Chess Olympiad: Indian teams extend unbeaten run to third day in a row

In the Open section, all the three Indian teams clinched their third round matches against Greece, Switzerland and Iceland respectively

Harika Dronavalli
India's Harika Dronavalli in action at the 44th Chess Olympiad. Photo: FIDE/Stev Bonhage

All six Indian teams in both sections of the 44th Chess Olympiad being played at Mamallapuram won their matches on Sunday (July 31) to maintain a clean slate.

The India A team ranked second beat Greece with a 3-1 score, Team B trounced Switzerland 4-0 and Team C beat Iceland 3-1. The Indian women won their third-round matches to keep up perfect scores. India A defeated England 3-1, India B scored over Indonesia 3-1 and India C beat Austria 2.5-1.5.

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The highlight of Sunday’s round was Ramesh Babu Praggnanandhaa playing for Team B and wriggling out of an inferior position, which appeared totally lost at one point against Swiss grandmaster Yannick Pelletier.

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The teenager without giving up, continued to pose problems, making it difficult for his opponent to find a winning way. Pelletier was short on time, missed his way, and ended on the losing side on the 67th turn.

Praggnanandhaa wasn’t satisfied despite winning a point as he said, “I have played badly and this point doesn’t give me any joy and I struggled throughout this game in a bad position.”

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While his captain RB Ramesh was more pragmatic. He said, “In any professional sport, one has to be ready for any type of position and situation.”

Last-minute entrant Indian women’s C team defeated Austria by a narrow 2.5-1.5 score to win its third-round match.

In the Open section, all the three Indian teams clinched their third-round matches against Greece, Switzerland, and Iceland respectively.

Koneru Humpy was rested on Sunday and Harika Dronavalli took over on the top board for her first game at this Olympiad which incidentally is her 9th one along with two virtual ones.

The 31-year-old Harika is in the advanced stages of her first pregnancy and was playing Jovanka Houska of England on the top board for India A team. Harika opted for the Queen’s gambit and declined variation against Jovanka as fortunes fluctuated throughout this game.

The players indulged in a spate of exchanges at regular intervals to enter a rook and three pawns each ending and with no progress possible decided to split the point on the 40th turn.

A disappointed Harika quipped, “The game was balanced with the position fluctuating only slightly and I never had enough advantage to press.”

WGM Nandhidhaa P V representing team C was the first player to gain a point, courtesy of a walkover by Chiara Polterauer who is unwell.

Nandhidhaa, who has notched 3 points in 3 outings said, “This is my first Olympiad and I am playing in my home town Chennai and this is enough to give me extra energy. In my opinion ratings and seedings don’t matter. Even our team has a chance to be amongst the medals and we are ready to give our best.”

Eesha Karavade enhanced her space advantage in a Sicilian Defence game against Katharina Newrkla with the latter playing passively.

A centralised knight and well-posted pieces indicated winning possibilities for Eesha but the game abruptly ended in a draw after 27 moves with most pieces still gracing the board.

Representing Team A, Harikrishna played an exciting game in a Catalan Opening against Dimitri Mastrovasilis, one which was replete with fireworks. Harikrishna was at his tactical best and launched an attack with a bishop sacrifice on the 24th turn. Black’s castle was ripped open and a well-posted knight in enemy territory started creating problems for the black King, especially with the queen also joining the action.

Harikrishna then offered the sacrifice of his second bishop on the 28th turn which was promptly rejected.

However, with Harikrishna’s pieces swarming around the Black King, Dimitri decided to resign on the 29th turn.

Harikrishna was happy with the proceedings and summed up, “I gave a lot of thought before sacrificing the double bishops as I wanted to ensure my calculations were right and reckoned that if it didn’t work out in a checkmating position, I held sufficient advantage to walk towards victory.”

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