Players of the stature of Magnus Carlsen have often been reluctant to play in Olympiads when their team is not among the favourites. They tend to end up playing weaker players and risk heavy ratings losses if something goes wrong. Carlsen himself suffered in the 2010 Olympiad in Khanty-Mansiysk, but so far in Tromsø that hasn’t been an issue. After meeting Radek Wojtaszek (2735) in his third game he came up against Armenian world no. 2 Levon Aronian (2805), and now he faces Italian world no. 3 Fabiano Caruana.
Or if you take live ratings into account (updated each day, not each month) it gets even stranger!
Among matches the top table pairing of Azerbaijan-Georgia sees a meeting of regional rivals and friends (Azerbaijan oil money funds the Georgian Chess Federation), while England-Armenia (Adams-Aronian on top board) is clearly a match to watch! Can the strong England side further damage the chances of Armenia defending their Olympiad title?
Intrigue elsewhere includes the top pairing of Uzbekistan-Russia, with Rustam Kasimdzhanov taking on Vladimir Kramnik. Both players are in fine form, with former FIDE World Champion Kasimdzhanov having defeated Arkadij Naiditsch and Vassily Ivanchuk in consecutive rounds. A win against Kramnik would take Rustam to his highest ever rating. After pointing this out to him yesterday at dinner... and quickly apologising for possibly jinxing him, Rustam replied, “There’s no such thing as jinxes”!
The top pairings are as follows:
Full pairings for both men and women, with handy clickable flags to jump straight to a particular team, can be found here.
The same that was said about the open event
applies to the women’s event, but even more so. Most matches have clear
favourites, and you perhaps have to scroll down to a match like India-Spain to
find a contest that’s close on paper (India are higher rated on two boards, but
lower rated on the other two). One big game to look out for is Anna Muzychuk
(Ukraine) vs. Antoaneta Stefanova (Bulgaria).