The Chess Olympiad is one of the most exciting events in chess – its pits nation against nation and the best against the best. But for this year’s tournament in Batumi, Georgia, there will be several big names missing.
Here are some of the stars you won’t be seeing at the chess world’s biennial 11-round team event – and some of the bizarre reasons why.
1. Magnus Carlsen, 2842 Fide
The Norwegian won’t be in Batumi because he has the small matter of the World Chess Championship to defend in November and presumably needs to get some prep in.
Carlsen’s opponent GM Fabiano Caruana, however, will be there packing yet another big event into his already exhausting schedule in the run-up to London 2018.
Also missing from the Norway team is the popular GM Jon Ludvig Hammer.
2. Alexander Grischuk, 2766 Fide
Speed king Grischuk, who is renowned for his near-addiction to time trouble, will be missing from Russia’s team for the first time since his first appearance in 2000.
GM Peter Svidler also misses out for Russia who for the first time ever have not gone into the tournament as top seeds, having been leapfrogged by the US.
Russia do have GMs Vladimir Kramnik, Sergey Karjakin, and Ian Nepomniachtchi though, so it’s not all bad.
3. Veselin Topalov, 2747 Fide (in fact, no Bulgarian team at all)
Bulgaria’s chess federation has been banned from Fide for allegedly breaking its code of ethics meaning all its international activity has been suspended.
However, this is perhaps not a big loss. In 2016 in Baku the Open team only fielded one player: the former world champion Topalov, now aged 43. And he only played 5 rounds.
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4. Hou Yifan, 2658 Fide
Hou, the strongest female player in the world by some distance, will not be competing in Batumi. It is not known why but she is due to take up her Rhodes scholarship at the University of Oxford roundabout that time.
Several other notable players in the women’s section are missing, including U.S. women’s champion IM Nazi Paikidze, who declined her invitation, and Swedish GM Pia Cramling was not selected due to a row over the captaincy.
5. Paco Vallejo, 2707 Fide
Spain’s number 1, rated 2716, appears to be having troubles in his personal life and is being chased by the Spanish tax authority, which is trying to seize more than half a million euros.
Informative! re: Vallejo, he expands on his reasons for missing the Olympiad here: https://t.co/RUiUozaMMB
— John Bartholomew (@fins0905) August 24, 2018
6. Nigel Short, 2659 Fide
England’s former world championship contender, who has a hugely-impressive record at the Chess Olympiad, is busy fighting the Fide presidential election and has already drastically cut down his playing schedule. Short will be in Georgia, but at the 89th Fide Congress hoping to replace Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and not playing.
Short’s countryman GM Matthew Sadler (2693 Fide) is also not making the trip while IM Malcolm Pein has stepped down from captaining the England team to support the rival bid led by Fide deputy president Georgios Makropoulos against Short.
7. Richard Rapport, 2719 Fide
Hungary’s number one is missing from his nation’s line-up, but we don’t know why. He is a big loss. Rapport is one of the most creative players on the circuit.
Who will be at the Chess Olympiad?
Everyone’s favourite former world champion GM Vishy Anand is finally back! The legend is due to play at the Olympiad for the first time since 2006.
The Chess Olympiad runs September 23 to October 6. Look out for it – it should be fun!
Leon is a national newspaper journalist from London, England. He is an avid chess fan, and writes regularly about the game. Apart from chess, he loves cricket, Tottenham Hotspur FC and spending time with his son.