World Chess Champion Performances at the Chess Olympiads

The 2014 Chess Olympiad was held from August 1-14 in Tromso, Norway. Many people, including me, were surprised that the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen, lost two games (to Arkadij Naiditisch of Germany in round 7, and Ivan Saric of Croatia in round 10). This got me wondering about other world champions who have played in Olympiads. So, I parsed through online databases and Wikipedia articles to collect the information below.

Olympiad  Champion   Score
=====================================
1930      Alekhine   9/9       = 100%
1931      Alekhine   13.5/18   = 75%
1933      Alekhine   9.5/12    = 79%
1935      Alekhine   12/17     = 71%
1937      Euwe       9.5/13    = 73%
1939      Alekhine   7.5/10    = 75%
1954      Botvinnik  8.5/11    = 77%
1956      Botvinnik  9.5/13    = 73%
1958      Smyslov    9.5/12    = 79%
1960      Tal        11/15     = 73%
1962      Botvinnik  8/12      = 67%
1964      Petrosian  9.5/13    = 73%
1966      Petrosian  11.5/13   = 88%
1968      Petrosian  10.5/12   = 88%
1970      Spassky    9.5/12    = 79%
1980      Karpov     9/12      = 75%
1982      Karpov     6.5/8     = 81%
1986      Kasparov   8.5/11    = 77%
1988      Kasparov   8.5/10    = 85%
1992      Kasparov   8.5/10    = 85%
1994      Kasparov   6.5/10    = 65%
1996      Kasparov   7/9       = 78%
2014      Carlsen    6/9       = 67%

According to my research, the reigning world champion did not play in the Olympiads for 1927 (Capablanca), 1928, 1950, 1952, 1972 (Fisher), 1974, 1976, 1978, 1984, 1990, 1998, 2000, 2002 (Kramnik), 2004, 2006 (Topalov), 2008 (Anand), 2010, and 2012.

I likely made a few mistakes because the data had to be gathered from several sources. For the years when there were dual world champions, notably when Kasparov split from FIDE, I picked the champion I decided was the more legitimate.

So, the data more or less speaks for itself as they say. It’s hard to compare these results because the number of teams and competition strength has varied over time. But that said, I’d say all the world champions’ performances were extremely good at Olympiads. I am a big Magnus Carlsen fan, but his 2014 Olympiad score of 67% is tied for the second worst on record, although he’s in good company: Botvinnik in 1962 (65%) and Kasparov in 1994 (67%). To Carlsen’s great credit, he played in the 2014 Olympiad, with really nothing to gain, unlike previous champion Anand who did not play in any of the three Olympiads held while he was champion.

CarlsenAndKasparov

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