Online Olympiad: India and Russia reach the final

by Carlos Alberto Colodro
8/30/2020 – India and Russia defeated Poland and the United States respectively to reach the final of the 2020 FIDE Online Olympiad. After losing the first mini-match, India came back with a convincing win in the second. In the Armageddon decider, Humpy Koneru comfortably defeated Monika Socko to give her team overall victory. Meanwhile, the Russians defeated USA in the first mini-match and drew the second encounter to advance to the final. | Pictured: Humpy Koneru and Alexandra Kosteniuk | Photos: Austin Fuller / Russian Chess Federation

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India wins in Armageddon

Both semifinals were extremely hard-fought matches. India started the day with a 2:4 loss against the strong Polish team, with both top boards — Vishy Anand and Vidit Gujrathi — losing their games. The Indians seemed to have done something in “half-time” though, as they came back with all guns blazing to even the score with a remarkable 4½:1½ victory in the second mini-match of the day, in which incidentally both top boards mentioned above won their games.

It all came down to Armageddon. Each team had to choose one of their female representatives to play a single game that would decide the fate of the whole match. Poland chose the experienced Monika Socko, while India went with the ever-calm Humpy Koneru. The Indian had the black pieces and kept things under control throughout, keeping an eye on the clock while restricting her opponent’s attacking chances. Humpy ended up winning the game.

The ChessBase India team had elite stars Anish Giri and Teimour Radjabov as special guests in their webcast of the semis. They joined Sagar Shah, Amruta Mokal, Adhiban Baskaran and comedian Samay Raina to commentate on the games while supporting the Indian team. This is how they lived the exciting sudden-death decider:



Sagar later talked to team captain Vidit, who praised Humpy for her demeanour during the tense final game, although her doing that did not surprise anybody, as the world’s number two is known for her coolness and composure:



The second semifinal was played hours later and was a tension-filled encounter. In the end, it was a single point that gave Russia victory. In the first mini-match, the American Annie Wang defeated Polina Shuvalova on the girls’ board, but victories for Aleksandra Goryachkina and Alexandra Kosteniuk meant the Russian had won the mini-match by the smallest of margins.

United States went all-in in the second mini-match, which led to all six games finishing decisively — White won on all boards! While Shuvalova levelled her personal score against Wang by winning their second encounter of the day, it was Kosteniuk who got 2 out of 2 on Saturday for Russia.

Very likely the final will be a hard-fought confrontation, with the Indian team extremely motivated by the huge following online looking for them to get a first gold in an Olympiad. Nonetheless, they will be facing a Russian squad with strong representatives on all boards — they have Grischuk, Nepomniachtchi, Artemiev and Dubov on the men’s boards; Goryachkina, Kosteniuk, Lagno and Gunina on the women’s; Esipenko most likely to play both games on the juniors’; and a very strong Shuvalova on the girls’ board. As pointed out by Sagar Shah, the Russians are the favourites, but India is surely capable of beating even the strongest team in the world, especially when the stakes are so high.

The final kicks off at 11:00 UTC (13:00 CEST, 16:30 IST).

India 2 : 1 Poland - Games

 

Russia 1½ : ½ USA - Games

 

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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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