Now you're asking, so who do you think will win TCG?
I want to say, "not the Russians". But these guys are top seeds with a team rating average of 2730 - way ahead of the second seed Indians who have an average of 2688. Led by the powerful but boring Kramnik, these guys might as well be handed the gold medals. Just look at the line-up: except for board 6, all of them are 2700+!! Then again, board 6 is none other than 58th Russian Champion Sergey Rublevsky (2687).
What are we saying? Rating is rating and anything can happen.
As mentioned, the Indians are second seed - their highest seeding ever at this event. I reckon these guys will be chasing the Russians right through to the end. And they can draw inspiration from no less than Vishy Anand who is playing on board one. Like my beloved Pinoys, the Indian team have taken a very serious approach in their pre-Olympiad preparation by attending a training camp in Goa. No wonder then that the Indian men's coach, Elizbar Ubilava is rather upbeat.
In chess you cannot predict anything. More than 100 countries would be taking part and 10-15 countries can easily fight for medals. But we can hope for some medal with the world's strongest player Anand in our side.
What about that other Asian nation, China? At least as far as the men's competition is concerned, I don't think the Chinese men will be in striking distance. They are definitely a rising powerhouse - but it will be several more Olympiads before we see the Chinese men's team on an Olympiad podium. But you'll never know.
Champions from Calvia, the Ukrainians will surely want a repeat performance. Two years ago, these guys blasted off to the best of starts by crushing the opposition 4-0 in the first 3 rounds. Then in the fourth, Ukrainian number one Ivanchuk defeated Morozevich pushing Ukraine to a 2.5 - 1.5 win over Russia. If these two teams meet again, the mighty Russians, with all that ELO firepower, will be hunting for revenge! This year, I'm picking another top 3 finish for Ukraine; they are stronger and more exprienced.
And look at the Armenians. In Calvia, they came third collecting a total of 36.5 points - 9.5 of which were the hard work of Rafael Vaganian. Rafael put in a whopping rating performance of 2818! Unfortunately, he's out this year. They'll come close, but my tea leaves tell me that there will be no top 3 finish for these guys.
Of the rest, the only serious threat are the Americans. Team USA will enjoy the services of the resurgent Gata Kamsky. His present showing at MTel must certainly bring smiles to US skipper John Donaldson. Kamsky sure knows how to time a comeback! But can he sustain it for the next couple of weeks? And, of course, the US have that lunatic (I mean it nicely) Hikaru Nakamura. I dare him to bang out 2. Qh5 in Turin. I would love to see that.
So here's my pick for placings: (1) Russia (2) Ukraine (3) India