About a week after completion of the world’s biggest sporting event, the Olympics, the world of chess was graced with an online chess Olympiad. The event which happens 100% online and features around 100 countries started on August 20, 2021 and is to end on September 15, 2021. The installment, which aims to keep world competitive chess going, is the second of its kind after the inaugural one happened in July 2020.
The games’ format is usually different from the over the board version of the event as it is a knock-out group stage format with some grading of teams (nations) based on the world rankings. The other noticeable difference is the team composition; the version has deliberately included the youth as well as women as all teams are forced to be composed as follows for both first six players and six reserve players:
- Two open spots
- Two women
- At least one player Under 20
- At least one girl under 20
The teams are then arranged-on strength and ranked according to their Federation Performance Ranking (FPR) according to their results in the open and women’s section of the 2018 FIDE Olympiad in Batumi and in the 2020 FIDE Online Olympiad.
Based on their rankings, teams are then divided into four divisions, from Division 4 to Top Division. The divisions are also divided into pools of 10 teams of approximately equal strength each. All teams in the division play round-robin games of nine rounds to qualify to play in the higher division. The top teams from each division move into a division higher in hierarchy.
The top three teams from each pool in Division 4 move on to Division 3; the top three teams from each pool in Division 3 move on to Division 2; the top three teams from each pool in Division 2 move on to the Top Division; the top two teams from each pool in the Top Division move on to the play-offs. The 15 teams coming from Division 2 then join the 25 seeded teams with the highest FPR of the event.
The Division consists of four different pools with 10 teams each (from A to D) of approximately equal strength. Each pool then plays a round-robin of nine rounds, with the top two teams from each pool (8 total) qualifying for the play-off.
The play-offs feature the eight teams that qualified from the Top Division competing in a knockout tournament. Each individual matchup (called “duel”) consists of two matches: In the first match, the first-named team has White on the odd-numbered boards and Black on the remaining boards for the first match; colours alternate for the second match of the duel. The pairing for the knockout stage follows the pattern below pattern:
Duel I: Winner of Top Division pool A vs. Runner-up of Top Division pool D
Duel II: Runner-up of Top Division pool C vs. Winner of Top Division pool B
Duel III: Winner of Top Division pool C vs. Runner-up of Top Division pool B
Duel IV: Runner-up of Top Division pool A vs. Winner of Top Division pool D
The quarterfinal phase is then followed by Semi final stage as well as the finals subsequently.
Lesotho was pitted in the in division 4 playing in Pool B of the division playing against Kenya, Palestine, Namibia, Malawi, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Uganda, Qatar, Rwanda, Somalia and Eretria. Unfortunately, at the time of going to print Lesotho had already failed to secure the second phase of the tournament with occupation of the 6th position and collecting of 37 points. The favorites for the tournament include Russia, China and the United States of America.