Chess Olympiad 2022, Viswanathan Anand Exclusive Column: Fighting India 1 and India 2 inch closer to leader Armenia

Viswanathan Anand looks back at performances from day 7 of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

India 2 looks in very good shape with Gukesh and Nihal Sarin once again producing winning displays on the top two boards after Praggnanandhaa gave the lead, says Viswanathan Anand.

India 2 looks in very good shape with Gukesh and Nihal Sarin once again producing winning displays on the top two boards after Praggnanandhaa gave the lead, says Viswanathan Anand. | Photo Credit: FIDE

Viswanathan Anand looks back at performances from day 7 of the 44th FIDE Chess Olympiad in Chennai.

Today was a dramatic day. For a while it looked like Harikrishna was doing better against Surya in the main clash, but then Surya knew how to defend exactly. In the end though Arjun and SL Narayanan broke through. Narayanan found a very pretty combination with bishop capturing on f2 square and Arjun just outplayed Abhijeet quite slowly. Some elegant maneuvers in the queen-endgame convinced Abhijeet to resign immediately. So a big win for India 1 which stays in contention.

Amazingly, the Armenia-USA turned out to be a fascinating encounter. Wesley So got a winning position very quickly against Melkumyan after Armenia made a blunder. He moved a pawn forward, not seeing that his opponent could simply capture with the rook. And if he recaptured it with a pawn, Wesley could further sacrifice a queen and beat him. It must have slipped his mind and he never really got back into the game.

Let’s look at the end few moves from the game between them.

Wesley has just sacrificed his rook. Melkumyan saw what was coming and didn’t capture it. Let’s see what happens if he did.

Now White sacrifices his queen!

Black has to take it.

Black’s king has no choice from now on.

Then the knight…

White brings in the last piece.

And finally, mate!

But then Sargissian outplayed Fabiano Caruana, which is a huge result. So that meant that Armenia had tied the match whereupon it was then dependent on the two remaining games Dominguez was winning against Samvel Ter-Sahakyan and Shankland was struggling against Hovhannisyan.

Dominguez duly converted and things looked very good for the US since it was leading. But Shankland was also totally lost and there seemed to be no way back. He defended well tenaciously, his opponent overreached, slipped up a bit and suddenly Shankland reached a drawn position.

And in time pressure, Shankland seems to have responded to a move he thought was played, whereas his opponent had actually stopped his queen, a square earlier. As a result, Shankland’s king was walking into a check and he would have to make the only legal move available to it, whereupon a drawn position suddenly went back to being lost.

A kind of tragedy from the US perspective, or a miracle from the Armenian one. All I can say, it was drama and tension till the end and you pity both teams. Of course, Armenia fought back very, very well, but it’s a real pity for the US and Shankland that after seemingly saving the game and clinching the match, it had to end this way. It means that thanks to this draw, both India 1 and India 2 pull one point closer to leader Armenia and join the USA in the second place.

India 2 looks in very good shape with Gukesh and Nihal Sarin once again producing winning displays on the top two boards after Praggnanandhaa gave the lead.

Koneru Humpy was doing very well in the opening and for India, that was a very optimistic situation. But her opponent was very resourceful. She found several practical tries that provoked mistakes. Then the game turned round suddenly and there was no way back and Gunay Mammadzada prosecuted the end at a very high level. There was one late chance where Humpy missed a draw. So slight blip in the execution but it was not easy to see. After Harika let go of a promising position, Tanya looked in good shape after being in some early trouble. Tania’s victory brought India on level terms and then Vaishali delivered the knockout punch.

It was a bad day for India 2 which lost the top two boards. Vantika suffered her first defeat and Soumya lost as well. Even Divya’s win was not enough to save the day for the team.

Fortunately, India 3 produced a good win against Switzerland after Eesha Karavade and P. V. Nandhidhaa scored on the first two boards.

The draw was easier for Pratyusha Bodda than Vishwa Vasnawala.

Additionally, here’s a closer look at India 2’s games:

Gukesh saw a way to crash through

Sacrificing his bishop

After both sides capture, White’s rook has no squares left on the 3 rd rank. White resigned due to Rxc3 check.

Nihal Sarin seems to have lost his extra pawn, but he saw further

Whites king moves to a dominating position and importantly, stops the Black pawns.

Pushes the first one and then the second:

In fact, Black can do no better than move his king back and forth

He resigned because when the pawns arrive on the 6 th, White will queen one of them.

Abhijeet Gupta looks like his queen is going to keep after the White king with checks.

Arjun’s fine move stops all checks on the d file.

If Abhijeet had tried to get a pawn back

Then Arjun would win by exchanging queens

Since it is also a check, Black has to exchange. So Abhijeet Gupta resigned.

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