2010 Chess Olympiad: First Impressions by John Donaldson
By IM John Donaldson   
September 24, 2010
Donaldson, Khachiyan and Hess, Photo Tony Rich for CCSSL
Pre-Olympiad reports suggested all sorts of horrors awaited chess players arrival in Khanty Mansiysk but the half-finished hotels and poor food have not materialized. Certainly the handling of the charter flights was a case study in how to create a disaster. The changes in scheduling up to the last moment created hardships both financial and personal as tickets to the charter locations had to be changed and many players had to pull all nighters in transit halls, but in the end everyone made it to Siberia safely.
The weather was surprisingly warm and sunny with daytime temperatures in the 60s when we first arrived four days ago but has given way to freezing rain. There is still time for a taste of real Siberian weather. Several members of the American team played in the 2009 World Cup held last November where the temperatures were as low as -30!
GMs Varuzhan Akobian, Robert Hess and SM Tatev Abrahamyan, Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL
Khanty Mansiysk is one of the wealthiest cities in Russia despite having been in existence for less than a hundred years. One statistic that I have heard several times in my time here is that the 60,000 people in the region account for 2 percent of Russia's GDP with oil and natural gas driving the economy of the region.
While much is going well here the decision to allow multiple Russian teams has stirred up some controversy. FIDE regulations allow the host organizer a second team as a reward for organizing the event with the possibility of a third team - if, and only if - the starting list of teams is odd. The Russians jumped the gun several months ago by announcing a third team and  when the pairings were announced prior to round one an unprecedented 5(!) teams were representing Mother Russia.
Former World Champion GM Vladimir Kramnik, Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

Usually a second or third team is not a big deal but Russia is Russia! The second team is seeded number four at 2702 (just a point behind China) while the third team (a Siberian all-star squad) has 2726 rated Dmitry Jakovenko on board one. The fourth team is composed of top juniors throughout Russia with the fifth purely local players.
Russia completely missed out on the medals in the 2006 and 2008 Olympiads despite being top seed in both events. This time around they are doing everything they can to rectify this state of affairs. Reports in the Russian press have stated that the players for the Russian teams only get paid if they medal. This might sound harsh until you read further down the page that gold medals translate to $50,000 per player!
GM Alexander Grischuk, Photo Tony Rich for CCSCSL

The right to host the 2010 Olympiad was heatedly contested in 2006 with over a half dozen countries interested in running the event.  During the Olympiad at Turin that year it took four rounds of voting for Khanty Mansiysk to edge out the Adriatic resort of Budva in Montenegro. The Russian organizers had to not only agreed to arrange charter flights and offer cash prizes for top finishing teams (a first for an Olympiad) but also committed to organizing the 2007 and 2009 World Cup events. Likely it was their willingness to do the latter which accounts for FIDE’s deference to the organizers demand to have five teams.
Back in 1994 when the Olympiad was held in Moscow the Russians took home the gold and bronze medals and have the opportunity for a clean sweep here but will face very strong opposition in what is unquestionably the strongest Olympiad ever held. All top players (Carlsen, Topalov, Kramnik, Aronian etc...) are here except World Champion Anand.
The 2010 Chess Olympiad takes place from September 21st to October 3rd in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. It is an 11-round Swiss System team event, in which each team has four players with one reserve.

Time control: 90 minutes/40 moves + 30 minutes + 30 seconds/move as of move one.
Game start: rounds 1-10 at 9 AM UTC (5 AM New York / 2 AM Pacific daylight), and round 11 at 5 AM UTC (1 AM New York / 10 PM Pacific daylight)
Rest day: September 26th (after round 5) and October 2nd (after round 10).

See more details and games on the official site and bookmark chessresults.com for pairings and standings. Photos by Tony Rich of the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis.