23 September 2020 09:55 PM

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PARTAB RAMCHAND | 7 SEPTEMBER, 2020

Indian Chess Players Deserve More Honours After Olympiad Triumph

Introspection in moment of glory


Indian chess is more than just being about Viswanathan Anand. If any proof was needed it was provided by the triumph of the Indian team at the online Chess Olympiad a few days ago. India emerged joint champions with favourites Russia. The title had to be shared because the result in two games of the final was affected by an internet outage across several nations.

India’s Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh had lost on time but neither would have if they were not disconnected. After a drama lasting two hours the Indian team lodged a complaint and the world chess governing body FIDE’s decision to have joint champions was agreeable to Russia too. As Anand put it ``honestly it’s not nice for FIDE to decide these things by judging the positions but it certainly helped that we were in good positions on Divya’s board and Nihar’s position too had improved a lot.’’

The significance of the triumph was symbolized by the fact that the Olympiad gold medal was the one award that was missing from Anand’s trophy cabinet something that the five-time world champion graciously acknowledged by saying ``this is very special to me.’’ Generally on his own while winning his world crowns, Anand acknowledged that this was a different feeling. ``The ambiance of winning as part of this team, getting together with several chess players and knowing that we are fighting for a common cause, all this is very inspiring.’’

For world women’s rapid chess champion Koneru Humpy it was a ``great feeling to be part of a champion team in the Olympiad.’’ She played a crucial role in the tie break in the semifinal while beating Monika Socko of Poland and helping India move into the final.

It must not be forgotten that the Chess Olympiad has always been the most prestigious team event in the sport its history stretching back to 1924. India’s best effort hitherto was the third place it secured in 2014. FIDE decided to conduct an online Olympiad because the 44th edition had to be postponed till next year due to the pandemic.

Though India was seeded only seventh among 163 countries it was clear that even the top countries could not take it lightly given the presence of strong players constituting the team headed by Anand and Humpy. At the other end of the scale there was the precociously talented youngsters Nihal and R Praggnanandhaa who are bound to be the stars of tomorrow. As Humpy currently world No 2 put it India enjoyed an advantage because of the Olympiad’s mixed team format. ``We had a highly experienced Anand on the top board and then the young exciting talent who played their bit in clinching crucial wins.’’

This latest triumph cemented India’s growing stature in world chess as well as confirming the rising popularity of the mind sport in the country. Ironically at a time when India were in the midst of a gloriously victorious campaign President Ram Nath Kovind was giving away the Arjuna awards online.

Ironic because no chess player has won the Arjuna award for seven years even though the country has produced several GMs who have given outstanding performances in international tournaments and at a time when India is ranked fourth in the world. Even during the Olympiad the team was on its own with no support from the All India Chess Federation its officials being embroiled in a tussle for power. The moment of glory also calls for a time for introspection.
 

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