The first Online Olympiad in history is gradually becoming an essential part of chess life. For the third weekend in a row, players from all around the world sit down at chess boards, by Sunday night they determine the winners in a division, and then tensely await the results of the drawing of lots for the next round. After the pool lineups are announced, the teams have a couple of days for preparation, and then the Olympic caravan sets in motion again. On August 7, the teams in Division 3 enter the battle, which means that we will see GMs in action – there are 15 holders of this title among 50 squads.
This pool can be called “Asian” as six out of ten teams represent this part of the world. Singapore, headed by GM Kevin Goh Wei Ming is the strongest of Asian squads. This team along with Monaco and Albania looks like clear favorites in pool A.
Kevin Goh Wei Ming
Two potential winners are pitted against each other in the first round and this matchup will be a centerpiece of the starting day. Both teams have GMs in their lineups but we will hardly see their duel as GM Igor Efimov (Monaco) is listed on the second board.
It will be also interesting to follow Fiorina Berezovsky, who used to be the youngest ever participant of Chess Olympiads. She plays for team Monaco together with her parents.
As for the teams that participated in previous stages, it seems that Syria has the best shot.
This pool brought together teams from all over the globe, representing different continents. Two European squads – Portugal and Scotland – appear to be the main favorites in the group. Jose Francisco Veiga with rapid-rating 2369 is a potential scorer on a junior board in Portugal and should earn many points for his team.
The only GM in the pool, Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (pictured below), will play on women’s board. It will be an invaluable chess lesson for her opponents from the Junior World Champion of 1985, a three-time medal winner in USSR championships and a participant of Women's Candidates (1988). Naturally, the majority of chess fans will enjoy watching Ketevan play in the livestream – a joint effort by chess.com and FIDE.
Photo: John Saunders
It is quite a challenge to pick out the main candidate for the third spot in Division 2 – even if we rely on ratings, then IPCA (INTERNATIONAL PHYSICALLY DISABLED CHESS ASSOCIATION) and a qualifier, team Nigeria are on par. Don’t forget Angola, the team that proved its strength in Division 4.
This is the most mysterious pool. Although Belgium lead by GM Bart Michiels (pictured below) is a rating-favorite, the team lacks high-level women-players, which might complicate its task of advancing to Division 2. Jordan has a more balanced lineup – this country has every reason to count on progressing to the next stage.
Photo: Frans Peeters
Overall, virtually any team in Pool C can hope for a spot in the top-3. We are talking about Madagascar, Iraq, and several qualifiers including Lebanon that started from Base Division. After a tragedy that struck Lebanon on Tuesday, many spectators will root for this team.
This is the strongest pool in Division 3. Five teams out of ten would not be out of place even in Division 2, but at least two of them will drop out at this stage. Denmark is very unlikely to be one of them. Indeed, with four GMs rated 2500+ in its roster this team has a very good chance for the first place even in the company of strong South American squads.
On the other hand, picking two teams out of four - Chile, Venezuela, Bolivia, and Uruguay - is simply an unsolvable problem. The three out of four teams have strong GMs, whereas Venezuela can compensate with a more balanced lineup. One of the key matches of the entire pool Bolivia – Uruguay is scheduled for the first round with two experienced grandmasters Oswaldo Zambrana (BOL) and Alejandro Hoffman (URU) facing off on first board. Overall we will see 10 grandmasters in action in this pool, which means many interesting, high-level games.
Two African teams, two real scrappers in Division 3, Mozambique and Mauritania, fell into this pool. If they manage to prove their mettle in such a strong group, it will be a real miracle!
The arbiters to officiate the matches in Pool C are intensely studying Spanish! The best teams from Central America and Carribeans square off in this pool with the highest average rating. There are no underdogs in this tournament – even the qualifiers from Division 4 – Honduras, Nicaragua, and Suriname assembled battle-ready squads.
Mexico, headed by GM Luis Fernando Ibarra Chami and having two WIMs on women’s boards seems a bit stronger than the other teams. Based on ratings, Costa-Rica and Guatemala will be major Mexico’s competitors, but just like in Pool C, any team’s getting into the top-3 won’t be a surprise. It is all about chess form on a given day and luck which should not be underestimated in rapid chess.
The matches in Division 3 start on August 7, at 08:00 UTC. As usual, the teams from Pool A are first to get into action. The official website of Online Olympiad olymp.fide.com will be closely following the event. Good luck to all the participants!