Australia Defeats Libya 4-0: Olympiad Captain's Recap
Australian Open Team (l to r): Captain Jack Rodgers, GM Bobby Cheng, GM Justin Tan, GM Temur Kuybokarov, GM Zong-Yuan Zhao, GM Anton Smirnov.

Australia Defeats Libya 4-0: Olympiad Captain's Recap

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Welcome to my latest blog where I'll be reporting live from Chennai, India where I'll be covering the escapades of Australia's Open team at the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad. It must be set first and foremost that the utmost thanks should be given to India and the Government of Tamil Nadu who have strung together a phenomenal playing venue and have energized an entire chess-loving city in just a few months (Olympiad preparations normally begin 18 months from the event).

This year, Australia has fielded an impressive team featuring five GMs for the first time and most notably, the rating difference between board 1 (2600) and board 5 (2513) is only 87 points! This makes Australia one of the most well-rounded teams for this year's event. 

The tight-knit Australian Open and Women's teams.

Seeded 29th, the Open team paired with Libya in round one and were one of the higher-rated teams to grace the secondary playing hall, a beautifully constructed venue designed and built specifically for the Olympiad in just four months. 

On paper, the first rounds of Olympiads can be fairly one-sided however any experienced team knows that ratings are not to be taken at face value and the truth is, every country comes to bleed for their country's pride. Libya was no different.

Australian teams are claiming their win was aided by a hotel yoga session with the famous GM Eugenio Torre of the Philippines.

Despite winning 4-0, the match proved to be a great introduction to the type of fighting team chess characteristic of the Olympiad and has certainly allowed the players to get their eye in. On board three GM Tan was the first player to score against a talented young Libyan, Omer Salah Fates, who played ambitiously but eventually lost a piece against Tan.

Soon after, GM Bobby Cheng secured a win with the White pieces on board two before GM Zong-Yuan Zhao's clinical conversion secured the successful result for Australia. Zhao, in his eighth Olympiad appearance for Australia, will be playing the reserve board for most of the event, and will no doubt prove a handy rock at the center of the Australian team to pick up points when needed.

Board one was the biggest challenge of the round with Osama Attalib (2033) showing great understanding against the Australian board two GM Temur Kuybokarov (GM Anton Smirnov was rested meaning players played up. As the sixth hour of playing approached the players reached an interesting rook ending and a sizeable crowd began to build in the spectator stand.

Ever the professional, Kuybokarov arrived at the board for his game well before most participants. Photo: Jack Rodgers

Local kids, feeling the importance of the game were asking me to organize to get Kuybokarov's autograph after the game and some were even content with the non-playing captain's autograph as well. Kuybokarov did not disappoint his fans and went on to clutch the game with precise endgame play.

The Australian women's team also won 4-0 against Timor-Leste and were all knife sharp in round one. Australia will play against Morocco in round two and are the favorites for this match however we are sure to face stiff resistance. Stayed tuned for round two of the Olympiad which you can watch live on's Twitch channel!