Azerbaijan and China are the early leaders at the FIDE World Team Chess Championship which started on Sunday in Jerusalem, Israel. The tournament is played under the rapid time control of 45+10 and has a pool stage followed by a knockout stage.
Like the Olympiad, the World Team Championship is held every two years, with separate open and women’s sections that are not always organized concurrently. Since the first edition in 1985, the format was always a round-robin among 10 teams but for this year, FIDE has changed things quite a bit.
There are 12 teams this time, divided into two pools that each play a round-robin of five rounds. The top four teams from each pool qualify for a knockout stage. The biggest change, however, is the time control: this year the games are played with 45 minutes plus a 10-second increment. This, in fact, falls into the category of rapid chess according to Appendix A of the FIDE Laws of Chess:
A.1 A ‘Rapid chess’ game is one where either all the moves must be completed in a fixed time of more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes for each player; or the time allotted plus 60 times any increment is of more than 10 minutes but less than 60 minutes for each player.
Some have argued that the tournament should be called World Team Rapid Chess Championship, while FIDE’s CEO Emil Sutovsky prefers to speak of “semi-classic.” One thing is clear: the games will count for rapid ratings, not classical.
The venue is the Dan Hotel Jerusalem. In a press release in early November, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) had urged FIDE to relocate the tournament elsewhere. The reason was that the hotel is located in eastern Jerusalem, seen by the Palestinians as an illegal Israeli settlement of Palestinian territory.
Russia, the title holder, is obviously not present in Jerusalem but Ukraine is. Led by GM Vasyl Ivanchuk, their team also includes GM Igor Kovalenko, who was fighting in the army in the Donbass in the summer. He is one of only three players who started the tournament with two wins.
In Pool B, Azerbaijan is the only team that started with two match victories. They defeated the U.S. in the second round, a team that is missing many of its strongest players. Interestingly, GM Hans Niemann is playing board one (alongside GMs Lazaro Bruzon, Alexander Onischuk, Varuzhan Akobian, and Yuniesky Quesada.
Niemann played GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in that second round, who would play his seventh match of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals later that evening.
Missing GM Anish Giri, the Netherlands suffered two narrow 1.5-2.5 losses on Sunday. Especially the match against France (a team that is missing GM Alireza Firouzja, likely related to the location of the tournament) was a tough loss as GM Max Warmerdam managed to loss a pawn-up(!) queen endgame GM Laurent Fressinet:
It’s clear that South Africa will be having a hard time even scoring a match point, but it was nice to see their top board GM Kenny Solomon holding a draw against the legendary Ivanchuk. Solomon was well prepared for the 3.Bb5+ Najdorf:
Pool A Round 2 Standings
Pool B Round 2 Standings
The FIDE World Team Championship takes place November 19-26, 2022, in Jerusalem, Israel. The format is a round-robin for teams with five rounds, followed by a knockout with the top eight finishers. The time control is 45 minutes for the entire game plus a 10-second increment starting on move one.