As of this moment, the whole chess-playing world is at Baku, which is hosting the 42nd Chess Olympiad. Hundreds of matches are going on simultaneously and after completion of each round, participants find new pairings for their next matches. While everyone focused their attention to two Round 4 matches in Open and women’s draw; Indian fans wanted to know the fate of their men and women’s teams. The two matches that captured people’s attention were men’s Round 4 between top-ranked Russia and 5th ranked Ukraine and between Latvia and China in women’s draw. Ukraine shocked Russia with a 2.5-1.5 win while among women. Latvia’s Dana Reizniece-Ozola caused an upset by defeating women’s world no.1 Chinese Hou Yifan. Though Latvia lost 1.5-2.5 against China, this match acquired prominence because Dana is not only her country’s top board; she is also Latvia’s Minister for Finance. As for India, their men’s team came to Baku as 11th seed and women were seeded 5th. After the completion of 4 rounds, Indian men are placed 4th and women 6th, which should be regarded as extremely satisfactory at this stage. After a much better performance in their first three rounds, Indian men defeated Cuba in Round 4 but the margin of victory was diluted to 2.5-1.5. As for women, they had beaten Philippines 3.5-0.5 in round 3 but in the fourth round they drew level with Israel. In Round-5 on September 6, Indian men will take on hosts Azerbaijan while women’s team plays against Vietnam. The tournament will have a rest day on Wednesday September 7, after which the remaining 6 rounds will be played.
After winning their first two rounds 4-0 against Bolivia and Costa Rica, Indian men’s team dropped a point with two draws against Azerbaijan-2. The hosts have been permitted to field three teams named as Azerbaijan, Azerbaijan-2 and Azerbaijan-3. In the first match India’s top player P Harikrishna began with a draw against Durarbayli, who set a trap for the Indian towards the end but Harikrishna didn’t fall for it. After losing that half point, India lost another half, when SP Sethuraman also drew his game with Guseinov. However, Vidit Gujrathi and B Adhiban won their matches against Bajarani and Abasov respectively. Vidit benefitted from a blunder by Bajarani and won easily, while Adhiban played another strong game to beat Abasov to lend India a 3-1 victory. However, India drew three of its matches in their Round-4 encounter with Cuba. With just one victory in 4 matches, India’s tally in the win against Cuba was 2.5-1.5 that takes them to the 4th place in overall standing behind China, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands.
The Indian women’s team had their Round 3 matches against the Philippines and by recording a 3.5-0.5 victory, Indian women jumped to the third spot behind France and Russia. However, in their Round-4 match, Indian women’s performance suffered, when they drew with Israel 2-2. In Round-3 against the Philippines on September 4, India won three matches and drew one. India’s top women’s player Harika Dronavalli failed to record a win for herself in the tournament. She played against Filipino Frayne and ended with a drawn game. However, the other three Indian women won their matches to make a 3.5-0.5 finish for India. Playing with Whites, 2014 Tromso Olympiad bronze medalist Padmini Rout faced little trouble in beating Fronda. Tania Sachdev defeated Bernales and playing with Blacks, Soumya Swaminathan beat Secopito to record a good finish for India. However, the team couldn’t continue its winning run in Round 4 as they drew with Israel 2-2. Harika drew with Israel’s Yulia in an identical result against Philippines in Round 3. However, even with White pieces, India’s Padmini Rout lost to Marsel and Soumya Swaminathan drew with Olga. The only victory for India came from Tania Sachdev, who beat Israel’s Masha. Incidentally, Tania is the only woman in the Indian team to have won all her four matches. The drawn Round 4 finish has pushed India to the sixth place in overall ranking in women’s draw. Ukraine is no.1 followed by Serbia Russia, Kazakhstan and Romania. In Round 5, Indian women face Vietnam, who are ranked at no.12 after 4 rounds.