Chess Olympiad: Gukesh stuns Caruana as India 1 beats USA

D. Gukesh, Nihal Sarin, R. Praggnanandhaa and Raunak Sadhwani joined hands to script a sensational 3-1 victory

Rakesh Rao

GM D. Gukesh playing on day 10 of the 44th Chess Olympiad held at Mamallapuram on Friday. | Photo Credit: The Hindu

D. Gukesh, Nihal Sarin, R. Praggnanandhaa and Raunak Sadhwani joined hands to script a sensational 3-1 victory

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.

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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:
Open: Armenia (15) bt India 1 (12) 2.5-1.5 (Gabriel Sargissian bt P.Harikrishna; Hrant Melkumyan drew with Vidit Gujrathi; Samvel Ter-Sahakyan drew with Arjun Erigaisi; Robert Hovhannisyan drew with S. L. Narayanan).
USA (12) lost to India 2 (14) 1-3 (Fabiano Caruana lost to D. Gukesh; Levon Aronian drew with Nihal Sarin; Wesley So drew with R.Praggnanandhaa; Leinier Dominguez Perez lost to Raunak Sadhwani).
India 3 (10) lost to Peru (12) 1-3 (Surya Shekhar Ganguly lost to Emilo Cordova; S. P. Sethuraman drew with Cristhian Cruz; Abhijeet Gupta lost to Renato Terry; Murali Karthikeyan drew with Deivy Vera Siguenas)
Germany (12) lost to Uzbekistan (14) 1.5-2.5; Kazakhstan (12) lost to Azerbaijan (13) 1.5-2.5; Netherlands (13) bt Hungary (11) 3-1; Iran (13) bt France (11) 2.5-1.5; Ukraine (11) drew with Brazil (12) 2-2; Lithuania (12) bt Croatia (10) 2.5-1.5; Slovenia (11) drew with Czech Republic (11) 2-2.
Women: India 1 (15) drew with Ukraine (13) 2-2 (K. Humpy drew with Mariya Mukzychuk; D. Harika drew with Anna Muzychuk; R. Vaishali drew with Anna Ushenina; Tania Sachdev drew with Nataliya Buksa).
India 3 (11) lost to Poland (13) 1-3 (Eesha Karavade drew with Alina Kashlinskaya; P. V. Nandhidhaa lost to Oliwia Koilbasa; Pratyusha Bodda lost to Maria Malicka; Vishwa Vasnawala drew with Michalina Rudzinska).
Croatia (10) lost to India 2 (11) 0.5-3.5 (Mirjana Medic lost to Vantika Agrawal; Anamarija Radikovic lost to Padmini Rout; Tihana Ivekovic drew with Mary Ann Gomes; Tereza Dejanovic lost to Divya Deshmukh).
Georgia (14) bt Armenia (12) 3.5-0.5 Romania (12) drew with Azerbaijan (12) 2-2; Kazakhstan (13) bt Slovakia (11) 3.5-0.5 ; Bulgaria (13) bt Greece (11) 3-1; Mongolia (13) bt Hungary (10) 2.5-1.5; USA (11) drew with Czech Republic (11) 2-2; Vietnam (10) lost to Germany (12) 1.5-2.5; Spain (12) bt Italy (10) 2.5-1.5.