Juniors R Praggnanandhaa, Divya Deshmukh lead India’s charge against China as team marches into quarter-finals
Rampant India dominated the third day at the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad beating pool favourites and second highest-rated team in the competition, China (4-2), after trouncing Germany and Georgia to storm into the quarter-finals of the tournament on Sunday.
In the much-anticipated contest against China, India’s young guns GM R Praggnanandhaa and WIM Divya Deshmukh secured vital victories to propel the team to the top of Pool A toppling China.
India claimed the top spot in Pool A with 17 points and 39.5 board points and became the first team to qualify for the quarter-finals.
India began Round Seven, the first round of the day, on a positive note brushing aside Georgia 4-2 with GM Pentala Harikrishna, Praggnanandhaa and Deshmukh all registering 1 point each with their respective wins, while former world champion Viswanathan Anand and GM Humpy Koneru clinching half a point each to ensure India held the upper hand in the round.
Harika Dronavalli lost her tie against Nino Batsiashvili, which turned out to be the only solitary defeat across the 18 games played in the day, reflecting India’s superiority.
After resting in Round Seven, India captain GM Vidit Gujarati won a challenging match with the black pieces against higher-ranked Rasmus Svane of Germany in Round Eight. IM Bhakti Kulkarni and WIM Vantika Agrawal held their own to record wins as well.
GM Nihal Sarin lost his advantage against IM Roven Vogel but managed to clinch a draw as did Harika and Harikrishna helping India win the round 4.5-1.5 against Germany.
In the most high-profile match of the day for the men, Vidit took on World No 3 Ding Liren. The Indian skipper was able to hold the fort and secure a draw, bagging 0.5 points. Whereas among women’s clashes, World No 3 Humpy was up against World No 1 Hou Yifan where the Indian ace was able to resist the challenge and play out a draw.
Harikrishna and Harika, both of whom played in all three matches of the day, shared spoils with their higher-rated Chinese counterparts Yu Yangyi and World No 2 Ju Wenjun respectively.
The Indian youngsters, 15-year-old Praggnanandhaa and 14-year-old Deshmukh, showed a glimpse of their prodigal promise by coming out on top against GM Liu Yan and WGM Zhu Jiner, turning their tense ties into triumphs in round nine of the day.
Praggnanandhaa has been the star from India’s perspective, having won all of his five games so far, while Deshmukh has won four out of the five matches that she has participated in. If not for the internet lag that decided the outcome of her result on day one, she could have also maintained a 100 percent record.
The pool winner advances directly to the quarter-finals while the second and third-placed teams from each of the four pools move to the preliminary phase of the knockout.
India will play the quarter-finals on 28 August.
Round 7: India beat Georgia 4-2 (Viswanathan Anand drew with Levan Pantsulaia; P Harikrishna beat Luka Paichadze; Konery Humpy drew with Meri Arabidze; D Harika lost to Nino Batsiashvili; R Praggnanandhaa beat Nikolozi Kacharava; Divya Deshmukh beat Diana Lomaia).
Round 8: India beat Germany 4.5-1.5 (Vidit Gujrathi beat Rasmus Svane; Harikrishna drew with Matthias Bluebaum; D Harika drew with Lara Schulze; Bhakti Kulkarni beat Filiz Osmanodja; Nihal Sarin drew with Roven Vogel; Vantika Agrwal beat Jana Schneider).
Round 9: India beat China 4-2 (Vidit Gujrathi drew with Ding Liren; Harikrishna drew with Yangyi Yu; Humpy drew with Hou Yifan; D Harika drew with Wenjun Ju; R Praggnanandhaa beat Yan Liu; Divya Deshmukh beat Jiner Zhu).
Pool A: 1. India (17 points), 2. China (16), 3. Germany (11), 4. Iran (9), 5 and 6. Mongolia & Georgia (8), 7. Indonesia (8), 8. Uzbekistan (7), 9. Vietnam (6), 10. Zimbabwe (0).