2012 Chess Olympiad starts soon in Istanbul
The 2012 Summer Olympics have ended, but the 40th World Chess Olympiad is right around the corner, beginning Aug. 28 in Istanbul, Turkey. The United States will be a contender in both the open and women’s competition in this biennial event dating back to 1927.
Like the regular Olympics, the Chess Olympiad is truly a global spectacle, and this year 164 nations will be competing, from Afghanistan to Zambia. The chief rivals for medals will include not only global superpowers like the United States, China and Russia, but countries small in population but large in chess prowess such as Armenia, the gold medal winner in 2006 and 2008.
The event will have St. Louis connections as local Grandmaster Hikaru Nakamura, currently ranked No. 5 in the world, and Webster University freshman Grandmaster Ray Robson, will be competing.
A member of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center, which is sponsoring the team along with the Kasparov Chess Foundation and the U.S. Chess Federation, the 24-year-old Nakamura is the current U.S. national champion and has had an outstanding year to date. His present rating of 2784 puts him ahead of World Champion Viswanathan Anand in the world rankings.
At 17, Ray Robson will be making his debut on the American Olympiad team and becomes only the third player from St. Louis to represent his country in the most important chess competition outside of the World Championship. The third St. Louisan to make the team was James Allen Anderson back in 1928.
The five-player U.S. team (four starters and one reserve) is rounded out by Grandmasters Gata Kamsky of New York; Alex Onischuk of Lubbock, Texas; and Varuzhan Akobian of Los Angeles. Yury Shulman of Chicago will serve as the team’s coach.
Each round, the four-man team will face four players from opposing countries one on one. A win will earn one point and draws are worth a half point each. The team that scores 2 ½ points or more will win the round. There are 11 rounds in the competition, which will end on Sept. 9.
Chess is different from the regular Olympics in that women are allowed to compete in the open competition if selected. Hungary, a perennial contender for medals, fields Judit Polgar, the No. 1 rated woman in the world, on its team in the open competition.
2012 U.S. Women’s champion Irina Krush heads the women’s team, which also includes Anna Zatonskih, Rusa Goletiani, Tatev Abrahamyan and Sabina Foisor with Grandmaster Melik Khachian serving as coach and Michael Khodarkovsky as team captain.
John Donaldson, International Master, is U.S. team captain for the 40th World Chess Olympiad.