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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chess World Hopes Event Brings Unity

YEREVAN, Armenia -- Top chess teams from around the world opened their 32nd Olympiad in the Armenian capital Yerevan on Monday in an event organizers hope will unite the game after years of bickering between rival factions.


Anatoly Karpov and Gary Kasparov, the two leading players whose bitter personal rivalry has become the symbol of the divided chess world, are expected to attend the same tournament for the first time in years, although Karpov will not compete.


More than 1,200 players from a record 127 national men's and 82 women's teams are participating in three weeks of competitions seen as the largest international team tournament.


Grandmaster Kasparov leads the six-strong Russian men's team, which also features world No. 3, Vladimir Kramnik.


The Russian teams, both men and women, won the last Olympiad in 1994 in Moscow, and experts say they have no real rivals for the gold.


The British, Israeli, U.S., Hungarian and Yugoslav teams are favorites in the battle for silver in the men's competition, while the Chinese, Hungarian, Moldovan and Ukrainian teams are tipped in the women's.


"These ceremonies rekindle memories of all the great old chess events," a smiling Kasparov told the opening ceremony in Yerevan's packed Sport and Concert Center on Sunday.


Kasparov, half ethnic Armenian, had pushed hard for the games to be held in Yerevan despite frequent blackouts and other inconveniences caused by Armenia's economic crisis and eight years of bitter conflict with Azerbaijan.


Yerevan's major hotels have been renovated for the event, and many buildings and avenues are decorated with Olympiad banners.


"This ceremony shows that Armenia is capable of holding such a huge event," said Kasparov, flanked by International Chess Federation chairman Kirsan Ilyumzhinov and Armenian President Levon Ter-Petrosyan. The International Chess Federation, or FIDE, was the sole international chess governing body until 1993, when Kasparov, considered the world's strongest player since he beat Karpov for the world title in 1985, broke away and set up his own Professional Chess Association.


Karpov crushed U.S. grandmaster Gata Kamsky in southern Russia in June to retain his FIDE world champion's title. Karpov is not formally taking part in Yerevan, but he is due to arrive here in the next few days. The organizers hope the two giants of the game will patch up their long-standing rift.


Organizers say the arch-rivals are likely to schedule a new series of championship matches under FIDE auspices.