Nearly Smooth Sailing For Top Seeds In Day Of Zugzwangs
Former World Champion Viswanathan Anand makes the ceremonial first move on GM Anna Muzychuk's board. Photo: Maria Emelianova/

Nearly Smooth Sailing For Top Seeds In Day Of Zugzwangs

| 39 | Chess Event Coverage

India, Spain, Poland, Azerbaijan, Netherlands, Ukraine, Germany, England, India-2, Armenia, Iran, Uzbekistan, India-3, and Croatia were the top teams to score clean 4-0 victories in the first round, while the top-seeded U.S. and third-seeded Norway dropped half points to score 3.5-0.5 victories over less-fancied rivals in the first round of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad held in Mahabalipuram, on the outskirts of Chennai, India.

Most of the top teams, including India, Ukraine, Georgia, Poland, France, Azerbaijan, the U.S, Germany, Armenia, Kazakhstan, and India-2, fared better in the 44th FIDE Women's Chess Olympiad, scoring 4-0 victories in the first round.

How to watch the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad

You can watch the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad and FIDE Women's Chess Olympiad live on and on our Twitch channel, or catch all of our live broadcasts on

You can also keep up with all the details of both events on our live events platform by following the respective links: 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad | 44th FIDE Women's Chess Olympiad.

The Olympiad Flavor

A Chess Olympiad is unlike any other tournament in the world, as not all the teams look forward to victories and medal performances. It is a truly global event with the confluence of contrasting cultures, races, and languages. Though the game is played with all sincerity over the board (probably!), many of the visiting men and women look forward to the event as a biennial gala, to spread and revive friendships, and soak in the local ambiance.

Wesley So reunites with players from his country of birth, the Philippines. Photo: Maria Emelianova.
The Angola team in colorful outfits. Photo: FIDE/Lennart Ootes.
Ian Wilkinson of Jamaica with GM Bachar Kouatly of France at the beginning of the match between their countries. Photo: FIDE/Mark Livshitz.

But as the hour of the match approaches, the game takes precedence, and matches begin to be fought in all their seriousness.

Syria vs. Poland underway. Photo: FIDE/Lennart Ootes.

Open Section

GM Levon Aronian, who now represents the U.S. for the first time ever in an over-the-board team event, had quite a tense affair on the top board. GM Fabiano Caruana rested himself for the match on the top board.

Playing against an opponent who is lesser rated by 460 Elo points, Aronian decided to employ risky play from the middlegame:

Otherwise, the U.S won easily on the other boards, with a particularly impressive positional play by GM Sam Shankland on the fourth board—Zugzwang 1:

Host India made clinical work of their rivals Zimbabwe, where GM Vidit Gujrathi squeezed out a win in a nice rook ending on the top board—Zugzwang 2:

Somewhere in this human mass is Vidit Gujrathi, on whose game the inauguration ceremony was performed by the visiting Minister of Sports for the Government of India, Anuraj Thakur. Photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage.

All the enthusiasm of the Indian media, and the resultant excitement felt through the visuals, made GM Arturs Neiksans exclaim in's commentary: "I wish I was there - looks really great!" And the excitement was furthered by a notch in an impressive game of the day played by the eternally creative GM Alexei Shirov:

Fire on the board forever, Alexei Shirov. Photo: FIDE/Lennart Ootes.

Shirov played an attractive game with White, sacrificing a piece to catch his opponent's king in the center, and finished off with a pseudo queen sacrifice.

Standings After Round 1 | Open Section (Top 5)

Rk Fed Country Match Points
1 India 4
2 Spain 4
3 Poland 4
4 Azerbaijan 4
5 Netherlands 4

See full results here

Women's Section

Compared to the open section, the women's section was a more balanced affair for the top-seeded teams. The top board for India, GM Humpy Koneru, played one of the best games of the day with a beautiful tactical vision, making GM Peter Svidler come out with an emotional gush at the crucial moment of the game: "Oh! This is good—this is incredibly good!"

Humpy Koneru: "Oh! this is good—this is incredibly good!" Photo: Maria Emelianova.

IM Tania Sachdev proved to be the best fighter of the day for India, squeezing a win out of a long, practical ending where she was locked in a fixed pawn structure game with two bishops against Rukshona Saidova of Tajikistan. Svidler once again came up with a memorable reaction: "This is the kind of position where Magnus Carlsen will squeeze a win from a 2600!" Zugzwang 3:

Tania Sachdev doing a Magnus Carlsen on Rukshona Saidova. Photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage.

In another noteworthy game of the day, IM Meri Arabidze of Georgia conducted an imaginative kingside attack:

Standings After Round 1 | Women's Section (Top 5)

Rk Fed Country Match Points
1 India 4
2 Ukraine 4
3 Georgia 4
4 Poland 4
5 France 4

See full results here.

The 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad and Women's Chess Olympiad are over-the-board team events where national chess federations compete in classical games for gold medals, trophies, and the title of strongest chess nation in the world. The event consists of an 11-round Swiss tournament where each player from a national team plays against another player from the opposing national team. Teams receive "game points" for winning or drawing games and "match points" for winning or drawing a match. Teams with the most match points for each section become the champions of their section, with a third award going for the team with the most points from both sections combined.

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