Russia has long ceased to be hegemonic in chess, but it is still the leading country, by far. However, the constant failure in the Olympics since 2002 has no obvious explanation. In the absolute, the Russians started as 2nd seed, after the US, and occupy the position 17 after six rounds of the eleven scheduled. In the feminine, the Russians were unquestionable favorites, but they are in the 24th. President Putin personally fired the delegation and chartered a private plane for his transfer to Batumi, Georgia.
The captain of the women's team, Sergey Rublevski, could not hide her anguish when she saw that the defeat against Armenia (1-3) was beginning to take shape. His jostling of reporters near the table to drive them away lacked any justification because none of them was close enough to bother their two players still in the fight, Gunina and Kosteniuk. They were pure nerves, probably connected with the prospect of losing their jobs. In the Kremlin any position of the Russians that is not the first one will be interpreted as a failure.
The level of demand for the men's team (the competition is called absolute because some teams include women) is not so high because the US has a very strong squad – in fact, it achieved a historic gold in the 2016 edition – since it nationalized the Filipino Wesley So and the Italian-American (until then with Italian flag) Fabiano Caruana, who also won the Candidates Tournament in March and will be the next challenger of the world champion, the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, this November in London.
But, since Russia is the 2nd seed (Kariakin, Nepómniachi, Krámnik, Vitiugov and Jakovenko), the limit of the tolerance will be the silver medal; not even the bronze would be a success. Not in vain, Putin has repeatedly declared that chess is a priority, has allocated all the resources necessary for training and concentrations of its stars, and has assigned former Deputy Prime Minister, Arkady Dórkovich, the difficult mission of winning elections on Wednesday to the presidency of the International Federation (FIDE), infected since 1982 by a considerable number of corrupt and ineffective managers, but great masters in the control of the electoral machinery.
The Russians have not won the gold since 2002, and they have it very difficult in Batumi after drawing in the sixth round with India (2-2) and losing in the fourth against Poland (2,5-1,5). Why does it fail so much, despite the fact that six of the twenty best in the world are Russian? The logic and the numerous testimonies of people close to that selection indicate that the relations between them – only in the male squad; the Russians do form a pile – they are bad; each one goes to his own, does not collaborate in the preparation of the games or in maintaining the high psychic tone, and that translates into the results.
The leaders, Azerbaijan and Poland, with a point more than the US, are precisely an example of the opposite, of good collective harmony. And Spain too: started as 24th due to the absence of four important players for various reasons (Vallejo, Shirov, Salgado and Illescas) but currently occupies the 16th position after overtaking Switzerland (2.5-1.5, victory of Anton; tables of Candelario, Vázquez and Ibarra); on the other hand, the Spaniards have a hopeful team (15th seed on 151) to fight for the top ten positions, but is in the 41st after losing to the Philippines (1-3), Vega and Matnadze tables, Marta García defeats and Calzetta).
All results and classifications, here.