India won the Youth Chess Olympiad, in which the strongest nations in the under-16 category competed. And it did in some style too, beating the defending champion and top-seed Russia en route to the crown. By P. K. Ajith Kumar.
In the southwest Chinese city of Chongqing, recently, further evidence emerged that India is indeed among the very best in the world, when it comes to age-group chess. India won the Youth Chess Olympiad, in which the strongest nations in the under-16 category competed. And it did in some style too, beating the defending champion and top-seed Russia en route to the crown.
Seeded second, India finished the 10-round event with 18 points, one ahead of Russia, which ended runner-up. Turkey and Hungary remained tied on 15 points, to the surprise of many. The Turks finished ahead on tiebreakers.
The two gave India the stiffest fight. “Our toughest matches were against Turkey and Hungary; we drew those games and won all the others,” India’s coach K. Visweswaran told Sportstar, shortly after his boys triumphed. “Once we beat Russia in the fifth round, we knew we could go all the way.”
A strong finish ensured that nobody could spoil India’s party. In the final round, India crushed Iran 3.5-0.5. India’s domination of the event was evident in the distribution of the board medals. It won a medal on every single board. Shardul Gagare and M. Karthikeyan took the bronze on the first and second board respectively. Diptayan Ghosh won the silver on the third board, while Sayantan Das struck gold on the fourth.
“I decided to field Sayantan on the fourth board because I was confident that he could score heavily against weaker rivals with his all-round skills,” said Visweswaran. “My decision to put Shardul and Karthikeyan on the top two boards proved right. Shardul is very solid and I felt he was our best bet to take on stronger players. I must also add that our reserve player, Gireman Jagadeesan, too, contributed handsomely, winning both the games he played.”
It is after a gap of five years that India has won the Youth Olympiad; the team finished third in the last edition. India had earlier triumphed in 2007 and 2008.
THE STANDINGS: 1. India 18 points; 2. Russia 17; 3-4. Turkey & Hungary 15; 5-8. China-1, USA-2, SCWY Training Centre & Iran 14; 9-14. China- 2, Australia-1, Vietnam, BJHD Training School, Georgia & Czech Republic 13.