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09/07/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 09/07/2020 10:22

ONGC sportspersons shine as India shares Gold with Russia in Chess Olympiad 2020

Indian Chess team brought some cheer amidst the COVID 19 pandemic gloom by sharing the Gold medal with Russia in the recently concluded Online Chess Olympiad 2020. The Indian squad comprised of six ONGC sportsperson who brought laurels in various categories of the Chess Olympiad.

Event Details: Chess Olympiad is the strongest team Championship in the world held once in 2 years. The Olympiad 2020, originally scheduled for September was cancelled like all other sporting events due to the COVID 19 pandemic. World Chess Federation (FIDE) decided to have the event online with a modified format - Rapid time control (15 minutes per player per game with 5 seconds increment for each move), a combined team of Men (Open), Women & Juniors and as a league cum knock-out event.

Team Composition: Each Country could field a team of 6 players in a match with 2 Men, 2 Women, 1 Junior boy & 1 Junior girl. Further, each team is allowed to have a couple of reserve players for each category (with total reserves not exceeding 6). Indian team comprised of the following players:

S.No Name Category Remarks
1 Viswanathan Anand Open Former World Champion
2 Vidit Gujarathi Open Captain of the Team; ONGC
3 Harikrishna P Open BPCL
4 Aravindh Chithambaram VR Open Current National Champion; ONGC Scholarship - March 2014 till March 2019
5 Ms. Koneru Humpy Women World Rapid Champion; ONGC
6 Ms. Harika D Women IOC
7 Ms. Bhakti Kulkarni Women Current National Women Champion
8 Ms. Vaishali R Women ONGC Scholarship - March 2015 till March 2019
9 Nihal Sarin Junior Boy
10 Praggnanandhaa R Junior Boy ONGC Scholarship - March 2016 till March 2019
11 Ms. Vantika Agarwal Junior Girl
12 Ms. Divya Deshmukh Junior Girl ONGC Scholarship - March 2016 till March 2019
13 N. Srinath - Non-Playing Vice-Captain

Link to a comprehensive primer for the event:
https://chessbase.in/news/FIDE-Online-Olympiad-2020


(first row from left) Viswanathan Anand, Harikrishna P, Vidit Gujarathi, Aravindh Chithambaram VR on the open boards,
Nihal Sarin and R. Praggnanandhaa on the juniors board(second row from left) Koneru Humpy, Harika D, Bhakti Kulkarni
and R. Vaishali on the women's boards and Vantika Agrawal and Divya Deshmukh on the junior girls board

Tournament Progress:

Preliminaries: Indian team, by virtue of high average rating, was seeded directly to Stage-2 / pre-quarters held in a league format of 4 groups of 10 teams each. India powered its way to the quarter-finals topping its group, by defeating strong teams like Germany, Georgia and China on the way. Indians overcame a mishap in their match against lower seeded Mongolia where both Vidit and Humpy had to forfeit their games due to internet disconnection in the first round. The team came back strongly in the 2nd round to win on higher margin to clinch the match. It was finally India's win over China in the 3rd day of preliminaries that first turned the attention of media to the event, followed by encouraging tweets from politicians and top businessmen!

Quarter-finals: Quarter-finals was a low point in the event, where India faced the strong Armenian team - 3 times winner of the Olympiad in the regular format. In the first round of the match India beat Armenia with a slender margin of 3.5 to 2.5, when one of the Armenian players lost on time due to internet disruption. Armenian team filed an appeal as the disconnection was not due to the player's fault, but due to an error on the server on which the event was played; but the appeal was turned down. Armenian team withdrew from the event on protest and India was through to the Semi-finals.

Semi Finals: India's semi-final clash with Poland was one of the most hard fought matches for the team in the event. The mini-match ended in a tie after 2 rounds. The tie was resolved through an 'Armageddon' match (something akin to the penalty shoot-out in Football). In this, a category of player (Open / Women / Junior) is chosen in random and a blitz game will be played with 5 minutes for the player with White pieces, 4 minutes for the player with black pieces, with no increment. Player with black has the draw odds - i.e., will be the winner even if the game ends in a draw. It fell upon Koneru Humpy to take on Monika Socko of Poland. Humpy, with black pieces had the draw odds, but even went on to win the game to take India to the finals.

Finals: Finals between two of the strongest Chess playing nations in the world - Russia and India was a close affair. The first round of the mini-match ended 3-3 with all six games drawn. The second round was also evenly placed when the mishap occurred. While Nihal's game was heading towards a draw and Divya Deshmukh was cruising to a victory, some of the Chess.com servers on which the event was hosted crashed due to which Nihal and Divya lost their connectivity and lost on time. Humpy also lost valuable time, managed to reconnect, but failed to save the game due to acute time shortage. So Russia won the match 4.5 - 1.5, instead of a widely expected 3-3 draw. Indian team appealed against the result as the disconnection was due to server fault on the organizer's side. Though the situation was similar to the one that occurred in the match with Armenia, FIDE, after deliberations, decided to share the honors and declared both Russia and India as joint winners of the Online Chess Olympiad 2020.

While each member of the Indian team contributed their best for the collective victory, Vidit's captaincy and the supportive role played by non-playing Vice-Captain Srinath were widely acclaimed by everyone. In the absence of other sporting activities for a long time, Chess finally got its due recognition to some extent, as wishes poured in for the Indian team's achievement from all quarters - From The President of India, Prime Minister, Sports Minister to top politicians, Cricket stars and business leaders.

ONGC feels proud to have been part of the winning team and for the role played through the sports scholarship scheme in nurturing the young talents who have started proving their mettle at the top level.

For detailed coverage of the event, please visit: https://chessbase.in