Our 5 Current Obsessions: Get Skintight With Nasty Pig, Play Super Mario Chess – Hornet

This week saw Nasty Pig unveil its new fall/winter collection, including a pair of fitted tights we’re enamored with. And if you’re game for bizarre candy, we have something unusual for your tastebuds. From the latest fashion to gadgets — even a game of Super Mario Chess — here are our current obsessions of this week.

Mac-and-Cheese Flavored Candy Canes

current obsessions mac and cheese candy canes

Maybe you remember that twisted-yet-tasty mustard pizza or that unforgettable lobster-flavored ice cream from a previous “current obsessions” roundup? Now we can add mac-and-cheese-flavored candy canes to the growing list of weird eats.

Archie McPhee, a Seattle-based retailer, introduced these unique candy canes just in time for the holidays. According to food blogger Junk Food Mom, each candy cane “smells like cheese and tastes like Mac and cheese, but the sweetness overpowers the flavor eventually, so it’s doable.” Of course, if mac and cheese isn’t your jam, Archie McPhee also offers rotisserie chicken-flavored candy canes. $6, mcphee.com 

2. Adidas Original + Oyster Holdings Collaboration

current obsessions adidas sneakers

Oyster Holdings, a Los Angeles-based lifestyle brand, is launching a capsule collection with sneaker giant Adidas this week. This new Twinstrike design caught our eye, as it features multi-colored pods on the midsole. It’s like celebrating Pride month all over again. $200, travelingisasport.com 

3. Miniature Interactive Chewbacca

current obsessions fur real

Now you can have Chewbacca, the beloved character from the world of Star Wars, as your own loyal friend. This interactive plush toy has different facial expressions: He laughs, gurgles and raises his arms when he roars. This fuzzy interactive guy features more than 100 sound-and-motion combinations, can respond in the Wookiee language and reacts whenever he’s in motion — sometimes in surprising ways. The best part of this furry Chewbacca? It even snores! $130, amazon.com 

4. Super Mario Chess

current obsessions chess games

Mario, Luigi and the adorable Toad (can we still consider him adorable?) are all part of this chess game meant for the Super Mario Bros. fans. The Super Mario Chess set features custom vinyl pieces of your favorite  characters and a durable chess board. Who’s up for a game? $65, firefox.com 

5. Radar Tights by Nasty Pig

current obsessions nasty pig

Nasty Pig knows a thing or two about tight-fitting clothes. These new super lightweight tights from the gay label’s Radar collection are a perfect example of what Nasty Pig stands for. This unique style is comfortable and totally machine-washable. $109, nastypig.com 

Will you be purchasing Nasty Pig’s Radar tights and Super Mario chess?

How To Cure A Serious Chess Disease – Chess.com

Most amateurs run into the same problems: undefended pieces, being unaware their opponents’ best moves, falling victim to simple tactics, etc. Those things are common. However, once in a while you’ll see a player making one specific mistake over and over.

This is actually a good thing, since instead of having endless mistakes that leave your brain melting and your confidence falling into the gutter, you have that one specific problem. In other words, you can target it in all your games and, eventually, the problem will vanish.

Of course, if you do have multiple weaknesses in your game, it’s a good idea to put all your energy into the worst one. When that’s fixed, go to the next, and the next.

chess disease

Does IM Silman have the prescription for your chess illness?

In this article, I’m going to highlight a very nice chap named “BeastmodeSlow” (Beastmode for short), who surprisingly was completely unaware of this chess illness. Actually, amateurs can make this mistake over and over, but they don’t recognize it.

So what is this horrific roadblock that’s hurting your game? It’s a fear of pawn and piece tension, which makes you trade pawns and pieces for no reason. In fact, those trades ruin many a game.

I should add that Beastmode and I looked at these games together, which created quite a bit of laughter. Hopefully, you can have some laughs too, and also learn something that’s seriously important.

So, let’s leap into the fire and see what I’m really talking about.



The two light-squared bishops are facing off. Which player will make the trade first?


Most amateurs love to make threats, and “Beastmode” is no different. However, 11…Nb4, drooling about the possibility of gobbling up the d3-pawn, fails to see what White might do in response. This is a typical weakness known as “playing with yourself.”





Though 23.h4 isn’t the end of the world, it was played due to fear that Black’s king would move to g5. It also let Black take the initiative. More interesting was 23.Na5 Bb6 24.b4 (24.Nc4 is a draw) 24…Bxa5 25.bxa5 followed by 26.Rb1 (25…c5 26.Rb1 Re7 27.Rfc1 when White has pressure against Black’s queenside pawns. For example: 27…Rd2+ 28.Kg3 Rxa2 29.Rxc5 and White’s better.

Anyway, back to the position after 23.h4:


Black decides to trade all the rooks, which leaves him dead in the water.


At a glance, do you understand what both sides need to do? If you said, “Black wants to play …d6-d5” then you’re pretty astute. Once you realize that, you need to figure out how to make it happen.


Unfortunately, Black thought that 12…Rfd8 was stronger since, after 13…d5, the rook on d8 will be a monster. And, indeed, the game went 12…Rfd8? failing to think that White might be able to stop it.


White, who was freaking out about a possible check, ignored 13.Nd5 and instead, in a moment of friendship (don’t believe that!), played:



Beastmode realized that he could do his favorite thing: trading stuff!




(Japanese: “Do your best” or “You can do it!”)

Black played the opening like a blind tortoise and Beastmode decides to go for the kill! No more trades. No more fear. Just scream “kill, kill, kill” and finish Black off! You CAN do it!



Now some of you will say, “What’s the point of this? I don’t trade for no reason!” I

f that’s true, bully for you; you are a chess god and I bow to you. But for those that have never stood on top of Mount Olympus, trading for no reason is a common occurrence. So, carefully look through your games and point out all the useless and damaging trades you’ve made. And once you understand that, you’ll be on your way to a whole new chess perspective.

PH upsets Slovakia in Chess Olympiad – Rappler

Grandmasters Julio Catalino Sadorra and John Paul Gomez deliver as the Philippines join a huge 41-country group on top in the 43rd World Chess Olympiad

Published 8:37 AM, September 27, 2018

Updated 8:37 AM, September 27, 2018

MANILA, Philippines – Grandmasters Julio Catalino Sadorra and John Paul Gomez pulled off hard-earned victories while International Master Jan Emmanuel Garcia escaped with a draw from an inferior position to lift to the Philippines to a 2.5-1.5 win over Slovakia and stay on top after the second round of the 43rd World Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia Tuesday night, September 25.

The United States-based Sadorra caught GM Christopher Repka into his opening preparation to gain material advantage and hammer out a 37-move win of a Slav Defense while Gomez fought his way out of a difficult position to eke out a 63-move triumph over GM Tomas Petrik of a Ruy Lopez.

For Garcia, an Olympiad newbie, he came into the endgame a pawn down but he managed to create disturbing bishop and queen threats to escape with a draw in 65 moves of a Dutch Defense with IM Viktor Gazik to help seal the pulsating win for the Filipinos, whose ranked lower than the 48th-seeded Slovakians at 54th.

FIDE Master Joseph Mari Turqueza, a last-minute replacement to IM Haridas Pascua, who was complaining of headaches and sinusitis, in the second round, ran out of opening tricks and lost to IM Martin Nayhebaver in 41 moves of a Sicilian battle.

The Philippines thus remained in a huge 41-country group on top that included powerhouse United States, which has Cavite-born GM Wesley So as board two player, with four match points.

The win came a day after the Nationals destroyed San Marino, 4-0, in the opening round Monday.

The women’s squad, in contrast, succumbed to Slovenia despite a smashing victory by WGM Janelle Mae Frayna over WIM Laura Unuk on top board.

WFM Shania Mae Mendoza and WIM Marie Antoinette San Diego lost their way and suffered painful defeats at the hands of WGM Jana Krivec and WFM Teja Vidic, respectively, on the last two boards.

WIM Catherine Secopito split the point with WFM Lara Janzelj on second board. – Rappler.com

Marriage Proposal Sparks Up Chess Olympiad Day 2 – Chess.com

Yesterday’s complete lack of upsets at the 2018 Chess Olympiad in Batumi gave way to a day of surprises, both on and off the board.

Georgia team three put up an excellent fight today against reigning champions USA, who won by the narrowest of margins. It was Wesley So who brought home the two points, on a day when the playing hall was the location of a marriage proposal.

The second round saw a number of relatively close matchups between teams that had dropped a whole or half-point yesterday. For instance, Georgia—Georgia one, that is; the host country is allowed to bring more teams and they have three—had an average Elo of 2625 today, and faced the young Norwegian team. The Scandinavian powerhouse is playing without Magnus Carlsen and Jon Ludvig Hammer, but still came with an average of 2538 (and held 2-2). Similar scores were turned in by Belarus (2615) vs Australia (2515) and Iceland (2508) vs Latvia (2564).

Georgia’s third team, playing with three 2300s and a high-2400, was paired up against the mighty Americans on top boards. That wasn’t a close contest on paper, but it definitely was on the chessboards: IM Noe Tutisani, FM Nikoloz Petriashvili and FM Nikolozi Kacharava managed to hold GMs Fabiano Caruana, Sam Shankland and Ray Robson to draws.

Nona Gaprindashvili shaking hands with Fabiano Caruana

Georgian chess legend Nona Gaprindashvili shook hands with Fabiano Caruana and made the first move on his board. Thereupon, organizer Zurab Azmaiparashvili (blue shirt, glasses) accidentally started the clock (possibly a habit from his own playing career!), before the chief arbiter had officially started the round. The clock had to be reset, and the arbiter also pushed the pawn back home, but eventually it went back to e4 anyway. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

USA’s Wesley So didn’t give his opponent a chance though, as he played a wonderful, positional game in the style of a young Anatoly Karpov.

Wesley So Batumi Olympiad

Unbothered by his somewhat struggling teammates, Wesley So played a fine game today. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Second-seeded Russia dropped two half-points in its victory over Ireland, with Russian-born grandmaster Alexander Baburin holding Sergey Karjakin to a draw, making use of his decades of experience in the Alekhine Defense. It took Karjakin a few moves in a dead-drawn opposite-colored bishop ending before accepting his fate.

Russia vs Ireland, Batumi Olympiad

Russia starting its match with Ireland. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Armenia had a similar day as the Americans, with three draws and a sole win for Levon Aronian on board one. He is playing 1.e4 more and more these days, where he is also very well booked up in theory!

Slightly speculative sacrifices are also seen regularly in his games lately, and this one was no exception!

Team Armenia Batumi

Aronian facing a Kan Sicilian! Before a blitz game with Caruana in Paris this year, he hadn’t had this position as White since the year 2000. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The aforementioned Norwegians have Aryan Tari playing board one this time, and he won very quickly today against Georgia’s number-two player. (Baadur Jobava was given a rest.) Tari’s 5.a3!? against the Pirc should have been fairly innocuous, but worked very well. The blunder helped too.

This match ended in 2-2. That same result was a much bigger upset in Albania vs Hungary. The usually super-solid Peter Leko, who had rested in the first round, lost to GM Erald Dervishi, who happens to have been born in the same year as his opponent.

The Albanian unleashed some remarkable tactics in a normally quiet 6.Be2 Najdorf. It wasn’t correct, and Leko refuted everything perfectly, built up a winning position but then somehow completely collapsed.

Another top player going down today was David Navara, but his loss didn’t matter much in a match that the Czech Republic won 3-1 vs Tajikistan. His opponent’s name might ring a bell from his victory at the 2016 Eurasian Blitz Cup.

The round also saw Vishy Anand‘s return to Olympiad chess for the first time since 2006. There clearly has been more support from the All India Chess Federation this time, as no fewer than three training sessions were organized to prepare the team.

India team Batumi

The India team came well prepared to Batumi. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Anand’s young teammate Vidit Gujrathi, who was interviewed by Chess.com (see below), was not the only one impressed with Anand’s opening play against the Austrian theoretician Markus Ragger, in a line that seems to be an Indian speciality. 

Chess.com also spoke to Loek van Wely, the eldest member of the Dutch team. He has made a career of ultra-sharp Sicilians, including the odd scary moment where his opponent missed a chance.

Brazilian GM Alexander Fier got a chance to win his game in textbook style. His combination is a classic tactic and one that rarely occurs in an actual game.

There are so many games to choose from at Olympiads that we’re probably missing many more of such interesting moments each day, especially from the lower boards. It was helpful to have Madagascar’s captain Maurice Ashley in the press room for a while and pointing out a nice, final move by his board four, in their match vs Bahrain (2-2).

Batumi Olympiad | Top pairings round 3

No. SNo Flag Team Pts. MP Vs. MP Pts. Team Flag SNo
1 7 France 8 4 4 7 Algeria 57
2 63 Portugal 7 4 4 8 Poland 11
3 13 Netherlands 8 4 4 USA 1
4 19 Peru 8 4 4 China 3
5 4 Azerbaijan 4 4 8 Slovenia 26
6 29 Brazil 8 4 4 England 9
7 27 Vietnam 4 4 8 Bangladesh 64
8 44 Iceland 4 4 Israel 10
9 16 Germany 4 4 Serbia 45
10 54 Philippines 4 4 Croatia 18
11 56 Bosnia & Herzegovina 4 4 Argentina 20
12 6 Ukraine 6 4 4 Romania 21
13 8 Armenia 6 4 4 Turkey 22
14 23 Iran 4 4 6 Belarus 17
15 30 Moldova 6 4 4 Spain 24
16 25 Greece 4 4 6 Switzerland 39
17 40 Egypt 6 4 4 Sweden 32
18 42 Georgia 2 6 4 4 7 Russia 2
19 15 Czech Republic 7 4 4 6 Chile 49
20 28 Canada 4 4 7 India 5

(Full pairings here.)

The biggest winner of the round in the woman’s section didn’t even play a game today. Despite sitting out, WIM Angela Lopez of Colombia was offered someone’s hand. It wasn’t a draw offer, but rather a marriage offer, from the Indian journalist Niklesh Jain.

The proposal was coordinated by her sister, also a member of the Colombian team, and took place on the floor of the main playing hall minutes before the round began. The engagement comes after 1.5 years of dating, after Jain and Lopez met at a tournament in Barcelona. The 17,000 km between then couldn’t get in the way, and neither could an initial language barrier.

Here’s Jain explaining the offer and the romance:

Is it possible that Colombia could come through for its teammate and really make it a special day with a win over defending champions China? Well, not quite, but the 3-1 loss with two draws was a decent showing.

In fact on the top board, Colombian number-one WIM Melissa Castrillon nearly upstaged the betrothed. Against IM Shen Yang (GM Ju Wenjun sat out for the second round in a row), Castrillon could have won with a diabolical tactic. 

While China was able to escape the round with a match win, the top-seeded Russian ladies became the first major victims of an upset. One Olympiad removed from finishing just outside the medals, their chances this time took a hit when they went down against Uzbekistan.

Although team leader GM Alexandra Kosteniuk joined the squad today, the top three Russian boards, all GMs, could only muster a trio of draws. It all came down to board four, where WIM Nodira Nadirjanova took out IM Natalia Pogonina as Black.

With Russia getting blemished in round one, Ukraine had already moved up to the top spot. It also struggled today despite being 400-point favorites on all boards, but managed to avoid the fate of their cross-border rivals. Again three draws, but instead the lone win went the way of the favorites as GM Natalia Zhukova was the only victorious lady over Turkmenistan.

Natalia Zhukov Batumi Olympiad

GM Natalia Zhukova already has the Order of Princess Olga II award from her country, but now her teammates might want to pitch in for dinner, too. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Zhukova posted photos leading up to the Olympiad of her combining workouts and chess by playing in a plank position, but today her bishops did all the heavy lifting as Black routed the white king.

Although match points are what decided final placement, pairings are done with board points in mind, so anything short of continually going 4-0 will move the favorites off the top board. So which teams have remained untouched at 8-0 so far? The “perfect list” went from 55 teams all the way down to eight teams today: India, Azerbaijan, Vietnam, Romania, Cuba, Turkey, Greece, and Argentina.

Due to the oddities of the pairings procedures, which go by tiebreak (match points, Sonneborn-Berger, game points), none of the octet will face each other in round three.

Argentina Chess

Team Argentina, one of the few teams to remain perfect after two days. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Rebounding today was the U.S. team, which was perfect against Luxembourg. Its loss on board three yesterday had a small benefit: dropping down to the playing hall two, the larger area with much wider hallways. It’s not a real treat to be there of course, since that means you are off the top 30 boards, but they made the most of it today.

Here’s WGM Tatev Abrahamyan winning her second game as Black, and she expects to get black again tomorrow! Good thing she’s got that Chess.com video series on the French to brush up on tonight (her round-one win was indeed a French).

One controversy ensued in the opening minutes of the match. The Georgia one vs Norway match was paused as the Norwegian captain lodged a protest. According to GM Nino Batsiashvili, one of the players on hold, the Norwegians expected a different lineup. They planned for Georgia to employ the same lineup as in round one, where GM Nana Dzagnidze played on top board and IM Lela Javakhishvili on board two.

But that’s not who Georgia brought. Dzagnidze sat out in favor of Javakhishvili to take over board one, and Batsiashvili was to be slotted in at board two (boards three and four were not in dispute as they did remain the same from the previous day). Batsiashvili said the website must not have shown the correct submission of lineup (Chess.com could not verify any previous screenshots and timestamps of the pairings; when the controversy began, Georgia’s intended lineup was showing on chess-results.com).

Nino Batsiashvili

GM Nino Batsiashvili. While waiting for the ruling, why not pose for a picture? | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

At around 3:25, Georgia took its seats with Javakhishvili on board one and Batsiashvili on board two as it had wanted. Apparently the complaint was denied, and Georgia went on to win 4-0.

Batumi Olympiad (Women) | Top pairings round 3

No. SNo Flag Team Pts. MP Res. MP Pts. Team Flag SNo
1 23 Serbia 7 4 4 8 India 5
2 25 England 7 4 4 8 Azerbaijan 11
3 34 Lithuania 7 4 4 8 Vietnam 19
4 20 Romania 8 4 4 Ukraine 2
5 22 Cuba 8 4 4 China 3
6 24 Turkey 8 4 4 Poland 7
7 27 Greece 8 4 4 Armenia 12
8 30 Argentina 8 4 4 Hungary 13
9 14 Georgia 2 4 4 Spain 15

(Full pairings here.)

Games via TWIC.

Mike Klein contributed to this report.

Earlier reports:

Playing Viking Chess with Whale Bones – Hakai Magazine

Article body copy

In central and eastern Sweden from 550 to 793 CE, just before the Viking Age, members of the Vendel culture were known for their fondness for boat burials, their wars, and their deep abiding love of hnefatafl.

Also known as Viking chess, hnefatafl is a board game in which a centrally located king is attacked from all sides. The game wasn’t exclusive to the Vendels—people across northern Europe faced off over the gridded board from at least 400 BCE until the 18th century. But during the Vendel period, love for the game was so great that some people literally took it to their graves. Now, a new analysis of some hnefatafl game pieces unearthed in Vendel burial sites offers unexpected insight into the possible emergence of industrial whaling in northern Europe.

For most of the game’s history, its small, pebble-like pieces were made of stone, antler, or bone from animals such as reindeer. But later, starting in the sixth century CE, Vendels across Sweden and the Åland Islands were buried with game pieces made of whale bone.

In the new research, Andreas Hennius, an archaeology doctoral candidate at Uppsala University in Sweden, and his colleagues traced the source of the whale bone by following a trail of evidence that led them to the edge of the Norwegian Sea about 1,000 kilometers north of the Vendels’ heartland in central Sweden.

Hennius thinks the whale bones used to make the game pieces were the product of early industrial whaling. If so, the pieces would be evidence of the earliest-known cases of whaling in what is today Scandinavia, and a sign of the growing trade routes and coastal resource use that paved the way for future Viking expansion.

To come to this striking conclusion, Hennius and his colleagues first had to find out where the whale bone was coming from. The Vendels weren’t whalers, Hennius says, so the pieces must have been imported. But from whom? The researchers also needed to confirm that the bone was the result of deliberate whaling, not just scavenged from stranded whales.

To answer these and other questions, Hennius drew on genetic analysis, other archaeological finds, and ancient texts.

The first clue that the game pieces were indeed a sign of early industrial whaling emerged from genetic analysis of the whale bone. Though several whale species swam in Scandinavian waters, most hnefatafl pieces were made from North Atlantic right whale bones. This suggests the bones were the result of systematic hunting rather than opportunistic scavenging, Hennius says.

Other clues came from the Vendel graves. Whale bone game pieces first were only in the graves of a few wealthy people. But later, a flood of whale bone hnefatafl pieces appeared in the graves of regular folks. “Not the poorest graves, but the middle-class graves,” Hennius says. To him, it seemed like a rare, prestigious commodity suddenly became available to the mass market. And that implied regular, reliable imports—an industry.

a hnefatafl game board and possible rules of play

Illustration by Mark Garrison

Early texts hinted at where that whaling industry might have been located, since it almost certainly wasn’t in the Vendel lands of central and eastern Sweden.

The first known written record of whaling in Scandinavia describes a ninth-century Norwegian tradesman named Óttarr. In his travels, he visited the royal courts of England, where records describe him bragging about his whaling prowess. Óttarr claimed that he and his friends caught 60 whales in two days near what is now Tromsø, Norway. Though Óttarr’s exploits date several centuries after the appearance of whale bone in Vendel graves, it suggests whaling may have been well established in northern Norway by the 800s CE.

It isn’t clear who was actually doing the difficult work of catching the whales, though it could have be any of the several groups of people living in northern Norway at the time, including the Sami. As for who was turning the whale bone into game pieces, that is also unknown. According to the researchers, it could have been the Sami or anyone along the long trade route south.

Hennius says further archaeological evidence also supports the idea of early whaling in northern Norway. Recently, other researchers discovered blubber rendering pits in the region, associated with the Sami, that date from about the time whale bone game pieces appeared farther south. The existence of these pits, Hennius says, implies the Sami were processing a steady supply of whales and not just the occasional stranding.

Hennius says all of this together—the Sami’s rendering pits, Óttarr’s exploits, the predominance of one species, and the presence of whale bone in middle-class graves—is “strong evidence that active whaling took place in northern Norway at this time,” and that the Vendels had established long-distance trade routes to ferry the material south.

Vicki Szabo, a historian at the University of North Carolina who studies medieval whaling across the North Atlantic, says Hennius and his colleagues make a good case for the existence of pre-Viking whaling in Scandinavia. “They’re linking ideas and trends that haven’t clearly been linked before,” she says.

Szabo’s own research suggests whaling in northern Norway was definitely feasible around 550 CE. After the collapse of the Roman Empire during the fifth century CE and the period of economic disruption that followed, it took time for societies across Europe to rebound. Szabo says whaling fits with a larger pattern of economic resurgence at the time.

As for the logistical challenges, Szabo says it’s unlikely these early whalers were out on the open ocean hunting whales from boats. Instead, hunters could have used poison-tipped spears, netted off narrow fjords, or driven whales onto shore.

Hennius is continuing to study the imported Vendel hnefatafl game pieces to see what else they can tell us about their origin and the trade routes on which they traveled. If the game pieces do, in fact, tell the tale of expanding coastal resource use in Norway, it is one of the first chapters in the dawning saga of Viking maritime dominance.

Spectacular Ceremony Starts Batumi Chess Olympiad – Chess.com

The 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi, Georgia officially opened on Sunday with a spectacular opening ceremony that included dancing and singing performances, speeches and the drawing of colors. Many esteemed members of the chess community called it the best ever, including players like Ivan Cheparinov, who is about to play in his eighth Olympiad.

The rich chess history of Georgia could be felt throughout the opening ceremony, held 45 km away from the Batumi city center in the 10,000-seat Black Sea Arena, which in the past hosted stars such as Elton John, Ennio Morricone and Katie Melua.


Most seats were filled in the Black Sea Arena. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Especially in women’s chess, the country has excelled in the past. Nona Gaprindashvili, Maia Chiburdanidze (who together held the chess crown in Georgia for 29 years) and Nana Alexandria (twice a vice-world champion) were mentioned several times, always with a warm applause from the audience.

The organizers didn’t hold back, and presented a ceremony with colorful dancing and singing performances with both modern elements and references to the past. The show included traditional Georgian songs and dances as well as a DJ performance, a rock band and performances by the State Symphony Orchestra and Georgian National Ballet.

A Chess.com video report, including interviews, will be added here soon.

Speeches were delivered by the Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports of Georgia Mikheil Batiashvili, the Chairman of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Adjara Tornike Rizhvadze, the President of Georgia Giorgi Margvelashvili and FIDE Acting President Georgios Makropoulos.

Georgios Makropoulos

Georgios Makropoulos spoke as FIDE’s acting president at the first opening ceremony without Kirsan Ilyumzhinov in an official role since Yerevan 1996. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Makropoulos, who is one of the three candidates for the FIDE presidency, gave a speech that breathed elections. He seemed to be claiming his October 3 victory already, like a young chess player who puts out his hand and says: “I offer you… to resign.”

“FIDE, national chess federations, players, we must all demand the best for our sport, for our game, and for the image of FIDE worldwide. We have great weapons in this fight: famous chess champions, new technologies, chess in schools and of course the national chess federations, who work very hard and with great dignity to develop chess in their countries. We must use these talents, we must make the right moves and I promise you we have a winning position to accomplish our dreams for a new era for FIDE, for a FIDE that will achieve the Olympic destiny of chess, for a FIDE where everybody will be proud to be a member, proud to represent chess in their countries, proud to have a strong, active, independent vote.”

The presentation of the participating countries is always an impressive part of Olympiad openings, for the simple reason that it takes several minutes to show, in this case, more than 180 flags! We’ll have to wait and see how many of these federations will show up (each Olympiad sees a high number of countries who cannot make the trip) before we can speak of records.


Can you find your home country’s flag? Chances are it is somewhere in this shot. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Another key part was the drawing of colors. Because Fabiano Caruana‘s flight was delayed (he landed in Batumi during the ceremony), Viswanathan Anand took the honors instead, along with board one of the Georgian women’s team, Nana Dzagnidze.

Anand picked a white pearl from a giant seashell, which meant that USA, as the top seeded team in the open section, will start with white on boards one and three. Dzagnidze picked a black pearl which determined the color of board one in the women section. Consequently, the Russian women will have black on the odd boards.

Viswanathan Anand

One previous world champion substitutes for its next challenger: Viswanathan Anand took over for Fabiano Caruana and selected the white pearl, which he got to keep! | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The ceremony, which featured both giant sparklers inside the arena and a scripted rainfall event on the stage, finished in the sky. Players turned around to look through the windows to see a huge fireworks presentation outside the Black Sea Arena which lasted for several minutes.

The ceremony, which was broadcast live on Georgian television, can be watched here.

Here’s some facts and figures to get you ready for the 11-round tournament:

  • USA is the top seed in the open section, the first time since 1976 that neither Russian nor the Soviet Union has the pole position (they didn’t play that year).
  • Despite last month’s preview article, the American squad will not go in with a record-setting rating. Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So both lost points at the Sinquefield Cup, so the average rating goes from 2777 to 2772, which appears to be one point lower than Russia 2014, which was 2773.
  • Nine of the world’s top 10 are competing (only Magnus Carlsen will miss) and 17 of the world’s top 20 (Alexander Grischuk and Peter Svidler were both left off the Russian team by captain’s decision).
  • Five teams in the open have an average rating over 2700 (USA, Russia, China, Azerbaijan and India). However, Ukraine is at 2698 and only lost team gold in 2016 by a narrow tiebreak.
  • Strangely there are three teams exactly tied for seventh: France, Armenia and England.
  • One team in the women’s section has an average rating over 2500: Russia. They bring back all five players from 2016 where they finished fourth, just outside the medals.


Olga Girya and Valentina Gunina of the Russian women’s team. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

  • The Chinese women, returning gold medalists, have chosen a different track and only return one player from 2016. Ju Wenjun is the only woman returning (world number one Hou Yifan is at university in England).
  • A total of 185 team are registered for the open section, and nearly that many individual federations (the host nation is allowed to send multiple teams and there are also teams representing not federations but instead groups of disabled athletes. The open teams range from USA at 2772 to Central African Republic, the only team with all unrated players.
  • In the women’s, 151 teams are registered from more than 145 federations. They are led by Russia (2523) all the way down to eight different teams that are all unrated (there are no countries bringing only a women’s team by the way).
  • A total of 1667 players are registered, 920 in the open and 747 in the women’s tournament.
  • Women are allowed to play in the open section (that’s why it bears that name!). Just to name a few that are doing so this year, despite their federations also having women’s team present: WGM Qianyun Gong, board three for Singapore, and WCM Polina Karelina, board one for the Bahamas.
  • If there symbiosis in other sports, only three of the top 10 teams in the open also had their nation make the football world cup finals, but Russia, France, and England all advanced to the knockout round (France won of course).


“Gens Una Sumus” — We are all one…orchestra! | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Full first-round pairings can be found here. The opener is often a chance for smaller nations to get valuable experience against grandmasters, and for some to pull off the occasional upset. USA draws Panama, one of the nations that edged them out for the football world cup finals. Russia takes on Uganda; China gets Morocco; India against El Salvador; and Ukraine against Zambia. Azerbaijan, the fourth seed, will not play alongside the other favorites, at least for a round. They will play on a fixed board (34) since they face the International Physically Disabled Chess Association (IPCA) team.

In the women’s event, Russia plays the Ticas of Costa Rica on top board. Other top pairings are: Ukraine-Monaco; China-Tajikistan; Georgia 1-South Korea; and India-New Zealand.

Here’s some pictorial highlights from the colorful night:


Plenty of lighting and costume changes pervaded the elaborate ceremony. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


Most of the dance sequences were ensemble, including this one. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


Starting in round one, the chess pieces will be facing each other. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.


The orchestra would constantly “reappear” as the stage backdrop opened up to reveal them. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.


Yes, the noise eclipsed 100 decibels for most of the night (but not the “Boom Boom Boom” being complained of on Batumi’s beaches!) | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.


GM Nana Dzagnidze selected the black pearl for the women’s pairings. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (middle, blue shirt), the second highest-rated player in Batumi who became a father only a few days ago, will lead the Azerbaijan team. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

David Anton

Team Spain and their two Davids: Spanish photographer Llada (far left) and Anton (far right), the new board number one. | Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.


Team Ghana was colorful enough to be on stage for the opening ceremony, but instead here they are just after. | Photo: Mike Klein/Chess.com.

Mike Klein contributed to this report.