The best ever chess opening ceremony!

by Sagar Shah
9/24/2018 – It was an opening ceremony like no other. So meticulously planned and so well executed. It was held at 9 p.m. and it was 45 kilometres away from the city of Batumi. Yet when the ceremony ended, no one was complaining. We bring you the entire detailed article with photos, videos and just about everything you wanted to know about this grand curtain raiser. Opening report from Batumi Olympiad 2018 in Georgia.

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The tremendous opening ceremony

I was born in a country where the most popular sport is Cricket! Yes, for Indians cricket is their religion! Naturally, I too was drawn towards the game, and its various facets. Even Test cricket — a match which lasts for nearly five days — was very interesting for me. I had fallen in love with the statistics, the commentary, the planning behind the scenes and the intricacies of the game. However, there was one question that always used to come to my mind. Even in the biggest of events, Cricket would have around 12-16 countries playing. Even in those, let's say 16 teams, five or six would be below par. Surely this wasn't a global sport.

I began playing chess when I was eleven and slowly my passion for cricket began to get usurped by chess. I began to fall in love with the sport of chess and as that happened I found many parallels between chess and cricket. Complex rules, the deep strategies, the commentary by experts which can only be understood by people who grasped the game well and so on. But here there was something extra — chess, unlike cricket was played by over 180 countries around the world! I was truly mesmerized by this fact. Chess was a global sport and everyone kept saying that, but there was no way of verifying it. Even in the most popular tournaments I have been to like the World Juniors or the World Cup, I have seen around 60-65 countries participating. Where are these 180+ countries?

Well, this question was put to rest on September 23rd, 2018, when I attended the Opening Ceremony of the 43rd World Chess Olympiad. What a spectacle it was! Players of 189 countries sat in the Black Sea Arena, riveted to their seats witnessing the best ever opening performances seen in the history of chess! I, on the other hand, simply marveled at the fact that I was in the middle of all of this. I looked from my left to the right, I saw all the people who came from different countries like Papua New Guinea, Honduras, Macau, Madagascar etc. and said to myself, "I am proud to be a chess player!"

Most of the players arrived in Batumi on September 23rd. They all settled in, but in the evening they once again had to travel 45 kilometres to attend the opening ceremony? Why 45 kilometres? And why was the ceremony kept at 9 p.m.? Well, all of these questions were about to be answered as we neared the venue of the opening ceremony. Shekvetili is a village and sea resort in Ozurgeti Municipality, Guria, Georgia, located on the eastern Black Sea coast, at the mouth of the Natanebi river. Black Sea Arena is an indoor arena located on the coast of the Black Sea in Shekvetili.

The venue Black Sea Arena, is designed by the architects from the German company Drei Architekten, is the largest open concert hall in the Caucasus. The auditorium has a capacity of 10,000 seats in circular grandstands. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It was packed to the capacity! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The Georgians take their chess very seriously and also their image in the chess world. Players like Nona Gaprindashvili and Maia Chiburdanidze with their incessant efforts have established Georgia on the map of the chess world as one of the leading countries in women's chess.

Can you guess who these two great players are? | Photo: Amruta Mokal

This was the Georgians' opportunity to show the world how they deeply respect the game of chess. And they did that by putting up one of the grandest opening ceremonies ever witnessed in the history of chess! If you look at the brochure that they have produced for the opening ceremony you realize that over 1,000 people have worked to make this possible. You have executive producers, stage director, musical director, art director and so on, just like a movie! The show lasted for nearly two hours and ended with firecrackers and Georgian chess officials hugging each other for a job well done. 

The stage was set with a chess board in the Black Sea Arena! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The chess-themed dances were executed with perfection | Photo: Amruta Mokal

That's quite a soundboard — seriously professional production quality | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The chess flavour was maintained throughout most of the dances | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The chess story depicting how chess entered Georgia via India | Photo: Amruta Mokal

So many colours, excitement and enthusiasm! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The Opening Ceremony united the representatives of classical and modern cultures. Especially for the Opening Ceremony of the Olympiad — Maestro Nikoloz Rachveli and DJ Kordzi created music, Nina Ananiashvili choreographed a ballet performance and the Sukhishvili ensemble presented the new dance, choreographed by Iliko Sukhishvili. 

On the stage you saw famous Georgian singer Nino Katamadze, Georgian baritone Lado Ataneli, singers Liza Bagrationi, Giorgi Ushikishvili, violist Giorgi Tsagareli, the indie rock band Nika Kocharov & Young Georgian Lolitaz, the folklore ensemble Lashari, the Batumi cappella, the Evgeni Mikeladze State Symphony Orchestra directed by Nikoloz Rachveli and the Sukhishvili Georgian National Ballet. Distinguished Georgian writer Aka Morchiladze was the author of the text for the Opening Ceremony booklet.

You could see that the performers really enjoyed what they were doing and this showed in their dance | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Now that's what we call great effort! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Fireworks at the end of the great show! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Relive the entire show

The live show was broadcast by 1TV.GE on the Batumi Chess Youtube Channel

Georgios Makropolous welcomed all the players on behalf of FIDE | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The fans of great Shakh keep growing by the number as he shows one great performance after another! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Two old friends sitting together and enjoying the show — Nigel Short and Vishy Anand! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The drawing of lots for the open section was done by Vishy Anand and in the women's section by Nana Dzagnidze. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It was done in a unique style with Anand and Dzagnidze having to open a shell and a white or a black pearl would determine the colour of the board one in each section! Later, both Vishy and Nana were allowed to take home that pearl!

Zurab Azmaiparshvili and his wife enjoying the show for which they have worked so hard | Photo: Sagar Shah

President of Georgian Chess Federation George Giogardze | Photo: Sagar Shah

The Russian support team Vladimir Barsky, Eteri Kublashvili and Andrey Filatov | Photo: Sagar Shah

The coaches of Indian team R.B. Ramesh and Jacob Aagaard! Check out a short interview with them. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The Chinese women's team! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The top Chinese men: Li Chao, Wei Yi and Bu Xiangzhi! | Photo: Sagar Shah

Olga Girya and Valentina Gunina didn't have to be asked twice to smile! | Photo: Sagar Shah

Can the coaches of Russia ensure them a double gold — Sergei Rublevsky, Vladimir Potkin and Evegeniy Najer | Photo: Sagar Shah

For so many Olympiad is an opportunity to meet their friends from different corners of the world! | Photo: Niklesh Jain

The woman who changed the chess scene in the world — GM Nona Gaprindashvili. She was the first woman in the world to win the GM title. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

This scene will always be etched in my memory as the night when the greatest number of chess players and spectators gathered under one roof and were given a great time! | Photo: Niklesh Jain


189 countries! Check out the video to know all of them!

What did the players think about the opening ceremony?

Pairings for round one in open section

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
USA United States of America 0 0   :   0 0 Panama PAN
UGA Uganda 0 0   :   0 0 Russia RUS
CHN China 0 0   :   0 0 Morocco MAR
IND India 0 0   :   0 0 El Salvador ESA
ZAM Zambia 0 0   :   0 0 Ukraine UKR
FRA France 0 0   :   0 0 Yemen YEM
JPN Japan 0 0   :   0 0 Armenia ARM
ENG England 0 0   :   0 0 Angola ANG
BOL Bolivia 0 0   :   0 0 Israel ISR
POL Poland 0 0   :   0 0 Guatemala GUA

Complete pairings

Pairings for round one in women's section

Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
CRC Costa Rica 0 0   :   0 0 Russia RUS
UKR Ukraine 0 0   :   0 0 Monaco MNC
TJK Tajikistan 0 0   :   0 0 China CHN
GEO1 Georgia 1 0 0   :   0 0 South Korea KOR
NZL New Zealand 0 0   :   0 0 India IND
FRA France 0 0   :   0 0 Albania ALB
GUA Guatemala 0 0   :   0 0 Poland POL
KAZ Kazakhstan 0 0   :   0 0 Singapore SGP
USA United States of America 0 0   :   0 0 Uruguay URU
JOR Jordan 0 0   :   0 0 Azerbaijan AZE

Complete pairings

Some high class annotations coming your way this Olympiad from the man who has acted as Anand's second to win multiple World Championship titles


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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