The 2018 Chess Olympiad festivities have started, and the first round saw many mismatches, as the best countries played against much-lower rated countries, which resulted in lopsided scores. These results were expected as it will take a few rounds before leaders begin to emerge and the best teams will play against each other.
The top-ranked United States team (rated 2777) faced off against Team Panama (rated 2298) in round 1 and soundly defeated them with a score of 4-0. Board 1 Wesley So beat Roberto Carlos Sanchez Alvarez in 34 moves. Board 2 Hikaru Nakamura forced a resignation from Jorge Baules in 25 moves. Board 3 Sam Shankland defeated Orlando Leon just before time control was reached. Board 4 Ray Robson was the only American to reach the 40-move time control, but had no trouble defeating Efren Andres Ramos in 63 moves with the black pieces.
Top-ranked American and World #2 Fabiano Caruana was rested and did not play in round one, with the alternative reserve Ray Robson playing the fourth board for America. The strategy is to have him fresh for the harder match-ups that are to come in the later rounds. America did not need Caruana on this day, as they made easy work of the Panama team.
Other top team results were: Russia (2767) defeating Uganda (2303) 4-0, China (2752) defeating Morocco (2301) 3-1, India (2723) defeating El Salvador (2279) 3.5-0.5, Ukraine (2703) defeating Zambia (2276) 3.5-0.5, and France (2690) defeating Yemen (2268) 4-0.
There were no major upsets in the first round of the 43rd Chess Olympiad, with all the top results going as expected but that is sure to change as the rounds become more competitive as this tournament moves forward.