The Olympiad kicked off on Thursday at the Baku Crystal Hall, with 176 nations, including seven debutants. Anti-cheating measures include bans on pens and mobiles, and random body checks using non-linear scanners to detect hidden devices. Move transmission is also delayed.
As always, Russia is the Open section favourite on paper. But the #1 team last took gold in 2002. Vladimir Kramnik, Sergei Karjakin, Alexander Grischuk, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Ian Nepomniachtchi will be hoping to end the drought though Karjakin will be more focussed on his upcoming title match. Magnus Carlsen is also playing though Norway (#17) is an unlikely, but not impossible, medal contender.
The Chinese (#3) will be hell bent on defending the gold won in 2014 at Tromso. The PRC is the only team apart from Russia with every player rated above 2700. The USA (#2) is also a major contender, given Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So backed up by Ray Robson and Sam Shankland.
Azerbaijan (#4) playing on home ground would have big medal hopes while Ukraine (#5) is a solid professional outfit despite the absence of resident genius, Vassyl Ivanchuk, who is playing a draughts tournament instead! Boris Gelfand (Israel) is also not playing. But the big, big omission is triple gold medallist, team Armenia, which isn't there because it's at war with Azerbaijan.
Bronze medallists, India (#11), face fierce competition. If Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi, Baskaran Adhiban, Sethuraman and Murali Karthikeyan are in form and blessed by a little luck, they could repeat. The Indians don't care about seeding. They were #18 at Tromso and they beat China in the 2016 Asians.
On the distaff side, China (#1) leads Russia (#2) in seeding. But Russia took gold at Tromso while China took silver. India (#5) with Dronavalli Harika, Padmini Rout, Soumya Swaminathan, Tania Sachdev and Pratyusha Bodda will also be eyeing medals.
As always, politics and gossip will be rife at the General Assembly meeting. Russia has sponsored a proposal that more or less anybody who can put up a requisite stake should be allowed to challenge out of turn for the world title. This is likely to cause a row.
The Diagram, White to play (White: Andreikin Vs Black: Zubov,Alexander, Abu Dhabi Masters 2016) saw the initiation of a fine attack. White played 25.f5!! Rab8 [25.--exf5 26. e6+ or 25.--gxf5 26. Rxd7! wins] 26.Rhg1 Nb6 27.Bf6+ Kg8 28.fxg6 fxg6 29.Qd3 Nd5 30.b3! White defends b2 before going for broke.
Play continued 30...Nxf6 31.exf6 Qf7 32.Qxa6 e5 The safer king counts. 33.Rg3 e4 34.Re3 Ra8 35.Qc6 Rac8 36.Qd7 Ra8 [If 36.- Qxf6 37. Rxe4!] 37.a4 Ra6 38.Qb5 Rxf6 39.Rxe4! (1-0)
After 39...Rxe4 40.Rd8+ Qf8 41.Qb7 Re1+ 42.Kb2 Rf7 43.Rxf8+ Kxf8 44.Qc8+ Re8 45. Qxc5+ White wins easily.