Chess Olympiad Round 6: Humpy, Vaishali give India sole lead; Gukesh’s sixth win in vain

With five rounds to go after Thursday’s rest day, all three Indian teams in the Open section are on 10 match-points. Armenia leads with 12 points, one ahead of the USA.

K. Humpy (in picture) and debutant R. Vaishali helped India 1 beat third-seed and former champion Georgia 3-1.

K. Humpy (in picture) and debutant R. Vaishali helped India 1 beat third-seed and former champion Georgia 3-1. | Photo Credit: Lennart Ootes/FIDE

With five rounds to go after Thursday’s rest day, all three Indian teams in the Open section are on 10 match-points. Armenia leads with 12 points, one ahead of the USA.

Riding on victories of the ever-reliable K. Humpy and debutant R. Vaishali, India 1 beat third-seed and former champion Georgia 3-1, crossed a major hurdle and emerged as the only leader at 12 match-points after six rounds of the women’s Chess Olympiad.

However, the much-followed India 2 suffered its first reverse in the Open section against leader Armenia despite D. Gukesh giving a dream start with his sixth straight victory. Even India 1, ahead after P. Harikrishna’s superb victory over the young World rapid champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov, could not prevent a 2-2 draw against Uzbekistan.

With five rounds to go after Thursday’s rest day, all three Indian teams in the Open section are on 10 match-points. Armenia leads with 12 points, one ahead of the USA.

The Georgian women, winner over home teams in the two previous rounds, got the taste of India’s firepower.

Vaishali put India 1 ahead with a resounding victory on the third board. Draws with black pieces by D. Harika and Tania Sachdev took the top seed closer to victory. Then came the finishing touch from Humpy as she trumped Georgian spearhead Nana Dzagnidze in 42 moves.

Vaishali provided the cutting edge by overpowering Lela Javakhishvili in 36 moves. The debutant Indian trapped the higher-rated rival’s bishop and happily traded her rook for the bishop-pair. Before long, the writing was on the wall with Vaishali launching a winning attack with the queen and a knight.

Humpy seized her opportunity following Nana’s knight-retreat on the 25th move. Her rook controlled the open central file after the exchange of queens while her advanced queenside pawn hastened the end in 41 moves.

If India 1 was the only leader going into the rest day, the host owes it to the drawn encounter involving second seed Ukraine and joint overnight leader, Romania.

Gukesh is living a school-boy dream. The 16-year-old added Armenian Gabriel Sargissian, rated 2698, to his list of victims in 41 moves. Sargissian fumbled on the 22nd move, but Gukesh failed to find the right continuation. On the next move, the Armenian erred again, and this time, Gukesh seized the opportunity.

In this tactical battle, Gukesh’s queen returned to the board and threatened to capture Sargissian’s rook when the Armenian resigned.

Abdusattorov walked into Harikrishna’s opening preparation, suffered for 34 moves and resigned.

Meanwhile, third-seed Norway’s medal-winning chances received a nearly decisive blow when Australia inflicted a 2.5-1.5 defeat. Though Magnus Carlsen won, the defeats of Aryan Tari (2672) to Temur Kuybokarov (2583) and Jon Ludvig Hammer (2638) to Bobby Cheng (2540) set up Australia’s victory.

Norway, with just seven match-points after defeats to Italy and Australia, besides a draw against Mongolia, will have to win the remaining five rounds for a maximum of 17 points. Going by its form, it looks highly improbable.

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