2012 Chess Olympiad – Preview

2012 Chess Olympiad – Preview

Istanbul-2012

Links to round-by-round Reports:

Round 1     Round 2     Round 3     Round 4     Round 5     Round 6     Round 7     Round 8     Round 9     Round 10     Round 11    

Yorkshirechess.org is proud to announce that we will be providing daily coverage of 2012 Olympiad taking place in Istanbul, Turkey which starts with the Opening Ceremony on Monday 27th August and finishes on Monday 10th September. We will be keeping track of all the British participants and their performances at the premier international team competition.

For further high-quality coverage of the top boards of the Olympiad including pictures, annotated games and interviews, it is well worth visiting ChessBase News, while Mark Crowther’s TWIC will also be providing daily coverage and full results.

ChessBase’s Olympiad Preview

Rupert Jones’ diary from Istanbul will be updated at the Fantasy Chess Olympiad website.

So to kick things off, here is our Preview of both the Open and Women’s Olympiads with a look at the top teams as well as those from the United Kingdom!

Open

Ukraine

Ukraine

  • 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.

Russia

Russia

  • 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)
  • 6-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 2nd places mean they are in the midst of a 10-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 5th place at last year’s European Team Championships, it will be a surprise if they do not win the gold medal this year’s Olympiad.

Armenia

armenia

  • 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.

Hungary

hungary

  • 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.

Azerbaijan

azerbaijan

  • 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.

China

china

  • 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.

USA

USA

  • 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)
  • 5-time Olympiad Champions, including 4 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.

Israel

israel

  • 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.

Turkey

turkey

  • 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.

England

england

  • 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 who’s 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.

Scotland

scotland

  • Seed: 58
  • Average Rating: 2398
  • Members: Colin McNab (2445), Ketevan Arakhamia-Grant (2416), John Shaw (2424), Alan Tate (2346), Graham Morrison (2360)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 83rd Place (+5 =1 -5)
  • Have competed in Olympiads from as far back as 1933. Andrew Muir won the Board 5 Gold Medal in 1998.

Scotland send the same team that went to Khanty-Mansiysk with the exception of Alan Tate replacing Stephen Burns-Mannion. Unfortunately Scotland are missing the services of Jonathan Rowson, Jacob Aagaard and recent convert Matthew Turner. Of course the Swiss system leads to relatively random finishing positions in the middle of the pack, but I’m sure Scotland will be looking to match or exceed 2010’s 50% score.

Wales

wales

  • Seed: 88
  • Average Rating: 2248
  • Members: Richard Jones (2391), Richard Dineley (2264), Tim Kett (2224), Iolo Jones (2250), Thomas Brown (2113)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 123rd Place (+4 =0 -7)
  • Iolo Jones was involved in the 1976 team headed by George Botterill that finished in 14th place.

Wales will be looking to improve on last year’s lowly finishing position with an experienced team, many of whom have represented Wales at many previous Olympiads and will not be overawed by the occasion.

There is plenty of other British interest at this year’s Olympiad. Teams from the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey have sent teams since 1996 and this year is no exception. Peter Kirby represents Guernsey and was until last year a resident of Yorkshire and some of White Rose’s squad will also be in participation. Nic Croad will be playing on Board 2 for New Zealand and Rupert Jones will be playing on Board 4 for Papua New Guniea. British Ex-pat Nick Faulks will once again be representing Bermuda on Board 1.

Women

Russia

Russia

  • Seed: 1
  • Average Rating: 2500
  • Members: Tatiana Kosintseva (2530), Valentina Gunina (2533), Nadezhda Kosintseva (2516), Alexandra Kosteniuk (2472), Natalia Pogonina (2447)
  • 2010 Olympiad (Russia 1): 1st Place (+11 =0 -0)
  • Last year was Russia’s first ever Olympiad triumph (Post-USSR)

Russia truly dominated last year’s Olympiad with a perfect score and will be looking for similar success this year. To underline their dominance, the Tatiana and Nadezhda Kosinteva won individual Gold medals on boards 1 and 2 respectively. Russia bring back four of the 2010 squad with Natalia Pogonina replacing Alisa Galliamova. Trying to predict Women’s chess results is notoriously difficult but all of Russia’s players have vast experience and talent and will be the team to beat.

China

china

  • Seed: 2
  • Average Rating: 2494
  • Members: Hou Yifan (2623), Zhao Xue (2549), Ju Wenjun (2529), Huang Qian (2417), Ding Yixin (2353)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 2nd Place (+9 =2 -2)
  • Won 4 consecutive Olympiads from 1998-2004

China will likely be Russia’s main challengers and can trot out 18 year old Women’s World Champion Hou Yifan on Board 1. They will need a strong performance from the top boards as their bottom boards are lower-rated than most of their rivals. China also bring back four of their squad from Khanty-Mansiysk with Ding Yixin replacing Wang Yu. Much like the men’s team, all the women have been playing a lot of chess recently, four of the squad have played over 60 games since May (Ju Wenjun has “only” played 50 games).

Georgia

georgia

  • Seed: 3
  • Average Rating: 2494
  • Members: Nana Dzagnidze (2547), Bela Kohtenashvili (2500), Lela Javankhishvili (2449), Nino Khurtsidze (2456), Nino Batsiashvili (2436)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 3rd Place (+7 =2 -2)
  • Georgia won 3 consecutive Olympiads from 1992-1996 headed by the great Maia Chiburdanidze with the squad including Scotland’s Ketevan Arakhmia-Grant.

A lot of you will be familiar with Georgia’s long tradition with strong female chess players, particularly Nona Gaprindashvili and Maya Chiburdanidze who monopolised the Women’s World Championship for 30 consecutive years. Georgia are always strong medal contenders and will be looking for more success this year with a solid if unspectacular line-up.

Ukraine

Ukraine

  • Seed: 4
  • Average Rating: 2460
  • Members: Kateryna Lahno (2546), Maria Muzychuk (2456), Anna Ushenina (2454), Natalia Zhukova (2442), Inna Yanovska (2404)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 9th Place (+7 =1 -3)
  • Won the 2006 Turin Olympiad in dominant style.

The Ukraine have generally peformed well at Olympiads, with 2010 being a blot in the copybook. This squad are full of proven winners with all four of the 2006 Turin Olympiad Gold medallists representing Ukraine with Maria Muzychuk being the only addition to the 3-board team of 6 years ago. Look for Kateryna Lahno to continue her fine form from the final women’s Grand Prix event in Jermuk where she defeated Hou Yifan in fine style.

USA

USA

  • Seed: 5
  • Average Rating: 2402
  • Members: Anna Zatonskih (2510), Irina Krush (2464), Sabina Foisor (2364), Rusudan Goletani (2341), Tatev Ambrahamyan (2329)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 5th place (+7 =2 -2)
  • Competed in 22 out of the 24 Olympiads with a highest finish of 2nd place in 2004.

The USA will be looking to emulate their performance in last year’s Olympiad, it will be tough for them to medal with the strength of Russia, China and Georgia. None of the American squad were born in the USA (admittedly Krush’s family moved to America when she was 5) and one hopes that in future years that home-grown talent will perform well in the US Women’s team.

Turkey

turkey

  • Seed: 46
  • Average Rating: 2096
  • Members: Kubra Ozturk (2296), Betul Cemre Yildiz (2333), Emel Kaya (1992), Kardelen Cemhan (1941), Nezihe Ezgi Menzi (1916)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 38th Place (+6 =0 -5)
  • Turkey have played in every Olympiad since 1982.

Like the Open team, Turkey will be hoping to surpass their highest finish of 24th in the 2006 Olympiad. With famous Soviet coach Adrian Mikhalchishin at the helm, dramatic improvement has been seen with Yildiz defeating World Champion Hou Yifan with the Black pieces earlier this year in Kazan. However with three sub-2000 players on the bottom 3 boards, this task may be too much to ask. Turkey has also entered a Turkey 2016 and a Turkey 2023 with juniors in the same vein as the Open competition.

England

england

  • Seed: 39
  • Average Rating: 2131
  • Members: Anya Corke (2254), Maria Yurenok (2087), Sarah Hegarty (2120), Sabrina Chevannes (2090), Kanwal Bhatia (2103)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 21st Place (+6 =2 -3)
  • England have won one medal in their Olympiad history, a Silver in Haifa 1976.

Last time out England far peformed above their seeding with an excellent 21st place finish. However only 2 of that team are in the current squad and sadly 5-time British Champion Jovanka Houska is not among them. The squad are being captained by British Champion runner-up Stephen Gordon and will undoubtedly provide great advice and create a good atmosphere in the team!

Scotland

scotland

  • Seed: 84
  • Average Rating: 1839
  • Members: Heather Lang (2015), Ali Roy (1822), Rosemary Giulian (1918), Joy Durno (1863), Alice Lampard (1579)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 65th Place (+5 =1 -5)
  • Alison Coull won the Board 3 Bronze Medal for Scotland in the 1990 Novi Sad Olympiad.

Scotland hand Olympiad debuts to juniors Ali Roy and Alice Lampard who will hopefully imbibe the Olympiad atmosphere and learn a lot from the experience.

Wales

wales

  • Seed: 90
  • Average Rating: 1862*
  • Members: Olivia Smith (2010), Susan Blackburn (1963), Lynda Roberts (1933), Alyssa Wang (1541), Sandra Blackburn (N/A)
  • 2010 Olympiad: 123rd Place (+4 =0 -7)
  • Welsh players have won 3 board medals in their history – Jane Garwell and Deborah Cooper won Silver medals and Helen Clare Watkins has won a Bronze medal.

Olivia Smith and Susan Blackburn have played several Olympiads before and will be good choices for the top two boards. It will be interesting to see how 12 year old Alyssa Wang performs in her first Olympiad.


Features editor for the Yorkshire Chess website. I collate and write atricles about all the latest chess activities in Yorkshire and beyond. I've also been known to shove some pieces myself from time to time!

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20 Responses to “2012 Chess Olympiad – Preview”

  1. V.J.Brahmaiah

    Aug 26. 2012

    I with Anand and Carlson missing the event is a little dull.
    CANNOT DEVICE A SYSTEM TO AVOID A WEAK PLAYER PLAYING WORLD CHAM0IONS.After all the champions have to gaurd their ELO RATINGS.

    Reply to this comment
    • Andy Bak

      Aug 27. 2012

      I hope that you won’t find the tournament too dull – there are still many exciting world class players turning out, including Aronian, Kramnik, Nakamura and Ivanchuk just to name a few!

      I don’t think any player would be that bothered about their Elo rating once they’ve become World Champion! Although I’m not sure why Anand doesn’t play in the Olympiad.

      Reply to this comment
  2. Kele Perkins

    Aug 26. 2012

    There is an error in the section about the US team. Hikaru Nakamura became US champion for the third time (not the first time) earlier this year. I believe his previous US titles were in 2005 and 2009.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Douglas Prestrud

    Aug 26. 2012

    Thank you for this good and enjoyable previiew. However, rather than merely describe Ivanchuk as ‘one of the most unpredictable,’ would it not have been better to mention that he led his team to victory last year as Board One Gold Medalist with a performance rating of 2890? And was it not worth mentioning that Emil Sutovsky led his team to a surprising third place, earning the Board Two Gold Medal with an even higher performance rating of 2895?

    Reply to this comment
    • Andy Bak

      Aug 27. 2012

      You’ve mentioned it for me!

      They were certainly superb performance by the individual players – it will be interesting if anyone can put together a 2900+ performance this year.

      Reply to this comment

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