Nearly 100 years after the first ‘Chess Olympic Games’ were held in Paris to coincide with the eighth Summer Olympic Games in the French capital in 1924, India gets to host the most prestigious team championship in the game.
The Olympiad, held every even-numbered year, returns to Asia 30 years after Manila hosted it in 1992.
Though officially the Chess Olympiad came into being in 1927 when London’s Westminster Central Hall saw 70 players from 16 nations participate in a four-board round-robin format, India made its maiden appearance in 1956 in Moscow and finished 27th out of 34 participants.
The team represented by R. B. Sapre, Ramdas Gupta, B. P. Mhaiskar and S. Venkatraman were placed in Group 3 (the more elite teams were placed in stronger groups). The quartet scored seven wins, drew four and lost six from 17 matches. After this ordinary debut, India missed the next edition and played the next three editions to finish 24th (1960), 28th (1962) and 37th (1964). However, from 1966 to 1978, India did not participate due to several reasons.
Since 1980, India has figured in every edition. The best showing came in Tromso (2014) where the team comprising Parimarjan Negi, S. P. Sethuraman, K. Sasikiran, B. Adhiban and M. R. Lalit Babu returned with a bronze medal.
India made its debut in the women’s section in 1978, when the eighth edition was played in Buenos Aires, and has figured in every subsequent edition. India came the closest to winning the elusive medal in 2012 (Istanbul) when the team consisting of D. Harika, Eesha Karavade, Tania Sachdev, Mary Ann Gomes and Soumya Swaminathan finished fourth.
India has produced some sterling individual performances, winning 10 medals on various boards in the two categories. Dibyendu Barua (1990) and Padmini Rout (2014) have returned with individual gold medals for their performances.
S. Vijayalakshmi is the only Indian to have returned with two silver medals for her top-board performances in 2000 and 2002.
Over the past few editions, in keeping with the growth of Indian chess, the performances in the Olympiads have been consistent. India has kept itself in the hunt for medals in both sections. However, except in 2014, India has not been able to break into the medal bracket. The home edition in 2022 offers India its best chance to win a medal in both sections.
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