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

“I think Olympiad is a very special title. And on top of it, I really liked the sensation and the ambience of winning as part of this team...,” Anand said.

Viswanathan Anand said he was thrilled to add a new medal to his trophy cabinet after India's Chess Olympiad triumph.   -  FILE PHOTO/K.V.S. GIRI

 

One medal missing from Viswanthan Anand's collection is the one from the biennial Chess Olympiad. On Sunday, the gold-sharing performance of India in the inaugural FIDE online Olympiad gold has ensured a new addition to his trophy cabinet.

“I think Olympiad is a very special title. And on top of it, I really liked the sensation and the ambience of winning as part of this team. Somehow, getting together with lots of chess players, and feeling that we are fighting for a common cause, that's very inspiring. And specially, in these times of the pandemic, this was the best social event I had in some time. Winning the Olympiad medal will add to my collection and my trophy cabinet. Just a great memory.”

READ: Koneru Humpy ‘immensely satisfied’ after contributing to India’s Olympiad triumph

He went on, “It's a cliche, but you can say it this time that the whole team chipped in. That's what made it very very special. I hope, especially for youngsters, whatever they are going to achieve in their careers, they are going to look back at this moment as very very special. This is the first time we won the gold so it’s a very very magical moment.”

“I hope, especially for youngsters, whatever they are going to achieve in their careers, they are going to look back at this moment as very very special. This is the first time we won the gold so it’s a very very magical moment.” - Viswanathan Anand

On Sunday, after two hours of suspense when it was finally announced that India and Russia were joint winners, there were contrasting emotions in the rival camps.

India, initially deemed to have lost 1.5-4.5 in the second set after the first ended at 3-3, lodged a protest. Eventually, it was proved that owing to the widespread internet outage across several nations, Nihal Sarin, who was in an equal position, and Divya, poised for a win, were unlucky to lose their games on time.

When the Appeals Committee met, FIDE President from Russia, Arkady Dvorkovich, sat out and allowed M. Khodarkovsky (USA) and Sava Stoisavljevic (Serbia) to take a decision. A split verdict meant the matter was referred to Dvokovich. After due deliberations, he declared India and Russia as joint champions.

The announcement lifted the Indians from the depths of despair to an ecstatic feeling. Many Indian players, including Anand, congratulated Russia. In sharp contrast, leading Russian players – Ian Nepomniachtchi and former women's World champion Alexandra Kostinuik - took to twitter to express their disappointment over the decision.

READ: Chess Olympiad: India, Russia declared joint winners

When Sportstar asked Anand if Nihal's timely recovery to reach an equal position, when seen together with Divya's high winning prospects, had a role to play in the eventual verdict, the five-time world champion said, “I would say it could've had an impact. But honestly, it's not nice for FIDE to decide these things by judging the positions. Something has to be taken on its merit. If someone is disconnected for no fault of theirs and the team is still fighting, then you have to assume that. I guess, it would have been hard for FIDE to take that decision, if we had lost on all six boards, or something like that.

Captain Vidit Gujrathi, like Anand and K. Humpy, gave a lot of credit to the team's vice captain N. Srinath for his role. “It was easy for me to take a call on the boards where the seniors were involved. When it came to which junior to go for, Srinath's inputs were invaluable since he knew the younger players better than me. Every night we spent a few hours analysing the opposition and their games before finalizsng our line-up."

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The biggest morale booster was the win over China, says Vidit Gujrath. (File Photo)   -  Rajeev Bhatt

 

Reflecting on how it felt to lead the team, Vidit said, "It was a great experience to lead a team which had Anand and Humpy. I still have the autographs I took of these two legends. Now, to lead a team with these seniors is really a dream come true. There was nothing for me to tell the seniors in the team. Whenever I requested them to play, they not only agreed but mostly won their games. In case of juniors, we had to consider the styles of the players. Like Nihal and Vantika are more solid in their approach while Praggnanandhaa and Divya are sharper. So the choice depended on the situation we were in.

"The biggest morale-boosting moment was the victory over China (in the league). Thereafter, we had a feeling that if we could beat China, then we were worthy of reaching the final. Then Humpy's victory in the deciding Armageddon game against Poland (in the semifinal) was another huge moment in our campaign. When you have the world rapid champion in the team, she was an obvious choice for Armageddon. And she pulled it off so calmly.”

Finally, Vidit revealed, “The feeling (of being joint champions) has not sunk in yet. But this morning when I saw the messages and the way the fans had reacted, it dawned on me that this title-triumph was truly historic!"

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