Iceland and Russia

In 1972, Iceland was the stage for one of the more dramatic encounters of the Cold War.

This time it was over a chessboard.

The tempermental American genius Bobby Fischer was up against the reigning World Chess Champion Boris Spassky, a Russian.

Both players felt the pressure and accusations flowed from Russia to America and back again that the other side were trying to subvert their opposing player.

Spassky and Fischer in Iceland, 1972

Finally, once Fischer settled his fee and actually made his mind up to play chess, the American triumphed over the Russian.

Then the reclusive American declined to defend his trophy and the Russians under Anatoly Karpov once again assumed the title in 1975.

Fischer, once the beloved darling of America, was a troubled soul. He praised the September 11th attacks on America saying the U.S. should be ‘wiped out’. Apart from a 1992 rematch against Spassky – which he won, although both players were well past their best – he had retired from Chess. He died early this year.

Iceland, situated at the edge of Europe, has often been the site of such American – Russian meetings. It has often acted as a bridge between the two nations.

It is, however, a founder member of NATO.

So it must cause America some alarm when Iceland has now turned to Russia for a 4 billion euro loan.

It cites lack of help from its NATO allies when dealing with its banking problems in the global credit crunch. I have cited before the help that Norway gave Iceland; it seems its other NATO allies weren’t quite as generous.

“We have not received the kind of support that we were requesting from our friends,” said prime minister Geir Haarde. “So in a situation like that, one has to look for new friends.”

Although Iceland has said that they have not made any military concessions yet to the Russians, it must be a concern to NATO. Iceland’s position in the North Atlantic is vital for allowing movement between the U.S. and Europe, the so-called GIUK gap (Greenland-Iceland-UK). If Iceland was to allow any Russian bases on its soil, that would seriously compromise NATO.

Its the makings of another political chess match.

Coincidentally, today was the start of the 2008 World Chess Championship between Viswanathan Anand, the current World Champion from India, and Vladimir Kramnik, the previous champion from Russia and the man who took the title from Garry Kasparov. (Kramnik had also beaten Bulgarian Veselin Topalov, the FIDE champion and his win unified the chess crown and brought FIDE to prominence again.)

Today’s game was drawn, something that favours Anand as Black.

Kramnik,V (2772) – Anand,V (2783) [D14]
WCh Bonn GER (1), 14.10.2008
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.cxd5 cxd5 5.Bf4 Nc6 6.e3 Bf5 7.Nf3 e6 8.Qb3 Bb4 9.Bb5 0-0 10.Bxc6 Bxc3+ 11.Qxc3 Rc8 12.Ne5 Ng4 13.Nxg4 Bxg4 14.Qb4 Rxc6 15.Qxb7 Qc8 16.Qxc8 Rfxc8 17.0-0 a5 18.f3 Bf5 19.Rfe1 Bg6 20.b3 f6 21.e4 dxe4 22.fxe4 Rd8 23.Rad1 Rc2 24.e5 fxe5 25.Bxe5 Rxa2 26.Ra1 Rxa1 27.Rxa1 Rd5 28.Rc1 Rd7 29.Rc5 Ra7 30.Rc7 Rxc7 31.Bxc7 Bc2 32.Bxa5 Bxb3 draw.

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