Candidate master Peter Zhdanov's column at Pogonina.com
Chess Olympiads are a fantastic experience for all the players in terms of visiting new places, meeting interesting people, having fun at the Bermuda Party. At the same time, this is a very serious competition that grasps the attention of all the chess fans. In this article I would like to share with you my personal opinion on who has the best chances to win the Olympiad. Feel free to argue with my prognosis and offer your own forecasts:
Average rating of top-4 players
Result at Chess Olympiad 2010
Prognosis for Chess Olympiad-2012
Captain Yuri Dokhoian should be able to lead the Russian Men’s team to victory unless something unexpected happens. Morozevich (one of the world’s best and most popular players) was replaced by Tomashevsky. Some people might say this is bad news for Russia, but Evgeny is more consistent, while Moro’s play is a roller-coaster. Too bad that many other promising Russian players rated 2700+, including the Russian Champion Dmitry Andreikin, won’t have a chance to play at the Olympiad.
Without Vladimir Tukmakov as a captain Ukraine is less organized and united as a team than before. At the European Team Chess Championship-2011 the mighty Ukraine finished at a relatively miserable 15th place. In my opinion, the Ukrainians are not really in contention for gold now, but they might still be able to take a shot at a medal.
The only country that has a 2800+ as a leader (Aronian) at the Olympiad. Armenia is famous for its team spirit and chess prowess. If there is a team that can stop Russia from taking gold this year, I’d say it’s Armenia.
Azerbaijan has three chess titans – Radjabov, Gashimov and Mamedyarov, but the other players are lagging behind. While Radjabov has been doing quite well, Gashimov’s and Mamedyarov’s chess shapes are unpredictable. Also, a lot depends on the team atmosphere. We all remember the conflict between Gashimov and Tukmakov that took place last time. If Azerbaijan manages to avoid inner problems and to bring all the best players to the Olympiad, they might finally win a medal.
Normally Hungary is being criticized in a friendly way for being a team of “draw-masters”, excluding the magnificent Judit Polgar. Nonetheless, this is a very strong team that will be in contention for a top-3 result.
USA is a great team, but also quite individualistic and permanently affected by the Nakamura-Kamsky rivalry. I can’t imagine these guys having a merry dinner together, or sharing analysis with each other. However, Team USA tends to perform above expectations, so who knows?
Russia vs. China in 2012 was basically the Russian B team vs. the Chinese main team (Russia won). While China is a growing giant, it is not yet powerful enough to have a large chance of returning home with a medal.
Unfortunately, without Bacrot and Feller France is not the chess powerhouse it normally is.
Tiviakov’s absence is noticeable. Nonetheless, Netherlands will probably finish in the top-10.
Bulgaria has Topalov, Georgiev and Cheparinov, but that should not be enough to compete against the highest-ranked teams. A typical case of lacking super GMs – the remaining two players have FIDE ratings below 2600.
A team featuring the World Chess Vice-Champion Boris Gelfand and the ACP President Emil Sutovsky is solid, but probably not well-rounded enough to repeat last Olympiad’s success.
Alas, without Luke McShane England is not really in contention for the very top places. With Luke on the team they might have had an opportunity to fight for a medal.
Without Viswanathan Anand India is not strong enough to win a medal. Will we ever see Vishy play for his native country at the Olympiad again?!
Germany pulled off a surprising victory at the European Team Chess Championship in 2011, but the recent Dortmund tournament clearly showed that most of the team’s players are not yet on par with the world’s chess elite.
Dominguez and Bruzon need more compatriots to support their efforts.
Poland was included on the basis of having an average rating of 2650. There is no real sense in fishing for potential medal winners below this mark.
Another way to classify the main contenders would be to count the number of 2700+ players on the team. The number in the brackets shows how many of the players were 2700+ at some point:
Russia – 5
Ukraine – 4 (5)
Azerbaijan – 3
Hungary – 2 (4)
Armenia, USA – 2 (3)
Cuba - 2
China – 1 (4)
Netherlands – 1 (3)
France, Bulgaria, Israel, England, India – 1 (2)
Germany, Poland – 1
Pogonina.com's audience tends to think the Russian men's team is unmatched
Total number of teams registered: 164
The main struggle for the gold medal will most likely be between Russia (Olympic Champion)and China (World Champion).
Other countries in contention for the medals: Ukraine, Georgia, USA, Armenia, India, Hungary, Poland
The poll results predict a tough clash between the Chinese and the Russian women's teams
Peter Zhdanov is an IT project manager, debate expert and author of two books, BSc in Applied Mathematics and Computer Science and final year PhD student in Sociology. In chess he is a Russian candidate master, author, husband and manager of grandmaster Natalia Pogonina.