This year’s Olympiad will be held in Crystal Hall in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan (seating capacity: 25,000) and promises to be one of the finest in chess history. The budget is 13.3 million Euros and preparations reflect that commitment. ChessBase will be covering the event extensively. Here for starts is a preview of previous Chess Olympiads by someone who has attended them all since 1992. Enjoy a long interesting trip down memory lane.
The traditional chess Olympiad is beginning on the 1st of September and for chess players it is the true chess festival, an amalgamation of the top elite players battling for the medals alongside amateur teams from some of the smallest countries in the world. It is also the only major event where the number of female participants is close to their male counterparts. For two weeks everyone plays under one roof, making it a truly special tournament that is held every two years.
Looking ahead to the Baku Olympiad it is more newsworthy to note who is missing from the top teams participating. The real news was the choice of the Armenian Federation to not send a contingent to Baku due to the political climate between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It means that a team who in recent times was twice champions of the Olympiad will not participate.
Such stars of the chess world as Vishy Anand, Peter Svidler, Vassily Ivanchuk, Boris Gelfand are not representing their countries and with the absence of Armenia, it means Levon Aronian will not be present. Vishy Anand has often decided to give Olympiads a miss, with the randomness of the Swiss system, the zero tolerance rule often been quoted as factors.
The Russian federation had ten 2700+ players to choose from, so the absence of Svidler may not be felt. Ivanchuk, who has one of the best Olympiad records in history, is not representing Ukraine reportedly due to his new passion for draughts! A draughts tournament in Poland will be graced by the Ukranian but the chess world hopes that one of its modern day geniuses will soon be back pushing knights and bishops instead!
The absence of Boris Gelfand for Israel and for that matter Emil Sutovsky seems to be due to a dispute with their own chess federation. For lovers of chess it brings a touch of sadness to know these two great fighting, creative players will not be there in Baku representing their country.
The Russian team are the traditional favourites by rating but have not been successful in recent years, they could put together various strong teams and have gone for the lineup of Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Ian Nepomniachtchi. It seems incredible that the last time the Russian team was successful was in Bled, 2002. In that event the team comprised of Garry Kasparov, Alexander Grischuk, Alexander Khalifman, Alexander Morozevich, Peter Svidler and Sergey Rublevsky. In recent editions of the Olympiad teams with a great team chemistry have been successful, like Armenia and China, so it will be interesting to see whether the Russian team can live up to top billing.