The 42nd World Chess Olympiad got off to a spectacular start in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku. The first-day proceedings on September 1 at the beautiful Baku Chrystal Hall were confined to just the official opening of the long-awaited biennial extravaganza. The Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev inaugurated the event in a colorful opening ceremony and said in his address that he was glad that a record number of countries were participating in the event and the next two weeks would enthrall the players and the guests. On September 2, the president was back to open the first-round matches with an honorary 1.d4 move in the inaugural game between Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and zimbabwe’s Rodwell Makoto. That match concluded with Azerbaijan’s top line-up thrashing Zimbabwe 4-0. Later in the day, Indian men and women also performed creditably. India’s men played with Bolivia and won all their matches to record a 4-0 win and later, the women also scored the same 4-0 win against the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. On Saturday, Round-2 matches were concluded and once again Indian men completed a 4-0 whitewash of their opponents Costa Rica. However, India’s women lost a crucial point, when their top star Harika Dronavalli lost but the team still beat Brazil 3-1.
In the first round on September 2, India’s men and women’s teams began their campaign of the 42nd Olympiad in victorious fashion. For these matches, both teams opted to rest their top players. While Indian men’s team rested their top star world no.16 Grandmaster Pentala Harikrishna, women’s team also allowed a breather for world no.5 GM Harika Dronavalli. This was because in both sections, Indian teams had much lower world-ranked opponents in their first round. Indian men played with Bolivia, while women met the team from the Republic of Macedonia.
India’s B Adhiban provided his team with a winning start. Playing with Black pieces, Adhiban didn’t allow any chance for Bolivian IM Gemy Jose and scored an emphatic victory. After the winning start, the next Indian to play was Vidit Santosh Gujrathi. Vidit had Whites and he dominated his opponent L Aguilar in a forceful victory. In the next match, SP Sethuraman had Blacks but his opponent Delgadillo couldn’t stand against the Indian’s wit and lost. India made it 4-0 in the last game, where Murali Karthikeyan had the advantage of playing with White pieces against Bolivian A Paragga. Karthikeyan sailed through to make it a glorious first day for the Indian men’s team.
In women’s draw too, India recorded a 4-0 win against Macedonia. Padmini, Rout opened India’s account with a victory over Monika Stojkovska and that was followed by Tania Sachdev beating Bojana Bejatovic. In the third game, Soumya, Swaminathan defeated Dragana Nikolovska and Pratyusha, Bodda made it 4-0 in the last game by outclassing Simona Lakinska. Though 10 rounds still remain, the first-round victories are the great morale boosters.
In the second round on September 3, while Indian men continued with another 4-0 rout of Costa Rica, women’s team lost a crucial point, when their best player Harika Dronavalli was defeated by Brazil’s Juliana Sayumi Terao. Regardless, Soumya Swaminathan, Tania Sachdev and Pratyusha, Bodda won their matches against the Brazilian women for a 3-1 victory for India. In men’s draw, star player Harikrishnan continued to abstain in the second round against the lowly Costa Rica but Adhiban, Vidit, Sethuraman and Karthikeyan defeated their opponents for another 4-0 victory for India.