FIDE declares India and Russia joint winners of the Online Olympiad

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/31/2020 – The 2020 FIDE Online Olympiad came to an end on Sunday, with an internet outage prompting FIDE to declare finalists Russia and India as joint winners. The match had started with a tie in the first six-game mini-match. In the second encounter of the day, however, Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh disconnected towards the end of their games and lost on time. First, the Russians were declared champions, but after India’s appeal, on the grounds that their players lost connection as a consequence of a massive internet outage, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich decided to grant gold medals to both teams.

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A tough call

FIDE Online Olympiad 2020It was a strange end to a unique edition of the traditional Chess Olympiad. Due to the restrictions imposed amid the covid-19 crisis, FIDE decided to organize a massive online event in which each national team had to present a lineup including a mix of men, women, juniors and girls. Organizing such a large-scale tournament online was a brave decision, given the difficulties related to potential cheaters and unpredictable internet-connection problems.

Already during the Magnus Carlsen Chess Tour, connectivity issues had slightly disrupted the normal flow of the events, with Ding Liren losing a couple of games on time after his connection was lost. Luckily, the problems were solved and normal service was restored.

In the Olympiad, things did not go as smoothly, particularly in the incident that involved India and Armenia during the quarterfinals. Nihal Sarin had defeated Haik Martirosyan after the latter had lost his connection. The Armenian team appealed the result, pointing out that “the specified player was connected to the Zoom call during the whole incident, and the video call was not interrupted”.

Citing that “the quality of the internet connection is the responsibility of the player”, the Appeals Committee rejected Armenia’s request, noting that the Indian national team had previously lost two games against Mongolia for similar reasons.

Fast forward to Sunday’s final, which kicked off with a thrilling first mini-match. All games ended drawn, but only after Ian Nepomniachtchi and Kateryna Lagno showed great resourcefulness in defence to save half points against Vidit Gujrathi and Humpy Koneru respectively. ‘Nepo’ gave up his rook to muddy the waters in a complex position:

 

White is a pawn up and has the initiative. Vidit’s best move here was 24.c5, the kind of crucial manoeuvre that can only be precisely calculated with plenty of time on the clock. The Indian went for the natural 24.Qe5 instead, and saw his opponent lash out with 24...Rxf2 — the engines do not like this picturesque sacrifice, but from a human perspective Black is now the one calling the shots. In the end, it was Vidit who gave perpetual check to secure the draw.

After the 3:3 result in the exciting first mini-match, the teams made key substitutions for the second round. Anand and Praggnanandhaa replaced Harikrishna and Nihal Sarin in the Indian squad, while Dubov, Goryachkina and Esipenko replaced Artemiev, Lagno and Sarana among the Russians.

The one decisive result — that was not a direct consequence of a disconnection — in round two saw Aleksandra Goryachkina beating Humpy Koneru with the white pieces. Nonetheless, Humpy did lose her connection for a while, and although she managed to reconnect she had lost some valuable time in the 15-minute game.

Then came the main incident of the day. Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh lost on time against Andrey Esipenko and Polina Shuvalova after losing their connections. Nihal had equalized what had been a worse position for most of the game, while the young Indian girl had a superior position with the white pieces.

 
 

The Indian team immediately sent an appeal to the committee formed by Arkady Dvorkovich, Michael Khodarkovsky and Sava Stoisavljevic. Since Dvorkovich is Russian, he recused himself from involvement in the decision. Nevertheless, after the remaining two members were unable to reach a unanimous decision, the FIDE President declared both teams as joint winners and published the following official statement:

The Online Chess Olympiad has been impacted by a global internet outage, that severely affected several countries, including India. Two of the Indian players have been affected and lost connection, when the outcome of the match was still unclear.

The Appeals Committee has examined all the evidence provided by Chess.com, as well as information gathered from other sources about this internet outage. After being informed of their considerations and in absence of a unanimous decision, and taking into account these unprecedented circumstances, as FIDE President I made the decision to award Gold Medals to both teams.

In their official report, FIDE mentions that the internet outage was caused by a Cloudflare crash.

Of course, the fact that Dvorkovich is Russian put him in a particularly propitious spot to negotiate with the team that would have been granted tournament victory had the appeal been rejected — it was informed that Russia’s team captain was contacted and accepted the decision. Had other teams been involved, it would have been more difficult for the FIDE President to make that call.

Not all members of the Russian team were happy with the decision, however. Ian Nepomniachtchi tweeted:

Smart decision to please Indian chess community, meanwhile forgetting about other fans & players. Selective nobleness. 

Former women’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk also shared her thoughts:

Let’s clarify one thing: India didn’t win the Olympiad, but was rather named by FIDE a co-champion. Imho, there is a huge difference between actually “winning” the gold or just being awarded one without winning a single game in the final.

Let us not forget that, although the Russians are the traditional chess superpower, they have not won the Olympiad since 2002, so getting this gold medal without controversy would have been a major success and would have rewarded the fact that they presented an impressively strong lineup in the online event. 

For India, on the other hand, this was a great achievement. As it is already indisputable, the incredible work made to promote the game in the Asian country during the last decade or so has shown impressive results. Once over-the-board chess fully returns, the Indian squad will be surely among the favourites to take gold in the next Olympiad, when they will most likely fight neck in neck with chess superpowers Russia, China and United States — not to mention Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Poland and others.

Vishy Anand, the man who started it all, spoke to DD News:

Obviously I’m thrilled with this result. Today was quite eventful, and it’s one of the features of the new format, but I think, in the whole, in the Olympiad the Indian team showed a lot of spirit. Especially I can say that [to get] this medal the biggest contribution came from the youngsters and it shows the bright future we have for chess in India.

All games from the final

 

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Carlos Colodro is a Hispanic Philologist from Bolivia. He works as a freelance translator and writer since 2012. A lot of his work is done in chess-related texts, as the game is one of his biggest interests, along with literature and music.
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sivakumar R sivakumar R 9/5/2020 06:48
Now, we see that what is legally correct need not be ethically so..... and the same thing happened in 2016.
saturn23 saturn23 9/5/2020 12:18
@digupagal Why would anyone stop you "from loving and analyzing chess games"? How can you be so delusional?

Of course this is a complete joke. Russia is the winner!
Gerald C Gerald C 9/2/2020 03:05
India's title has absolutely no value.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 9/2/2020 11:27
@digupagal I do not know why you think commenters here are "attacking" India. I can only speak for myself, but presumably many will agree with me. India has played exceptionally good chess. But against Russia in the final, they have lost 3 (!) games and did not won a single game. From the three losses India suffered, two were caused by CloudFlare crash and one was a well-earned victory by Russia. Again: if you are late from your over-the-board game, there is no excuse, you lose. If your time elapses and your opponent has some theoretical possibilities to mate you, then you lose. It is absurd to provide a draw for a team which has won no games in the match and lost three. Gold means "best". When it's awarded to two teams, then none of those is the best. So this gold was awarded to India at the price of depraving its value from its rightful owner, Russia.

In a world where India would beat Russia and FIDE would award gold to both because Russia had connection problems I would of course be against depraving India from its rightfully earned gold. But we do not live in that world. We live in a world where Russia beat India and FIDE says that the two are equal. Absurd.
digupagal digupagal 9/1/2020 05:29
@bondsergey "It was partly a political decision. Russia and India have good diplomatic relations." you should use words like "historically" or "Russia and India had good diplomatic relations"

I don't think you are following current affairs, India is much closer to US then Russia currently. e.g. India cancelled a 5th Gen Jet fighter collab. with Russia and brought Rafale Gen 4.5 fighters and are talking with America to buy F21 fighters made by Lokheed Martin.

Vikrant Malvankar, CFA
digupagal digupagal 9/1/2020 05:22
India are joint winners......people here posting opinions wont be able to stop an imminent chess boom in India or stop me from loving and analyzing chess games. Stop me if you can guys.

Attack on India will be take personally, you can question Fide's decision but you guys are attacking India when it had no say in the matter, Have you seen Anand's interview where he mentioned that the team was ready to play on 2/3 or all the 6 boards if Fide wanted that. How come you can blame India?

Even in case of Armenia, it was a wrong appeal by Armenia....tell me where is the logic in playing out from the position @ the time of disconnection when one can analyse the position to a draw with the help of computers in home analysis. The position has few tricks left, Armenians should have appealed for restarting the game....and why are people blaming India? i mean i would get it....if Fide would have decided to have a rematch and India would have objected to that, but it never came to that. India just followed Fide's decision....we also did the same during Mongolia dc issue. I mean guys i understand that all humans are not accustomed to be logical at all times but this is pretty simple unless you are racists or against India in particular.
bondsergey bondsergey 9/1/2020 03:00
It was partly a political decision. Russia and India have good diplomatic relations.
lajosarpad lajosarpad 9/1/2020 11:53
This was a stupid decision. If you play a game over the board and you do not arrive in time, possibly because of a traffic jam, then you lose the game. From the arbiter's point of view it's irrelevant whether you REALLY wanted to arrive in time and play. Awarding the gold to two teams because of a Cloudflare crash - which is not the same as an Internet outage, btw - is not a correct decision. Gold goes to the best. India, by good play earned silver. It's shining brightly as well.
Frits Fritschy Frits Fritschy 9/1/2020 10:32
'I'm not fat, I'm just sturdily built' - Obelix.
The apparent problems of internet are solved by losing intentionally and by declaring joint winners. A bright future looms for chess.
The wiki page on Cloudfare makes interesting reading, by the way.
Shakey Shakey 9/1/2020 12:32
Lots of wacky stuff written hereabouts.

Leavenfish - you mean 'asterisk'? Asterix is a comic book character. Huge? No, but his pal Obelix is. Big fat lad he is.

Someone wrote about 'unplugging' in a match if losing. Now, where is the plug, where is the socket...? Under water somewhere. *puts on trunks, takes deep breath*

The idea was a really good one, and I think FIDE were incredibly unlucky regarding the outages.

Anyone - suggestions for improving this, amending the rules...? Looking forwards.
siegrun1945 siegrun1945 9/1/2020 12:02
I enjoyed the fact that 3 women and 3 men played and then someone spoiled it for me because in the final pic we see 4 men and only 2 women, what a shame
dumkof dumkof 8/31/2020 10:36
I'm not specifically talking about this event, but declaring 2 joint winners should always be possible. Nice to see that it didn't end up with armageddon.

Similarly, Carlsen and Nakamura should have been declared joint winners as well, in their recent match, since they performed equally well.
Leavenfish Leavenfish 8/31/2020 08:46
That's one great big ASTERIX for the books. They should have been made to replay...even from the end position.
LEONARDO MOREIRA LEONARDO MOREIRA 8/31/2020 07:56
The rules should be applied equally, at all stages.
syuanjiang syuanjiang 8/31/2020 07:07
To Armenia, this tournament is a joke. Next time, when India is in losing position, they can just unplug the internet and ask for rematch; if others lost internet, those dirty Indian player can say "a rule is a rule" and claims victory.
ulyssesganesh ulyssesganesh 8/31/2020 05:49
dugdug .... but in the finals....one can consider .... the FIDE President has taken the practical decision....
sebtak sebtak 8/31/2020 04:36
@dugdugdug Touché!
karavamudan karavamudan 8/31/2020 03:55
Hi all,

Jolly good fun in reducing the Royal Game to a third rate thriller with global internet outage thrown in
dugdugdug dugdugdug 8/31/2020 03:02
Just one point:

If this happened in the quarter finals, would both teams be allowed to progress to the semi-final?
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