All eyes will be on Board 3 at the 44th Chess Olympiad on Saturday, with World Champion Magnus Carlsen making his debut in the games in the clash between Norway and Uruguay.

The Norwegian will take on Uruguayan Meier Georg in the second round. Seen playing football on Friday, Carlsen did not play in the first round, which Norway won against Lebanon with three wins and a draw.

Match schedule

Match schedule

With a FIDE rating of 2,864, Carlsen will take on Georg who has a rating of 2,613, according to information available on the FIDE website.

Carlsen is not new to Chennai. In 2013, as a challenger, he won the World Chess Championship beating the then World Champion Vishwanathan Anand.

Interestingly, Carlsen is participating in the Chennai Olympiad after making the dramatic announcement on July 21 that he will not defend his world championship title in 2023 against Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi as he has no motivation to play the match. The Norwegian grandmaster successfully defended his title against the Russian last year.

Meanwhile, the second round on Saturday at the Chess Olympiad will feature interesting clashes between the US and Paraguay, and India and Moldova.

First round

In the first round, most of the favourites won the matches—the top three teams, the US, India and Norway, all started with solid victories.

Top seed USA defeated Angola by a clear 3.5-0.5 to start their campaign on a positive note.

As has long been the norm for most of the top teams to play in the first round, where there is often a big disparity in the respective strengths of teams, the number one USA player GM Fabiana Caruana decided to save energy and gave up his seat to GM Sam Shankland, the teams theoretical number five reserve player, says an update by FIDE.

The rest of the leading teams defeated their opponents effortlessly, with India A crushing Zimbabwe by 4-0.

The favourites

The US starts as the absolute favourite to win the Chess Olympiad. However, in the absence of arch-rivals Russia and China, only the Indian team, playing on home turf, seems capable of depriving the US of the gold medal.

After a few last-minute withdrawals, a total of 188 teams began the first round in the open section of the event—at four players per team, 752 players, including thirteen women, breaking all the previously existing records of participation, the update said.

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