Masters, it is still only a small surprise; great players like Lugovoi, Ovsejewitch and Miezis are in front of a hungry field behind him. But if he lands outside top three and / or loses a game against anyone in his second Troll dance as well, the word "sensation" is not far away.

2. GM Alexei LUGOVOI – St Petersburg Lentransgas, Russia – born 05.03.1975 – FIDE-ELO 2540
A chess player from age 6, Alexei Lugovoi soon established himself as a very promising junior, winning among others the Junior Championship of St Petersburg several times. The struggle to represent Russia in junior competitions, however, is often more killing than winning the competition itself, and having few possibilities of playing international tournaments as a junior in the era of the iron curtain, Alexei did not achieve his first FIDE-ELO until 1992. Then he however started above 2300, and marched on to fulfil his FIDE-ELO aged 18 in 1993 and the GM-title aged 23 in 1998. This although he like most other strong St Petersburg players made an outstanding academical career beside his chess career, graduating in social and historical philosophy from the university in St Petersburg 1997. Later a gentle and charming professional player with reasonable financial demands, he has been playing much and well abroad during the last five years, making top results among other when finishing first in Budapest 1997 and Hoffnarfjordur 1998, shared first in Bolzano 1998 and Hamburg 2001, and second in Heart of Finland 1998 and Petroff Memorial 2000. Establishing in the national elite of Russia is not that much easier than establishing in the worlds top 100 - the country usually has about 25 players above 2600 and 100 above 2500.... Alexei however seems to be on the offensive to do both: He won the Russian team Championship with his St Petersburg team in 2000 as well as in 2001, and made his probably best result ever when finishing ninth in the individual Russian Championship of 2002 - taking 5.5/9 against an average around 2600.
Do not let his friendly image fool you: Hidden behind the smile and the beard is a still young and ambitious man aged 27 - and about to cross 2550 based on his 2002 results, he is ready to start the hunt for 2600 in 2003.

To add a few words about chess style, Lugovoi’s style is very harmonic. He is an attacking player taking his chances to snatch the initiative or establish a space advantage, but only as far as it can be positionally justified. Not afraid of entering tactical complications he might of course lose some of his sharp battles against other top players, but he will very seldom do so due to any kind of straightforward miscalculations. Varying his openings only within a limited frame, he is basically a repertoire player, but noted for theoretical works about several of his pet openings, he is still difficult to surprise. Add a clean endgame technique from the best Russian school, and you have a close to perfect technical player - lacking only the little extra of creativity, and probably a little more sting in the openings, to be a 2600-player. His time spending might be called sound too, as he seldom is seen far behind his opponent on the clock and/or disturbingly short of time after 30 moves. An experienced open player he sometimes allows himself some early middle game draws against other players around his level, but his usual habit is to play the games out even against other GMs.

Starting the new chess year with his first Gausdal try, Lugovoi is the obvious first challenger for Rozentalis’ first place. Like Rozentalis he is very much a solid and objective player, and the Russian might be a little less likely than Miezis and Ovsejevitch to win six games - but on the other hand he is much less likely to lose one. Always a diplomatic man, Lugovoi gives as his goal for this tournament «to play 10 good games and enjoy them». That is beyond doubt an important part of the truth, but it is still not the whole truth: Lugovoi modified his already reasonable economical demand for playing when he learned that the first prize was at least 1000 EURO.... (1001!)

3. GM Normunds MIEZIS - Liepaja, Latvia – born 11.05.1971 – FIDE-ELO 2523
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, however, 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 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 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 that 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 now than when he had 2601.

Miezis outside the board may be registered as «evidence one» against all prejudice against boring and over-serious Eastern European Grandmasters. As his pupils discovered when Miezis gave them lessons during last year’s 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 (whom 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 instead of 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.... As usual I do not know how and when the image star arrived to Norway, but I stopped worrying about such details related to Miezis after his first Gausdal visit in 1999 - while I called all of Norway and some other parts of Europe trying to find him, Miezis turned out to be less than one meter away....

Chess master Miezis is of course a difficult opponent to meet, but that is 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, his openings especially as black are hardly worthy a GM. Having played them hundreds of times Miezis however knows the resulting positions very well, and he has a sharp tactical eye. 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 is fine to me as long as he himself is satisfied with jumping up and down around a medium point of something like 2525, and 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 6.5/9. Is he hungry enough to go for a new record in 2002, or will his simple plan still be to guarantee a prize by drawing GMs and IMs above 2450, and defeat the rest of the crowd?

4. GM Sergei OVSEJEVITSCH – Ukraina – born 04.05.1974 – FIDE-ELO 2517
A tournament player from age 8, «Sergei» soon established himself among the best Ukrainian players of his age - winning the National Youth Championships several times. He also made strong results for Ukraine in several European and World Championships, without ever reaching the absolute top. He rounded 2400 and qualified for the IM-title in his last junior year in 1994, but still it is not easy to establish in the national elite in a country which has more than 30 GMs (the youngest aged 12!) and some 65-70 players above 2450. Sergei continued his progress through the later nineties to become a GM in 2000, but now well established above 2500 he is still not even close to the national team - after all Ukraine had both the finalists in the last FIDE World Championships....Taking every possible chance to play abroad he is however still climbing, and has made a number of strong results from international opens the last three years: He finished first in Darmstadt, Hassloh and Forthenberg 2001, second in Patra 2001 and Bergen 2002, and shared third among 19 GMs in the very strong Calcutta tournament of 2002. Finishing sixth in the Ukrainian sonal tournament of 2000 and shared ninth in the Ukrainian Championship perhaps do not sound that impressive, but you should take into consideration that the first tournament had 30 players with an average above 2500 and the second 28 participants all above 2450....

Sergei is a very hard and unpleasant opponent, as he will first play hard for a direct win in the middle game, and if that fails keep his concentration for six hours to squeeze the endgame. A highly aggressive 1.d4-player, he nearly always plays hard for a win as white. His black repertoire is somewhat more careful, and so his drawing percent is relatively high against qualified opponents. Very much enjoying Norway during the Bergen tournament and overall eager to play abroad, Sergei accepted a not too attractive offer (none of my offers are), to come directly to his first Gausdal start by train via Poland. If he is not too tired when arriving, he might very well be a candidate for the first place: Sergei might still be a slightly weaker player than Rozentalis and Lugovoi, but he is at least just as good as them to defeat weaker opponents - and has actually lost very few games against players below 2600 so far in this millennium.

5. IM Mathias WOMACKA - USG Chemnitz, Germany - born 26.06.1966 – FIDE-ELO 2496
Probably an even more extreme example of a modest and humble top player than Rozentalis, Womacka still seems totally unaffected by his great breakthrough from Pardubice 2001. There he won with 7.5/9 ahead of (among others) more than 100 titleholders, of course leaving no doubt about his first GM-norm. Despite that result and despite being a 1.90 IM around 2500, Womacka considers himself a chess amateur - and he is obviously right, as his civil work allows him to play only a few weeks a year. Although very much enjoying the possibility of meeting world stars like Shirov and Adams in the first Bundesliga 1997-98, he is still proud and happy to play with his amateur friends in the Eastern team USG Chemnitz - and when asked about his own chess career he starts up with the word "poor". Active as a club player from age eight and later three times youth champion of DDR, Womacka suffered from having few possibilities to play international tournaments until 1989. Rather symbolically he achieved his final IM-norm in his first tournament in Western Europe, and so was awarded the title in 1990. The later years he has been remarkably stable around 2450-2490, but before Pardubice he was without the highlights necessary to achieve GM-norms. He crossed 2500 for the first time during Gausdal Troll Masters 2002, when he started with winning five games, and finished undrawn at 7/9. As last year’s tournament following late withdrawals was much weaker than this year, it was still not a GM-norm - but instead a Troll title, as Womacka had clearly the highest average of opponents among the four men left at 7/9 (the three others being GM Rausis, GM Djurhuus and Kjetil A Lie). Following an exciting tournament and juridical discussions lasting for some weeks afterwards, he instead reached his second GM-norm when taking 7/9 in Bad Wiesse in the autumn of 2002.

Regarding style, Womacka is according to himself fascinated by the logics of chess. Enjoying himself most as a positional player, he when forced to calculate often makes it with true German efficiency. His openings are not too difficult to predict, but all the more difficult to crack - and his endgame technique is a heavyweight one. The reason why Womacka is not yet a GM might be that he has been lacking the little extra creativity, and that he has been too kind and too little of a killer. Still something has changed now: Being the current Troll Champion and having two GM-norms, Womacka admits without any hesitation that he of course will play for his final GM-norm at Gausdal. A 2601-performance never comes for free, but Womacka is obviously good enough to become a GM now. I feel confident that he will become one in 2003. I feel confident that he can take the final step right here and right now. I am just waiting with excitement to see whether he will.

6. GM Heikki KALLIO – Garde SK, Finland – born 15.10.1980 – FIDE-ELO 2474
Learning the basic chess rules when aged seven, young Kallio soon won national attention after becoming a club player at age 10. Passing 2100 in national ELO aged 13, he later passed 2300 aged 15 and 2400 aged 16. Having done several strong results for Finland in Nordic youth Championships, he achieved a larger breakthrough when he surprisingly won a very strong junior open in Hamburg in 1997. Having the possibility of playing as a professional before and after his military service, he did so - and having made his first IM-norm aged 18, he achieved the title when he was 19. Extraordinary active during this period, he for several months in 2000-2001 lived and played GM-qualifying tournaments in Budapest and Beograd. While Kallio’s strength beyond doubt increased, as a quick player he was also helped by the introduction of the FIDE-time. His stubborn will finally succeeded when he following two long round robin norms from Budapest was awarded the GM-title the autumn of 2001 - somewhat surprisingly as the first Nordic player of the new generation born in the late seventies or early eighties. Shortly afterwards Heikki peaked his FIDE-ELO at 2522, the highest result ever recorded in the small chess nation of Finland. Later having defended his position as number one in Finland, he has still slipped below 2500 again due to variable results in 2002. Defending the first board of Finland in the Bled Olympics a few months ago was beyond doubt an interesting experience, but despite many promising positions Kallio again failed to catch up with the really great Grandmasters, and was hardly satisfied with ending up with 2.5/9 and a performance below 2400. Probably his latest set-backs are a short-time price to pay for increasing his long time strength, by experimenting with new openings and new types of positions. Chronically ambitious, Kallio now gives as his goal to reach 2600 within 2004. It sounds too optimistic, I agree - but so I said when he proclaimed his goals about becoming an IM and a GM too....

From his early teenage years a colourful and eccentric personality as well as a youth protester, chess Eminem Heikki has gone his own ways on the board too. There is no doubt about his chess interest: During his last Gausdal visit in 1999 I remarked that under the heading «What is chess to you?», Heikki might very well answer «Chess is my drugs» - as he soon becomes tired without it, as he pays a lot of money for snatching every chance to use it, and as he hardly tries to realize his intelligence potential in any other way. Obviously having spent much time analysing a wide variety of openings as well as the other phases of the game, he is an experimental and completely unpredictable player. Claiming that he has never prepared for an opponent, he is himself the ultimate nightmare opponent for any Chessbase-slave - as he has been playing almost all first moves (including 1.a3?!) with both colours, and as the best guess might be to check what he has NOT played recently.... What few favourite systems he might have are more self-composed than theoretical. After the openings he has often been described as a careful player, but I do not fully agree, as his games relatively often turns into messy tactical battles, and as his short tactical look is a very fast and effective one. Heikki’s will to win however is unpredictable too: Some days he is keen for a short draw even against lower rated opponents, other days he is struggling for the win to the bitter pawn endgame. At his best combining a strange opening with a sound positional understanding and a sharp tactical look, he usually plays faster than his opponents, and so the time control in this tournament hardly favours him. On the other hand he is much more exposed if running short of time, and as he will hardly do so now, he will be difficult to defeat for anyone. I guess Heikki’s first ambition is to play chess and the second to win ELO, but if getting the right start and having the margins in a few important games, he might very well fight for top three. I am excited to see whether the youngest Nordic GM will try to defeat other players above 2400, or whether his plan is to draw them and defeat all the rest of the bunch.

7. IM Mark BLUVSHTEIN - Canada – born 20.07.1988 - FIDE-ELO 2461
Born in Yaroslavl just North of Moscow in what was then the Soviet Union, Mark Bluvshtein was introduced to the chess pieces by his father when aged five. Around that time his family moved to Israel, where young Mark soon established himself among the best players of his age - winning the national U10 Championship aged 9 and the U12 aged 10. A few months later his family moved between quite a few borders again, this time to settle in Canada. Still advancing fast Mark following a lot of Swiss successes soon established himself as the hegemon of his age in Canada, and finished second in the national Junior Championship while still being aged 12. Two years ago he got his IM-title in one powerful blow, when finishing third in the Canadian sonal final. IMs earning their title "in the short track" of a sonal might often get it cheaper, but in Mark's case there is no doubt that he just got it a little bit faster: Having advanced his ELO from about 2300 the summer of 2001 to 2461 now, he clearly deserves to be the youngest North American IM at the moment and the youngest Canadian IM of all times.

Mark is of course an extremely promising young player worth following solely because of his strength, but he is also an exciting guest due to his entertaining style of play. As he loves meeting stronger opponents, Mark does not give them any kind of respect. By nature a sharp attacking player, he is not afraid of weakening his own kingside even against GMs. Although he loves studying all aspects of the game he still looks more impressive as a chess calculator than as a chess philosopher, and most of his games are decided in tactically complex middle games. His opening choices may vary, but the depth of his preparation is somewhat unpredictable too. His endgame strength is difficult to estimate as Mark usually is three pawns down or two exchanges up when entering the endgame, but even in the final stage of the game he is more convincing as a tough fighter than as a skilled technical player - and much better when playing for a win than for a draw. His time spending too is an open question: Mark is a strong player even in rapid chess and blitz, but may run seriously short of time even with a classical time control.

Mark was first brought into contact with Gausdal through his trainer, the young GM Dmitry Tyomkin of Israel (who, by the way, was beaten in an internal meeting on the board when his pupil was still only 13) before Gausdal Classics 2002. In the end Tyomkin himself unfortunately was unable to come, but lacking possibilities to fight for GM-norms on his home market Mark was willing to go all the way across the ocean alone when offered a possibility to do so. Despite a crushing win against GM Arkell, Mark then proved too uneven to fight for a norm, and landed on an average 4.0/9. He has however added further strength since then: In the Futurity 2-tournament he made a plus score against the GMs, and failed the norm only by «the bitter half point» after drawing in the two final rounds. Even more amazing was his 8/11 for the «Cinderella team» of Canada during the Olympics in Bled. Having a performance of 2574 Mark again lacked only half a point for the norm, and as one 13 rounds norm in the Olympics is sufficient for the GM-title, he was actually not that far away from taking even that title in one big bang. No tree grows all the way into heaven: Mark’s try to win the World Championship U14 just after the Olympics, definitely did not work out as intended. But following some weeks at school and a Christmas celebration, he declares himself «14 years old and very happy to be back in Norway». The die is thrown again; the goal is given.

8. WGM Ekaterina KOVALEVSKAYA – Russia – born 17.04.1974 – FIDE-ELO 2452
Of course making numerous strong results in national and international ladies tournaments as a junior too, Ekaterina Kovalevskaya still did not cross 2300 to stay until aged 23 in 1997. From then on she however improved rapidly, crossing 2400 in 1998 and peaking as high as 2507 during the summer of 2001. Now always to be found among top twenty in the women world top list, she is usually to be found around place 15. Obvious in the Russian national teams, she played on the silver team in the Bled Olympics a few weeks ago, and finished second in the European Individual Ladies’ Championships of 2000 and 2001. Her best bid for the World Championship came in 2000, when she lost only narrowly 1.5-2.5 in a tight battle against World Champion Xie Jun in the semi final. The last World Championship for her was a failure, as she went out 0.5-1.5 against WGM Nino Khurtsidze in the third round. Much more a traditional Eastern European chess machine than her travel companion Shumiakina, Kovalevskaya’s first strength is the combination of being hard to get anything on in the opening or middlegame, and being a heavyweight and patient endgame master. Her weakest point might still be the openings, which although never losing seldom gives her much of a starting capital even as white. Actually she seems more confident as a counter-player as black, and then often adopts the attacker’s role in the last part of the middle game.

You may very well ask the critical question of why a player having been above 2450 for nearly five years now is still not an IM, but the right address of the question seems to be the Russian Federation - as Ekaterina has more than enough norms for them to claim the title on her behalf. Well, WGM or IM after all is not that much of a difference - more interesting then to talk about her chances to remove the «W» in the title. A second GM-norm is the obvious goal for this tournament, especially as she gained the first one in Aeroflot Open in Moscow last year. As illustrated by her 3/8 with a low 2300-performance in the Olympics she is however still of a variable strength, and coming directly from Rilton Cup in Stockholm of course might be a double-edged start for ten new rounds on this level....

9. IM Mikael AGOPOV - Matinkylan SK, Finland - born 05.03.1978 – FIDE-ELO 2376
For a long time just one of the "Finn fighters" who dominated especially the Nordic team Championships, half-Russian Agopov suddenly accelerated his individual career when aged 18. During three years from then on he steadily advanced his ELO from 2250 to 2400, and picked up the three norms necessary to assure him the IM-title. Agopov first tested his IM-title in Norway in the summer of 2000. After sensationally defeating 2600-GM Sergei Tiviakov, Agopov for a while even had chances for a GM-norm in Bergen, but after settling for an average result there he suffered from a traumatic start on his Gausdal career during Arnold J. Eikrem Memorial. Later prioritising his studies Agopov has stabilized as a «holiday master» just below 2400, and returns to Gausdal without any outspoken ambitions for a GM-norm. He however made his best result ever when sharing the first place of the Ikaria tournament in Greece with 7.5/9 the summer of 2001, and definitely returns to Gausdal with outspoken ambitions about playing interesting games and increasing his ELO. In Troll Masters 2002 he made a promising start by winning the first three rounds, but in the end settled for an average result with 5.5/9 and ninth place.

A 1.e4-attacker as a youngster Agopov has later become more civilized, and now often prefers closed positions. Still a tough and concentrated fighter, he is creative with finding counterplay when left worse. Always willing to fight on for many hours, his personal record so far (hopefully) is a fascinating 178-moves-draw. This appears fairly typical for the style of the young Finn: Agopov draws some more games now than earlier, but many of them turn out to be hard-fought endgames. At least in his former chess life often spending more time than he should early in the game, Agopov solves many of the resulting problems by playing practically and dynamically during time-trouble. Never a particularly accurate player, he has had a problem with still playing most of his sharp junior openings as black, and still suffers some disasters from not knowing them well enough. Agopov seems about to overcome this as his opening repertoire looks more complete now than two years ago, but on the darker side it also looks more predictable and less exciting. Once more the start probably will be decisive for Agopov's fate in this tournament, but if he plays at his best he may candidate even for top five and/or for the first GM-norm.

10. GM Heikki M. J. WESTERINEN - Kuopio SY, Finland –born 27.04.1944 – FIDE-ELO 2374
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 included in the Hotel's furniture insurance! Whether there is a Gausdal tournament to dedicate to anyone in 2004 remains to see, but as long as international tournaments are played at Gausdal there will be a single 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 6.5/9. 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, 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, 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 - just ask Norway’s chess hero Simen Agdestein. In 2001 the veteran once more did well in Troll Masters, when finishing eight with 5.5/9 after defeating IM Frode Elsness and drawing the younger GM colleagues Rune Djurhuus and Maris Krakops. Heikki should be less satisfied with 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 resulted in a money prize. 2002 was much less a good Norwegian year for him, as Heikki following a double loss in the end managed just 4.5/9 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. But 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.

11. WGM Tatiana SHUMIAKINA – SM Chelyabinsk, Russia – born 04.10.1965 – FIDE-ELO 2364
Not a child star from a Russian point of view, Tatiana Shumiakina was «only» to be found just above 2200 in her early twenties. She however worked her way up from then in a truly impressive way, passing 2300 in 1991 and peaking as high as 2407 in 1999. Later dancing around 2350-2400, she is one of the very few players who has been above 2400 in ELO without achieving an IM-norm. This might appear strange, but one important part of the story is one of the disadvantages of belonging to the world’s strongest chess nation: Even a lady around 2400 does not get too many offers for international title tournaments. Shumiakina due to this has done most of her strongest results in Russian ladies’ tournaments - among others she won the national Championship together with her home town team Chelyabinsk in 2000 and 2002, and she also won a silver medal with the Russian team in the Olympics of 1998. Failing to qualify for the team of the Olympics 2002, she instead hopes to start 2003 with an IM-norm at Rilton Cup in Stockholm and/or at Gausdal. Ranked in advance between a GM and an IM, she clearly should be the best IM-candidate present, and if things work well she might very well fight for cash too.

There is however also a risk for counterblows, as Tatiana’s style is very much double edged: An excellent example against the myth that «girls play passively», most of her games sooner or later end up like some kind of tactical chain saw massacre, often involving strong mutual time trouble. This of course can make it possible for her to defeat many lower rated opponents and also create surprises against the higher rated, but on the other hand she might produce sensations against lower rated players too. Much less an endgame technician than most Eastern European players, this chess fire girl is still an unpleasant opponent playing stubbornly to win - often in complex endings with unbalanced material. The achilles heel of her chess dancing shoes might be firstly the time spending and secondly the openings, which especially as white are much less ambitious than her overall playing style.

12. FM Craig HANLEY – Northwest Eagles CC, England – born 23.03.1984 – FIDE-ELO 2359
Young Craig Hanley’s love affair with Norwegian chess started more or less accidently as a family trip to Bergen Chess International 2000. (At least the result truly was an accident!) Somewhat an arch-English cult figure, Craig then and during the upcoming youth Championships soon found friends among the young Norwegian players. His principal plan for this January was to play at Gausdal together with his Norwegian friends, but very much a man of principles, he is now going to Gausdal without any of his Norwegian friends. Fairly typical for the players’ interest in this tournament, if anyone asks me. Leaving my frustrations and returning to our friend Craig, he, following many ups and downs in 1999-2000, achieved a breakthrough when he took his first IM-norm in Hastings in January 2001. Later playing as much as his school allows, he has followed up by two more norms from Raika Open in Austria and Essent in the Netherlands. As the new title rules valid from 01.10.2003 accept three norms from Swiss tournaments as sufficient for the IM-title, Craig now «only» needs to reach 2400 to assure the title. To realize that of course is Craig’s first goal at the moment, but planning another active chess year in 2003, he hopes to start it with another norm at Gausdal in January and to finish it above 2450 in December. I of course do not doubt that Craig’s IM-title is only a question of short time. Still it is worth noting that his ELO has hesitated with following his best performances upstairs: Still too variable both between his tournaments, within his tournaments and within his games, Craig still suffers from a few chess child diseases (or is it some virus from ICC?) to cure before waking up as a 2400-player: He still much too often blunders or becomes too light-handed in promising positions, and while the top 20 % of his games are brilliant and the next 70 % solid, the bottom 10 % should hardly be demonstrated to anyone below age 18 who is not accompanied by their parents.

As a positive effect of his fast hands, Craig of course hardly ever runs short of time. By style he at his best is close to the perfect player, mixing up a sound positional understanding with a fast tactical look if/when the game accelerates. Do not let the laid-back British image and the quiet openings mislead you: When Craig after school is not found searching for new violent blitz massacres at Internet under his alter ego «pancake», he is often to be found at the rugby stadium.... Craig’s first meeting with Gausdal became no great success on the board, as he finished eight with 2.5/9 in the GM-group of Gausdal Classics 2001. He has later improved his Norwegian record by winning the Open Norwegian Junior Championship of 2002, but still claims that all his Norwegian tournament has been about as little successful as all his starts in the World and European Youth Championships - all resulting in at least 0.5 points below expected score. That is not the whole truth, as the ELO-calculations then hide several high places on the result lists. But of course at present ELO is the main question; my guess is a modest plus.

13. FM Bjarte LEER-SALVESEN - SOSS,Norway - born 13.11.78 - FIDE-ELO 2329
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 5.5/9 in Troll Masters, 4/9 in the championship class of the Norwegian Championship and 4.5/9 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 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 the summer fo 2001. 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. 4.5/9 in an IM-group of Gausdal Classics 2002 was a respectable result from a co-organiser, but apart from that just slightly below Leer-Salvesen's expectations. He however has been doing fine in his later tournaments, and had enough chances to take the norm when finishing one point behind during a closed IM-tournament in Stockholm.
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. According to himself he has been playing bad in the first rounds of the Norwegian league this year, but still 1.5/3 including a lucky win against IM Østenstad is a satisfying start. He will defeat more titleholders and take a norm soon, and he is the best Norwegian candidate to do it now; but there are still ten games to be played, and he is still not good enough to take the norm without help from the small margins.

14. FM Helge A NORDAHL - “Black Knights and White Widows”, Norway – born 26.06.1975 – FIDE-ELO 2303
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, 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 5.5/9, and four years later he finished eight with 4.5/9 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. 4.0/9 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 stormed through the master class with 7.5/9 and a 2500-performance. Above 2300 for the first time following this result, his next moves against titleholders will be exciting to follow. His main openings are rusty now, and he admits that he all the more often prefers experimental lines. But still the man is among the five people 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 this tournament, but if getting a downhill he has the potential to fight for a norm.

15. FM Riku MOLANDER - Ita-Helsingin SK, Finland - born 01.04.1979 - FIDE-ELO 2291
Riku Molander started his chess career relatively late aged 14, but later improving rapidly he soon established himself among the best Finnish players of his age. Achieving Finland's highest national chess title and passing 2300 in 1998, Molander was no surprise as the new Finnish junior champion of 1999. Later less active for two years due to his military service and studies, he again has become active on an international level the last eighteen months. Obviously having happy memories from earlier Nordic youth Championships at Gausdal, Molander fortunately decided to test the title tournaments here for the first time last year. The start with a «long castle» in the rounds 2-4 definitely was not too promising and/or according to his planning, but Molander showed a great strength by winning the next four rounds, and following a short last round 5.5/9 all taken together was an average result. Enjoying the hotel and the tournament very much Molander wanted to return for Gausdal Classics in April last year, but was stopped by his studies. His later results have been uneven, and so he is at the moment listed below 2300. He will however be well above when the results from Curacao is rated, as he then made his best result ever. A true sensation was within reach as Molander missed a chance to reach a winning ending against GM and former World Championship finalist Kortchnoi in a turbulent last round game, but despite being buried by the typhoon then Molander might have taken his first IM-norm in Curacao. «Might» as the critical juridical discussions still goes on, the disputed matter being a defeated unrated Dutch player, who should have been above 2200 if FIDE had been able to read an ELO-report from an earlier tournament....

Regarding style the young Finn may play both quiet and wild, and both closed and open, all depending on his mood and ambitions for the day. Although Molander appears as a flexible chess improviser, he is usually doing best as an attacking player. His openings are somewhat easier to guess when he is black, but overall Molander's opening repertoire consists of many short variations more than a few long ones. Against qualified opponents he might appreciate a short draw if that falls in with his plans for the tournament (and/or the evening). Probably less impressing in the endgame, Molander still is a loose practical fighter difficult to squeeze - but his technique and accuracy might still be inadequate against the best opponents here. Molander is honest enough to proclaim an IM-norm as his official goal of the tournament. Certainly being a young and uneven player and maybe having taken a norm is his last tournament, he of course is among the best candidates in this one.

16. Glenn CHARLESHOUSE – Northwest Eagles CC, England – born 21.05.1963 – FIDE-ELO 2284
Glenn Charleshouse established himself as a solid 2300-player in the early nineties, peaking his ELO around 2330 before taking a «commercial break» which turned out to last for about five years. Returning to chess only three years ago he soon refound all the joy, but slipped just below the 2300-border. Now unhappy about the situation of his ELO and happy about the situation of his firm, Glenn decided to play the first out of six planned international tournaments in 2003 at Gausdal. Having as his realistic goal to pass 2300 again and as his optimistic goal to fight for an IM-norm, he also arrives the day before the tournament and leaves the day after, to test out the skiing possibilities of Gausdal without affecting his chess too much. His realistic goal should not be too optimistic, but I am in doubt whether his optimistic goal is realistic in this short run.

Glenn is first, second and third a polite and solid player of the classical British chess school, difficult to defeat and seldom blundering anything of importance. His opening repertoire was his first asset ten years ago and still makes up a solid backbone, but whether he has had the time to light up all dark corners again remains to be tested. The plus is that Glenn will hardly lose at all against opponents below 2200, the minus that he might be too kind and too unadventurous against the stronger opponents. Even as white against clearly weaker players, he often declares himself satisfied with a thin edge - if it is a safe and lasting one. His patient will however should not be underestimated: Captain Charleshouse is not always popular within his team, as the home flight of the Northwest Eagles too often has been delayed an afternoon or so, because the King Eagle himself still has one isolated pawn less than his opponents in the rook endgame…. My guess is a performance just above 2300, based upon one of the longest tournaments of this year.

17. Daniel BISBY – Redhill CC, England – born 22.09.78 – FIDE-ELO 2283
Starting his chess career at eight, Daniel Bisby probably was at his most promising in his early teens, when he represented England among others in the 16th Olympiad at Malta 1994 and passed 2100 in ELO. Although he failed really to catch on as a junior, he probably made his best result ever when winning the British U21 Championship, just when he was about to leave the junior ranks. Advancing from below 2200 until nearly 2300 in 1999-2000 he seemed a likely IM-candidate, but later he has established just below 2300, due to lack of activity. Not having played any international tournament at all in 2002, he is starting at Gausdal with no doubts about his joy for the game, but a little doubt about his playing strength. Stating that «to enjoy playing in an event in a nice location» is his first goal, he still admits to play for his first IM-norm too. The more aggressive among the British participants of this tournament, he also is much of an all-rounder, varying his openings and enjoying to test out various kinds of positions. There might be some miss-match between his will to attack and to play for a win, and his relatively quiet white openings, the outcome often being relatively long games. Overall scoring good as white he has a low drawing percent with both colours; low is also his score against titleholders, especially as black. He has so far been too loose and too ambitious. Whether he and/or his openings are good enough to deal with the players above 2400 this time remains to be tested; if so he might certainly be among the best norm-candidates of the field.

18. FM Magnus CARLSEN - Asker SK, Norway - born 30.11.90 – FIDE-ELO 2279
WARNING: This FM is not like other FMs - and this 12 year old boy is not like other 12 year old boys.... According to a jealous opponent (H O Lahlum) Magnus was «looking like seven, speaking like 18, playing like 25 and actually being eleven» one year ago, and 2002 saw further amazing advances. His sensational breakthrough came as early as 2000, and already then many self-appointed experts declared him as the greatest talent of Norwegian chess since Simen Agdestein. Instead of slowing down Magnus accelerated further in 2001. After winning the Nordic Championship under 10 with 5.5/6 he soon turned his attention to the grown-ups, making a number of sensational games and results during his appearances in two Gausdal tournaments as well as in the Open Norwegian Championship and in Bergen Chess International - among others results noting his first draw against an IM (the tournament winner Marian Petrov during Gausdal Classics), and his first GM-draw (Thröstur Thorhallsson in Bergen). The autumn of 2001 saw an even further increase, as Magnus delivered 2300-performances both in Bad Wiessee and during the European Club Final at Creta. The spring of 2002 continued the trend, as a solid 4.5/9 in Troll Masters was followed by a new Nordic Championship, before he registered a 2300 performance in the Czech republic and shared the first place in the Open Norwegian Junior Championship with 5.5/7. 2.5/9 from Gausdal Classics may not sound too amazing, but actually it was an outstanding result as Magnus faced an average close to 2450 in the GM-group, and made his best draw ever against IM Stelios Halkias (2566). Still further chapters were to follow in this Norwegian chess adventure: The last half of 2002 saw his international breakthrough. It started with a performance close to 2400 in Gothenburg, when Magnus drew five titleholders. 4/9 and 15. place for a 11 year old in the Championship class of the Norwegian Championship of course was historic in several ways, but Magnus himself was disappointed with his play as well as with the result. Having had 4/4 he also declared himself dissatisfied when finishing sixth in the European Championship U12, even though it was another historical achievement for a Norwegian player. The climax making even Magnus satisfied (for now) came in the World Championship U12 a few weeks later, when Magnus following a disappointing first round loss won the next seven games, and having the lead alone before the last round ended on a joint first place with 9/11 - with silver according to the tie-break. He is aged 12 today, rated well above all the Norwegian juniors, and a complete choir of self-appointed experts today recognize him as the greatest talent of Norwegian chess including Simen Agdestein.

Am I evil enough to have critical remarks about a 12 year young Norwegian optimist who already is a combined tactical automatic weapon and an opening encyclopedia, and who, just because he himself considers it funny and interesting, is training several hours every day to improve his chess understanding? Actually, I am: Magnus as most 12 year old players is still somewhat uneven - he just varies around 2000-2500 instead of the usual 1000-1500. He also dislikes the pressure of meeting weaker players - admitted (while smiling) in the quote "I have problems concentrating when not meeting GMs!". And although still getting better he still suffers mildly from three chess child diseases: Magnus' ability to get a promising position is much better developed than his ability to fullfil them, he is much better when allowed to attack than when forced to defend, and against higher rated players he might still be satisfied with a draw in better positions - admitted by himself (while smiling) in the quote "OK, you will not lose this if you are careful» (OK, I know because I was on the other side of the board...) More uncommon for the age, but still problematic for the player, is his bad habit about running into time trouble. But he has clearly improved since 2002, and was hardly short of time despite FIDE-time in the World Championship. If that weather survives for the week, this might very well be the tournament of his first IM-norm and/or his first full time game win against an IM or GM. The "charmtroll" of this tournament is of course still given every time Magnus enters the playing room. Chronically ambitious he stated (without the shadow of a laughter) an IM-norm in Troll Masters as his first goal for 2003, and added as his goals for the rest of the year to reach 2400, win the European Youth Championship and the World Youth Championship, and being on top three in the Norwegian Championship. It is truly a pity that Arnold Eikrem did not live long enough to follow Magnus’ career. As Magnus is just as pleasant to meet outside a chessboard as he is unpleasant to meet at a chessboard, he has been the main reason why I have decided to organize Gausdal tournaments in 2002 and 2003. I think it is a very good reason.

19. Olavur SIMONSEN – København TF, Faroe Islands – born 29.01.1977 – FIDE-ELO 2265
Olavur Simonsen had a difficult start on his FIDE-ELO: Getting just above 2000 at 18, it has gone in a more or less straight diagonal (against h8). Here and now he is an exciting player, and one of the greatest question marks among the 2200-players. Olavur Simonsen is a creative attacking player, probably having won the «best game»-prize much more often than the «best player»-prize. Being clearly better as an attacker than as a defender, he has nevertheless also been noted for his fine technique even in the endgames. The typical «Simonsen-winning-game» is usually either very short or very long, and it often stays tactically complex well into the ending. Furthermore, the typical Simonsen-winning-game is a game where Simonsen is playing white: He is overall doing well as a 1.e4-attacker, sometimes with romantic gambit ideas. Still having a great appetite for destruction as black, he too often end up self-destructive - he has suffered some disastrous losses against titleholders. He has represented the Faroe Islands on a lot of occasions, among others in three Olympics, but so far he has been too uneven to fight for an IM-norm. The beginning might be important in this case, but if doing well he might be among the best candidates for a norm. If not he will still be dangerous for all his opponents, but also for himself when meeting lower rated opponents. First question to be answered about this colourful personality: Will his hair be red or green (!?) this year?

20. Geir Sune TALLAKSEN - Porsgrunn SK, Norway – born 14.03.1985 – FIDE-ELO 2258
Having improved more than 600 points in less than three years, Tallaksen was definitely the best Norwegian aged 14-16 at 31.12.2001 - and the top seeded junior 01.01.2002. Still living at the dark southern edge of Norway he was his own trainer (a very demanding one, it should be noted) well into his teenage years, but in 1999 he left his peripheral home club to join Lahlum & the Lie brothers in Porsgrunn. By style much more a Lahlum-theoretician than a Lie-attacker, Tallaksen's hallmark against better players is usually defending successfully in difficult positions, often for (at least) six hours. Much more intelligent than talented, he is remarkably much of a catch-all for his age, in the end often trusting his technical endgame abilities. Tougher than he looks at first sight, Tallaksen is willing to play on for hours with the slightest little advantage even against better opponents, and without any advantage against all others. Some of his openings are very patient, but especially some of the white ones include enough poison to kill a titleholder too. Tallaksen seems about to overcome the problem of knowing his openings well enough to get into the sharp variations, but not enough to get out of them again. His repertoire however is still an open book, and as black he still too often ends up just a little worse against heavyweight players. Although seldom in major time trouble, Tallaksen at this level also seldom has more than two minutes left for move 40, and he generally looks less confident when having less than ten minutes available.

Competing only with Kjetil Stokke about being the most reliable chess slave of the Norwegian juniors today, Geir Sune will almost certainly be a title candidate for many future international tournaments in Norway - if there will be any.... By curiosity, "GS" earned his first draw against a GM in his first game of 2001 (against Joe Gallagher in 1.round of Troll Masters) and his second draw against a GM in his last game of 2001 (against Mladen Muse in 7.round of Travemünde Open). In-between, 2001 was the year for Tallaksen to stabilize around 2200 in Norwegian rating and around 2250 in FIDE. The year 2002 saw him climbing against 2300, not the least thanks to Troll Masters, where he had IM-norm chances until the pairings of round nine, and in the end settled for 5.5/9 and his first nine round performance above 2350. Later he has been a little less active - 3.5/9 in an IM-group in Gausdal Classics was mediocre, 4/9 and 13. place in the Championship class of the Norwegian Championship just above expectations, 5/11 in the World Championship U18 about average. Troll Masters 2002 so is the closest he has been to a norm so far - will he take the next step up in Troll Masters 2003?

21. Magnus FÄLDT – Schack 08, Sweden – born 13.12.1962 – FIDE-ELO 2252
Deeply rooted in a chess outpost up north named Norrköping, Magnus Fäldt had few possibilities to play international tournaments, and so at 30 he was still just a highly respected local masterplayer. Right after 1990 however he became much more active, and achieved his first FIDE-ELO in 1994, just below 2200. Having increased till 2230 three years later he then stopped playing internationally for nearly five years, but following his comeback he again has made a modest plus score. He might be described as a positionally sound attacker, often accelerating in the early middle game after a relatively quiet opening, and at his best reportedly having an Ulf Andersson-like understanding about where to place the pieces. His opening repertoire is well established and might be called «half-theoretical», as he usually leaves the theory somewhere around move 10-15 without any great changes in the balance of power. His main problem might be that he is much less convincing when having to work out concrete variations, and so at best is uneven when it comes to the decisive tactical moments. In short: Another double-edged player. I expect him to land somewhere around 2300 in this tournament, but having demonstrated his potential among others by defeating GMs Thomas Ernst and Ralf Åkesson, he is probably the best present IM-hope of Sweden.

22. Øystein HOLE - Akademisk SK Oslo, Norway - born 20.10.1971 – FIDE-ELO 2252
Born into the then very active youth milieu in Eiker west of Oslo, Hole won his first Norwegian youth 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 became overshadowed by several other players born that year. More than any revolutions, Hole's chess career has been a steady evolution against the top. He has probably been too careful 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 4.5/9 in the Championship class (at Gausdal!) the summer in 1999. Now living and working in Oslo, Hole is one of the driving forces in the ambitious university club Akademisk SK and 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 6.5/9 was still half a point short of his first IM-norm, but Hole demonstrated his norm capacity and qualified for the Championship class of the Norwegian Championship. Finishing 17th out of 18 players with just 2.5/9 in the Norwegian Championship later was a disappointment. Much the same happened in 2002: Hole qualified for the Championship class of the Norwegian Championship thanks to a strong result in Gausdal Classics, even when he landing on 4.5/9 was not really close to an IM-norm this time - and then more or less collapsed when present in the Championship class, even when a walk over in the last round saved 3.5/9.
Having a good general understanding of chess, excellent nerves, a reasonable time spending and a great intelligence, Hole with the help of time should be able to overcome his two traditional main problems: 1) His openings lack punch as white, and are still incomplete as black. (Even when it is much more difficult to discover now....) 2) his calculation of variations is neither too fast nor too exact. For now he is exposed against opponents above 2400 as well as weaker players able to speed up the game. But at his best he is more than ever a combined intelligent technician and a stubborn defender, difficult to defeat for anyone present and able to counter against most of them if given a chance. At Gausdal Hole traditionally is a much stronger player than he is elsewhere, thus I expect a 2300-performance and hope for a norm….

23. Martin POULSEN – Havnar TF, Faroe Islands – born 21.10.1984 – FIDE-ELO 2244
Together with Olaf Berg and Miriam Olsen the first hope of the new chess generation of the Faroe Islands, Martin Poulsen is remarkably active still to be living in the «islands of the wind». Poulsen got his first FIDE-ELO just below 2100 aged 16 in the year 2000. The development from then on clearly illustrates that he is a promising, but still somewhat uneven, young player: Having reached 2170 in 2001 he later went down to 2100 again, but now seems to be on his way up, stronger than ever before. 2.5/6 in the Olympics of course was a promising start for an 18 year old debutant, but still not above expectations from an ELO point of view. Following several other strong results, he however snatched more than 80 points to arrive Gausdal as a 2200-player. As seemingly all players from Faroe Islands he is a 1.e4-attacking player, doing clearly better as white then as black. With a few sidesteps he is a repertoire player, but the repertoire still is an uneven one. There might be a missing link between his attacking style and more modest openings, but as black against good players he might still run bankrupt early in the middlegame. In short we have another young and entertaining player much better when attacking than defending - this looks promising for the tournament.... Regarding Poulsen, my guess is a further ELO increase, but not yet any serious shot for an IM-norm.

24. Boris BERNING – Brett vor’m Kopp Frankfurt am Main, Germany – born 09.11.1972 – FIDE-ELO 2240
In a country with more than 1600 players above 2200, a player at 2240 of course have no national merits. But Boris Berning has been a solid player around that level for ten years without winning any attention outside his local community.... (This of course is hardly possible to understand in a country like Norway, still having counties with no active player above 2000) Relatively stable around 2200 since about age 20, Berning recently saluted his birthday number 30 by a new personal ELO-record. Inspired by this he is playing more international tournaments this season, but still a very modest person he (as the only known participant) claims himself to be overrated (!?), and so has no IM-norm ambitions - at least not officially. Much of an all-round player, he seems to enjoy closed and positional play more than open and tactical. The picture of his strength however might not be identical, as he practically seems to do better as black than with his slower white set-ups. His objectively best asset might be his endgame strength, as he in accordance with the German chess school has a clean technique. Often allowing himself a few draws against players around his own level during nine rounds, Boris Berning relatively seldom loses to weaker players - but so far he too often has ended up not dynamic and tough enough against titleholders. Another 2200-performance is the obvious guess. Coming straight from the Staufen Open in Germany however might be double edged for the very friendly German, and so might the excellent skiing possibilities at Gausdal.... By the way "Brett vor'm Kopp Frankfurt am Main" reportedly is a very funny and political provocative name for a German chess club, but I am still completely unable to understand why - and so I get back the awful feeling from the English lessons in my upper school! Can anyone please give me a hint?

25. Paul JOHANSEN - Moss SK, Norway - born 01.01.1956 – FIDE-ELO 2239
Even though he didn’t figure in the FIDE-list during the twentieth century, Paul Johansen, hidden behind a number of time outs, actually has been a strong player for about 25 years now. He was extremely interested in chess for a while during his youth, and peaked his youth career above 2100 in Norwegian rating around 1980 - several times fighting in the top of the Norwegian Championship's master class. His few international tries then however gave no major breakthrough, and other aspects of life soon brought him away from the chess scene. Johansen's later career has been a number of comebacks. Most of them have been successful, and he has been found around 1900-2000 when included in the national list. Two of his successful comebacks were the Open Norwegian Championships at Gausdal in 1991 and 1998. The last and most successful comeback started the summer of 2001, when Johansen returned from an exile at Cuba just in time to snatch first place of class 1 of the Norwegian Championship - and accelerated when he after losing the first round of Troll Masters 2002, stormed through into a sensational 5/9 and a 2300-performance. Despite doing fine in two later German tournaments, the results modified his FIDE-ELO below 2250. Having 2239 in FIDE and above 2100 in Norwegian, this strange chess Alladin aged 47 now seems stronger than ever before.

Feared as a sharp attacking player in his youth, Johansen according to himself is much more boring today. However he is still a great competitive player, with a legendary will to play on for a win in very drawish (or even very lost) endgames. While Johansen clearly has got the potential to defeat stronger players, he just as well might lose to some of the lower rated players: He has never been an accurate player, often becomes to loose in his sharp variations, and his openings at this level are at best unpredictable. Troll Masters 2002 for seven out of nine games still demonstrated what a dangerous and sleazy counter-attacker the old fighter is when underestimated. As clever as ever before to punish arrogant play and/or time trouble for his opponents, he again turned the board around from several inferior positions. No one will underestimate him this year. Probably he will then turn out to be overrated. My prediction is many dramatic battles, probably including both losses to lower rated players and ugly losses to much better players - but also surprises the other way around. You never know with dynamic and optimistic comeback chess kids like Paul Johansen, even when they are aged 47. Entertaining inside the playing room and periodically hyper-social outside of it, Paul is anyway a guest adding colours to the week.

26. Hans Krogh HARESTAD – SOSS, Norway – born 16.10.1974 – FIDE-ELO 2236
The only son of FM and chairman Thor Geir Harestad, Hans Krogh grew up in the very active chess milieu of Randaberg. For some years now living in Oslo and being less active on the board due to his law studies, Hans following a disagreement between Randaberg and the Norwegian federation left his home club to play for the eccentric and quasi-ethnic team of SOSS (meaning about «Society for players from the Southern Norway having emigrated to Oslo»!) in the top league of Eastern Norway. To be found just below the top Norwegians of his age his entire junior years, Hans probably came closest to the top when climbing above 2100 at 17-18. Suffering mystical and massive setbacks some months later he regained the strength in his last year as junior, and came close to a place on the national junior team. Playing much less he later slipped down against 2100 in Norwegian rating, and to second place in the eternal duel about being the "best Hans" in Norwegian chess. He however was unlucky when getting his first FIDE-ELO, and later had a long struggle to get it above 2200. Being about as intelligent as he looks Hans has an excellent understanding of chess, and can be impressing as a patient technical player with a small advantage both in the middle- and endgame. Enjoying the tournament situation he is tough and ambitious when playing internationals, and continues like that at a fast speed when he is in time trouble. The problem tends to be that his tournaments ends up like a one week time trouble, and that an intellectual style of play may miss-match with a razor-blade of an opening repertoire - especially since the razor-blade at best is "unevenly controlled".

Hans regained his interest for individual title tournaments in 2001, but although playing himself up during the later rounds he landed on mediocre results both in Gausdal Troll Masters and Bergen Chess International. Exposed both on the clock and in the openings, he became a favourite victim for surprises from the younger underdogs. 2002 became a much better year: True enough, 3/9 in an IM-group of Gausdal Classics was just an average result, but Hans clearly demonstrated his potential by taking +1=2 against three IMs all above 2400. His long time improvements finally materalized the summer of 2002, when a new and tougher Hans first finished third in the master class of the Norwegian Championship with 6.5/9 and then got 4.5/7 out of a joined SOSS-attack upon a strong open in Nice. His form in short seems clearly rising again, and at the moment he is again the best Hans of Norwegian chess. Remembering that he during the European team Championship in 2001 drew great-Grandmaster Georgiev after building up an overwhelming position in the middle game, I do not doubt his capacity to get on the record against any participant in this field. Reportedly having removed by operation his sharpest openings and having reached some kind of ceasefire with the clock, he might very well be a norm candidate if getting the right start and the right opponent. But if getting the wrong start and the wrong opponent, I still think he can end up like an ELO-bank open for loans to small depositors too.

27. Eydun NOLSØE – København TF, Faroe Islands – born 11.08.1966 – FIDE-ELO 2236
For many years now living in Denmark, Eydun Nolsøe has been a driving force in the Faroe Islands exile milieu of København TF. A regular customer in the Championship class of the Faroe Island’s Championship, he won the Championship in 1995 and has played in the Olympics three times. His strength has been steadily increasing even after age 30 - having worked himself across 2150 in 1996 and 2200 in 2000, he without any spectacular performances now seems close to pass 2250 as well. His style of play primarily is a solid all-round: He seldom makes grave positional or material blunders, and might be of about even strength in all stages of the game. Overall well known with chess theory he is very difficult to defeat as white, and if allowed to do so he might soon change habit into a gifted attacking player. The limit of his career however has been a seemingly chronic problem to deal with better players as black - he has too often ended a little bit too easy to beat, and in-between has suffered some losses of the «bankrupt» category. If able to deal with that problem now, this very sensible player might very well candidate for his first IM-norm at Gausdal. He showed signs upon having taken one further evolution step in Bled, when taking 5/10 against an average 2278. Maybe maybe, but as he still has very few performances above 2350, 2451 is much to demand.

28. Giuseppe VALENTI – Italia - born 22.09.1950 – FIDE-ELO 2230
A player on international level from his junior years in the late sixties, Giuseppe Valenti’s playing strength overall has been remarkably stable for 30 years now. He has been almost everywhere between 2200 and 2300 several times; his latest top came at 2275 in 1994. His activity has been relatively stable too: He has been playing 1-2 international tournaments a year, and so he has got more international routine than almost all other players in this field. His style as a result of this is very much the all-rounder’s style, with no obvious weak or strong points. His openings might vary to some extent, but basically he is a repertoire player with established favourite variations. While often allowing himself 1-2 short draws during an international tournament he is primarily a sound attacking man, more or less regularly going for a kingside initiative early in the middle game. His routine might be visible in his solid endgame technique, but he still appears more confident when attacking than defending - and more confident as white then as black. Overall he appears being a heavyweight opponent difficult to crack when meeting players below 2300, but especially as black he has usually been too easy against titleholders. It will of course be a surprise if Valenti achieves his first IM-norm aged 52, even when this is his first try at Gausdal. But still a dynamic man he appears at least as strong a chessplayer now as he was 30 years ago, and so I will be disappointed with everything below a 2200-performance.

29. Matts UNANDER - SK Caissa, Sweden – born 15.08.1956 – FIDE-ELO 2214
An active and ambitious player for ten years 1975-85, Unander (without getting any international breakthrough) continued his advance until 1983-84, when he had two tries in the Championship class 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 came to prioritize his civil career and family. Joining the computer wave ten years ago, he has later concentrated his chess time on 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 nearly to 2150 around 1995, but soon recovered, and 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. He is a solid 1.d4 player difficult to defeat as white, being more exposed with a sharper and looser repertoire as black. Lacking matching from this level he is more exposed on the clock now then at his peak, but on the other hand following his correspondence career he might very well play better in the opening now.

Unander played several Open Norwegian Championships at Gausdal around 20 years ago, when both he and the Championship was at their high mark. Having tested both the food and the skiing possibilities at Gausdal earlier, he was an easy victim to shanghai for the Gausdal Classics of last year, since he had to play the arbiter on table xx in the Nordic team correspondence Championship.... As he was the second lowest rated and second oldest player in a IM-qualifying field with many young sharks, Unander’s 3.5/9 including a win against GM Westerinen was a positive surprise. Still it was left a feeling that Unander had more within reach, as he wasted chances both due to time trouble and due to showing too much respect. As he has promised to make some preparations during the Christmas holiday and then to play a little bit harder this time, I am positive if asked whether he will make a plus result. But despite his excellent chess understanding and skiing abilities, I still doubt whether he is updated, dynamic and ambitious enough for nine ports of IM-slalom.

Björn GAMBÄCK - Kristallens SK, Sweden - born 13.02.64 - FIDE-ELO 2213
Stockholm player Björn Gambäck early established himself among the best players from his year of birth in Sweden, but as a junior he failed to achieve any major breakthrough - finishing fifth in the Swedish Junior Championship of 1981 was his best result then. A major explanation for the lack of further development from a 2100-level in his last junior years was that Björn soon came to prioritise his studies before his chess career, and developed this bad habit into such an extreme extent that he more or less left the chess world for about ten years. Active again from the early nineties he established around 2200 in FIDE-ELO and 2300 in Swedish rating, and having peaked his FIDE-ELO at 2240 in 1998 he is still to be found stumbling around 2200. Although his results have been stable in a long run they however are all the more unstable in the short run, and his capacity is clearly demonstrated by the fact that he has two times within the last five years finished only half a point shy of the IM-norm. A sharp attacking player, he is always playing for a norm in his tournament and for a win in his games against titleholders - and so has a great potential both for to become a surprise himself and for helping other players to become one. His best asset might be a heavy opening repertoire with many killing razor blade variations, his worst habits that he is still somewhat uncomplete and still might be much less impressing to follow if the wind turns against him. He is probably still prioritising his working career too much ever to become an IM, but his chances to get an IM-norm and/or to defeat some titleholders still should not be underestimated. Another dynamite guy around 2200 - another entertaining question mark for the tournament.

31. Bjørn-Erik GLENNE – Nordstrand SK, Norway – born 03.04.1971 – FIDE-ELO 2203
Playing some 800 rated games during his teenage years, Bjørn-Erik was an active and interested player established among the group behind the best Norwegians players of his age from about age 16. He however suffered from being born in the same year as many other strong Norwegian players, and although doing «fine» in many Norwegian Championships he failed ever to reach the top as a junior. Producing a number of truly memorable games (and in particular endgames) even against top players, he was still too uneven to stabilize himself above 2000 in the hard Norwegian rating or above 2200 is FIDE as a junior. Without a doubt health problems are important explanations, but Bjørn-Erik has had a more generally bad habit about collapsing at the decisive stages of his tournaments. Bjørn-Erik was less active in the later part of the nineties due to the familiar combination of work and children, but apparently more solid now he has still established above 2100 in Norwegian rating and above 2200 in FIDE.

A Gausdal friend from the final eighties, Bjørn-Erik has done several of his best results here - the best probably when finishing second in the master class of the Norwegian Championship in 1999, and so qualifying for the Championship Class of 2000. 3/9 in the Championship class of 2000 then was an average result, but his later results again have been too uneven for further tries. A further advance was expected when Bjørn-Erik stormed through with 7/8 in the (not FIDE-rated) top league of Eastern Norway last year and led his team to a surprising Championship final. As both Bjørn-Erik and the team collapsed in the final, the sad end of that story still was a loss of FIDE-ELO and no place in the Championship class of the individual Norwegian Championship. Although Bjørn-Erik’s FIDE-ELO at the moment is lower than since the early nineties, he might very well have a greater capacity to make an IM-norm than ever before. He made his best try so far in the OSS’ GM-round robin during the spring last year, but following a flashing start he failed to catch up during the second part of the tournament.

Primarily a classical positional player, Bjørn-Erik very much enjoys playing against weak pawns or with the better pieces in the middlegame, or with any kind of advantage in the endgame. His opening repertoire basically is a positional and solid one, but varying his opening choices after the opponents he might suddenly be found dancing upon razor blades too. Overall better with understanding than calculating, his main Achilles heel might be getting black-outs and/or not being tactically alert. The physical form of the week together with the start of the tournament will make much of a difference here, but as Bjørn-Erik appears very motivated he might very well fight for an IM-norm if getting into it. Anyway it is a pleasure to have him back for his first international at Gausdal since the Arnold era: Having much of a Garfield-look upon chess as well as the rest of life, Bjørn-Erik is an entertaining guest with a humorous twinkle in his eyes.

32. Kim NYGREN – Orebro SS, Sweden – born 10.08.1980 – FIDE-ELO 2202
Having been an «underrated» local junior for several years, Kim Nygren achieved his national breakthrough aged 19. In his last junior year in 2000 he suddenly achieved a FIDE-ELO above 2200, and did fine in several junior tournaments - among others ending at fifth place when representing Sweden in the Open Norwegian Junior Championship. Not much have changed in his two first post-junior years: Kim still is a friendly guy around 2200 obviously enjoying to play chess when doing so, but that is still just 2-3 international tournaments a year - and he has still not taken the necessary time to widen his theoretical knowledge. As a player he is in one word «straightforward»: Not a master of the subtle positional deeps, he is a practical player good to use the initiative and to find the straight lines and diagonals leading to the kingside. His openings are typically varied and sound, but he knows few variations well enough to discuss them on the board with a titleholder. Overall better when attacking than when defending, he although testing out both possibilities also seems better in open positions than closed ones. He might run short of time, but as he is a fast and good blitz player, the problem then is usually the position more than the clock. Clearly better as white he is usually effective against weaker players, and might be dangerous even for better players in the sharp tactical battles his games often develop into. On the minus side he has not been doing too well against titleholders so far - as he still is a somewhat incomplete player, lacking the deeper positional understanding also being necessary to reach an international master level. In total, a performance somewhere between 2150 and 2250 still is the average to be expected - although there is capacity for more.

33. Nils-Johan OHLZON – KH Alliansen-72, Sweden – born 26.02.1974 – FIDE-ELO 2176
For some years one of the promising young players seldom testing himself in international tournaments, Nils-Johan Ohlzon achieved his first FIDE-ELO just below 2100 aged 21. Despite still not playing many international tournaments, he increased steadily until nearly 2200 two years ago, but has later stabilized just below that line. An ambitious player obviously having spent much time studying chess theory, and not being afraid to enter razor blade variations even against titleholders, he has his main strength in the opening. The result of course often becomes tactically loaded middle games, but although being a sensible player in the late game stages too he so far has made few points out of many interesting positions against titleholders. Ohlzon will not lose many openings even at this level; whether he has become complete enough not to lose many games, remains to be tested.

34. Corrado ASTENGO - Circolo scacchi Mendrisio, Italia - born 10.03.59 - FIDE-ELO 2172
Never a child star or a professional player, Corrado Astengo learned chess aged 12 and considers himself a serious player only from about age 19. Always a happy amateur he has the later years also been an active amateur, training with IM Mario Lanzani and playing a number of great European opens. To be found rotating around between 2100 and 2200 for ten years, his long time trend still is raising. Being near 2100 as late as 2001 he made a new ELO-record when having 2195 on January 2002, and was happy to reach 50 % for the first time in a title tournament in Biel this autumn - as well as to defeat his teacher IM Mario Lanzani in the first round of a Milano tournament. Astengo claims to be a «too slow» positional player, but I am not sure that he knows himself completely then. True enough his losses often follow from tactical complications, but on the other hand he himself is eager to play for a kingside attack as white, and his repertoire certainly contains sharp tactical variations with both colours. He is however doing clearly better as white, and might land in trouble as black against qualified opponents. Although he has lost a few ELO-points again this autumn, my feeling is that he will do a little bit better here - meaning a performance somewhere around 2200.

35. Øystein BØYUM FOSSUM - Drammens SK, Norway - born 23.03.87 - FIDE-ELO 2167
Both the chess interest and the chess competence of Øystein Bøyum Fossum suddenly increased from age 12-13, and so he went from being just one out of the best Norway players born 1987 in 1999 until being the clear hegemon of that class in 2002. Disappointly finishing third as the top seeded in the Norwegian championship U16 in 2001, he still demonstrated his potential by taking 4/9 in the European Championship. 2002 became an even better Bøyum Fossum year, as he won the Norwegian Championship U16 and in his clearly best tournament so far managed 4.5/9 in the European Championship U16 - but this (for a Norwegian player) outstanding result of course still took place during solar eclipse due to Magnus Carlsen's fight for the gold in U12. He also played for the Norwegian team in the Nordic four nations. But Øystein so far has failed to take the final step into the grown-ups chess scene, and he was hardly satisfied to end up on 3.5/9 as 34 out of 40 in Bergen Chess International. As he has later showed progress in the European Championship as well as in national weekend tournaments, I will be surprised if he is not making more out of the exciting field this time. Still at an age in which most Norwegian players only dream about getting a FIDE-ELO, Øystein actually has already got two! I use the higher one as that one below 2000 too obviously is too low, and as neither Øystein or his opponents should suffer because the FIDE-office still is unable to count Norwegian players. (Unfortunately it is not that difficult....)

As joyful and optimistic a player as his humble and friendly personality allows, Øystein still might be a little bit too unconcentrated during his game. On this level his main problem still should be the openings, although they appear more varied and overall clearly more resistant now than six months ago. I still consider his strength to be a remarkable natural understanding about where to place the pieces, as I still consider him remarkably uneven tactically. If avoiding tactical self-shots and/or too extreme fights against his own clock, this elegant technical player should be able at least to defend his highest ELO - even when I doubt whether his understanding or his openings yet are deep enough really to challenge any present titleholders. Deciding to play a title tournament less than 24 hours in advance of course always is a double-edged pleasure, and so the first three rounds might be a critical point.

36. Alf Roger ANDERSEN – Akademisk SK, Norway – born 09.01.1971 – FIDE-ELO 2142
Born in Alta at the northern edge of Norway, Alf Roger Andersen naturally suffered from lack of tournaments and lack of chess teachers during his teenage years. Moving to the Eastern Norway aged 18 he soon won attention as an active and interested player, making rapid progress. Having reached a 1900-level (but according to rumours having missed an important exam due to a too fascinating chess analysis), attention however suddenly turned away from chess and into studies for this intellectual period drunker. From 1994 until 2001 he was hardly active at all, and even was left out of the national rating list due to inactivity. The summer of 2001 became another turning point in his intellectual life. It all started as Alf Roger after some weeks of summer holiday from his studies in political economy, suddenly regained the inspiration to play nine games of chess. So he did in Pardubice - and then for one more week in the nearest available Czech tournament, and then for all available weekend tournaments in Norway, as he a) sensationally made a performance close to 2200 in Pardubice and b) soon became very well known with Ellen Hagesæther, the top seeded on the Norwegian rating list for female players. Later Alf Roger has been able to combine chess and studies (and Ellen) in a somewhat more relaxed way - he has not continued as the chess comet he became in Pardubice, but stabilised above 2000 in Norwegian rating and above 2100 in FIDE he is clearly better now than when he left the chess circus in 1994.

His style however is basically unchanged: Alf Roger is an intense, dynamic and hard knocking player not afraid to go for a pawn storm even against much better opponents, playing for a tactical decision in the middlegame, but still willing to fight on for a six hours endgame if necessary. His positional understanding might still be somewhat incomplete, but as he has a great interest for chess theory too, his strength in that part of the game is probably steadily increasing. So far his always ambitious choice of openings too often has resulted in a little bit too much appetite and a little bit too less tooth. So far he also has been unable to cure his second chess disease, being that his search for the killing moves often leads him into suicidal time trouble. And so I for now doubt whether he has the capacity to fight for an IM-norm, even when I know for a fact that he has a great capacity to produce game sensations. No complaints about the rehearsal: Having lost the rapid game of round one Alf Roger won all the remaining six rounds played with full time, and finished a surprising third in the Karlstad Open. Few draws and many tense battles is my best prediction for his tournament; bird or fish might be a question about few seconds and many sharp variations. Giving «to become better than you!» as a goal by the way does not sound wise: First it is not very ambitious, and second I am still the one in control of the pairings....

37. Kjetil STOKKE - Fana SK, Norway - born 21.06.1983 – FIDE-ELO 2136
Starting his chess career relatively late, Kjetil Stokke came with great intensity when he came. Extremely interested both to play and to train chess, he for a long while seemed to increase his playing strength with at least 50 points every week, and his rating with at least 50 points every weekend. His breakthrough in the national youth Championships was a sensational fourth place in U16 1998, and although his only full time titles are from the Norwegian team junior Championship of 2000 and 2002, Stokke usually finishes just behind the top in the individual youth Championships. Having reached a Norwegian master strength, Stokke was very unlucky to get a first FIDE-ELO of only 2016. He however used the given opportunities to play international tournaments, and so he despite the difficult starting point passed 2100 within less than one year. Although the conclusion in the end was "just" 3.5/9, Stokke following a magnificent start was a great surprise in the European Championship U18 in 2001 - and his crushing first round victory against the Russian star Nadezhda Kosintseva then was a true sensation.

Opening preparations hardly is the problem in this case, as Stokke through endless hours of work has provided himself with not only one sound repertoire also including many potentially killing variations, but actually with two-three such repertoires. There might still exist a miss-match however, between Stokke’s often slow white openings and his usually sharper style of play. He often takes a few short "practical" draws during a nine round tournament, but on the other hand he when invited to do so is definitely not afraid to play for a win even against much higher rated players. The big question open to be answered once more is about his nerves and abilities to fulfil the games: In the European Championship of 2001 he typically came better from (at least) eight of his openings, but still proved unable to reach 50 %. Troll Masters 2002 ended as a more or less total failure, as Stokke frustrated by being unable to win clearly better positions, blundered away the two final rounds to land on =6-3. Probably having prepared himself more than the rest of the participants in total, he blundered away in round 1 in the Norwegian Junior Championship of 2002, and despite a nice last round win reached only a disappointing fifth place. He however did better in the autumn, making a solid performance around 2200 when taking 4.5/9 in Bergen Chess International, taking 5.5/6 in the Norwegian junior team Championship and 2.5/3 for Norway in the Nordic four nation tournaments.

Seldom seriously short of time himself, Stokke has got more than a tendency to lose the thread when his opponent runs into time trouble, and he has never been an accurate player. Due to this I still do not consider him complete enough to fight for an IM-norm, but chances for another ELO jump should be excellent - and as losing to Magnus Carlsen no more is a shame for anyone, the chess water canon Stokke probably ranks as the least wanted opponent among the Norwegian players. Those saying that his current strength is at least 90% a result of his serious long time work with chess, might very well be right. But I know players who have reached 2400 along that way, and do you know a more admirable way of reaching a master strength?

38. Terje KARLSEN - Bergens SK, Norway - born 13.02.1968 – FIDE-ELO 2135
When finally having established himself as the best player of his home town Sandefjord as well as his home district Vestfold, Karlsen in 2001 left both to fulfil his studies in Bergen. Very eager to play the last three years he has advanced from 1750 to around 2050 nationally, and after a modest start on 2053 his FIDE-ELO seems to have passed 2100 to stay. Probably still underrated and at least able to play much better, Karlsen might be an unpleasant opponent for many rated opponents here. Having a good understanding and many creative ideas, he is a gifted attacking player often involved in complex games. His openings may not be deep enough to get any applaud from this crowd, but he is able to vary between several openings including many poisoned variations. Generally looking less impressing when forced to defend, Karlsen however has the two same weaknesses at his companion Stig K. Martinsen: He very often runs short of time, and with or without time trouble he far too often blunders away promising positions. His Troll Masters of 2001 typically turned into a chess jungle safari: He started up with 2.5/3 after mating Kjetil A Lie during mutual time trouble, and later defeated Tallaksen in a record 20 moves, but still ended up with just 3.5/9 after losing both the final rounds to 2100-players. The 2002 tournament also was a jumpy one, but following a brilliant win against WGM Rause Terje landed on 5/9 and a solid 2200-performance. He had an active chess summer in 2002, but the overall results were average at best. Keeping or losing the thread during his games and during the tournament now will be the difference between progress and stagnation, together with his ability to avoid nightmare time trouble. I suspect that Terje still has got capacity left for an ELO increase, but it all depends upon his own ability to play practical and to stabilize his play.

39. Josef ASK – Vasterås ASK, Sweden – born 27.11.1975 – FIDE-ELO 2128
Placing the apartment companions Ask and Lönngren beside each other for the first round, indeed might inspire for studies in contrast. While Lönngren might be the ultimate cool and intellectual player, Ask certainly is the temperament player acting out his feelings on the board. Armed with an ever-lasting optimism he is going for an all-out kingside attack more or less in every game. The result of course becomes great waves in between his tournaments as well as within his tournaments and not to mention within his games, as illustrated by his ELO development: Getting his first FIDE-ELO just below 2100 in 1996 he was in serious danger of falling below 2000 the very next year, but then increased until nearly 2200 in 2001 - but later he again has been falling. Ask’s drawing percent is low, and he is vulnerable as his opening knowledge especially as black is not always at the level of his attacking ambitions. His openings however are uneven more than weak, as he reportedly is a true expert on several more or less eccentric special variations. Especially as white he overall is a dangerous and tactically gifted opponent, not afraid to leave his own king exposed to get a shot on his opponent. He has demonstrated his potential to surprise against stronger players by defeating several players on 2200-2300, as well as by drawing IM Bator and former world champion GM Smyslov in Rilton Cups from the end of the nineties - both from promising positions. To add further entertainment, Ask usually spends far too much time early in the game, and so his games are often decided in chaotic positions with strong mutual time trouble. In short: The most sensational thing Ask can do at Gausdal is to produce a tournament with an average result and with no great game sensations, but he is by far too eccentric and ambitious to do that. Whether he will be a bird or a fish this tournament remains to be revealed. My guess is that he will turn out to be a flying fish, ending in the water if his opponents are prepared and manage to stay calm through the firestorms.

40. Tobias LÖNNGREN – Orebro SS, Sweden – born 20.09.1981 – FIDE-ELO 2122
I suspect Tobias Lönngren to be intelligent much more than talented as a chess player; his style of play as well as his career development indicates that. Never a child star, he steadily improved from about age 15 but still achieved his first FIDE-ELO only at aged 18 - at 2001! Working up a FIDE-ELO of 2001 certainly is not a motivating starting point, but Tobias is a patient young man - and taking into account that he due to studies still play only 2-3 FIDE-rated tournaments a year, his later ELO improvement is nothing but impressing. Without ever producing the great headlines or the brilliant combinations, he has for three years now made well above expected score in almost every tournament. His last international was Pelaro International in Gothenburg in June 2002, and then he for the first time came at least close to the headlines. 4.5/9 might not sound that impressing, but it was actually a performance well above 2300: Tobias following a splendid start drew GM Westerinen as well as IMs Pilgaard and Slapikas, and was a hot candidate for an IM-norm until losing his first game at round seven! Unfortunately for him this tournament has for technical reasons still not been rated by FIDE - if/when it is, his ELO should be well above 2150.

His style of play also is the sensible academicians’: He is a patient and hard working positional player, very seldom blundering, and always making positionally understandable moves. He might run short of time even with 2 hours in 40 moves, but usually keeps control well enough not to lose a game because of the clock. His openings are usually predictable and seldom killing, but on the other hand always solid and closed enough to make a game out of it even as black against titleholders. In short: Tobias is a little bit boring, but he is still underrated and a highly unpleasant opponent for everyone wanting to defeat him. And his will to counterattack seems to be rising - he was mentioning the word «IM-norm» both when playing in Gothenburg and when registering for Gausdal. I doubt whether he can win enough games to achieve that yet, but I like players having ambitions - and predict a performance closer to 2300 than 2200.

42. Pasi KORHONEN – Ita-Helsingin SK, Finland – born 05.09.1968 – FIDE-ELO 2115
A tournament player from age 15, Pasi Korhonen has been a master player with a relatively stable 2100-strength for about ten years now. Getting his first FIDE-ELO at 2145 in 1997 he following a down period landed on 2050 less than a year later, but now has stabilized in the area of 2100-2125. As a player he appears a little bit paradoxical in several ways. First his ELO is not representative for his strength against titleholders: Of course having a negative score against them, he still has defeated IMs Kiik and Payen as well as GM Rantanen, and drawn several other players above 2400. His capacity so seems much greater than his current ELO, but age 34 he is still waiting for the potential to materalize. Secondly he is a strong blitz player enjoying chess as a fighting game and often searching tactical complications, but still taking relatively many short draws, playing relatively careful systems as white, and losing relatively often because of tactics. His main problem might be the openings: As he has never taken the necessary time to study opening theory and always fears that the opponent has, he too often ends up to play them just to get out of the theory. His play also might still be a little bit too uneven and short-sighted, as he still enjoys to create traps a little bit too much - and also to often went into traps a little bit too often himself. My overall feeling is that he is an inspiration player, playing much better when attacking himself than when defending, and doing much better against stronger opponents. In the latter regard, this tournament should suit him well. Not yet having met Pasi Korhonen I already feel somewhat confused about his chess, and so I for now leave him as one of the open question marks of the tournament.

42. Stig K. MARTINSEN - Fana SK, Norway - born 26.08.1980 – FIDE-ELO 2085
Martinsen grew up as a lone young chess wolf in Sandefjord, being the only junior not only within the local club "Caissa", but also within the district. Still unrated at age 16, Stig K. then got a first Norwegian rating below 1100. Spending much time working alone especially with his openings, he soon showed progress when becoming more active outside the club in 1998. Stig K. got a good start on his FIDE-career when taking an ELO-norm at 2170 at the Open Norwegian Junior Championship of 2000, but less lucky when fulfilling his FIDE-ELO in Troll Masters last year, he landed just below 2100. Now studying in Bergen, Stig K. has found a more inspiring local chess milieu, and seemingly has developed his chess interest further. A theoretician by nature, he at the moment now seems to be one of the players knowing many theoretical variations but not playing any of them. This might create problems especially as he is competing only with Karlsen, Shumiakina and Harestad about being the most chronically time-trouble-slave of this field, and has adopted as a more or less regular procedure to make move 26-40 within at most one minute. This habit taken together with a mysterious will suddenly to collapse due to distraction, may bring Stig K. into hot water. Stig K's fighting abilities should however not be underestimated, and he has had success as a target man against several master players during the last months. It is still a critical question whether he is good enough a player to compensate for such disturbing weaknesses at this level - yet. He showed clear signs upon having improved when taking 5/9 with a 2200-performance in Bergen Chess International, even when another time trouble spoiled another possible surprise against tournament winner Berelovich in the last round. His earlier 2002-results, including 4/9 in Troll Masters, was more around his average, and so has the later ones - 4.5/7 in the Travemunde Open last week was a rehearsal not telling much for or against his Troll candidature. As a tough and unbalanced player with some unorthodox openings, he might very well end up in the double role as the nightmare of 2200-players and the sweet dream of the unrated players.

43. Kai-Roger JOHANSEN - Sjakkameratene, Norway - born 19.10.1962 – FIDE-ELO 2084
Johansen has been a leading player in his small and friendly club since the middle of the eighties, and continued his slow walk upward until peaking around 2000 when visiting the master-class 1993-95. Although later he has fallen back to the middle of class 1 nationally, Johansen has still done relatively well in his relatively few tries against better players - achieving his ELO as late as 1999. Hardly ever having tested the ice of a tournament at this level before Troll Masters 2001, Johansen instead played numerous weekend tournaments and Open Norwegian Championships at Gausdal. Since a FIDE-ELO of 2100 qualifies for the Master class in the Norwegian Championship, one goal is obvious for Johansen when he is playing international tournaments. Johansen's opening weaknesses and mysterious blackouts were dramatically demonstrated when he lost three miniature games in Troll Masters 2001, but still 3/9 at this level was a result only slightly below expectations. It seemed promising for 2100 during Troll Masters 2002, as he was observed in the air first with 2/2 and then with 4/7, but following a double loss in the end he still landed half a point shy of the 2100-border. His chess summer of 2002 later became slightly below expectations, including 5/9 in class 1 of the Norwegian Championship and a few lost ELO-points following 4.5/11 in Biel.

More than a little bit confusing, Kai-Roger looks like if he has learned the whole ECO by heart, while he claims to know just one variation against 1.e4, one against 1.d4 and one as white. The truth probably is to be find somewhere in the middle, but the openings seldom gives him much as white at this level and might end up like shipwrecks as black. In the middle game Johansen is an intelligent and technical player difficult to defeat for everyone. His positional understanding is a little bit mechanical, but a mathematician player, he has an ability to calculate variations probably worth well above 2100. Usually playing fast he seldom ends up short of time, but may have a problem keeping his concentration during long games. If he is able to solve that problem and not driving too far away from the known land in his openings, the 2100 goal should be realistic.

44. Tarjei JOTEN SVENSEN - Molde SK, Norway - born 20.10.1981 – FIDE-ELO 2074
A junior for many years restrained by living in an area with few tournaments and even fewer strong players, Svensen improved rapidly when moving to the top athletics school in Oslo in 1998. Reportedly spending 1000 hours at ICC as player and organiser within 12 months at one stage, he is of course a data-guru, but surprisingly enough not a particular strong blitz-player. Traditionally having a more strained relationship to longer plans and opening variations, he "clearly, but slowly" has added more depth the last two years. Suddenly being the highest rated player of his home district for a while after advancing more than 400 points in 1999 and 2000, Tarjei fulfilled a reasonable FIDE-ELO when taking 3.5/9 in Bergen Chess International 2001. In Bergen as in Troll Masters a few months earlier, he fairly typically was revealed as a little bit too light for the players above 2150, but appeared solid against players with a lower FIDE-ELO and unrated players. This however might be about to change now, as Tarjei proved able to win several tough games against higher rated players in 2002 - surprisingly defeating FM Riku Molander in Troll Masters and Bjørn-Erik Glenne in the Open Norwegian Championship. While Tarjei’s 4/9 in Troll Masters then overall were about as expected Tarjei clearly increased his ELO in Oslo, after a sensational start with 3.5/4. Another advance came in Gausdal Classics - shanghaied the day before the tournament as a part time working bulletin slave Tarjei made a modest start with 2/5 in the ELO-group, but still reached 6/9 and second place after winning his last four games. Later he has not been playing international tournaments, and his national rating fell down below 1900 again following a disappointing 3.5/9 in class 1 of the Norwegian Championship.

Balancing on the thin edge between being very relaxed and a little lazy during his games Svensen profits from never getting nervous, but he has suffered from "sleeping" away many promising positions and some pieces. His openings appear somewhat more solid now, but although his positional strength is growing it may occur some mis-match between slow openings and a loose style of play. Almost certainly he will do much good and something bad in this tournament too, but for some masochistic reason he seems to do best as a player when being a part time bulletin worker at Gausdal - often enjoying the role as the careful 2000-player the 2200-players has to defeat. Objectively speaking an ELO loss is at least as likely as a win following his form from the later part of 2002, but having the master-border at 2100 just a good tournament away and lacking time to prepare because of bulletin duties of course may be just the inspiration he needs.

45. Olaf BERG – Havnar TF, Faroe Islands – born 10.11.1986 – FIDE-ELO 2065
Starting his tournament career aged seven, Olaf Berg soon established himself as the dominant player of his year on the Faroe Islands. Having won the Faroe Islands Youth Championship several times, he has also represented his country in the Nordic Youth Championships regularly and twice reached the third place in this strong competition. Winning the qualifiers group of the Faroe Islands Championship in 2002, he is starting a very exciting new chess year at Gausdal. Together with Martin Poulsen naturally being one out of few strong Faroe Islands players actually still living on the islands, he has had few chances to play international tournaments, and to add further pain he was unlucky to start with a very low FIDE-ELO. As he has reportedly been doing serious theoretical studies during the last months before this tournament he aged 16 is probably more underrated than ever before, and his goal about «winning a lot of ELO» so should be serious. In accordance with the Faroe Island chess school he has been much more dangerous as white, but this might be about to turn, as he has probably been working with his black repertoire recently. Although he still is primarily a sharp attacking player and still overall underrated, I doubt whether he can be complete enough to fight for an IM-norm yet. My guess is that he will end up like a very unpopular opponent, with a performance well above his ELO.

46. Øyvind PEDERSEN - Sjakkameratene, Norway - born 19.09.1964 – FIDE-ELO 2054
Another "chessfriend" having been around for a long while now, Pedersen has been one out of few Norwegian regular customers in the summer tournament at Gausdal as well as in the Open Norwegian Championship. Pedersen has been a driving force in his club since the eighties, and still is although he now has retired as a chairman. Unlike his travel companion Kai-Roger Johansen Pedersen has not yet been a master class player, but his strength has improved all the more steadily. Playing with somewhat more punch than Johansen, Pedersen has demonstrated better chances both to win and to lose against better players. Still enjoying himself most as an attacking white player, Pedersen steadily has improved as a defending as well as a positional player. At this level his openings may be good enough as white, but risky at best as black. Pedersen Achilles-heel is his earlier chronic time troubles, too often leaving him with less than a minute left for ten moves in still complex positions. Still blundering some pieces in time trouble he has become a fast and gifted chess sprinter, in the Open Norwegian Championship last year winning two six hours games on time with less than ten seconds left himself. If able to solve the time trouble problems for good, he should have the master strength within grasping reach.

Playing much in 2002, Pedersen first gave himself a modest plus both in Gausdal Troll Masters, Cappelle la Grande and The Open Norwegian Championship, before doing slightly below expected in the ELO-group of Gausdal Classics. His chess summer started excellent, as he made his best results ever during the Pelaro tournament in Gothenburg - drawing two IMs and a bunch of players on 2100-2200, his 4/9 was a 2200-performance gaining about 100 national ELO-points and 40 international ones. For mystical reasons the tournament however has still not been rated in FIDE, and even when Pedersen unofficially were just about 2000 in Norwegian rating he was denied access to the master class - and instead ran into a disappointment when taking only 4/9 in class 1. Following 4.5/11 in Biel he still is above 2000 in Norwegian rating for the first time, and should be close to 2100 in FIDE if/when the Gothenburg result is registered. As demonstrated in Gothenburg his potential clearly improved during his off work year in 2002; it will be interesting to find out whether he in 2003 can establish as a master player, or even continue his match upward. His FIDE-ELO anyway is too low for his current form, and I will hardly be surprised if he turns out to be the best present player below ELO 2100.

47. Rolf SANDER – Barmbeker SK, Germany – born 02.08.1962 – FIDE-ELO 2048
Rolf Sander is better known to the international chess world as an organiser than as a player: Among the most important pieces of his small Hamburg club for nearly 20 years now, he has been a co-organiser of several international tournaments in Hamburg, and was the leader of the organising committee for the traditional chess elephant named Wichern Open in 2001. As he has made career as a software engineer, been a handball trainer for a local girls team (!?) and run marathons (!!) beside his organising duties, it is hardly surprising that he is still waiting for his larger international breakthrough as a player.... He achieved his FIDE-ELO in 1997, and in his 1-2 yearly international tries he has later been surprisingly stable around a 2050-2075 level. A true friend of Norwegian chess he is now making his third start here. 3.5/9 was not too satisfying neither in the Arnold J. Eikrem Memorial of 2000 or the Bergen Chess International 2002 - both times he was caught in on the lower boards from the start, and proved unable to defeat the lower rated opponents he then met. He however has at least one very happy chess memory from Gausdal, as he for the first time got a score against an IM when drawing a long endgame against a still present Finn IM the summer of 2000.... Still remembering that game very well Rolf is definitely able to produce game sensations in the winter of 2003 too; at least as long as draws can be registered as sensations.

A «typical Hamburger» by style, Rolf is a technically solid and sound player - seldom running short of time and even more seldom blundering, but lacking the deeper positional understanding, the creativity and the punch to decide games against opponents above 2200. His opening repertoire typically is well established and more complete than the repertoire of most players on his level, but without much potential to deliver decisive advantages. As Rolf’s 3.5 points in 2000 consisted of seven draws, winning at least one game should be an obvious goal of this tournament. The start might be very important here - as Rolf will be an unpleasant opponent for players around 2100-2250, but hardly will enjoy the situation himself if caught inside another steam of unrated opponents. Even at Gausdal there might be a competition about Rolf’s time, as the skiing child within him will find a winter paradise outside the hotel. His friendly academical personality however should not lead you to underestimate his physical condition: The man fulfilled his second marathon last year, and is training for the third one now....

48. PER JOHANSSON - Södra SASS, Sweden - born 04.05.1940 – FIDE-ELO 2016
Johansson hardly ever has visited the summer tournaments at Gausdal - but during the last 20 years he has been the most loyal participant of the winter tournament here (except for Heikki, of course having his own class). Feeling very comfortable in the Gausdal atmosphere he himself is an important part of, the friendly Swedish gentleman has hardly ever been heard complaining about anything - and definitely no one has been heard complaining about him. Naturally getting tired sooner now than ten years ago when dancing among the young lions, Johansson has still kept his basic positional strength intact - especially hidden behind his feared "fianchetto-bishop" in a patient white opening. Even a list of titleholders has had to declare themselves unable to defeat him. When losing to a titleholder, Johansson takes this too as an interesting experience. His openings however are easy to predict, and as black they are often not deep enough to deny an ambitious opponent to speed up the game. Seldom blundering or left very short of time, Johansson definitely counts among the more conservative and solid players below 2200 here.

He has developed a bad habit about losing the thread during the last part of his tournaments in the sixties, and so has ended below expected score and slipped down against 2000 in the last years' Troll Masters. This however might be less a problem as he has now retired from his demanding work as a journalist in Sweden’s main newspaper. He looked close to the solid classical player he used to be during Gausdal Classics last year - losing only a mystical game against tournament winner Valaker in the eight round, and even after that loss ending on 5/9. He humorously claimed then that he needed first to stabilize his ELO-position, and then would start a counterattack. I am excited to see whether 2003 will be his counterattack year. It might very well be, as Johansson’s chess understanding clearly should be above his current ELO - the critical questions is whether he has enough power to stay 10 rounds against players being at worst more than 50 years younger....

49. Gunnar BUE - Tønsberg SK, Norway – born 23.05.1943 – FIDE-ELO 1991
Grandpa and chess veteran Gunnar Bue is probably the best known class 2-player of Norway, even when his playing strength peaked below a master level 15 years ago. The reasons for his fame are obvious enough: As the only Norwegian participant at Gausdal Bue was present when the first Norwegian rating list appeared in the middle of the seventies, and to a larger extent than anyone else he has been an active player all the 27 years to follow. Neither losing his chess joy when the rating stopped raising or when it started to fall, Bue more than ever before was a very active weekend- and holiday-player through the nineties. Having played more than 100 tournaments during recent years, he is of course well known everywhere in the small Norwegian chess milieu - and three years ago he became historic as the first Norwegian player ever to have more rated games than rating points!

As a true amateur playing just for fun Bue has not been that eager to face the challenges of this international level, and during his relatively few tries before aged 58 he never came really close to any FIDE-ELO. This tide suddenly turned in Troll Masters 2002, as Bue taking 3.5/9 and defeating two rated opponents achieved an ELO-norm of seven games. He failed to fulfil it in the ELO-group of Gausdal Classics, as he then took 2.5/3 against the unrated opponents and 0/6 against the rated ones. 3/9 in class 2 of the Norwegian Championship also indicated a falling form, even when one of his winning games was noted for an elegant queen sacrifice. 2.0/9 in Bergen Chess International neither was a strong result all taken together, but 1.0/4 against the rated opponents still was enough to assure him a FIDE-ELO just below 2000.

Overall again having been a more dangerous opponent for the masters the last year or so, he might have a promising attacking position in this field: Experienced Bue enjoys the role as sleazy and underestimated counter-player, and may be an efficient and practical player especially when his opponents are short of time. He also has on his repertoire several unusual openings systems, which although they are not as good as Bue considers them, will be difficult to crack over the board. On his weaker side Bue all the more often gets tired during long games in long tournaments, and then he simply blunders too much. His black openings should be too powerless on a master level, and he might run short of time. With the limit being 1800 he should be able to stay on the list without any problems, but whether he will be able to pass 2000 is still an open question.

50. Stefan HÖRBING – Degerfors SS, Sweden – born 11.08.1979 - Swedish rating 2038
Very little is known about this local master player of Sweden, except that he makes a serious try to get a FIDE-ELO by playing first Rilton Cup in Stockholm and the Gausdal Troll Masters, and so I feel it wrong to start guessing. From the very few known games he seems to be an attacking player with some theoretical knowledge, playing a straightforward centralization and activity chess, and not being afraid to enter tactical complications. With the lower limit being 1801, the question of course should be not «FIDE-ELO?», but «what FIDE-ELO?».

51. Jean SAULNIER – Philidor Massy, France – born 25.02.1958 – French rating 1930
The latest starter of all present participants, Jean Saulnier was aged 26 when becoming a tournament player. Advancing fast for the next five years, he since the early nineties has been stable on a French 1800-level. Having prioritised his civil career as an engineer just outside of Paris, he is now as ever before a happy chess amateur - playing for fun and to develop his chess understanding. Having little time to play tournaments he usually does so abroad 1-2 times a year, and was very happy to discover the friendly atmosphere and the good food of Gausdal in the early nineties. He played in the summer festival twice then, and at the second occasion made his best result ever by a performance between 2050 and 2100 - but for mysterious reasons the French federation denied registering the result, and Jean was never to complete his FIDE-ELO.

Intending to make his Gausdal come-back two years ago he was then stopped by a car accident, but now he fortunately has recovered enough to play abroad again - with a higher national ELO than ever before. Jean’s teammates reportedly rolled on the floor laughing when he asked them to describe his playing style, and my impressions based upon the few known games is neither a clear one. He is clearly more a positional player than a tactician, but has been doing relatively better with some of his black gambits than with some of his closed white openings systems. With the lower limit now being 1801 achieving a FIDE-ELO is not any more a main goal for him - but not getting a FIDE-ELO just above 1800 still is a goal for him.... Above 2000 still should be the realistic goal....

52. Ragnar KNUDSEN – Sarpsborg SK, Norway – born 12.06.1967 – Norwegian rating 1817
A promising local player from his early teenage year, Knudsen as a junior never played enough to make any national breakthrough. Very patiently improving his strength with a relatively low level of activity as a grown up, he has primarily been noted as a solid team player for several teams in his home district Østfold - doing 24 team matches without a loss for Moss in the middle of the eighties, and seven matches without a loss (+1=6, a performance around 2150) as a captain when his current team Sarpsborg visited the top league of Eastern Norway in the season 2000-2001. His results in local weekend tournaments have been much more uneven, and too often below average. This however to a large extent reflects partly that weekend tournaments in Østfold are played with a shorter time limit that he is less happy having to play with, and partly that most weekend players in Østfold are lower rated players he is less happy having to defeat. Enjoying much more an outsider position against higher rated opponents with 2 hours for 40 moves, he might very well end up like a surprise if allowed to stabilize on the middle boards in this field. Question marks remains: Knudsen has a sound positional understanding, but will he be dynamic enough to catch up with opponents above 2200? His openings are varied and usually sound, but will they be deep and complete enough for ten rounds at this level? And as Knudsen often spends much time in the early openings, will he be able to avoid strong time troubles and/or to survive them? I expect him to do better than expected regarding national ELO and to fight for a FIDE-ELO at least above 2000. I will not be surprised if he walks through all ten rounds without suffering any crushing loss, and although it is a risk that he might end up just too light, he can hardly shock me by any draw except against titleholders. But if he wins more than three games in total or one against players above 2200, I will be at least a little bit surprised.

53. Terje NILSEN – Strømmen SK, Norway – born 20.08.1971 – Norwegian rating 1794
A club player in his hometown Larvik from age 17, Terje Nilsen stabilized as just another a friendly local 1500-player before 20. An active player for a short while as a student in Bergen in 1991, he later came to prioritise «studies and such things» for eight years. Suddenly refinding his joy about chess when finishing his studies, Terje now working in Oslo has started a new career as a rapidly climbing player in Strømmen SK. Clearly better when getting 2 hours for 40 moves and a not too tight playing schedule, he has improved markedly in his one time a year try during the last three years: Starting with a modest 5/9 in the Norwegian Championship of 2000, he qualified for class 1 when taking 6.5/9 and finishing fifth in class 2 of the 2001 Championship - and then qualified for the master class when taking 6.5/9 and finishing fourth in class 1 of the 2002 Championship! Qualified for the master class and included in the first team of Strømmen now playing in the top league of Eastern Norway, he should definitely have a double cross bone attached to his backward rating.

By style Terje Nilsen is much of a catch all/catch none: By nature solid, but not afraid to enter tactical complications when invited to. His openings are hardly deep enough to win many games at this level, but on the other hand should be established enough not to lose many either. He might be exposed if running short of time, but this should be much less of a problem with 2 hours for 40 moves. A modest and realistic man, Terje claims to take this tournament as learning for further development - claiming still to have three weak points called openings, middlegame and endgame, he gives as his goals an acceptable result in the master class of 2003 and to be qualified for the master class on rating in 2006. As he is an intelligent and relaxed man obviously inspired to play chess at the moment, my prediction is that he probably without producing game sensations, will achieve a FIDE-ELO above 2000 and a national ELO above 1900 before the summer of 2003 - much based upon this result.

54. Terje TORGERSEN - Norges Internett SK, Norway - born 14.11.1969 - Norwegian rating 1789
Terje Torgersen first won national attention when finishing fifth in the Norwegian Championship U14 in 1983, after defeating among others the later GM Rune Djurhuus. Steadily advancing his national rating from 1200 in 1982 to 1750 in 1987, he however failed to establish among the best Norwegian players of his age. Even worse he despite a periodically great chess interest failed to advance from then on, and for ten years to come was to be found stable around 1700-1750. After some years with few tournaments he suddenly took another step upward when taking 7/9 in class 2 of the Norwegian Championship of 1998; later he has been remarkably stable just below 1800. A main explanation for the long time stagnation might be that Terje has been too careful to seek challenges, but having followed several internationals at Gausdal as an onlooker and having intensified his theoretical studies for a while, he now finally considers himself good enough to go for a FIDE-ELO. Taking into account that the national Norwegian rating is a very hard currency, Torgersen should be more than good enough to reach a reasonable FIDE-ELO now.

By style «TT» is a sensible player, more eager to take than to give material. He might however go for attacks as well, and often includes gambits on his white repertoire. Torgersen is now living and studying in the "southern capital city" of Kristiansand, but has been little active in the local chess milieu the last two years. Instead he has been preparing for this tournament by emailchess and at ICC, peaking his blitz rating there close to 2500 and having defeated a number of titleholders. When meeting players above 2200 by the board Torgersen might have problems both regarding his lack of matching with full time and regarding some of his openings, but he still is concrete, hard-working and modest enough to be among the strongest unrated players here. Despite not being a man of many words himself, Torgersen is extremely interested in chess and the chess milieu, and so I have reason to hope that this tournament anyway will inspire him to further international tries. Whether he is tough enough for the level remains to see - Terje is a little bit too much a humble and careful person, and so his try for Troll Masters 2002 ended with a cancelled train.

55. Jon Ludvig NILSSEN HAMMER - Oslo SS, Norway - born 02.06.1990 – Norwegian rating 1752
This too is an exciting one, and a main explanation of why I still organise Gausdal tournaments. I know he looks smaller than and different from most other participants, but still I once more strongly warn you against the chess sin of underestimating. Jon Ludvig would have been famous and widely respected as an upcoming Norwegian star if it was not for one factor outside himself: Magnus Carlsen is just sixth months younger, and even when Jon Ludvig defeated Magnus as late as in the U10 Championship of 2000, he of course is doomed to lose that competition at the moment. As Jon Ludvig finished third in the Nordic Championship U11 in 2001 and U13 in 2002, won the Norwegian Championship U13 with 9/9 and the U12 Championship with 7/7 in 2002, raised his national rating to pass 1750 and achieved a FIDE-ELO norm around 1950 during the Tantry Open in Slovakia, there is no doubt about his international capacity. From the last ten years before Magnus I can only remember two Norwegian players - GM Leif Erlend Johannessen and Espen Lie - being close to the strength and potential of Jon Ludvig when aged 12, and following Jon Ludvig’s later advances I now strongly doubt whether they really were close....

Jon Ludvig does not fear grown up opponents, and trained by the OSS-legendary Sverre Johnsen he (of course) is a tactically sharp player armed with a large number of eccentric opening variations. Very much an independent thinker, he however might play slow and closed systems too. Although of course having problems to keep it for ten full time games Jon Ludvig might be extremely concentrated during his games, and unlike most players on his age he uses the time when getting an opponent who deserves it. On the darker side: Both the player and his opening repertoire are still incomplete, of course - it is much easier to make many good moves than to fulfil a game when you are 12. Jon Ludvig naturally also lacks experience especially regarding endgames, and he has still met only a few players on a master level. I wrote before Troll Masters 2002 that we should not talk about FIDE-ELO with Jon Ludvig yet. That week he himself however hardly talked about anything except a FIDE-ELO, and having defeated two rated players within the first four rounds he had the chance to achieve one until round 9 (which lasted about 100 moves). We should definitely talk about it this time - «Lille Hammer» will only feel insulted and/or discriminated otherwise. The rehearsal definitely was promising, as he unofficially crossed 1800 by defeating two master players and making a performance well above 2000 when taking 4.5/7 in Karlstad Open.

56. Tor Kristian LARSEN – Bergens SK, Norway – born 03.08.1979 - Norwegian rating 1747
Not discovering the chess world until age 19, Tor Kristian Larsen soon afterwards found himself amazed by this new intellectual world. The chess world first did not find itself amazed by him in the same way, but from at latest his fourth local tournament, the seldom speaking and seldom smiling young man always wearing two chess books under his left arm and a computer with Chessbase under his right arm, became feared as «Mr Underrated» in the small and dark chess streets of the west coast. He has later won national attention by winning class 3 of the Norwegian Championship in 2001 and class 2 in 2002, both times cleaning the board with 8/9.

Lucky to find a person with a similar extreme interest in opening theory within his neighbourhood (person named Kjetil Stokke, if any foreigner was in doubt), he has been steadily widening his theoretical base. Studying mathematics when not studying chess, he naturally has become a player of variations more than of understanding, but has been clearly improving in the latter aspect of the game too. His low drawing percent however reflects that he still is very variable, more than a very sharp style of play. Usually Mr Efficient against weaker players, he until now has been too inaccurate, too respectful and not deep enough in his play against master players. This Janus-face was clearly demonstrated during his first international try in Bergen a few months ago, when Tor Kristian registered 4/4 against unrated opponents, but 0/5 including several parachute jumps without a parachute against the rated ones. He might have crossed a mental barrier when defeating 2300-player Per Manne in the Championship of Bergen SK, although 1/6 against the rated opponents still demonstrated the problem (and resulted in an ELO-norm as low as 1909). I consider his Norwegian strength to be somewhere around 1900, and so he should be able to reach a FIDE-ELO of at least 2000 before next list. For now my prediction is that he will be an unpleasant opponent for players on 2000-2200, but still a little bit to easy against the (even) higher rated opponents.

57. Askild BRYN - Lillehammer SS, Norway – born 07.11.1987 - Norwegian rating 1616
One part of the Gausdal triumph and tragedy is that very few players can live at home when playing tournaments here. The local chess district of "Hedmark and Oppland" is a very local one, and no players represented it in the Troll Masters of 1999, 2000 and 2001. Fortunately we have got a local hope among us from 2002, and that is a talent also deserving national attention. Askild Bryn very surprisingly finished second in the Norwegian Championship U14 in the autumn of 2000, and exceeded his glory by managing 2.5/6 against much higher rated opponents in the following Nordic Youth Championship of 2001. As Askild's national rating increased markedly during the following tournaments too, he was awarded the chance of representing Norway in the European Championship or World Championship U14. As the only Norwegian player I can remember Askild financially supported by his club chose to play both the European Championship and the World Championship, and taking respectively 4/9 and 5/11 he did fine on both occasions. The national Championships of 2001 following this was a minor disappointment: Askild for a long time fought in the top of both, but in the end both times finished outside of top three. 2002 became a stagnation year for Askild: Despite several interesting games he was hardly satisfied to take 2/9 in his first Troll Masters, and later failing to reach the absolute top in the Norwegian Championships or to make any rating advance, he was not given the chance to represent Norway in the European Championships or World Championship.

By style Bryn is a creative and interested player, with a good natural chess understanding. He is learning along the way of his challenges, and has showed capacity to keep up play against players on a master level too. Lacking both a trainer and a strong local chess milieu, he is however still an incomplete and somewhat unstructured player - often not fulfilling his promising positions, and generally lacking experience and knowledge to match his ambitions and creativity. His openings are doing better every tournament, but should still be uneven at best at this level. Askild Bryn still appears underrated, and he might very well end up like a rating bomb here - with the border being 1801 he should anyway be a strong candidate for a FIDE-ELO. 2003 will be an important year for Askild, following the stagnation of 2002. The first important answers about the direction of his chess career, will come this week.

58. Jan Arne BJØRGVIK – Moss SK, Norway – born 24.05.1947 – Norwegian rating 1609
Starting his chess career in the Verdal corner of the periphery in Middle-Norway at the beginning of the sixties (!?) and making his first start in the Norwegian Championship 1966, Jan Arne Bjørgvik is hiding a long and relatively stable chess career behind his more than 1200 rated games. Living since 1970 in the Eastern Norway he has had his ups and downs in class 1 and 2. He has won some local weekend tournaments, and has several times been fighting in the top of his class during the Norwegian Championship. He qualified for the master class when finishing third in class 1 of the Norwegian Championship in 1981, and around then peaked his rating just below 1900. Despite playing much he however failed to advance from that stage, and during the last years again has slipped down in class 2. The reason might be that he has never taken the time to build up anything looking like a complete opening repertoire, and so he especially as black too often has been a weak second against master players. A strong rapid player he seldom runs short of time, but too often he has been a little bit too fast and light-handed - accurate chess through the whole game has never been his hallmark. He is however an experienced and practical positional player with a look for short tactical strokes, known to be especially aware for transpositions into the endgame.

Bjørgvik's first international try came in Kiel the summer of 2001, and was a success: Bjørgvik achieved 4.5/9 and reportedly an ELO-norm of 1977 (four games). Naturally inspired by this result, Bjørgvik joined his club fellow Paul Johansen to make his Gausdal come-back now. It will be a surprise if he can fight for 50 % in this much tighter field. He however should be fully capable to complete a reasonable FIDE-ELO, and I will actually be surprised if he does not produce any surprises during ten rounds....

59. Steinar BRYN - Lillehammer SS, Norway - born 18.10.54 - Norwegian rating 1561
Born and raised in Oslo, Steinar Bryn learned chess in one of the school groups of the legendary chess teacher Bror Eeg around age 12-13. For the next six years Steinar was active within the school chess milieu in Oslo. Before the ELO-system was introduced in Norway his chess interest however had lost (on time) the competition against studies and other intellectual challenges, and he was to return to the chess world (and more specifically to Lillehammer SS) only together with his son Askild in 1997. As one out of few chess fathers he has at least until now been able to follow his son on the board, and seems to have stabilized in the middle of class 2 - taking 4.5/9 in the Norwegian Championship of 2001 and 4/9 in 2002.

By profession actually being a peace negotiator, he nevertheless is an attacking player much better when attacking than when defending. Periodically training much chess with his son he should still have the potential to climb into class 1, but apart from playing too little he against better players also suffers from never having established a complete opening repertoire. Partly related to this, his time spending also might cause problems. The Norwegian rating system however is a hard one, and Steinar should definitely oncentrate upon his own and try to reach a reasonable ELO-norm. He felt delighted to play himself after having followed the tournament last year as an onlooker, but not having had much time to work with chess recently he declared himself unfit for such a fight when asked the autumn of 2002 - but always an interested and helpful chess neighbour he accepted to be a driver, a clock lender and an odd number substitute for Troll Masters 2003....

60. Ida LAHLUM - Alta SK, Norway - born 24.02.1977 – Norwegian rating 1438
To end immediately all rumours regarding the family relations here: The younger sibling Ida according to me is the greater chess talent of the family (but please take into account then that I do NOT consider myself to have any chess talent of importance), and soon advanced into a 1400-1500-level during a short active period in the middle of the nineties. She played a few Gausdal-tournaments well below the level of this one then, with her victory against a 2000-player in Peer Gynt International 1993 as the obvious highlight.

Ida's chess interest lost to school and other youth interests around 1994-95, but following a large number of withdrawals she actually played first board on the Norwegian team in the four nations of 1996. Almost totally inactive due to studies first in Trondheim and then in the upper North named Alta 1997-2000, Ida suddenly recovered her chess joy (without any kind of family pressure) in the autumn of 2001. She soon came to enjoy the very social North chess milieu, and so snatched the chance when few unrated Norwegians showed interest in Troll Masters 2002. Her results during the autumn of 2001 had only confirmed the old 1400-strength, but as Ida a) has suffered from some rust after her long period as inactive, b) used to be markedly stronger during serious tournaments with strong opponents and 2 hours for 40 moves and c) actually has been studying chess the last months, she is probably good enough for «somewhat more» when playing with full time at Gausdal. At least it very much looked so during the start of Troll Masters 2002, when Ida having defeated two 2000-players within the first two rounds became the sensation of the start. Despite some chances her score against the rated opponents ended on 2/7, but as she had several opponents above 2300 that actually was a more or less sensational ELO-norm. Her try to complete the ELO in Gausdal Classics however turned into a nine round nightmare of wasted chances, ending with 0.5/9 including 0/6 against the rated opponents. 4/9 in class 2 of the Norwegian Championship strengthened the impression that she is a stronger player than one year ago, but later tournaments have failed to confirm it - her national rating so far has parked below 1500.

Always through her childhood and youth tougher and less patient than her brother Ida also might be more of an attacking player, not afraid of playing some sharp opening variations without knowing them in detail and/or giving up one exchange or two pawns for the initiative. The darker side of her might become too passive when left worse, lacks experience with endgames, and still blunders too much. Since being a slow thinker actually runs within the family, time trouble blunders have also been a serious problem for Ida, and although the problem is much less serious with 2 hours in 40, she wasted some obvious chances to increase her score during time trouble in both the Gausdal tournaments as well as in the Norwegian Championship last year. Seeded last she still is first and second hoping to learn from this tournament, but with the limit now being 1800 an ELO-norm is not beyond reach.