CHENNAI: The Indian chess team, led by Viswanathan Anand, went down to United States (US) in the semifinal to end up securing the bronze medal in the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad last week.
India won the first duel 5-1, outclassing the USA on all the boards. Anand led from the front with a classy victory over Jeffery Xiong, while P Harikrishna, D Harika and R Vaishali also notched up wins with excellent games.
However, USA made a strong comeback. Anand lost his first and only game of the tournament against Jeffery Xiong with the black pieces quite early in the round. The rest of the team followed suit. Vidit Gujrathi lost against Ray Robson, while R Praggnandhaa was defeated by Awonder Liang. India's sole victory came from the board of Harika, who won every single game in the knockout. The match went into the blitz tie-break where India got promising positions in all the games from the opening. Harika was pleased with her performance but was of course not happy that India could not make it to the final. Excerpts from Harika's chat with Express.
Are you satisfied with India winning bronze in the Online Chess Olympiad?
Of course not. But we also understand that in sport, both winning and losing are equally possible. Everyone felt disappointed and we really wanted to play in the final. It feels a bit incomplete, but we accept and move on.
Anand said that Indian players suffered from nerves at crucial moments against USA. Do you agree?
I don't know, maybe possible. But in any case, it was just a bad day overall.
How does it feel to be the best performer for Team India (7.5/9) in Online Olympiad?
I am of course happy with my game and result, but I don't believe in this best performer in the team aspect. When it's a team event, you win or lose together. Personal scores don't matter.
Did you miss playing from Chennai along with your teammates?
Yes, definitely it would have been nice to be with the team but unfortunately I couldn't make it.
Do you enjoy playing online chess?
Not much. I really prefer on-the-board chess but at least I should be thankful to get an opportunity to play big events even during these tough times because of the online platform.
Do you think Indian women's chess has made big progress?
To an extent, yes, but I feel we have a lot more potential in Indian women's chess, so I am looking forward to seeing big growth in the future.
How do you rate Alexandra Kosteniuk winning the Women's World Cup?
Amazing. She fought hard and deserves to win it. As a player, I know what it takes to be there and win, so I appreciate her efforts.
How do you rate Ian Nepomniachtchi's chances in his World Championship match against Magnus Carlsen?
Maybe Nepomniachtchi will have 40% chance of beating Carlsen.
Which is the next tournament where you will be seen in action? Will your good show in the Olympiad give you the confidence to perform better in the coming season?
I have the World team championship next from September 26 in Spain. I see every tournament as a new one and I try to be focussed to play my best. So this result or any result won't make a big difference. Every tournament will be a fresh start.