USA, absolute favourite to win the Chess Olympiad

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In the absence of arch-rivals Russia and China, only the Indian team, playing on home turf, seem capable of depriving the USA of the gold medal.

Five-times World Champion and Indian chess superstar Vishy Anand opened the first round of the 44th Chess Olympiad at 3pm sharp this afternoon, in the main hall of the Four Points by Sheraton Mahabalipuram Resort & Convention Center.

Anand played the first move for GM Anna Muzychuk on board one of the Ukraine-South Africa match in the women’s section, while on the other boards Sports Minister Mr. Anurag Thakur led the dance on board one of India’s A-team.

After a few last-minute withdrawals, a total of 188 teams began the round in the open section of the event – at four players per team, 752 players, including thirteen women, break all the previously existing records of participation.

FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, All India Chess Federation President Dr. Sanjay Kapoor and Tournament Director Bharat Singh Chauhan were also present on the occasion, heading a huge entourage of security, press and chess enthusiasts.

Chess craze in India. PHOTO: Stev Bonhage

As usual in the first round of the Chess Olympiad, most of the favourites scored the win – the top three teams, the United States, India and Norway, all started with solid victories.

Top seed USA defeated Angola by a clear 3.5-0.5 to start their campaign on a positive note. As has long been the norm for most of the top teams in the first round, where there is often a big disparity in the strengths of teams, the number one USA player GM Fabiana Caruana decided to save energy and gave up his seat to GM Sam Shankland, the teams theoretical number five reserve player.

GM Levon Aronian, therefore, moved up to the first board, but the three-time Olympian for Armenia quickly drifted into trouble with some over-enterprising opening play. However, luck was on his side when his opponent, Angola’s board one IM David Silva, accepted a draw in an arguably winning position.

The rest of the best teams defeated their opponents effortlessly, with India A crushing Zimbabwe by 4-0, the same result as Spain-Wales and Poland-Syria, arguably two other favourites for the medals.

The full results for the first round can be found on the official website:

USA vs Angola. PHOTO: Lennart Ootes

Tomorrow’s second round will feature some interesting clashes: USA vs Paraguay and Moldova vs India will put the two top teams to the test, while there is a very good chance that World Champion Magnus Carlsen – who was spotted playing soccer this afternoon near the venue – will make his debut against Uruguay’s lucky first board.

Although the Chess Olympiad is essentially played over-the-board, other parallel activities take place on a daily basis. Today’s main dish was the inauguration of the Queen’s Pavilion and Social Pavilion.

In “the year of the woman in chess”, Sonja Johnson, Chairperson of FIDE’s Planning and Development Commission, welcomed President Arkady Dvorkovich and Managing Director Dana Reizniece-Ozola to the stage.

FIDE presented its social projects at a pavilion installed in the Expo area of the OIympiad. FOTO: Lennart Ootes

“Chess is not only about professional sports: it’s about using our great game for the benefit of society, embracing its diversity” was Reizniece’s potent message to the audience.

Dvorkovich also attended the photo opportunity with Mr. Jagdish Mitra, Chief Strategy Officer & Head of Growth of Tech Mahindra.  The International Chess Federation (FIDE) and the All-India Chess Federation have strengthened their partnership today with Tech Mahindra, a leading provider of digital transformation, consulting, and business re-engineering services and solutions, with the official launch of FIDE’s first ever app for iOS and Android built on a digital platform, Fan Nxt.Now.

The app is available for Android and iOSX.

Top chess personalities and Tech Mahindra Executives attended the presentation of the first FIDE official app. PHOTO: Stev Bonhage.