All eyes are on Chennai for the most prestigious chess event until today, the 44th Chess Olympiad, which will be held from July 28 to August 10. With 187 countries registered, India now holds the world record in terms of the number of participating countries in a single edition of the Olympiad.
Photos: Lennart Ootes, Madelene Belinki // chessolympiad.fide.com
The strongest female chess player, Judit Polgar was speaking at the greeting session conducted by the All India Chess Federation (AICF) at the Chess Olympiad venue in Mamallapuram, Chennai. FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich, AICF President Sanjay Kapoor and AICF Secretary and Olympiad Director Bharat Singh Chauhan were also present at the occasion.
“I am very happy to be here in the Olympic village. It is amazing to see the interest and passion of the people here. The enthusiasm in the organising committee is amazing. To get ready for this Olympiad in just four months is incredible. [...] I have spoken to other people and see them appreciating the effort, and I already feel from a distance that this Olympiad is going to be very special.” Judit said.
Later, an outstanding opening ceremony was held at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Chennai. More than 20,000 players, coaches and local chess enthusiasts watched the ceremony live, an event full of music, color, and history. After a marathon afternoon, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared the event open. “There are no losers; only winners and future winners” Modi said.
Today, the first round of the Olympiad started with the Indian Minister of Sport Anurag Thakur, All India Chess Federation President Sanjay Kapoor, Minister of the Tamil Nadu Government S Meyyanathan and FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich making the ceremonial first moves.
The main focus will be undoubtedly on the team results, as every match is a joint effort to earn a match victory. However, individual achievements are also highlighted at Chess Olympiads. The Russian federation was excluded because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and the Chinese federation decided not to participate, as protection against the pandemic. Thus, the USA is clear favourite in the Open while India is favourite to win the Women’s Olympiad.
Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Leinier Dominguez and Sam Shankland have an Elo average of 2771, far ahead of Azerbaijan (2705) and India which misses former World Champion Vishy Anand. “I am playing very few events these days and after playing many Olympiads, I thought it was time for the younger ones to play. India has many talented youngsters like Nihal, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Arjun and a few more.” Anand said.
For women, number one seed is India, with Humpy Koneru, Harika Dronavalli, Vaishali Rameshbabu, Tania Sachdev and Kulkarni Bhakti.
Watch the Olympiad