There comes a time of decisive matches at the FIDE Online Olympiad. In Division 2 we will see in action the teams that can potentially if not run gold – China, Russia, and the USA are the main favorites here – then at least advance to the playoff. However, they are up against resilient opponents and ambitious qualifiers that made it to Division 2 from lower Divisions. One might recall that Thailand became the only team to get through to Division 2 from Division 4.
Since the favorites in Division 2 are very strong, it is hard to imagine any of less experienced teams to progress to the next stage. Only Denmark might fight for the top-3 in its group but this team has to enlist its best players for three days.
Pool A (Germany, Belarus, Indonesia, Philippines, Bulgaria, Bangladesh, Australia, Turkmenistan, Belgium, Kyrgyzstan)
The highest-rated team in Division 2, Germany, is a real gem of Pool A; the Germans are particularly strong on women’s boards. Despite a high level of competition, Germany’s not taking one of the positions in the top-3 will come as a great surprise. Belarus, lead by a great expert in rapid chess Vladislav Kovalev (pictured below) and very experienced Aleksej Aleksandrov also should advance. Its greatest risk is internet connection but by Wednesday these problems seemed to have disappeared.
Photo: Etery Kublashvili
It is virtually impossible to name the third favorite in this pool, we can only assume that one of stong Asian teams – Indonesia or Philippines – might advance. On the other hand, Bulgaria's average rating should not misguide as rapid ratings of several women-players in this team have nothing to do with their real chess strength.
Pool B (Romania, Greece, Israel, Slovakia, Latvia, Austria, Moldova, Singapore, IPCA, Thailand)
Most likely, the Thai players have been preparing hard all these days – it is a rare opportunity to play with strong GMs. It will be really hard to show a great result, but they have a great chance to learn from such powerful teams as Romania, Greece, and Moldova.
The European teams appear to be the favorites in this pool. Romania stands out thanks to very strong women’s boards and one of the best young players in the world Bogdan-Daniel on a junior board. Greece and Israel also have very balanced squads, whereas Singapore is capable of throwing a curve – this team can boast of several strong players in its lineup.
Pool С (Netherlands, Spain, Italy, Slovenia, North Macedonia, Switzerland, Portugal, Albania, Jordan, Estonia)
Very often the team to join the competition at the very last moment becomes one of the potential winners of the entire tournament. Netherlands is very much suited for this role in Pool C. For Anish Giri (pictured below), Jorden Van Foreest and their teammates the upcoming weekend is going to be a good warm-up before the matches in Top Division and then maybe in Playoff. The South European teams are the main competitors of Netherlands, but it looks like only Spain has a real shot for the first place.
Photo: Lennart Ootes
If we use ratings as a reference, then Italy seems to be a strong candidate for the third spot. On the other hand, rapid rating is not a good indicator of real chess strength, especially in the case of young players since there not so many rapid chess tournaments are being held around the world. With this in mind, North Macedonia, Switzerland, and Slovenia have a fair chance to join the top-3.
Pool D (Turkey, Sweden, Croatia, Serbia, Denmark, Norway, Chile, Iceland, Guatemala, Ireland)
The tournament in Division 3 was not a walk in the park for Denmark, but a serious hurdle, that the team cleared not without some luck. Nevertheless, the Danes are the only qualifiers that can count on going even further. However, it will be quite a challenge as Denmark competes with Turkey and Sweden with ever-young Pia Cramling (pictured below) shining on a women’s board. Don’t forget teams Croatia and Serbia.
Photo: Lennart Ootes
Unfortunately, Magnus Carlsen won’t be able to play for team Norway. The World Champion is busy in the Magnus Carlsen Tour Finals. Without its leader, Norway will have a hard time fighting for the top-3.
Pool E (England, Hungary, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, Bolivia, Scotland, Montenegro, Mexico, Costa Rica)
This traditionally South American domain is blended with European squads. One of the strongest European teams, England is the main candidate for a spot in Division 2. Two men’s boards are not enough for England – such good players as Gawain Jones and David Howell are benched as a result.
Hungary also looks very strong. As for the teams prevalent in the time-zone of Pool E, it is virtually impossible to predict the squads that will fight for qualifying spots. Colombia and Ecuador have a slightly better chance on paper, but who knows, maybe Andrew N Greet of Scotland, who turned in a breakthrough performance in Division 3, will continue his good run this weekend.
Andrew N Greet
More than 140 GMs from all around the world will take part in Division 2, which traditionally starts on Friday at 08:00 UTC. It is high time to follow the high-level games closely either on chess.com, the official hosting partner of the Online Olympiad, or on FIDE’s official channels.