2012 Chess Olympiad: teams and players

by ChessBase
8/26/2012 – The biggest chess event of the year is just two days away, with teams arriving and preparing for round one on Tuesday. The top seeds are Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Hungary, Azerbaijan, China, USA. One of these teams has won four consecutive Golds in the past – can you guess which? Learn more about the leading teams in the Yorkshire Chess Association's excellent Olympiad preview.

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The 40th Chess Olympiad is scheduled to take place in the Turkish metropole of Istanbul, from August 27 to September 10th, 2012. The Olympiad is a biennial chess tournament in which teams from all over the world compete against each other. The event is organised by FIDE, which selects the host nation. The previous Olympiad was held in 2010 in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, the next will be in Tromsø, Norway. The first was held in Paris, France, in 1924, with 16 nations participating. The last Olympiad had 143 nations, 1294 competitors, and included no fewer than 254 grandmasters, 65 WGMs, 159 IMs, and 90 WIMs. This time the organisers are expecting even more.

The chess web site of the Yorkshire Chess Association will be providing daily coverage of 2012 Olympiad in Istanbul. Naturally they will be keeping track of all the British participants and their performances at the premier international team competition, but you can expect many interesting tidbits from Rupert Jones, a representative of Papua New Guinea, who will be writing a running blog on the event. You can read his interesting Olympiad preview here.

Yorkshire Chess is also introducing a new competition run by the Fantasy Chess Olympiad. For £5 you can select your dream team of Olympians and win the top prize of £150! The website has hints and tips that assist you in making your selection, as will the preview below by Yorkshire Chess.

Preview of the Open Section of the 2012 Chess Olympiad


Seed: 1, Average Rating: 2761, Members: Vladimir Kramnik (2799), Sergey Karjakin (2779), Alexander Grischuk (2763), Evgeny Tomashevsky (2730), Dmitry Jakovenko (2736). 2010 Olympiad (Russia 1): 2nd Place (+8 =2 –1). Six time Olympiad Champions post-USSR, but have not won since 2002.

Yes, we all know that the USSR and Russia have dominated the Olympiad for many years, but recently they haven’t had it all their own way. A couple of disappointing showings in 2006 and 2008 sandwiched between two second places mean they are in the midst of a ten-year drought. Russia have strengthened their team by utilising the services of ex-Ukranian Sergey Karjakin for the first time. Sadly Alexander Morozevich has been unable to take part in this year’s competition due to ill health. A withdrawal that might have seriously hampered most teams simply allows Russia to bring in another 2730+ player into the squad. Just remember there is no room in this team for Peter Svidler or Ian Nepomniatchi! Despite a poor fifth place at last year’s European Team Championships, it will be a surprise if they do not win the gold medal at this year’s Olympiad.


Seed: 2, Average Rating: 2719, Members: Vasily Ivanchuk (2764), Ruslan Ponomariov (2726), Alexander Moiseenko (2711), Andriy Volokitin (2704), Pavel Eljanov (2693). 2010 Olympiad: Winners (+8 =3 –0). Out of 10 appearances, they have won the Olympiad twice.

Ukraine return as the defending Champions thanks to Peter Svidler’s shock defeat with white against Spain’s Ivan Salgado Lopez in the final round in 2010. Andriy Volokitin is the only new addition replacing Zahar Efimenko. Ivanchuk is one of the most unpredictable players at the top level, and Ponomariov is known to be a bit streaky as well. This can lead to either the sublime or the ridiculous! Hopefully the Ukraine will not collapse like they did at the 2011 European Championships where they finished a dismal 15th place. Look for Pavel Eljanov to score highly on Board 5.


Seed: 3, Average Rating: 2711, Members: Levon Aronian (2825), Sergei Movsesian (2695), Vladimir Akopian (2697), Gabriel Sargissian (2679), Tigran Petrosian (2657). 2010 Olympiad: 7th Place (+7 =2 –2). Armenia won the 2006 and 2008 Olympiads.

In recent years Armenia have been the perennial overachievers – a solid squad and great team spirit has led them to perfomances far above their seeding. However with Levon Aronian scaling the dizzy heights of the 2800 club, Armenia can no longer be considered underdogs. Aronian is the highest rated player at this year’s tournament while Movsesian, Akopian and Sargissian all lose very few games. Petrosian will likely be used in situations where the team feel that a win is required from Board 4 with either colour.


Seed: 4, Average Rating: 2701, Members: Peter Leko (2730), Zoltan Almasi (2713), Judit Polgar (2709), Ferenc Berkes (2685), Csaba Balogh (2668), 2010 Olympiad: 4th Place (+8 =1 –2). Won the first two Olympiads in 1927 and 1928 headed by Geza Maroczy. Also won in 1978.

Hungary have a strong chess history and their tradition of producing strong players continues to the present day. Peter Leko was one game away from becoming World Champion and all the top players fear his ability, even if his personal life might have took some of the edge from his game. Zoltan Almasi and the best female player of all time, Judit Polgar, will be looking to mix it up to fight for victories with their combative styles on the middle boards. Hungary will be satisfied with a medal to add to their Bronze medal obtained at last year’s European Team Championship.


Seed: 5, Average Rating: 2695, Members: Teimour Radjabov (2784), Vugar Gashimov (2737), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2726), Eltaj Safarli (2620), Gadir Guseynov (2609). 2010 Olympiad: 12th Place (+6 =3 –2). Have participated in 8 Olympiads with a highest finish of 6th place in 2008.

If Armenia can be described as perennial over-achievers, then their fierce rivals Azerbaijan are the perennial under-achievers. However this year I think they will perform very strongly. Teimour Radjabov seems to have found an extra dimension to his game in the last 18 months or so while Vugar Gashimov has had experience of mixing it in elite tournaments which will have only helped his play. Shak Mamedyarov might throw the odd tantrum and not be everybody’s favourite player, but he has a big talent for chess! Rauf Mamedov has not found himself on the team this year so Eltaj Safarli and Gadir Guseynov will be required to perform well on the lower boards. Azerbaijan will be looking to carry their European Team Championship form (1st in 2009, 2nd in 2011) to Istanbul.


Seed: 6, Average Rating: 2693, Members: Wang Hao (2738), Li Chao (2703), Wang Yue (2690), Ding Liren (2679), Bu Xiangzhi (2656). 2010 Olympiad: 5th Place (+7 =2 –2). Finished 2nd in 2006, when Wang Yue won the Board 4 Gold Medal.

The highest seeded non-European team, China will be looking for a strong showing in Istanbul. China have had a lot of strong players in the last ten years, but nobody has yet made it to the elite level. However Wang Hao recently won the Biel Super-GM tournament ahead of Magnus Carlsen which included two wins over American Board 1, Hikaru Nakamura so will come into the tournament full of confidence. However the rest of the team are known for having up and down performances. All the players have played a lot of chess recently. Ding Liren has played 60 standard games and 35 quickplay games since May. For their sake I hope they aren’t burned out before the competition even starts.


Seed: 7, Average Rating: 2681, Members: Hikaru Nakamura (2778), Gata Kamsky (2744), Alexander Onischuk (2666), Varuzhan Akobian (2617), Ray Robson (2601). 2010 Olympiad: 9th place (+7 =2 –2). Five time Olympiad Champions, including four consecutive triumphs in the 1930s with players such as Kashdan, Fine and Marshall.

The USA is another country steeped in chess history and looking to return to former glories. Hikaru Nakamura is trying to lead that charge, his transition from Smallville the ICC hack-attack blitzer to elite Super-GM has been seamless, highlighted by his victory at Wijk Aan Zee in 2011 and becoming US Champion for the third time earlier this year. He is joined by an experienced team including Candidate Gata Kamsky with the added surprise of young Ray Robson who might score some surprises on the lower boards.


Seed: 9, Average Rating: 2662, Members: Boris Gelfand (2727), Emil Sutovsky (2687), Maxim Rodshtein (2642), Evegeny Postny (2651), Boris Avrukh (2605). 2010 Olympiad: 3rd Place (+7 =3 –1). Finished 2nd in 2008 and 3rd in 2010, their only 2 medals in 31 Olympiad apperances.

Israel were the shock of 2010's Olympiad, finishing with the Bronze medal against all expectations despite their amazing silver medal in 2008. The moral of this story is – never write off Israel! Their team is full of experience and know-how and no-one exemplifies this better than World Championship Challenger Boris Gelfand. Gelfand demonstrated superb preparation to limit the chances of Vishy Anand, one of the greatest players of all time and will be a tough opponent to beat for any of the top boards.


Seed: 14, Average Rating: 2651, Members: Michael Adams (2723), Gawain Jones (2655), Nigel Short (2704), David Howell (2620), Nicholas Pert (2555). 2010 Olympiad: 24th Place (+5 =4 –2). Nigel Short was part of the 1980s heyday when England won 3 silver medals and a bronze.

England have managed to assemble a strong team for this year’s Olympiad with the only notable absentee being the world’s strongest amateur, Luke McShane, whose work commitments enforce his absence from the Olympiad. England have also made an interesting decision to put the recently crowned British Champion Gawain Jones ahead of former world Championship Challenger Nigel Short. Short has spoken of his lack of desire to play super-GMs at this stage in his career and I am sure that Jones will seize upon his chance to play some very strong players on Board 2. England will be hoping to improve on their below-par showings in the last few big team tournaments.


Seed: 33, Average Rating: 2542, Members: Dragan Solak (2586), Alexander Ipatov (2561), Baris Esen (2568), Mustafa Yilmaz (2536), Emre Can (2461). 2010 Olympiad: 45th Place (+6 =1 –4). Suat Atalik won a Board 1 Bronze medal in 1988 with 7½/10.

Turkey will be hoping that the home support will propel them to their highest ever Olympiad finish – they achieved 33rd place in 1968. Serbian-born Dragan Solak will be playing for Turkey for the first time. Some of you may recognise the name Alexander Ipatov, the Ukranian-born grandmaster recently became the World Junior Champion, joining the likes of Garry Kasparov, Vishy Anand, Levon Aronian, Anatoly Karpov and Boris Spassky. Also keep an eye out for Turkey’s two other teams, Turkey 2016 and Turkey 2023 which feature teams with an average age of 15.8 and 8.2(!) years respectively.

– Source: Yorkshire Chess. We will bring you a preview of the Women's Section shortly –

Schedule of the Olympiad with Playchess commentators

There will be live commentary of the most interesting games on Playchess.com, beginning around half an hour after the games have started

27 August 2012 Arrival, Opening
Playchess commentary
28 August 2012 15.00 1st Round
29 August 2012 15.00 2nd Round
Daniel King
30 August 2012 15.00 3rd Round
Valery Lilov
31 August 2012 15.00 4th Round
Daniel King
1 September 2012 15.00 5th Round
Lawrence Trent
2 September 2012   Free Day
3 September 2012 15.00 6th Round
Daniel King
4 September 2012 15.00 7th Round
Yasser Seirawan
5 September 2012 15.00 8th Round
Daniel King
6 September 2012 15.00 9th Round
Yasser Seirawan
7 September 2012 15.00 10th Round
Yasser Seirawan
8 September 2012   Free Day
9 September 2011 11.00 11th Round, Closing
Daniel King
10 September 2011 Departure

Some hours after the end of each round we will be posting video summaries by Daniel King on our news page. If possible they will appear on the same night, otherwise early the next morning. We also expect best-game video commentary from Andrew Martin.

Pre-Olympiad reports

Kramnik and Klitschko: heavyweight preparation
25.08.2012 – The chess Olympiad starts on Monday, the teams will be swarming into Istanbul from their various training camps. One of the players had a somewhat unusual session: Vladimir Kramnik spent some days in Austria with his old friend and WBA Heavyweight Boxing Champion Vitali Klitschko, who himself was preparing for a tough match. We bring you a photo report of the unusual training session.

2012 Istanbul Chess Olympiad preview
21.08.2012 – After the London 2012 Olympics, in which we saw a number of records fall with participants from 204 nations, the upcoming Chess Olympiad in Istanbul, Turkey, should be no less impressive. Players hailing from over 160 countries are expected. The official website is already up with a list of the many teams and their makeups, and expect to enjoy photos and videos as well. Here is a preview.

Istanbul Chess Olympiad – Turkish teams youngest ever
20.06.2012 – At a Chess Olympiad the host nation has the right to field three teams. Typically the third team will have 2500+ GMs. Not so in Istanbul, where the Turkish Chess Federation is giving youngsters a chance. The average age in the third Open Category team is – 8.2 years! They may get clobbered by the likes of Morozevich and Grischuk in the first round, but watch them playing lesser countries.
Chess Olympiad in Istanbul – officials from seven countries banned
09.06.2012 – At a recent FIDE meeting the Turkish Chess Federation, which is host to the 40th Chess Olympiad, was given a list of arbiters for the event. TCF President Ali Nihat Yazici rejected any officials from seven countries – England, France, Georgia, Germany, Switzerland, Ukraine and the USA – for supporting court cases against FIDE and causing financial damage. The affected federations have protested.
Chess Olympiad in Istanbul – official web site up
06.04.2012 – The 40th Chess Olympiad is scheduled to take place in the Turkish metropole of Istanbul, from August 27 to September 10th, 2012. With just over four months to go the national federations will have to make haste with the arrangements. The official web site, launched this week, provides information on rules, travel and accommodation. Details, contacts, videos.

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