NAGPUR: After a lost connection and two forfeited games, an appeal to the World Chess Federation yielded success as India and Russia were declared joint winners of Fide Online Chess Olympiad on Sunday.
The much-awaited grand finale — followed by a 64,000-plus strong audience — ended on a tame note as a technical glitch forced the Fide president to pass an equitable judgment as India registered their first-ever triumph at Olympiad level.
In 2014, India won the bronze in the open section, and the women’s best finish was fourth in 2012.
The finale began on a cautious note as the 2419-rated Indian side held higher ranked Russia — with an average rating of 2599 — to a 3-3 draw, that too without the presence of experienced Viswanathan Anand.
The five-time world champion returned for the crucial second round, where Anand, skipper Vidit Gujrathi and Harika Dronavalli split the points with their higher-ranked Russian GMs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Dubov Daniil and Alexandra Kosteniuk, respectively.
With India’s fate hanging in the hands of World Rapid champion Koneru Humpy and U-20 boards —where youngsters Divya Deshmukh and Nihal Sarin had the upper hand — an unprecedented event of connection error happened.
Within seconds, both Divya and Nihal were declared defeated as they “lost connection to their games and forfeited on time”. Both Divya and Nihal had no time to make their moves while their opponents Polina Shuvalova and Andrey Esipenko had 1.22 and 1.31 minutes left on clock. Both the games were played for 25 moves.
On the third board, Humpy was two pawns down in a double-rook endgame and lost with her black pieces to Aleksandra Goryachkina in 88 moves.
Thereafter, the India team lodged an official appeal on the two games they “forfeited on time.”
In an official statement, the Fide president Arkady Dvorkovich said, “The Online Chess Olympiad has been impacted by a global Internet outage that severely affected several countries, including India. The appeals committee has examined all the evidence. As Fide president, I made the decision to award gold medals to both teams.”
After five world titles and an historic Olympiad gold he has won everything there is to win in chess, and Anand was elated. Giving most of the credit to the youngsters, an emotional Anand said, “You can’t make this up. You can’t write a script for this.”
In a chat with TOI, Humpy said, “Well, it’s a strange feeling to be declared as joint winners due to server breakdown. Our team has given its best performance in the history of Olympiad and I am happy that we are rewarded for our hard work.”
Relieved with the end result, Divya said, “Couldn’t be more happy. This tournament has taught me lessons I will keep with myself for life. Honour playing with legendary teammates and amazing opponents. Congrats Russia and Team India.”
Earlier, in the opening round India held Russia 3-3. Vidit was the first to hold higher ranked Nepomniachtchi with his white pieces in 37 moves. In a thriller of a tie played between the World Rapid and Blitz champion, Koneru Humpy and Lagno Kateryna, the latter managed to save the game. The champion masters’ game ended in a 48-move draw.
Harika followed Humpy and forced 2517 Elo Kosteniuk to split the points in 48 moves. Harikrishna Pentala who played the opening round in place of Anand too played out an exciting 54-move draw against 2769 Elo GM Vladislav Artemiev.
Both the U-20 boards followed their seniors’ suit. After Praggnanandhaa R drew with Russia’s super GM and 2618-rated Alexey Sarana in 56-moves, Divya defended well with black and forced WGM Polina Shuvalova to split the points in 51 moves.
ROUND 2: Vidit Gujrathi drew with Dubov Daniil, WHITE GM 2517 Alexandra Kosteniuk drew with Harika Dronavalli, Ian Nepomniachtchi drew with V Anand, Andrey Esipenko bt Nihal Sarin, Divya Deshmukh lost to Polina Shuvalova, Aleksandra Goryachkina bt Koneru Humpy.
ROUND 1: Vidit drew with Nepomniachtchi, Humpy drew with Kateryna, Kosteniuk drew with Harika, Vladislav Artemievdrew with Harikrishna Pentala, Praggnanandhaa R drew with Alexey Sarana, Polina drew with Divya.
VISHY ANAND’S REACTION ON THE TECHNICAL GLITCH
For a moment, I had given up. Initially I thought the failure was ours and I wrote to Divya and Nihal saying that these things happen and that you can’t do anything. Subsequently, I wrote to Srinath and he informed me that it was a case of chess.com server failing and it was global problem. Both Nihal and Divya have been working hard and I thought of patting them on their back and then I realized it was unnecessary. That was a nice turnaround.
You have to see the course of the match and then decide when the interruption happens and what the situation was. One of the strongest cards was that Nihal’s position had improved substantially and Divya was almost winning or at least much better and Fide took that into account before making the decision which was fair to both teams.
In the end it was fair. Had Nihal held and Divya won and we would have tied the match and this kind of failure wasn’t the fault of either team. Something more complicated would have been to play another match which could have exhausting for everyone and dragged things on for quite too long.