Every Chess Olympiad produces its share of performers. This time, when the mega event makes a return after missing the 2020 edition due to the pandemic, coupled with the absence of defending champions China and traditional front-runners Russia, in both sections, the dynamics no longer remain the same.
The chess world is sure to keep an eye on how Magnus Carlsen shapes the fortunes of Norway or the margin of victory for super hot favourites USA in the Open section.
As a team, on their day, there are a few capable of punching above their weight. Here are a few young players whose performances will be followed closely without being influenced by the results of their teams.
R. Vaishali (2442) and R. Praggnanandhaa (2648): Seldom has a sister-brother duo promised to influence their teams’ results as much as these siblings from Chennai. Making their Olympiad debut, not too far from their home, Vaishali and Praggnanandhaa are capable of providing the cutting edge in crunch games. In the company of higher-rated team-mates, they can absorb the pressure better and perform without letting the occasion get to them. With coach R. B. Ramesh around, expect this duo to provide the sparks.
Nodirbek Abdusattorov (2688) (Uzbekistan): This 17-year-old made the chess world sit up and watch in disbelief as he clinched the 2021 World rapid title at the expense of Ian Nepomniachtchi and Magnus Carlsen. Even in classical time format, this youngster has made steady strides and eyes a great opportunity to make his nation proud in this Olympiad. Heading the 17th seeded Uzbekistan, Abdusattorov can be expected to be the catalyst for his very inspired teammates to cause a ripple.
Jan-Krzysztof Duda (2750) (Poland): Watch out for the exploits of this sensational 24-year-old. Ranked 15th in the world, Duda has a well-rounded game that promises to evolve with time. Having achieved his career-best ranking of 2750, Duda has proved he firmly belongs among the elite. He leads sixth seed Poland which surely has the firepower to break into the medal bracket. How Duda shows the way will be interesting to see.
Vincent Keymer (2686) (Germany): Here is yet another 17-year-old who has broken into the top 50 of world rankings. Keymer is the spearhead of the ninth seed Germany with all his team-mates rated between 2673 and 2642. Much like the Indian quartet of D. Gukesh, Arjun Erigaisi, R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin, Keymer holds the promise to create a flutter when pitted against some quality opposition. Many fancied names are already wary of this rising German and this Olympiad provides a fine stage for Keymer to come good.
Zhansaya Abdumalik (2495) (Kazakhstan): At 21, Zhansaya gets a chance to lead a very bright, young National team in the Olympiad. Ranked 15th in the world, this talented player has won a few world age-group titles, including the world junior girls’ crown. She is a trendsetter in her country and an inspiration to budding chess players. Look out for Zhansaya to show the way as Kazakhstan prepares to get noticed on the big stage.