The 43rd Chess Olympiad officially begins on September 24th in Batumi, Georgia, and runs through October 5th. There are 183 different countries scheduled to participate in the team competition, which will make this Olympiad one of the largest ever. The Chess Olympiad is held biennially (every two years), and there is a long history and tradition that dates back to the late 1920’s with many of the best chess players of all-time taking part throughout the years, including Mikhail Tal, Anatoly Karpov, Garry Kasparov, and Bobby Fischer, among other top Grandmasters.
Many changes have occurred since the inception of the Chess Olympiads, including total number of points awarded for wins and draws, as well as total number of rounds, but one constant that has remained the same is the premise of the Olympiad in the team format, which consists of five members on each team and the best four players on a team competing against the other team’s best four players, with the best combined overall score winning the round.
With the new standings of the Chess Olympiad, a team that wins a round gets 2 points, a draw will get each team 1 point, and a loss will get 0 points. There will be 11 rounds with classical time controls played throughout this tournament (90 minutes for 40 moves, with an additional 30 minutes for the rest of the game, plus a 30-second increment after every move).
Team USA are the favorites to win the event, coming into the Olympiad as defending Gold Medalists in the team competition. Representing the United States on Board 1 will be the World Title Challenger in November, Fabiano Caruana, rated 2822 (interesting to note that World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen decided to skip this Olympiad to focus on his World Championship Match).
Board 2 is Wesley So, rated 2780, World Ranking 9 and winner of the U.S. Championship in 2017. Board 3 is Hikaru Nakamura, rated 2777, known for being the best bullet and blitz chess player in the world, but also World Ranking 13 in slower time controls. Lastly, Board 4 is the 2018 U.S. Champion Sam Shankland, rated 2727. Alternate reserve if needed is Ray Robson, rated 2670. The United States won Gold in the 2016 Olympiad with this same lineup, and these players have only become stronger in the two-year time frame, improving the average rating of the top four boards by 12 points to an astonishing 2777, the highest of any team at the 43rd Chess Olympiad.
Other countries that are expected to do well and could possibly give Team USA some difficult matches are:
Russia (average rating: 2767 – Vladimir Kramnik 2779, Sergey Karjakin 2773, Ian Nepomniatchi 2768, Dmitry Jakovenko 2748)
China (average rating: 2752 – Ding Liren 2797, Yu Yangyi 2760, Wei Yi 2735, Li Chao 2714)
India (average rating: 2723 – Viswanathan Anand 2768, Pentala Harikrishna 2739, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi 2715, Krishnan Sasikiran 2671)
Ukraine (average rating: 2703 – Yuriy Kryvoruchko 2711, Vassily Ivanchuk 2710, Pavel Eljanov 2706, Ruslan Ponomariov 2686)
Azerbaijan (average rating: 2743 – Shakhriyar Mamedyarov 2801, Teimour Radjabov 2751, Arkadij Naiditsch 2711, Rauf Mamedov 2708)
France (average rating: 2690 – Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 2779, Etienne Bacrot 2699, Laurent Fressinet 2645, Romain Edouard 2638)
Team USA will have their work cut out for them to repeat as Champions of the Chess Olympiad with such stiff competition but they will enter the tournament as the favorites and the team to beat. Follow all the action on ChessHeadlines, as we will provide detailed round-by-round analysis once the rounds are concluded.