The 44th Chess Olympiad underwent a rocky start even before the tournament commenced. Initially, Moscow, Russia was assigned as the host. But ever since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, FIDE decided to shift it elsewhere. The bid ultimately ended up with India. Hence, the 44th Olympiad is set to begin in Chennai on 28th July with all pomp and circumstances. However, change in venue is not the only implication of the Russian offensive on Ukraine. FIDE also suspended Russia from all its official events, including the Olympiad. Thus, a formidable force in the form of Russia has already been eliminated from the tournament.
Another powerful absence from the tournament would be China. This top contender for the medal opted out of the 44th Olympiad for reasons unknown. Ding Liren, world no 2 and the top Chinese player, had hinted at this on the side-lines of the recently concluded Candidates tournament. China has won two gold medals in Chess Olympiads, both within the last decade. Its absence from the 44th Chess Olympiad would certainly serve the other favorites well.
Which team stands to gain the most from the absence of these two Chess giants in the Olympiad? India is surely one of the teams who would like to capitalize on this situation. However, it is the United States that stands to gain the most out of this entire ordeal.
US Team (Open Category)
The top-seeded US team is the favorite to bag the Gold Medal at the 44th Chess Olympiad. With an average rating of 2771, the team is packed with few of the best players in the world. Following are the players in the US team for the 44th Chess Olympiad.
All the players of the American Team have a 2700+ rating, naturally putting them on the top of the favourites list. However, if the US team is so good, why does it even matter whether Russia and China are present or not? The US team has won one or the other medal in the last 4 Olympiads. US won the silver medal in the Online Olympiad of 2021. Before that, it won the Bronze in the Online Olympiad of 2020. It also won the Silver and the Gold medals in the Olympiads of 2018 and 2016 respectively.
What does China and Russia’s absence mean for the US?
Interestingly, in all these Olympiads, US was given a tough competition by either Russia or China only. Russia beat US in the 2021 and 2020 Online Olympiads to bag the Gold. Before that, China beat US to win the Gold medal in the 43rd Chess Olympiad, where Russia ended up with the Bronze after China and US. This pattern clearly demonstrates that Russia, China, and the US make up the Big Three of the contemporary chess world.
With Russia and China dropping out of the 44th Chess Olympiad, it is almost as if a red carpet has been rolled for the US to bag the Gold. There are no obvious results or thumb rules in any sport. Additionally, Chess is one of the most unpredictable games in the world, where even a 16-years-old kid can defeat a reigning World Champion in his prime. Thus, it is difficult to predict with absolute authority who the winner might or might not be.
However, it does seem likely that the US Team will stride through this edition of the Chess Olympiad. Although it might have to face some fierce competition from the second-seeded Azerbaijan, and the host India, who also look dangerous. Nevertheless, Chess experts are betting on the US to win the Olympiad. After all, we know how much Chess players and critics like to play the gambits. And the gambit that US might clinch the Gold is a pretty safe one, too.
This article is written by Bandish Oza. The author is a student, currently pursuing BA English Honors at Christ Deemed to be University, Bangalore.