Twelve qualifiers from the Base Division will join 26 other teams in Division Four of the Chess Olympiad from tomorrow.
The top three finishes in the Base Division – Myanmar, Lebanon and Cyprus together with Brunei Darussalam, Qatar, Aruba, Pakistan, Bahrain, Haiti, Oman, Liberia and Mauritania will now come up against stiffer competition with the top three teams from each of the five pools advancing to Division 3.
Malaysia are among the teams already qualified for Division Three of the Chess Olympiad
Pool A (Bahrain, Nepal, Kenya, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Brunei Darussalam, Tanzania, Maldives)
Teams Myanmar and Brunei, who finished as the top two teams in their Pool in the Base Division are in the same tournament again in the Division 4 competition. Despite having to qualify from the Base Division, both team should starts as the front-runners in the higher division.
Myanmar has had some problems with the 6th board, but the rest of the team, which can boast of three IMs (out of 14, playing in Division 4), is head and shoulders above others. The Azahari sisters are the main striking force of Brunei Darussalam, who can easily pull the team to the next division.
Based on ratings, the third favorite in the race for a spot in Division 3 is Thailand. Chinese Taipei also looks strong – although with just 6 people in its line-up it is headed by IM Raymond Song (pictured below). Nepal and Keny also have a fair chance to qualify.
The other teams are not expected to pose a threat although Myanmar and Brunei are not expected to have an easy walk like in the Base Division.
Pool B (Kuwait, Rwanda, Qatar, Uganda, Malta, Pakistan, Mozambique, Cyprus, Syria, Namibia)
This pool features one of the clear front-runners of Division 4 – the Syrian national team. The team has four titled players led by IM Bashir Eiti. It looks like only a concourse of unfavorable circumstances or connection problems can prevent Syrian chess players from progressing into the next stage.
The run for 2nd and 3rd places promises to be unpredictable. Malta (which at the last moment was headed by the president of the country’s chess federation IM Geoffrey Borg (picture below) and Mozambique have better average rating comparing to other squads, but both teams are short of strong Women U20 player, which gives some hope to Uganda or even the qualifiers from Base Division Pakistan and Cyprus.
Pool С (Sudan, Lebanon, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Malawi, Lesotho, Nigeria, Eswatini, Oman, Cameroon)
Two teams stand out in this division and most likely they will confidently advance to Division 3. Nigeria has the best average rating in Division 4, but with only 6 players in the roster, any forfeit or connection problem can seriously damage this team headed by the IM Oladapo Adu (pictured below).
In any case, this tournament will not be a cakewalk for Nigeria, as Lebanon has already shown its strength in Base Division. This Mediterranean team, staffed with good reserve players and strong women’s boards shouldn’t experience any problems in Division 4 – Lebanon is well-positioned to continue its campaign in Division 3.
Third place is likely to be contested by African teams with Sudan looking slightly stronger, at least on paper. IM Omar Eltigani on the first board and Eyhab Rawan (1521) on the very important 6th board make Sudan a favorite against its neighbours from Ethiopia and Cameroon.
Pool D (Liberia, Ghana, Puerto Rico, Angola, Togo, Palestine, Senegal, Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, Haiti)
Since Angola is one of the leading African countries in terms of the number of FIDE-rated players it is no surprise that 9 out of 12 members of this team have international titles. Division 4 will be good practice for the Angolan players before much more difficult matches in Division 3, where they have to progress.
The only real competitor of Angola in Pool D is Puerto Rico. This team has very strong female boards; FM Danitza Vazquez Maccarini is a clear favorite when it comes to the best result on board 3. Suriname’s strength is on its sixth board, WFM Catherine Kaslan will surely become the main scorer for this South American country, famous for its vast rainforests and original cuisine (you can taste it not only in Suriname but also, for example, in Amsterdam).
Haiti will try to make up for a lackluster performance in Base Division in matches against stronger opponents, but the chess players from this country need to raise the bar, otherwise, their Olympic quest will end at this stage.
Pool E (Nicaragua, Jamaica, Bermuda, Trinidad & Tobago, Guyana, Honduras, Sao Tome & Principe, Sierra Leone, Aruba, Bahamas)
This pool brought together mainly countries from Central America and the Caribbeans; the African teams of Sao Tome & Principe and Sierra Leone are unlikely to keep up with more experienced and stronger chess players from another part of the world.
The neighboring countries Honduras and Nicaragua look like clear leaders of this pool, and the outcome of their clash is absolutely unpredictable. The Honduran chess players are a little more experienced, but in any case, both teams have every reason to count on spots in Division 3.
Overall, this group should be particularly interesting for women’s chess fans. Rachel Miller, rated 2004 sticks out in team Jamaica. Since she is turning 20 this year, Rachel plays on the 6th board. Bermuda’s Zuzana Kovacova (pictured above) is the strongest active chess player in his country, regardless of gender. And of course, we all wonder if Thamara Sagastegui (Aruba), who delivered a breakthrough performance in Base Division, will be able to prove herself again.