Firstly, I will be hoping that Australia can put up good results. My adopted country has been good to me, and I'm a firm supporter of the teams, especially as I know most of the players personally. The men's team start the event from a lowly 60th position in the seedings. However, the 2012 team was also outside the top 50 at the start of the event, but finished just outside 30th place, so hopefully good team spirit will bring us some good results. A young team, the Australians will certainly gain invaluable experience whatever their result. In fact, after their first round 4-0 win over the US Virgin Islands, the Aussies will have about as big an experience as is possible, playing defending champs, Armenia. The Australian women's team also won by 4-0 against Kenya. I was pleasantly surprised to see Sally Yu's name in the team list as I knew she had not been selected originally and I'd missed the news that she had found a place in the team. However, the downside is that our top player, Arianne Caoilli, will not be playing. Still, the women's team will also hopefully finish above their initial seeding of 51st.
I'll also be following the country where I was born, England. The men's team are pretty strong on paper, starting in 10th position in the seedings, and can hopefully bring some team spirit to the event, and challenge for a podium spot. The women's team start in 39th place, and features an old friend of mine in Ann Marie James, who I hope will have a great event. Both the men's and women's teams started with 4-0 results which is a great start, though not unexpected.
While these countries hold the most interest for me, I usually follow some other teams to make things more interesting. Of course, the top teams, and those near the top of each round will be of interest. But at the lower down the seedings, I'll be following some teams: Scotland and New Zealand have to be followed, just to make sure they don't finish above England and Australia respectively :D; I'll keep an eye on the Irish side, and no doubt will get some reports from Alex Baburin in Chess Today; Palau, Fiji, and the Solomon Islands are islands not too far from Australia, while Hong Kong I visited this year; finally, I will be following Bhutan who I think have the best flag in the event, though Swaziland's flag is also pretty cool. In fact, for a short while it looked as if Bhutan had produced the shock of the first round with a 4-0 win over Luxenbourg. However, the results had been recorded wrongly on the site, and in fact it was the other way round.
|Bhutan's flag has to be one of the coolest!|
Saying that, the coverage of the first round was remarkably smooth. Usually, the first round is full of errors, impossible to see because of lag or overuse of the site, and slow on producing the games. However, the results were mostly correct, the live games coverage generally good, and pgn files have already been put out, while an excellent bulletin can be found on the chess24 site.