One of the biggest chess events, the 44th Chess Olympiad, took place in Chennai, India. The tournament started on the 28th of July and ended on the 9th of August. It took approximately two weeks. The olympiad had two sections: open and women. Each section consisted of eleven rounds.
The opening ceremony of the tournament was legendary. The videos and photographs that were taken at the ceremony were absolutely nothing but breathtaking (See "Collage 1"). it was quite clear with all the efforts and love from the fans that host country India they took this year’s olympiad seriously. And Indian chess fans showed their love for chess.
Every chess player and enjoyer was waiting for this prestigious chess feast to happen. Six top-10 players were playing for their countries: current World Champion Magnus Carlsen (Norway), world #5 Fabiano Caruana (USA), world #6 Levon Aronian (USA), world #7 Wesley So (USA), world #9 Anish Giri (Netherlands), and world #10 Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan). Since there were many elite players, maybe you have missed a few hidden gems or surprises. In this article, we will cover these topics.
Open Individual Performances:
Sixteen-years old grandmaster Gukesh D was at the center of the entire tournament. If you did not yet have a look at his games, they are must-sees. Gukesh played in all of eleven rounds and had a rating performance of 2867 by scoring 9/11. With his rating performance, he became the gold medalist on the first board. He had two draws and a loss. In his 10th game against young Uzbek grandmaster Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Gukesh had a winning position. He failed to notice the winning move and the game got closer to a draw. In the queen endgame, Nodirbek slowly improved his position and had a slightly better position and Gukesh blundered a piece. He was so disappointed by his mistake; that he could not believe it. He put his hands on his head until his opponent pointed out that his time was out. You can watch this unfortunate event through this link.
English grandmaster and chess commentator David Howell had an outstanding performance. He scored 7.5 out of 8 games and had a rating performance of 2898, the highest performance of the Olympiad. With his performance, he was able to earn the gold medal on the third board, which was his first gold medal in an Olympiad.
American super grandmaster and USA’s first board player Fabiano Caruana had a rough tournament. He could not show his true strength and scored 5 out of 10 games. He lost three and drew four games. Of course, these had deeper effects on him. Caruana lost 18.3 ELO. This loss of his will probably knock him off from the top 10 chess players list for a few months.
In my opinion, Caruana’s poor performance was due to current World Champion Carlsen’s withdrawal from the World Chess Championship. Caruana excessively prepared for the Candidates, and he was having a delightful tournament in the first half. In the second half, however, he lost his nerves and thought he had to win to stop Nepomniatchi from becoming first place. He started to lose and could not finish in the top 2. If he did, he would have played in the World Chess Championship. But, he did not want to believe that Carlsen would not defend his title. In his interviews, he was saying that Carlsen would play and defend his title. Caruana missed a significant opportunity. I believe he is still in shock about what had happened, and maybe even in denial.
Women Individual Performances:
Young Polish woman international master Oliwia Kiołbasa’s performance was marvelous. She was unbeatable for ten rounds. In the first nine rounds, she was nine out of nine. In the tenth round, she had a draw. In the last round, however, she lost against Ukrainian grandmaster Anna Ushenina. With her performance, Kiołbasa achieved an IM (International Master) norm. She also earned the gold medal on the third board and gained 26.3 ELO, which makes her cross the 2400 ELO.
Swedish well-experienced grandmaster Pia Cramling played in the Olympiad with her daughter, Anna Cramling, in her team. Pia has been playing in the Olympiads since the 1980s. In this Olympiad, she did not lose a single game on the first board. She scored nine and half out of eleven and had a rating performance of 2532. With her performance, she became the first place on the first board.
The Uzbek team, full of young talents, got the gold medal (See "Closing Ceremony"). They had the team spirit for sure. All of the members’ performances were outstanding. Nearly all of the members’ rating performances were around 2750. As individual players, Uzbek players got three medals: one silver medal on the first board by Nodirbek Abdusattorov, one bronze medal on the second board by Nodirbek Yakubboev, and a gold medal on the fourth board by Jakhongir Vakhidov.
USA and Norway teams did not get what they hoped for in the open section. The USA started the tournament as the favorite but finished the tournament in fifth place. The main reason the USA was not in the top three is Caruana’s poor performance. In round four of the olympiad, the USA paired with Uzbekistan. Their game ended in a draw because Caruana lost against Nodirbek. Other members of the team were able to show their strength. Especially, Wesley So showed amazing technique throughout his games; more specifically, in his game against Greek grandmaster Athanasios Mastrovasilis. On the 28th move, Wesley played g5 instead of taking the b4 pawn (See "Position"). This g5 move is an important endgame lesson.
The Norwegian team started ranking as the third team in the tournament, yet it finished as the fifty-ninth team. The fall is drastic. Their problem was more complicated than the USA’s. Most of their team members were not performing their best. One might even say that Carlsen was carrying the whole team by himself.
In the women’s section, even though the Indian team was the leader in most of the rounds and started the tournament as the favorite, the Ukrainian team became the champion without any losses (See "Ukrainian Team"). All of their lost points were due to their draws; they had four draws and seven wins. They were the only team that did not lose a single game throughout the Olympiad. Their team was solid. They had Muzychuk sisters on the first two boards. Grandmaster Mariya Muzychuk was the Women’s World Chess Champion in 2015, and her sister grandmaster Anna Muzychuk is among the top five female chess players in history. On the third board, the Ukrainian team had grandmaster Anna Ushenina, another Women’s World Chess Champion of 2012. With these experienced and well-known players, they were unbeatable.
This olympiad was extraordinary, as explored in this article. The USA and Norway, two fan favorite teams, had a disappointing tournament. Though, Indian prodigy Gukesh’s performance was on fire! Polish Woman International Master Oliwia Kiołbasa was nearly unstoppable. England’s David Howell finally got his first gold medal in an olympiad. Ukraine Women’s team gave its country news that was worth celebrating. As can be inferred from here, this tournament was one of the most exciting ones and is a must-see. Hopefully, after reading the article, you now have more information about this unbelievable tournament.
Closing Ceremony. FIDE Chess Olympiad, chessolympiad.fide.com/photos-closing-ceremony/#lg=1&slide=0. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.
"Collage 1." FIDE Chess Olympiad, chessolympiad.fide.com/photos-opening-ceremony/. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.
Position. chess24, chess24.com/en/watch/live-tournaments/olympiad-chennai-2022-open/9/4/3. Accessed 11 Aug. 2022.
Ukrainian Team. FIDE Chess Olympiad, chessolympiad.fide.com/photos-closing-ceremony/#lg=1&slide=7. Accessed 13 Aug. 2022.