In Swiss league format, like the one used in the Chess Olympiad here, it is universally accepted that the performances of the last three rounds hugely influence a team’s eventual standing.
On that count, the Indian medal prospects suffered a setback in both sections in the ninth round but the possibility of a historic twin podium-finish remained. On the brighter side, four Indian teams emerged victorious on Sunday.
Before a crowded house, R. Praggnanandhaa saved the day for the much-followed India 2 against Azerbaijan by clinching a must-win game after Raunak Sadhwani’s loss saw the host trail by a point. After D. Gukesh’s eight-game winning sequence ended with a draw and Nihal Sarin signed peace, Praggnanandhaa showed his endgame prowess to make it 2-2.
Uzbekistan (16 match points), which held top seed USA last week, ended overnight leader Armenia’s undefeated run 3-1 with victories on the two lower boards to emerge as the front-runner. With two rounds to go.
India 2 and Armenia share the second spot with 15 points. If Praggnanandhaa pulled off a win to save India, his sister R. Vaishali required a draw to salvage a point for India 1. But that was not to be.
As India 1 faced a formidable Poland, Vaishali became Oliwia Kiobasa’s ninth successive victim in the competition. The lone decisive battle proved decisive since K. Humpy, D. Harika and Tania Sachdev were involved in drawn games.
Defeat for India 1 and the drawn encounter between Ukraine and Georgia, seeded two and three, saw Kazakhstan quietly join the leaders at 15 points after drubbing Bulgaria 3-1.