After a depleted French team held India 1 on all boards, Uzbekistan made the host feel a lot better by holding top seed USA 2-2 on what turned out to be a day of the underdogs in the Chess Olympiad here.
Not surprisingly, Monday witnessed some close encounters involving some leading teams with three of the top four matches producing 2-2 deadlocks. Surprisingly, Israel upstaged favourite Netherlands 2.5-1.5.
Notwithstanding a defeat to higher-ranked nations in each section, Indian teams found more reasons to rejoice at the Chess Olympiad on Monday.
If Tania Sachdev and Vantika Agarwal provided the winning margins for India 1 and India 2, D. Gukesh and Nihal Sarin scored dominating victories to keep India 2 among the leaders of the Open section at eight match-points.
When the dust settled following protracted battles on several boards, there were five leading teams, including India 2, in the Open section and eight in the women’s category.
Overwhelming favourite USA escaped serious embarrassment when Uzbekistan’s Jakhongir Vakhidov erred on the 52nd move in a completely winning position and eventually let Sam Shankland get away with a 60-move draw. A victory for Vakhidov could have given this young Uzbekistan team a memorable victory since Nodirbek Abdusattorov had Fabiano Caruana suffering on the top board.
Before that, second seed India could not progress past 15th seeded French team. Without Alireza Firouzja and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, ranked fourth and 11th in the world, France still managed to come up with a gritty performance to slow down the march of India’s strongest combination.
D. Gukesh and Nihal Sarin sparkled on the top two boards as India 2 brought down Italy 3-1. A day after upstaging third seed Norway, an upbeat Italy found the all-teen Indian combination too hot to handle.
After Raunak Sadhwani drew on the fourth board, Gukesh caught Daniele Vocaturo in a checkmating net. Remember, less than 24 hours ago, Vocaturo held World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen. Praggnanandhaa drew and Nihal won to give India another remarkable win.
India 3, however, ran into fourth seed Spain and lost by the narrowest of margins. The third board defeat of Abhijeet Gupta to David Anton separated the teams.
For Norway, there was no respite as 45th seed Mongolia forced a 2-2 draw after Carlsen won on the top board.