Online Chess Olympiad: India advances to the final

India beats Poland to become the first finalist of the Online Chess Olympiad. India’s rival will come out of clash between Russia and the USA.

It wasn’t an easy match for the winners, who had to come from behind after losing 4-2 in the first round. Jan-Krzysztof Duda managed to outprepare Vishy Anand on the black side of a Sicilian, and came out of the opening with a solid positional advantage that he didn’t fail to convert. Vidit played very aggressively with black, resolutely advancing his h-pawn all the way to h3 and creating some problems to Radek Wojtaszek. However, white contained the attacked, the advanced pawn was captured, and the Polish GM took the whole point. India seemed to have good chances of tying the match thanks to their last two boards, where both Nihal Sarin and Divya Desmukh had a better position. But only Sarin managed to win his game, while Desmukh fell into time trouble, ruined her little advantage and lost.

It is not easy to bounce back right after a defeat, but that’s exactly what India did in the second round of the day, winning on-demand to level the match. Vishy Anand took his revenge against Duda, getting a positional edge in the opening. White’s bishop was cornered in the a1 square, and it took Duda quite a few tempi to get this piece back into play. By the time he managed to take the bishop out of its cage, Anand was already dominating the rest of the board.

Poland took the decision to replace Wojtaszek for the second round, maybe with the hope to surprise the Indians and avoid Vidit’s preparation, so it was Grzegorz Gajewski who played on board two. Out of the opening, the position was about equal, but the black King was more exposed and that tends to be an important factor in rapid chess.  Vidit played 18.f4, went for the kill, and scored the whole point. Humpy Koneru completely outplayed Monika Socko, and Harika Dronavally managed to defeat Karina Cyfka in an endgame where her Bishop was stronger than black’s Knight. With four victories in the top four boards, the match was sentenced, and only Igor Janik managed to get a victory for Poland. The final score was 4½-1½ for India.

The match came down to the Armageddon tie-break where, like in the last of the Quarter-Finals played yesterday, Monika Socko had the represent the whole Polish team, fighting against Humpy Koneru for the spot in the finals. It was a fantastic clash between to experienced veterans, and probably one of the best Armageddon games we have seen recently. Monika played aggressively -as the situation demanded-, sacrificing a pawn right away to grasp the initiative. But Humpy kept her cool, and she exploited an inaccurate by Socko to turn the tables, launch a counter-attack, and win the game. Monika Socko showed once again great sportsmanship, smiling after the defeat and congratulating the winning Humpy.

Indian’s best result at a Chess Olympiad so far had been a third place in Tromsø 2014, but now they have guaranteed a Silver Medal.

This event is FIDE’s response to the postponement of the “traditional” Chess Olympiad, which was planned to take place between Moscow and Khanty-Mansiysk (Russia) in August, 2020. Involving more than 3,000 participants, the event was rescheduled to 2021, shortly after the IOC had also announced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympic Games.

With the support of Gazprom as General Partner, the government of the Ugra region as Official Partner, and as the playing platform, the first FIDE Online Olympiad is the latest example of how chess has adapted to the coronavirus crisis. Despite having to cancel all official events played over the board -including flagship competitions like the Candidates Tournament and the World Championship match-, chess has thrived during the global lockdown.

Official website for the Olympiad: