Balmy Weather Slips Up Ice Chess Match

The Associated Press
Thursday, January 11, 2007; 12:04 PM

LONDON -- Chess is a challenging game at the best of times. But try playing it in Trafalgar Square, with huge pieces carved from ice _ on a relatively balmy British day that threatened to turn pawns to puddles.

Organizers of London's Russian Winter Festival knew players in their ice chess match Thursday would be battling not only each other but the weather. But the match was completed and the sculptures survived, despite a drizzly day and temperatures that reached 55 degrees.

Wegg-Prosser said the pieces, which were carved to look like local landmarks _ the king was the Gothic tower that houses Big Ben _were still intact at the end of the hour-long match, which began at 8 a.m.

"It takes at least three hours for them to melt," said Yulia Wegg-Prosser, the chess spokeswoman.

A second board was set up in Moscow _ also experiencing warmer-than-usual temperatures _ and the Russian team, led by former world champion Anatoly Karpov, offered a draw to the British squad, captained by grandmaster Nigel Short.

Players and spectators in both cities were connected by satellite link.

Even in January, temperatures rarely fall below freezing in London, so the melting of ice sculptures is not new to the Russian Winter Festival, said Lieran Stubbings, a festival organizer.

Last year, a sculpture of St. Basil's Cathedral in Trafalgar Square disappeared before the end of the event, confounding festival-goers.

"People were asking where the sculpture of St. Basil's was," Stubbings said. "We were just laughing and pointing to the nearest puddle."

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Associated Press Writer Jim Heintz in Moscow contributed to this story.


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