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IF predictions by organizers are accurate, more than 100 million people will watch some part of this year's chess Olympiad online.

People unfamiliar with the world of international chess are usually surprised to learn that the biennial Olympiad is the fourth largest sports event in the world, based on the number of nations competing. This year the total is 174.

That means chess fans around the world are eagerly watching how their countries are faring. In chess-crazed countries such as India, Russia and China, the number of web watchers is putting a strain on the official Olympiad site.

This year's event is being held in Tromso, Norway, the northernmost venue in Olympiad history. About 300 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Tromso boasts average August high temperatures of barely 14 C.

None of that matters, of course, to the chess players, who are snugly ensconced in a 7,500-square-metre former brewery factory. Though some have talked about going hiking in their spare time, it's a safe bet that most of their on and off-the-board activities will be confined to the indoors.

The Olympiad, with its separate men's and women's competitions, brings together everyone from the world champion to some very inexperienced players. In fact, one of the games in the match between Zimbabwe and Togo ended in mate after just three moves, a rare result that requires incredible co-operation from the losing side.

Playing for your country is often a nerve-racking affair, and that is even evident at the highest levels. World champion Magnus Carlsen could only manage a draw, for instance, in his first game against a much lower-rated opponent.

Canada is well-represented this year, with three grandmasters and two international masters on the men's squad and an average rating of 2554. They managed to win three of their first four matches, but they will have to step up their game even further if they hope to finish in the top 30 in the world.

The Olympiad is an 11-round affair that continues until Aug. 14.

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Gustav Baron scored 6.5 out of 8 to finish clear first in this year's Winnipeg Open. He defeated higher-rated Jeff Babb in the final round.

Felix Andraschko and Blair Rutter tied for second place with 5.5, followed by Babb, Kernetsky, Theo Wolchock and Keith Czarny at 5. Wolchock won the 2nd Under 2000 prize, Czarny took top Under 1900, and Phil LeDorze and Jim Green shared 2nd Under 1900.

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Sam Lipnowski took first place in the Medieval Festival open tournament, beating Iyer Chandrashekhar, Nilo Moncal and Marcos Valentino in the playoffs after they all tied with 3.5 points.

Gustav Baron and Francis Trueman finished half a point behind with 3. Zach Pitrowicz and Zachary Piche scored 4 out of 5 to win the unrated section, with Pitrowicz claiming the playoff. Doug Kiz was next with 3 points.

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This week's problem: Mate in 3 (Kipping). Solution to last problem: White mates with 1.Nh6.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 9, 2014 D18

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