Division 3 qualifiers Malaysia were on a roll with two wins and a draw as they started their campaign in Division Two of Online Olympiad.
Malaysia, who had topped their pool in Division Three, defeated Wales 4.5-.15 and followed it up with a 4.5-1.5 win over Uzbekistan.
Against Wales, Malaysia got its winning points from FM Lim Zhuo Ren, WIM Puteri Munajjah and FM Chan Kim Yew, with the remaining 3 players notching up draws.
Against Uzbekistan, FM Chan Kim Yew, Poh Yu Tuan and WCM Chua Jia-Tien secured the wins with remaining boards being drawn.
Malaysia then snatched a 3-3- draw against a strong Austrian side led by Grandmaster Markus Ragger on board one and IM Georg Froewis on the next board.
Poh Yu Tian secured a draw against Froewis and FM Chan Kim Yew clinched a nail biting draw in the final game of the round. Kim Yew definitely had the advantage but alas, in time scramble with a few seconds left to play, both players exchanged the remaining rooks to record an inevitable draw between the two players.
Malaysia’s next three matches will be against Switzerland, Italy and Estonia.
Latvia, headed by Nikita Meshkovs, won their first three matches (against Estonia, Iraq and Switzerland) and are leading the pool undefeated with 6/6.
There was a tie between three strong teams in third place, all of which have won two games and lost one: Italy, Estonia,and Uzbekistan.
On paper, the best squad, captained by Loek van Wely, is Italy, with a medium rating of 2343. However, they have used eleven of their twelve players on Day 1. Only board one GM Luca Moroni has played all three games.
In Pool A, the group seemed to be fairly equal, at least between the five or six main favourites. Nearly all of them have one or two grandmasters leading the way and some of the teams are entirely filled up with titled players.
It’s still very early to get a clear idea of which teams will advance to the Top Division, but Indonesia and Philippines have started very strong, with three wins each, while Bangladesh and Australia are just behind with two wins and one defeat (Bangladesh lost 4-2 to Australia and Australia 4-2 to Philippines).
While Indonesia has only fielded their six main players – with excellent results – other teams have been mixing it up a little bit more: for example, Australia has used eleven of their twelve players in the first three rounds!
Finally, the Shenzhen China team (Olympiad partners) is tremendously strong but somewhat underperformed in the first three rounds. However, despite losing an important match against Indonesia by 3.5-2.5, the team remains one of the main contenders for the three qualifying spots.
Pool C is another tough group with many strong European countries. However, after the first three rounds, the leader with 6/6 was Israel, an excellent team with four seasoned GM’s and several other titled players: definitely one of the strongest teams of the division. For the moment, they have fielded all of their twelve players.
Also on 6/6 is Belarus, headed by GM’s Kirill Stupak and Alexei Fedorov. Three wins by 4.5-1.5 against Sweden, Norway and Sri Lanka have placed them in an excellent position to take one of the three qualifying spots.
Two teams share third place in the standings: Montenegro and Scotland. They have both won two matches and lost one (against Israel and Zimbabwe, respectively).
Both Sweden and Norway have played below their expectations for now, and with only two points are in a dangerous situation. However, there are still six rounds to go, and both of them are capable of climbing their way back into the lead.
Group D brings together mostly South American and African teams, rated 2000 at least and some of them much higher. Two of the favourites, Argentina and Brazil, have already taken the lead after the first three rounds with 6/6.
With four OTB Olympic players plus strong titled female contenders, the powerful Argentinean squad started off by taking down Mexico in a very close match by 3.5-2.5 and then followed it up by convincingly defeating Algeria and Morocco.
Meanwhile, Brazil, headed by GM’s Alexandr Fier and Felipe El Debs, beat Angola, Slovenia and Venezuela. These two teams share third and fourth place with 4/6, with two wins and one defeat.
Third-division top qualifiers Uruguay haven’t yet found their form in this stage of the event but with six rounds still to go – and direct matches with the other contenders – it’s very early to turn down their chance to qualify. Mexico is in the exact same situation.
Pool E was the last group to finish. South and Central American countries – might easily be the most evenly matched at the top. Three teams lead the pack with 6/6: Colombia, Cuba and Ecuador, in that order after tie-breaking with board points.
However, Chile is just behind on 5/6, having only conceded a draw against Jamaica. On paper, it would be a big surprise if Colombia (with GM David Arenas and Andres Gallego) and Cuba (GM Carlos Albornoz and Yasser Quesada are their top boards) miss qualification for the top division, but the third spot is wide open.
Chile, Paraguay Bolivia and Costa Rica could quickly close the gap and overtake Ecuador on Day 2 if they are fortunate on the board. In fact, Colombia-Ecuador and Paraguay-Bolivia are fourth-round match-ups that shouldn’t be missed by South American fans.