R Praggnanandhaa and Divya Deshmukh starred with crucial wins as India stunned a formidable China 4-2 in the ninth and final preliminary round to make the quarterfinals of the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad on Sunday (August 23).
The Indian team, which finished at the top of Top Division Pool A, will play the quarterfinals against a yet-to-be-decided opponent on August 28.
India finished with 17 points and China followed with 16 points. Germany (11) and Iran (9) ranked third and fourth on the list.
— Susan Polgar (@SusanPolgar) August 22, 2020
Four draws and two wins on Under-20 boards helped India pull off the victory against the Chinese.
The 15-year-old Praggnanandhaa appeared to be on the ropes, but managed to turn the tables on Liu Yan and finished with a perfect 6/6 score.
Commenting on Praggnanandhaa’s play, international chess master V. Saravanan said while speaking to The Federal, “Throughout the game, it was Praggnanandhaa who was on the defending side.
India does it! 4:2 win against China, four draws & two wins on U20 boards. 15-year old Praggnanandhaa R was on the ropes, but managed to turn the tables on Liu Yan & finish with a perfect 6/6 score. India takes first place in Pool A & is the first team to qualify to quarterfinals pic.twitter.com/eVOW0IH6IQ
— International Chess Federation (@FIDE_chess) August 23, 2020
“At one point, when the game entered the ‘end game’, Praggnanandhaa had only about 10 seconds in his clock to almost four minutes in his opponent’s clock, which was a very worrying sign. But this is where Praggnanandhaa excels.
“He had a very resourceful defence in a rook-and-knight versus rook-and-knight endgame, and coming low on time, Liu Yan could not match up to Praggnanandhaa’s fast resourcefulness,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Divya Deshmukh, a former world under-10 and 12 champion, put it across Jiner Zhu to underline her potential. Vidit Gujrathi, the Indian captain, held world No. 3 Ding Liren to a creditable draw on the top board while P Harikrishna also shared honours with Yangyi Yu.
Indian ace Koneru Humpy signed peace with the women’s world No. 1 Yifan Hou as did D Harika against the current world champion Wenjun Ju. India claimed the top spot in Pool A with 17 points and 39.5 board points and became the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals.
India No. 2 Harikrishna said he was delighted with the win over China and credited the youngsters — Praggnanandhaa and Divya. The pool winner advances directly to the quarterfinals while the second third-placed team from each of the four pools move to the preliminary phase of the knockout.
Earlier in the seventh round, India posted a 4-2 win over Georgia with former world champ Viswanathan Anand being held to a draw by Levan Pantsulaia.
In the eighth round, India registered a comfortable 4.5-1.5 win over Germany with captain Vidit Gujrathi leading the way by beating Rasmus Svane.
Interestingly, Vidit Gujrathi said he had faced a powercut during the “crucial moments” in the online match against Mongolia.
“In the crucial moments of Mongolia-India, in a won game, there was a power failure in my area costing us the match. Same happened in Humpy’s game. It’s a pity to lose due to issues which are out of our control. Nevertheless, we are going to give our best in the remaining games,” Gujrathi tweeted.
PS: BSNL was down since morning but luckily thanks to a backup ISP I was able to play the games. Special thanks to @Longterm_wealth & Lightyears broadband for arranging that just a day before the Olympiad.
— Vidit Gujrathi (@viditchess) August 22, 2020
“PS: BSNL was down since morning but luckily thanks to a backup ISP, I was able to play the games. Special thanks to @Longterm_wealth & Lightyears broadband for arranging that just a day before the Olympiad,” he added.
However, according to Games Maven, Gujrathi had not responded to queries on the power back-up systems that he reportedly had set up at his residence to deal with any such emergency.
(With inputs from agencies)