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Batumi Chess Olympiad: India finish 6th after final round draw against Poland; women dominate Mongolia to take 8th spot

There were high hopes from the Indian open team in the final round of the 43rd Chess Olympiad. After an impressive 3-1 win over the Netherlands in the previous round, the team was in contention for a medal. However, for that to happen, some results were needed to go India's way.

 Batumi Chess Olympiad: India finish 6th after final round draw against Poland; women dominate Mongolia to take 8th spot

Adhiban was the player of the day in India’s match against Poland. Image courtesy: Niklesh Jain

Winning a gold medal was simply out of the question as India were two points behind the joint tournament leaders, China and the USA. As for winning a silver or a bronze medal, there were some real chances. But the foremost requisite was a victory in the final round.

However, playing against Poland the Indian men – with the exception of Adhiban Baskaran – showed little fighting spirit. The top two games were just drawn out of the opening. In the end, the match ended with a 2-2 draw, with all games ending peacefully.

It must also be added that at the end of the round, it was clear that even if India had won against Poland, a podium finish would not have been possible. China and the USA had drawn on the top board and Russia joined the duo with a win over France. This meant all three teams finished with a score of 18 points. Even if India had won, it would have ended up with a score of 17. Nevertheless, this was no excuse to not try.

On the top board, Anand was a clear favourite against Jan-Krzysztof Duda. Not only was Anand the higher rated player, but he also had the white pieces. Duda opened the game with the Petroff defence, an opening that is usually deployed by black players who are looking for a comfortable draw.

Although it is true that Duda gave Anand little chance to look for a win by playing the Petroff, Anand's choice of the symmetrical variation in the line only helped Duda's cause. After the opening phase, the players made some thematic moves in the middle game before repeating the position to sign peace. Even the final position, although equal, was playable. And given that his team was in a must-win situation, the least Anand could have done is played on for a few more moves.

Harikrishna had the black pieces on board two against Radoslaw Wojtaszek. The two played an Open Catalan in which Wojtaszek came up with a novelty in the opening. This, however, did not do anything more than liquidating the position further. More exchanges followed as the game progressed and by the 30th move, players had reached a rook and pawn endgame where both sides had equal pawns. A draw was agreed immediately.

India had their best chance to win on the third board. Vidit Gujrathi had the white pieces here and he was playing against Piorun Kacper. In terms of rating, Vidit was rated almost 100 points higher than his opponent. Vidit chose his usual Italian to kick off. The opening is well-tailored for him as it gives him a very slight but stable advantage. However, black managed to equalise easily out of the opening and had even gained a slight advantage as the play progressed. Queens were traded off by the 20th move and more exchanges followed in the next phase of the game.

In this time, black had managed to get a decent edge in the rook and bishop endgame that had ensued but Vidit's timely exchange of rooks kept the position under control for him. But this merely led to equality when the match situation demanded a win. The subsequent position with bishops of opposite colours was played out until the 48th move before being drawn but the result of the game was never in doubt.

Now that all of the top three games were drawn, the onus to bring a win was on Adhiban. Despite having the black pieces, Adhiban was looking for chances in the game. Queens were exchanged on the 16th move but, even in the endgame, Adhiban managed to generate complications in the position. Tomsczak, defended well, however, and liquidated into a rook and minor piece endgame.

At this point, it looked like this game was also drifting towards a draw. But Adhiban remained stubborn and played on. On his 41st turn, he even gave away an entire piece to keep the game going. As a compensation, Adhiban had three pawns and he gave his absolute best to help them score touchdowns. Unfortunately, his position did not hold enough firepower. His king was far away from the pawns and without the king, they would not have gone far. After trying for 56 moves, Adhiban, too, decided to call it a day by signing the truce. Nevertheless, Adhiban fought until the very end and took all the risks he could have to try and score the win his team so desperately needed.

With this draw, the Indian team finished with a score of 16/22. After the application of tiebreaks, the team was placed 6th on the leaderboard. While this is not a bad finish, the team definitely held the potential to achieve more and, perhaps, if the more experienced players of the team had fought as hard as Adhiban to score wins, the outcome would have been completely different.

In the women's group, the team finished their run with a dominating 3-1 win over Mongolia. The country's best woman player, Koneru Humpy was rested for this game. On the top board, Harika Dronavalli held Batkhuyag Munguntuul to a draw. Harika had equalised easily out of the opening and was pushing for the most part. But the Mongolian number one defended precisely and saved half point.

Tania Sachdev came back strongly after her losses in the previous rounds with a win over Davaademberel Nomin-Erdene. Tania was much worse at some point in the game but after some sloppy play by her opponent, she came back strongly and hardly allowed her opponent a chance.

Padmini Rout scored the second win of the day, defeating the much lower rated Dulamsuren Yanjindulam. The game had begun with the Pirc defence in which Padmini went for a queen exchange very early in the game. Some errors on Padmini's part had rendered the position equal. But Dulamsuren returned the favour soon and gave Padmini a much better position. By the 65th move, the Indian had forced a resignation.

With this win, the women's team finished in a nine-way tie for fourth, scoring a total of 16/22. After tiebreaks were applied, India was declared 8th in the final standings.

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Updated Date: Oct 06, 2018 12:02:31 IST

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