Olympiad Takes Off With Few Surprises | Update: VIDEO

Olympiad Takes Off With Few Surprises | Update: VIDEO

| 22 | Chess Event Coverage

The 41st Chess Olympiad took off on Saturday with few surprises and no real upsets in the team results. Many top players didn't play on the first day, including Magnus Carlsen, Levon Aronian, Vladimir Kramnik, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Boris Gelfand, Vassily Ivanchuk, and Veselin Topalov.

It's almost impossible to avoid, and a continual disappointment all the same: long queues before the entrance, and therefore a delayed start of the first round of an Olympiad. Chess players don't like to arrive early (even though there's often not much preparation to do for a first round), and it's hardly possible to have 2,000 people entering a building within 15 minutes if they all have to be checked by security.

Queueing to get in | Photo © Paul Truong

This time it's better than two years ago in Istanbul, as there are now five metal detecting security entrances instead of two.

The team of Madagascar being checked for... well, basically having a mobile phone or not.

Nonetheless, Chief Arbiter Takis Nikolopoulos had to delay the start of the round for about 20 minutes (15, he said himself, but it was more) and as a consequence, the zero-tolerance rule, where arriving a second late at the board means a loss, wasn't actually applied.

The results page still shows a number of matches that ended in 4-0 forfeits, as some teams didn't show up: Seychelles, Mali, Congo and Timor Leste in the open group and Syria, Turkmenistan and Lesotho in the women group. 

This means that these teams entered in time, but the organizers didn't hear about visa or travel issues until after they made the pairings. For example, the coach of Lesotho informed Mr. Nikolopoulos during the round that they had just arrived.

Teams that have arrived but didn't make it in time for the first round will simply be paired for the second.

“In Istanbul we even paired new teams up till round four,” Mr Nikolopoulos told “This is a chess festival, you know. No need to decline them.”

Update: a video with impressions of Tromsø, the opening ceremony and the first round:

And so, somewhere between 15:15 and 15:20, the first ceremonial move was executed by Norway's Minister of Culture, Thorhild Widvey, closely watched by FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and more than a dozen photographers and cameramen, because it all happened on Norway's top board!

The first move played at the Olympiad. | Photo © Paul Truong.

It was in fact the move 1.c4 for Simen Agdestein, since Magnus Carlsen was given a rest day immediately at the start. Carlsen took his status as top player literally by taking a hike up the mountain while his team members had to do the hard work:

As the local heros, the Norwegians were given a special spot among the top boards, who get extra space -- and extra attention. They're 14th seeded, but that's including Carlsen of course; today they weren't so impressive against Yemen, whom they only beat 2.5-1.5.

At the opening ceremony, Kjetil Lie joked that it was probably best for the team if he played as little as possible, but he surely wasn't expecting to lose against a 2254-player the next day!

Not the best start for Kjetil Lie. | Photo © Paul Truong .

As a result, the other two local teams, Norway 2 and Norway 3 (a host country is allowed to enter more teams) are placed higher in the standings after the first round, because they did win their matches 4-0!

With a focus on the Norwegian team, the Olympiad is being broadcast live by the national TV channel NRK, every day, for hours -- probably for the first time in history. It's just wonderful to see the professional studio and cameramen, and it means that the event, and chess in general, is taken very seriously in Norway.

The NRK studio: preparation about an hour before the start.

Next to the Norwegians, the top seeds could be seen: Russia. They played without Vladimir Kramnik, and so the line-up was Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi. Obviously they were way too strong for Jordan's top four. Grischuk scored the shortest win -- only sixteen moves:

On second board, Svidler won a pawn with a petite combinaison -- can you find it?

Spotted in the audience: father Garry Kasparov!

It didn't go this smoothly everywhere. Armenia's Sergei Movsesian defeated Japan's Shinya Kojima, but was completely lost for a number of moves. In time trouble, the strong Japanese FM, in fact, missed a mate in four and then a mate in three:

There were only two GM-vs.-GM games, in fact, in the open section, and also no upsets there: Algeria's GM Mohamed Haddouche (2508) lost to Hungary's GM Csaba Balogh (2637), and the Dutch top player GM Anish Giri (2745) beat Andorra's GM Oscar De La Riva Aguado (2523) -- rather smoothly; look at those killing bishops.

With mostly 4-0s in this first round, let's mention a few individual upsets. N
icaragua's Mariano Madrigal (an IM of 2156) beat Latvia's IM Toms Kantans (2496), Zimbabwe's IM Rodwell Makoto (2279) beat GM Enamul Hossain (2421) of Banglades, unrated Jean Louis Marckens of Haiti beat FM Sergio Duran Vega (2224) of Costa Rica, unrated Jonathan Molod of Guam beat Ghadimi Mohammed Reza (2172) of the International Chess Committee of the Deaf (ICCD) and Oman's unrated Amer Al Maashani beat Victor Isaac Michelen Rodriguez (2239) of the Dominican Republic.

Also in the women's section, the organizers had put Norway at the top, and also there it wasn't a great success. The win against South Korea was only 3-1, because board one WIM Sheila Barth (2216) lost to Wang Chengjia (1989).

The top teams did what they had to do, with 4-0s for China against the International Braille Chess Association (IBCA), Russia against Jordan, and Ukraine against Luxembourg.

Kateryna Lagno played her first game for Russia on board one.

After the first round it looks like the organizers are doing a reasonable job. There certainly have been some issues, like extremely small hotel rooms for a number of players and journalists, arbiters that have to stay 70km away from the city, and a slightly cramped playing hall and the queue at the entrance, but all this seems to be the result of one thing: there are many more participants than expected.

“It's a record-breaking Olympiad. 175 nations are participating, around 310 teams, and we also have a Congress with a record number of attending people,” Administrative Director Børge Robertsen told “We had a dialogue with FIDE all the way and I think they were also surprised about the amount of people coming to Tromsø. All our expectations have been exceeded and that has led to the challenges we face.”

Mr. Robertsen added that 34 private homes are now also used, to accommodate all the people. For the teams that were missing in round one it would be nice if they can still make it to Tromsø, but then more private homes might have to open their doors. For now, the pairings for the second round can be found here.

This report included a number of tweets, but if you want to read more, don't miss the first installment on the Chess in Tweets blog!

The official website is here, and the Olympiad is also on TwitterFacebook, and Instagram. will be transmitting a number of top games every round in Live Chess, and we'll be hosting a daily show on reporter Peter Doggers will be present in Tromsø for on-the-spot (video) reports, so stay tuned!

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