Online Chess Olympiad 2020: Koneru Humpy wins thrilling Armageddon, secures India's berth in final
India fashioned a resounding turnaround to beat Poland in the semi-finals of Online Chess Olympiad and will face either USA or Russia in the summit clash on Sunday
World No 2 Koneru Humpy completed India's stunning turnaround against Poland in the semi-final of FIDE Online Chess Olympiad with her win in the Armageddon on Saturday to seal a place in the final.
Playing with the black pieces, Humpy defeated Poland's Monika Socko in the decider as India blazed into the final.
The Vidit Gujarati-led team lost the first round 4-2 with Viswanathan Anand and the captain, Vidit, losing on the first two boards. Women players Humpy and Harika Dronavalli both drew their games while in the juniors, Divya Deshmukh lost her match. Junior Nihal Sarin was the only player to score a win and clinch a point for India.
However, India fashioned a resounding comeback in the second round with a 4.5-1.5 win. Retaining the same players on the top four boards and all the senior pros — Vidit, Anand, Humpy and Harika — registered wins against their Polish counterparts while Vantika Agarwal, on the last board, managed a draw, earning 4.5 points to force the tie into an Armageddon.
Meanwhile, playing on board five, R Praggnanandda suffered his first loss in the six games that he had played in the tournament so far. However, his defeat made little difference to the overall outcome of India's result.
With the tournament organisers deciding the players and the colour of pieces for the Armageddon, they lined up Humpy against Socko, giving Poland the white pieces and an extra minute on the clock, whereas with the black pieces India just needed to hold on to a draw to win the overall match.
Stepping up to the occasion, Humpy's heroics helped India win the semi-finals 2-1. For the final on Sunday, the team is expected to meet the winner of the other semi-final between USA and Russia.
"Happy and relieved," was India captain Vidit's first reaction after the intense match. "It was very tense at a point. Losing the first match was a shocker, especially in the way we lost, but the team and I pulled ourselves together," he said while speaking to Chess.com post match.
Showering praise on Humpy, Vidit said, "I think in the Armageddon when they (officials) pick (their choice of player), all players hope 'please don't pick me', but someone has to take the responsibility and it takes strong nerves and she (Humpy) delivered it for us."
While assessing the Armageddon, the 25-year-old said, "Initially I felt she was a bit slow and that time I was worried. But after those exchanges in the middle she was doing well. Once she played e5 and the rook b8 exchanges, I was confident that she would convert it."
The India captain also thanked the Indian fans for the support that the team has been receiving throughout the tournament.
"Today we are celebrating National Sports Day in India, so it was a nice day for us to win the match," he signed off.
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