The World Team Chess Championship kicked off Sunday in Jerusalem, featuring the first appearance by US chess star Hans Niemann since he sued a rival over a high-profile cheating scandal that rocked the world of chess and spilled outside its bounds.
Twelve top teams, including Israel, will vie for the world title in the weeklong competition in the capital.
Niemann, 19, sued chess world champion Magnus Carlsen last month in the US for $100 million, accusing him of defamation.
Carlsen has accused Niemann of cheating, including when the upstart defeated Carlsen in an upset win earlier this year. Niemann has admitted to cheating in online matches as a youth, but said he has not done so in recent years.
Chess.com, a leading institution in the chess world, said in a report last month that Niemann has likely cheated in over 100 games, including in prize money events.
The platform, with tens of millions of users, can draw from its massive user base to make statistical determinations about cheating. In early September, the platform banned Niemann for cheating on the site.
In a rematch with Niemann, Carlsen quit after the first move in protest, saying he refused to compete with a cheater.
My statement regarding the last few weeks. pic.twitter.com/KY34DbcjLo
— Magnus Carlsen (@MagnusCarlsen) September 26, 2022
Niemann is ranked 8th in the US and 40th worldwide, while Carlsen has held his ranking as the top international player. The teenager is listed as the top competitor in the Jerusalem tournament for Team USA, which is led by captain John Donaldson.
The American squad and some other teams are appearing in Jerusalem without their top players. Israel’s top competitor, Boris Gelfand, is absent.
At full strength, the US team is ranked first worldwide.
Team Israel is led by Maxim Rodshtein and captain Ilana David.
Kyiv has also sent a national team to the competition. Russia, a powerhouse in the sport, has been banned from competing as a national team due to the country’s invasion of Ukraine. Belarus was also banned from international competitions for supporting Russia, although individual players from those countries can compete under a neutral flag.
The tournament is being held under a new format that groups the teams into two pools of six that square off in a round-robin competition.
The four top teams from each pool advance to a knock-out stage, where they play two matches against opposing teams through the quarter-finals, semifinals and finals.
In the first round of play on Sunday, Israel tied India 2-2. The other members of Israel’s pool are the US, Poland, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
Round 1 has started! #FIDEworldteams
????????Netherlands – ????????Spain
????????France – ????????Ukraine
????????South Africa – ????????China
????????India – ????????Israel
????????Poland – ????????United States
????????Azerbaijan – ????????Uzbekistan
4 teams from each group will go to the Quarterfinals.
What are your predictions? pic.twitter.com/A1gHWJXwz8
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) November 20, 2022
The other pool comprises the Netherlands, France, South Africa, China, Ukraine and Spain.
Israel faces off against Uzbekistan later Sunday.
Jerusalem Affairs Minister Ze’ev Elkin hosted the opening ceremony for the tournament alongside International Chess Federation officials.
The event is being held at Jerusalem’s Dan Hotel and is being supported by the Sports Ministry and Jerusalem Affairs Ministry.
The final games take place on Friday.
Israel hosted a high-level event for individual players, part of the world championship cycle, in Jerusalem in 2019.