The buildup has officially begun for the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia.
The lineups are posted, so the pre-event punditry can begin. For the first time since its inception, Russia is not head of the open section.
From September 23 to October 6, a whopping 179 federations are expected to converge on the shores of the Black Sea for the 11-round team event, which comprises both an open and women’s section.
That leaves six weeks for top teams to pore over the lineups of their biggest rivals, and for smaller federations to wonder which beast they’ll be matched with in round one.
The United States will attempt to defend its gold medal as the number-one squad.
Two years ago in Baku, the US team was superseded by a mere two points in average rating to Russia.
But what a difference 24 months makes. Since the last visit to the Caucuses, Russia has stayed almost exactly the same while the US has padded its team average (now 2777) by a dozen points.
The team will come to Georgia with the same lineup as two years ago: GMs Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, Wesley So, Sam Shankland, and Ray Robson.