I'm sure that most of you are following the action but if not this is probably a good place to start. We're almost at the halfway point of the tournament, with 6 more rounds to go. Two teams lead at this point with a perfect 5 out of 5. Russia the team with the most chess history and historically best results and the Armenian squad that has dominated in recent years. I thought that this would be the most interesting and important match of the Olympiad so I'll try to do my predictions of what will happen.
On board 1 we will almost certainly see Kramnik-Aronian. Aronian looks to be in great form after dismantling Ukraine's Ivanchuk in the previous round.
Aronian thus far is a perfect 3-0 with White so far with wins over Ivanchuk and Vallejo Pons, but with Black against Kramnik next game I think it will be a different story.
Obviously, these two players have a lot of history between each other at the board. The problem that I see on this board is that realistically Aronian is Armenia's best chance at achieving a win in any match and against Kramnik with Black, a draw will be a good result for him. This is going to put a lot of pressure on the rest of his team.
Board 2 will likely see Movsesian-Grischuk. Movsesian does not seem to be in the greatest form, while Grischuk has been Russia's best performing player thus far with 4.5/5 on board 2 with a performance over 3000. Even with Black here I don't think Russia's chances are worse.
On board 3 we will have Karjakin with White against Akopian. With an advantage of almost 100 rating points Karjakin will be the match's biggest favorite and most likely decisive game. I would expect to see a Ruy Lopez which I do think will give Karjakin some decent winning chances but a Petroff would seem like a good surprise choice due to Karjakin's sub-par recent performances in that opening.
Board 4 is Armenia's best chance with Sargissian facing off against Tomashevsky. Tomashevsky has a slight rating advantage but I don't think that is relevant here. Sargissian is probably just as strong and could very well be Armenia's next best player behind Aronian. Tomashevsky boasts a winning record against Sargissian and won their individual matchup when Russia faced Armenia in the World Teams in 2010. Despite this I still think Sargissian has decent chances here. In Armenia's past successes they have had some of their lower boards perform above expectation and that is exactly what they need on this board.
Here is how the last game went. The game was a bit one-sided but I don't think there will be a repeat here.
My prediction is Russia 2.5-1.5 as well as a gold medal. If the match ends in a draw that boads very well for Armenia because Russia's tiebreaks at this point are not very good. If they can hold this match they will be the team to beat going into the last half of the tournament. Originally at the start of the tournament I thought Ukraine would have a good chance to finish well but the team that I think will most likely be contending with these two will be Azerbaijan. They are only have a point behind the leaders. Teimour Radjabov is having a stellar tournament and if he can keep performing at that level, they will have good chances.
Fellow fans of the Americans might be disappointed up until now with their 4/5 score but they are still certainly in the mix. Tomorrow will be a big day for all of these teams. You can watch coverage of the games here on chess.com/tv. There will be anaylsis of the critical games. If you are even remotely interested in what's going on here you should check it out. Hope to see you guys there!