On July 31, the matches in Division 4 of the first Online Olympiad in history will start on chess.com. 38 teams from all around the world are joined by 12 winners of Base Division (Myanmar, Lebanon, Cyprus, Brunei Darussalam, Qatar, Aruba, Pakistan, Bahrain, Haiti, Oman, Liberia & Mauritania). In Division 4, 50 teams are divided into 5 groups of 10 squads each. Three best teams from each pool advance to Division 3 – many strong squads with well-known GMs in their ranks will step into the competition at this stage.
The official website of Online Olympiad olymp.fide.com presents a brief overview of all five Division 4 pools.
The preview of this pool is going to be very similar to the one of Base Division. Teams Myanmar and Brunei are in the same tournament again (up to Division 4 it is allowed for two teams qualifying from the same division to play together in the next one ) and again they enter the competition as favorites.
Myanmar has 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 Hj Azahari Siti Nur 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.
Other teams will hardly make it to Division 3, but one thing is sure - Myanmar and Brunei will not have an easy walk like in Base Division.
This pool features one of the clear frontrunners of Division 4 - Syria 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) 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.
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 will 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 neighbor from Ethiopia and Cameroon.
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.
David Silva (Angola)
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.
This pool brought together mainly countries from Central America and the Caribbean; 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 a spot 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.
The matches of Division 4 will start at 08:00 UTC on July 31. The Pool A teams will be the first to enter the battle. The official website of the Online Olympics olymp.fide.com will follow the competition closely. Good luck to all participants!