India’s defense of its FIDE Online Chess Olympiad gold medal came to a disappointing end at the semi-final stage when the team led by Viswanathan Anand lost to the United States in a tiebreak on Tuesday.
In the final, the USA will meet Russia on Wednesday. Russia were the co-winners of the title with India in 2020.
India were the favourites to win the semi-final. They were the better team on paper while the USA had their second string in play in the absence of Fabiano Caruana, Hikaru Nakamura, and Wesley So — all of whom are involved in other tournaments.
India started the semi-final in great fashion as they outplayed the United States in the first rapid chess duel. But Team USA came back strongly and won the next duel and then went on to win the blitz tie-break to seal a place in the final.
India won the first duel 5-1 with Anand, Pentala Harikrishna, Dronavalli Harika, and R Vaishali winning their games. Koneru Humpy drew with Irina Krush as did Nihal Sarin against Awonder Liang.
But the next duel proved a disaster for India as Anand lost to Jeffery Xiong on the top board, committing mistakes against some superb moves by the American. Ray Robson defeated Vidit Santosh Gujrathi on the second board, R Praggnanandhaa’s loss against Liang pushed India to the backfoot. Humpy played another draw against Krush and though Harika won another game, her fifth in the last two days, Vaishali’s draw against Thalia Cervantes Landeiro meant India lost the duel 2-4 and for the second day in succession had to go through the tiebreaker.
However, unlike on Monday when they won the tiebreak easily, things did not go well for India against the United States as they were completely outplayed in blitz games, the USA winning it 4.5-1.5 to seal a a great comeback.
Harikrishna, playing on the top board instead of Anand, lost to Xiong while B Adhiban, who had won against Ukraine on Monday coming in as a substitute in the tiebreaker, could not work his magic against the lower-rated Robson and when Humpy lost to Krush on the third board, the match was as good as over for India. Harika defeated Nazi Paikidze for her third win of the day — sixth in two days — but that was the only consolation for India as Nihal Sarin, a very good blitz player, could not put it across Awonder while Vaishali lost to Thalia Cervantes Landeiro to end India’s campaign on a disappointing note.