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Last Updated: Thursday, 11 January 2007, 12:33 GMT
Chess showdown ends in check melt
Ice chess match in London
Big Ben was "still standing by the end"
Europe's unseasonably warm winter has almost put paid to a chess match between London and Moscow, using huge pieces carved from ice.

The pieces began melting so quickly that some were almost indistinguishable by the time the match finished.

Huge chessboards had been laid out in the Russian and British capitals, with grandmasters Nigel Short and Anatoly Karpov taking charge of the teams.

The match was held as part of a Russian "Old New Year" festival in London.

The temperature was 12C in London's Trafalgar Square and 5C in Moscow's Pushkinskaya Square - both well above average for the time of year.

The whole of Europe has had an exceptionally warm autumn and winter, with Moscow bereft of its usual snow and ice.

On the London board Russia's "king", which was crafted in the shape of a Kremlin tower, had lost its Soviet star before the game even began.

But Jonty Small, of the Russian Winter Festival, said "Big Ben was still standing at the end".

Young prodigies

Although Karpov and Short were supposed to be calling the shots, it was their junior team-mates who were behind "some fairly aggressive play from both sides", he told the BBC.

Ice chess match in Moscow
Ice has been almost unheard of in Moscow this winter

"It seemed to be the eight-year-old chess prodigies making the decisions."

With the game an hour old and the pieces dripping litres of water, the Russians offered a draw which the British accepted, he said.

The third Russian Winter Festival is being held on Saturday 13, when Russians celebrate the "Old New Year" according to the Julian calendar used in Tsarist times.

The event celebrates Russian culture in the UK and the 200,000 Russian speakers now estimated to live in London.

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