42nd Olympiad Opens As President Aliyev Attends

42nd Olympiad Opens As President Aliyev Attends

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
Sep 1, 2016, 11:59 PM |
37 | Chess Event Coverage

The 42nd Chess Olympiad was officially opened Thursday night at the National Gymnastics Arena in Baku, Azerbaijan. Among other dignitaries, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev attended the festivities.

This is the first time this city or nation has hosted the nearly century-old event.

Over the last few days chess players and officials have been arriving at Baku airport, most of them in time to be present at the opening ceremony, some of them in time to start their games. At the start of the first round it will be clear if all teams managed to get here.

Team Somalia. Photo: David Llada courtesy FIDE/Baku Chess.

As we saw at the recently concluded Summer Olympics, showing up at the last minute doesn't always doom a team. The Nigerian men's soccer team arrived in Brazil just a few hours before its first match, and went on to win the bronze.

Already at first arrival, the players will notice a first glimpse of the high level of organization in Baku. Numerous volunteers, mostly students, give a warm welcome and start asking you questions. Some of them will then refer you to another volunteer, asking the same questions, but everything in a very friendly atmosphere. You hardly have to wait until one of dozens of special chess-themed buses will then bring you to your hotel.

Even the British-style taxis that roam the streets of Baku are adorned with Olympiad-themed decals. Photo: Christine Vancott.

My partner here and Co-Director of Content for Chess.com Mike Klein was personally escorted from customs to baggage claim to the buses by local volunteer Zamiq Tehmezov, who taught him basic Azerbaijani greetings, took a selfie, and posted to Facebook. He has collected many photos of new friends on his Facebook timeline, from Togo to Iraq.

Escorted by police, the same buses brought hundreds of chess players to the National Gymnastics Arena, where a few minutes before 7 p.m. the opening ceremony started. Many journalists had left their cameras in their hotels, as advised by the organizers, because of the presence of President Aliyev. As it turned out, the ones who did bring a camera weren't stopped at all (including Klein, who simply arrived late and didn't "get the memo" as they say).

Photo: David Llada courtesy FIDE/Baku Chess.

It was no surprise that the ceremony consisted of a chess big show. The central area of the stage consisted of a slightly elevated podium, turned into a chessboard by lights from above. 

After a prologue referencing the theme "the sea: the source of life," the national anthem of Azerbaijan and the FIDE anthem were performed, followed by a speech by Yagub Eyyubov, the head of the organizing committee and the first deputy prime minister of Azerbaijan. Speaking in Azeri (translated on a screen above the stage), he noted that the Chess Olympiad is the third-largest competition in the world.

Photo: David Llada courtesy FIDE/Baku Chess.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov, the president of FIDE, also spoke. Then a video was shown where many famous chess players from around the world welcome everyone to Baku.

A second, impressive performance followed on the "chessboard," with a combination of folk and modern dance, further elevated by video art projected on the floor around and behind the stage. 

Photo: David Llada courtesy FIDE/Baku Chess.

The ceremony continued with the presentation of the 182 flags representing the different countries. Each time a new flag was shown on the screen, a percussionist appeared on stage with a nagara, a traditional Azerbaijani percussion instrument, with the same flag as his drumhead, and in most cases there was cheering from the crowd, with the latin countries making the most noise. Azerbaijan was shown the last, and got the biggest cheer.

Photo: David Llada courtesy FIDE/Baku Chess.

Anyone for scuba diving? Actually, Trinidad and Tobago are here! Photo: Mike Klein.

The lighting for the show was rock-concert quality. Photo: Mike Klein.

Bucking the usual unveiling of country flags, here's another view of the traditional nagara drums, each emblazoned with a country's flag. Photo: Mike Klein.

GM Maurice Ashley, coming to the Olympiad for the very first time, sat in front of the team he is coaching from Ivory Coast (he must prepare them in a combination of English and French). Ashley played a game with ChessCenter personality Alexandra Botez during the alphabetical presentation of federation: who could guess the next federation? Of course, some were easier than others -- after "Slovakia" was announced, they both rushed to chime in with "Slovenia!"

ChessCenter commentator WFM Alexandra Botez of Canada, also not too shabby at geography. Photo: Mike Klein.

The final part was the drawing of lots. Vladimir Kramnik and Hou Yifan appeared on stage as the highest-rated players of the open and women's section respectively. The results: the open section's board one has the black pieces in odd-numbered games, and the board one for the women's section will take White first. 

Photo: David Llada courtesy FIDE/Baku Chess.

After the ceremony the team captains were the ones who stayed in the arena for the traditional captains' meeting. There some technicalities were explained, such as that captains needed to enter their (fixed!) board order on a form, and that each was given a unique password to enter their teams each day in an online system. The strict anti-cheating regulations, mentioned in our preview, were also discussed.

GM Yasser Seirawan, captain of the U.S. Women's Team, tried to question some of these rules, but was unable to make headway at the meeting, or put some of the rules to a vote. He especially didn't like the idea of grown adults asking to use the restroom:

Pairings Open, Round 1 (Top 20 Boards)

No. SNo Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
1 87 Nigeria 0 0 : 0 0 Russia
2 2 United States of America 0 0 : 0 0 Andorra
3 89 Kosovo 0 0 : 0 0 China
4 4 Azerbaijan 1 0 0 : 0 0 Zimbabwe
5 5 Ukraine 0 0 : 0 0 Jordan
6 93 Iraq 0 0 : 0 0 Poland
7 8 France 0 0 : 0 0 Guatemala
8 95 Bolivia 0 0 : 0 0 India
9 10 Hungary 0 0 : 0 0 Japan
10 98 Morocco 0 0 : 0 0 Netherlands
11 12 Norway 0 0 : 0 0 Wales WLS
12 100 Thailand 0 0 : 0 0 Germany
13 14 Spain 0 0 : 0 0 Syria
14 102 Nicaragua 0 0 : 0 0 Cuba
15 16 Israel 0 0 : 0 0 Barbados
16 104 Malaysia 0 0 : 0 0 Czech Republic
17 18 Croatia 0 0 : 0 0 Lebanon
18 106 El Salvador 0 0 : 0 0 Turkey
19 20 Georgia 0 0 : 0 0 Myanmar
20 109 Pakistan 0 0 : 0 0 Latvia

Pairings Women, Round 1 (Top 20 Boards)

No. SNo Team Team Pts. MP Res. : Res. MP Pts. Team Team
1 1 China 0 0 : 0 0 Luxembourg
2 68 Portugal 0 0 : 0 0 Ukraine
3 3 Russia 0 0 : 0 0 Scotland SCO
4 83 Nicaragua 0 0 : 0 0 Azerbaijan 1
5 70 ICCD ICCD 0 0 : 0 0 Georgia
6 5 India 0 0 : 0 0 FYROM
7 72 Tajikistan 0 0 : 0 0 United States of America
8 7 Poland 0 0 : 0 0 Kyrgyzstan
9 74 Albania 0 0 : 0 0 Hungary
10 9 Bulgaria 0 0 : 0 0 Jamaica
11 11 Romania 0 0 : 0 0 Dominican Republic
12 78 Puerto Rico 0 0 : 0 0 Lithuania
13 13 Iran 0 0 : 0 0 Guatemala
14 81 Ireland 0 0 : 0 0 Spain
15 15 Mongolia 0 0 : 0 0 Finland
16 17 Turkey 0 0 : 0 0 Wales WLS
17 86 Panama 0 0 : 0 0 Israel
18 19 Vietnam 0 0 : 0 0 Morocco
19 87 Iraq 0 0 : 0 0 Italy
20 21 Netherlands 0 0 : 0 0 South Africa

More details can be found at the Chess-Results page.

The 42nd Chess Olympiad is ready for battle. Photo: Mike Klein.

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