If ever, any proof was needed of India’s growing chess prowess, four fearless teenagers presented it to the world in a telling manner on Saturday. Silently, they made a huge statement by bringing down the mighty USA. In doing so, they provided the biggest talking-point of the 44th Chess Olympiad here.
In a display of immense self-belief in the face of heavy odds, D. Gukesh, Nihal Sarin, R. Praggnanandhaa and Raunak Sadhwani joined hands to script a sensational 3-1 victory over Fabiano Caruana, Levon Aronian, Wesley So and Leinier Dominguez Perez - ranked between 5 and 12 in live ratings. Never before has the chess world seen a bigger upset in over 90 years of this prestigious team competition.
Before a late-blunder from P. Harikrishna in a 102-move marathon proved decisive as Armenia retained its one-point lead at 15 points and Indian 1 battled to a 2-2 draw against second seed Ukraine to stay ahead in the women’s section, Gukesh and Raunak scripted a stunning victory for India 2, seeded 11.
It all started with R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin, rated 105 points and 110 points behind their illustrious rivals in live ratings, pressed hard for victories against Wesley So and Levon Aronian but eventually settled for draws.
Gukesh, now ranked 20th and rated 25 points behind Caruana in live ratings, was struggling in the opening phase but saw it as an opportunity to test his skill-sets with black pieces against a high quality player. Gukesh saw his chance following Caruana’s knight-move on the 31st turn. Over the next 15 moves, Gukesh kept finding the precise continuation and delivered the knockout punch by offering his queen. Caruana saw the impending checkmate and resigned to give Gukesh his 8th straight win that made him the second Indian, Viswanathan Anand being the first, in world rankings.
Raunak, rated 146 points behind Leinier Dominguez Perez, was no less classy with white pieces. Raunak’s knight-offer on the 21st move was an absolute beauty. But Dominguez, under time-pressure, committed the decisive blunder on the 40th move and resigned five moves. That completed India's greatest team victory.
The results (with match-points) - Eight round:
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