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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rocks, Spies and Now a Bit of Ice Chess

MTHundreds of people pressing up against a police barrier on Pushkin Square on Thursday to watch what was billed as the first international ice chess game, played via live satellite in Moscow and London. The two 8-year-old chess prodigies who played the 60-
Russian-British relations took a beating last year, beginning in January with the FSB's claim of British spies using fake rocks in Moscow and ending with the poisoning death of former KGB agent Alexander Litvinenko in London.

The two countries kicked off 2007 in a less contentious fashion on Thursday, as two 8-year-old chess prodigies agreed to a draw in what was billed as the world's first international ice chess game, played via live satellite on Pushkin Square and London's Trafalgar Square.

The match between Russian chess prodigy Konstantin Savenkov and Britain's Darius Parvizi-Wayne opened the third annual Russian Winter Festival in London.

Hundreds of chess fans came to Pushkin Square to watch Savenkov and his team of celebrity advisers -- including former world chess champion Anatoly Karpov.

But they were forced to observe from afar as heavy police security prevented them from coming closer than 50 meters from the board.

"Of course we're disappointed," said Andrei Yegorov, who brought his two children, Yegor, 7, and Liza, 10, in from the Moscow region village of Snegiri to see Karpov. "They both play chess and know Karpov's chess theories."

Even Savenkov's mother, Olesya Savenkova, had to wait 20 minutes before police let her through to where her son was sitting and making his moves near the 64-square-meter chessboard.

"He was tired this morning," Savenkova said of her son while waiting to be let in. "He didn't want to wake up so early."

One elderly man rambled up to the police barricade shortly before the opening move, rolling a cheap, unlit Prima cigarette between his fingers and muttering something only vaguely comprehensible about having to sign up to watch the action up close.

Parvizi-Wayne's team of advisers was headed up by British grandmaster Nigel Short and included author Peter Ackroyd, while Savenkov's team was rounded out by rhythmic gymnast Alina Kabayeva and author Viktor Yerofeyev.

The giant pieces, which had been carved from ice, proved to be slightly unsuited to the rapid format of the game, in which each player was given only 30 minutes to make all of his moves.

Vladimir Filonov / MT
Konstantin Savenkov making a move as, from right, former chess champion Anatoly Karpov, gymnast Alina Kabayeva and author Viktor Yerofeyev watch.
Savenkov, playing with the white pieces, ran into time trouble with a winning position in an aggressive Italian game, as chess aficionados put it, and was forced to offer a draw with just 26 seconds remaining on his clock.

The Russian youngster's clock kept ticking on repeated occasions as the designated piece movers methodically slid the ice sculptures to their intended squares.

"Do not forget to push the clock!" Karpov admonished his British counterparts in his characteristic squeaky voice.

The Moscow crowd warmly applauded the two players after the draw, even though they could only see the giant board and pieces at Trafalgar Square thanks to a giant television screen on one side of the square.

"I came all the way from Orenburg to watch this," said Vladimir Chevychalov, 69, as he strained to look over the pack of journalists surrounding the board 50 meters away.

"I thought they would at least let me buy a ticket."