India’s growing depth on display at Olympiad

The International Chess Federation (FIDE) decided to make India and Russia the joint champions after an internet outage disrupted the Olympiad final.

Vidit Gujrathi

Skipper Vidit Gujrathi, one of India’s best male players after Viswanathan Anand, faced stiff resistance from some of the world’s finest players.   -  Special Arrangement

Shortly before the final of the Chess Olympiad between India and Russia kicked off on Sunday, former World champion Vladimir Kramnik expressed an unusual wish.

“I hope both the teams win,” he said, smiling, during his stint as a commentator on an Indian YouTube channel streaming the match live.

A couple of hours later, that statement turned out to be one of the strangest prediction-come-true moments imaginable in sport. Mind you, there had to be a winner, and if India and Russia had tied at the end of their two matches, the nerve-racking tiebreaker named Armageddon was to be employed.

Kramnik got his wish. FIDE decided to make India and Russia the joint champions after an internet outage disrupted the final.

Kramnik, who had ended the long reign of fellow-Russian Garry Kasparov 20 years ago, has been training India’s young chess players. So he had first-hand knowledge of the growing depth in Indian chess.

That depth in talent is what helped Indian chess register one of its most unforgettable moments on Sunday. Only one or two great players won’t take you far at a team event like the Olympiad.

In Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy, India has two exceptional players; both of them have been the world champions and figured consistently among the game’s elites for a long time. They both played their parts in India’s victory too.

READ | Anand: ‘Winning Olympiad gold is a very, very magical moment’

But for India to do well, the others had to fire as well. Skipper Vidit Gujrathi and Pentala Harikrishna, India’s best male players after Anand, faced stiff resistance from some of the world’s finest players, and they delivered. In Arvindh Chithambaram they had capable backup.

Dronavalli Harika, India’s best bet in women’s chess after Humpy, also had a good tournament. R. Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni too put their hands up when required.
In Nihal Sarin and R. Praggnanandhaa, India is fortunate to have two prodigies who could mount challenges for the World championship one day. Their consistent shows helped the team immensely on the junior boards. The two junior girls, Divya Deshmukh and Vantika Agrawal, too served India well.

The 12 mind champions, who have put on a smile on India during these trying times of the pandemic, deserve to be celebrated.

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