CHENNAI: Six straight victories in six matches has put India on top and has boosted the ninth seeded team’s chances of winning a medal in the Open section of the 42nd Chess Olympiad in the Azerbaijani capital of Baku. The team’s performance assumes credence, when one looks at the depth of the field, with top teams like Russia, USA and Ukraine all behind the leaders.
It has been a complete team effort by India as all players have contributed. Starting off with two 4-0 wins over Bolivia and Costa Rica, India followed it up with a 3-1 romp over Azerbaijan. In the fourth round, the team narrowly defeated Cuba 2.5-1.5, thanks to Vidit Santosh Gujrathi’s victory over Yuniesky Quesada on the third board. In what was supposed to be their toughest test, India comprehensively beat the hosts with Pentala Harikrishna and Vidit prevailing over Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Arkadi Naiditsch. Baskaran Adhiban scripted the team’s win in the sixth round against Netherlands.
Harikrishna has continued his rich vein of form, giving solidity to the team on the top board. Vidit and Adhiban have been the star performers on the third and second boards, posting crucial wins. SP Sethuraman has played the support role well on the fourth board. Karthikeyan Murali, who is the youngest member of the team, has a perfect (2/2) on the reserve board.
“It is nice to start with six wins. Vidit has played excellent chess so far. However, we should play well in the remaining rounds,” reflected Harikrishna on India’s stirring run.
“Great performance so far from India. The team has the potential to beat any opponent,” said India GM Sundararajan Kidambi.
India will look to continue their momentum, when they face USA in the seventh round on Friday. First board clash between Harikrishna and Fabiano Caruana should be an interesting one. Ukraine and Netherlands are the other two teams to steal the thunder in the first half of the tournament.
Women joint third
Indian women (10) were placed joint 3rd along with six other teams after six rounds. The team got off to a flying start with three emphatic victories. However, they could manage only draws against lower-ranked teams Israel and Vietnam. India got out of the drawing rut by defeating Latvia 2.5-1.5. Soumya Swaminathan (5/6) has been the top scorer for the team on the fourth board. Padmini Rout has been playing well on the second board. Tania Sachdev has had a mixed run, winning first four games but losing the next two.
Dronavalli Harika has struggled in her first five games but victory over Dana Reizniece-Ozola should spur her in the critical stages of the tournament. Debutant Pratyusha Bodda has won both her games.
Team Standings (after 6th round)
Open (Top 10): 1: India (12), 2. USA (11), 3-10: Netherlands, Czech Republic, Georgia, China, Ukraine, Canada, Russia, Latvia (10).Women: 1-2: Russia, Ukraine (11), 3-9: Poland, Romania, India, Azerbaijan 1, China, USA, Netherlands (10), 10. Georgia 9.
Indian players scores: Open: P Harikrishna 2.5/4, B Adhiban 5/6, Vidit Gujrathi 5.5/6, S P Sethuraman 4/6, Karthikeyan Murali 2/2.
Women: D Harika 2.5/5, Padmini Rout 3.5/5, Tania Sachdev 4/6, Soumya Swaminathan 5/6, Pratyusha Bodda 2/2.