Chess Olympiad: Rapport Returns to Lead Hungary, Leko Joins the Team

01.06.2024 07:12 | News

In a major boost for Hungarian chess, Richard Rapport has rejoined the national team for the upcoming Chess Olympiad. Alongside him, Peter Leko will also make his return, marking a significant step for Hungary's ambitions in the tournament.

The Hungarian Chess Federation is set to host the 45th FIDE Chess Olympiad from 10 to 23 September. This prestigious event will take place in the BOK Sports Hall in Budapest, which has a capacity of 10,000 spectators. While it may not attract quite that many, the Chess Olympiad, as the second largest sporting event in terms of participant numbers, promises to be a significant draw in Hungary.


Richard Rapport | Photo: Mark Livshitz

Initially, the federation faced a challenge when its top player, Richard Rapport, was enticed by a Romanian sponsor to join the Romanian Chess Federation. Despite being offered Romanian citizenship, Rapport, who was born in Szombathely, Hungary, in 1996, decided to stay true to his roots. The federation, under the leadership of Dr. Zoltan Polyanszky, a philosopher, doctor of economics, and deputy state secretary, successfully convinced Rapport to return to the Hungarian team.

In another strategic move, the Hungarian Chess Federation managed to re-engage Peter Leko, the runner-up of the 2004 World Chess Championship. Leko agreed to return on the condition that Rapport would also play for Hungary. With both players on board, Hungary's team looks stronger than it has in years. The last time Rapport and Leko played together for the national team was at the Chess Olympiad in Tromsø ten years ago, where they won a team silver medal.


Peter Leko | Photo: Simon Bohnenblust

Although Judit Polgar, the greatest female chess player of all time, has retired from tournament play, the Hungarian team has added another strong player, Sanan Sjugirov, who recently moved from Russia to Hungary. Alongside Sjugirov and Leko, Hungary has five other players with an Elo rating over 2600 to choose from for the remaining team spots. Without Rapport, Hungary ranked eleventh in the FIDE country rankings based on the average rating of its best players. The return of its top players is expected to further improve this standing.

Hungary boasts a rich chess tradition dating back to the 19th century with legendary players such as József Szén and Géza Maróczy. The Budapest Chess Club, founded by Szén in 1839, was a cornerstone of Hungarian chess. Maróczy, who succeeded Szén, became one of the world’s top players in his era.

The Hungarian roster of world-class chess players is impressive, featuring names like Johan Löwenthal, Ottó Bláthy, Andor Lilienthal, László Szabó, Pál Benkö, Lajos Portisch, Zoltán Almási, and the renowned Polgar sisters. Budapest’s First Saturday tournaments are a notable proving ground for many aspiring grandmasters.

The Hungarian Chess Federation itself has a storied history, originally founded in 1911 by Dániel Huber and Géza Maróczy, and re-established after both World Wars. Known as the Workers' Chess Federation post-World War II, it adopted the name Magyar Sakkszövetség (Hungarian Chess Federation) in 1956.

Throughout its history, Hungary has won twelve medals at Chess Olympiads, with the pinnacle being their gold medal victory over the USSR team in Buenos Aires in 1978. With Rapport and Leko back in the fold, Hungary aims to add to this illustrious legacy at the upcoming Olympiad.

Join the Discussion

What are your thoughts on Hungary's chances at the upcoming Chess Olympiad with the return of Richard Rapport and Peter Leko? Do you think their presence will lead to another medal for Hungary? Share your opinions in the comments below!

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