Grandmasters Adhiban Baskaran and Surya Sekhar Ganguly provided the much-needed silver lining to Indian efforts at the 2019 World Team Chess Championships by winning individual gold medals on Boards 1 and 3, respectively, after the team was unable to hold mighty Russia to a draw for a team bronze in the final round. With draws on Boards 1, 2 and 4, Team India came within a hair’s breadth of snatching third position from arch-rivals China during Thursday’s final round, but GM SP Sethuraman was unable to subdue GM Grischuk on Board 3 resulting in a 2.5-1.5 win for Russia.
Russia, on its part, showed the world why it is a chess superpower by winning the tournament with a round to spare and collecting a very impressive 3-match-point lead over runners-up England who finished with 13 match points. England even managed to create history by winning a team championship medal after 22 years! China rounded out the winners’ podium in third place with 12 match points.
Team India might not have lived up to their fans’ expectations, but even without their Big Three — Viswanathan Anand (rated 2,779), Pentala Harikrishna (2,730) and Vidit Gujrathi (2,711) — the next in command were able to marshal the team to a fourth-place finish, not having lost a single match until the very last round.
Adhiban, rated 2683 at the start, had a tournament to remember, breaching the 2,700-mark in live ratings and winning a gold medal on Board 1. With three wins and six draws, he remained undefeated, finishing with 6 points and a performance rating of 2,828. He beat Africa’s strongest player, GM Bassem Amin (2,709) of Egypt, and his best draws came against China’s GM Ding Liren (2,812) and Russia’s GM Sergey Karjakin (2,753).
Ecstatic about his performance, he said, “It was a great feeling to win the gold medal on Board 1, but the best part was I didn’t care about the individual medal or crossing 2,700 and that is exactly one of the reasons I was able to do it. Now hopefully I will get to play stronger events against elite players!”
He continued, “Of course I am not happy with the six draws but apart from my game with Jumabayev from Kazakhstan... I really didn’t have any chance to hope for more! So can’t complain about the draws.”
When asked if it was harder to aim for an individual achievement when the team was struggling, he added, “Our team wasn't struggling we just have to play strong in the final two rounds then we can change everything!”
Not to be outdone by his Board 1 teammate, Surya (rated 2,633) also remained undefeated, his 7 points coming from 5 wins and 4 draws. His win over China’s GM Yu Yangyi (2,761) and draws against England’s GM David Howell (2,693) and Russia’s GM Ian Nepomniachtchi (2,771) meant that he finished with a performance rating of 2,850 and a medal!
Tweeting shortly after the closing ceremony ended in Astana, Kazakhstan where the 9-day tournament had been held, he posted:
It is an absolute delight to win an individual Gold at World Team 2019. Playing for our country gives us an extra motivation. Scored 7.0/9, won 5 matches and drew 4.
— Surya Sekhar Ganguly (@suryachess64) March 14, 2019
Ganguly has been a long-time second of Anand. His peak Elo of 2,672 has never justified his immense talent and dedication that he has for the game. This performance is just what Ganguly needs in his bid to break into the 2,700 Elo range. His current live rating is 2,657.
Long years of work with Anand has surely convinced Ganguly that there is no age limit to improvement. Ganguly is 36 years old now and this 2,850 Elo performance at World Teams is surely one of his finest feats in an illustrious chess career. Playing mainly on Board 2, GM Sasikiran Krishnan (2,678) had a largely forgettable tournament managing just 2.5 points from seven games.
On Board 4, GM SP Sethuraman (2,637) fared better with his five points from eight games; whereas GM Aravindh Chithambaram (2,599) played just 3 games, finishing with 1.5 points on Board 5. The Indian women’s team comprising IM Eesha Karavade (2,357), WGM Soumya Swaminathan (2,402), IM Padmini Rout (2,332), IM Tania Sachdev (2,400) and WGM Bhakti Kulkarni (2,322) had a dismal outing, occupying sixth place in the final standings right behind hosts Kazakhstan.
China were the undisputed queens in this section, winning every match to finish with 18 match points, a cool 4 points ahead of Russia who had to settle for silver for their 14 points. Georgia was the surprise bronze medallist ahead of Ukraine by 2.5 game points, after tying with them on 12 match points. A reason for India’s lacklustre performance could be Tania’s unavailability for most matches, playing just two throughout the nine rounds. She was suffering from bad health, but still insisted that she play the event.
When she reached Astana, her health suffered once again and she had to hospitalised.
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Okay so this one's going to be a bit emosh. So many of you reached out to ask me why I sat out the games at the World Team Championship in Astana and expressed your concern. Many of you I have never met and yet so much kindness. I'm so grateful and touched by your messages ❤️ . . I was unwell the week before the tournament started. I recovered or so I thought.. playing for India is such a high and truly the most unmatched feeling. So I really really wanted to make it. I thought I was good to fly out but the fact is that my body wasn't. I got there and within 2 days started feeling worse again. Managed to get through two games. Ended up with a lung infection.Then the hospital and had to rest it out . . It was a brilliantly organised World Team Championship, perhaps one of the best, well done Kazakhstan! I really wish I could have played and experienced more. It wasn't meant to be this time . . A friend wrote to me -- '..sending Health and Love and nothing else, because with those two you can do anything and everything with no limits' I'm home now and the next few weeks will be all TLC and getting strong again 💪 . . So hey -- Listen to your body, love it and take care of it so you can be limitless ❤️ . . 📸 - Official Website
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Of the five female Indian players, Bhakti had the best numbers, winning five games, drawing two and losing two to finish with six points from nine games. Draws against higher rated players IM Melia Salome (2,385) of Georgia and Ukraine’s IM Inna Gaponenko (2,427), helped her reach a performance rating of 2,420 and gain 28 rating points.
The experiences from this event will play a key role in determining India’s team composition and strategy for the next major team event — the 2020 World Chess Olympiad — in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia where both the open and women’s teams will be vying for top honours.
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Updated Date: Mar 18, 2019 15:43:39 IST