With the conclusion of Round-11 games on September 13, curtain came down on the 2016 Baku Chess Olympiad. India couldn’t win any team medals but the performance of Indian men and women teams’ was still praiseworthy. The men finished fourth behind USA, Ukraine and Russia while the Indian women’s team ended fifth behind China, Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Considering that the tournament had several strong teams, India’s overall performance was laudable and should be regarded as a great achievement by their youthful teams. USA won the gold medal in Open category while that honor in women’s section was taken by China. On the last day, Indian men had played against Norway and the two national teams finished in a 2-2 draw. Indian women also managed the same score against USA. These results ensured that India were not pushed lower down in the final rankings.
In India’s last match against Norway, P Harikrishana played with white pieces with Magnus Carlsen and didn’t allow the World Champion to take an upper-hand and forced a draw. Earlier, India did have an outside chance of winning but SP Sethuraman became too ambitious in his match against Frode Urkedal. On the 16th move, the Indian sacrificed a bishop for a pawn with the hope of equalizing later. But Urkedal read Sethuraman’s mind and carefully avoided any devious designs by the Indian. After Sethuraman lost that game, India’s day was saved by Vidit Gujrathi, who won against Aryan Tari. With B Adhiban drawing his game with Jon Ludvig Hammer India ended at 2-2 and finished fourth at the Olympiad in the overall rankings of the Open category.
In women’s section, India lost their chances with a 2-2 draw against USA. Padmini Rout had a winning position with White pieces against Nazi Paikidze, but in a momentary lapse of concentration, she lost her rook for a knight. That changed the complexion of the game and Padmini ended up losing. India’s position was saved by Tania Sachdev, who won against Anna Zatonskih in 78 moves. On top board, World No.5 Indian GM Harika Dronavalli played with Blacks but drew her game against GM Irina Krush. The same result came in the game between Soumya Swaminathan and Katerina Nemcova and a drawn tie ensued. Tania had a great tournament and she finished with an extremely creditable score of 8/11.
Despite losing out on team medals, the Indian team will not be returning empty-handed. In the special rating categories, which rewarded outperforming lower-rated teams, Indian men won the medals along with Azerbaijan 3, Sudan and Chinese Taipei. USA men’s team justified their top ranking and won the gold in the Baku Chess Olympiad for the first time in 40 years. But the victory came after the team edged out the strong team from Ukraine in a tiebreak cliff-hanger. Russia won the bronze. In women’s section, China edged out Russia 2.5-1.5 and denied them their 4th successive gold at Chess Olympiads. That loss also meant that Russia couldn’t even make it to the podium. Instead the gold went to China with Poland taking silver and Ukraine winning the bronze. Russia finished fourth ahead of India. The 2018 Chess Olympiad will be held in the Georgian city of Batumi, a popular resort on the Black Sea.
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