Online Olympiad: India reach semis with dramatic win over Ukraine

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Mumbai, Sep 13 (IANS) Defendingchampion India defeated Ukraine in the quarter-finals of the 2021 FIDE Online Chess Olympiad, quelling their opponents in a thrilling tie-break blitz round to reach the semi-finals.

India, who had topped their preliminary league group, took Ukraine in the two-round quarter-final. They claimed the first round of rapid chess matches 4-2 with Harika Dronavalli and Nihal Sarin winning their games in the six-board encounter. Anand drew with fellow veteran Vesselin Ivanchuk while Pentala Harikrishna was held by Ukraine No. 2 Kirill Shevchenko. Koneru Humpy too could not get the better of Lulija Osmak, a player ranked 2302 as compared to 2483 of Humpy. But the two wins by Harika and Nihal were good enough to seal the round in India’s favour.

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India, who shared the title with Russia in 2020, had to win the second round to progress to the next stage and they looked on course leading 2-0 when Ukraine came back strongly. Anand was again held by Ivanchuk but Vidit Santosh Gujrathi lost to Kirill Shevchenko with black pieces. Things took a dramatic turn as Harika won her game against Natalia Zhukova and R Praggnanandhaa won against Platon Galperin but R Vaishali lost to Mariia Berdnyk and then Humpy lost to Lulija Osmak from a nearly equal position under time pressure. Ukraine won the round 3.5-2.5 and thus forced a tie-break round of blitz games.

In the tiebreak blitz round, India rested Anand and put former national champion B Adhiban on the second board against Kirill Shevchenko. Nahil Sarin came in for Praggananandhaa. The inspired changes proved successful as India won the round 1-5 to seal a place in the semi-final.

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Vidit held Ivanchuk and Adhiban defeated Shevchenko with white pieces; Humpy was held by Osmak but Harika, who found some brilliant combinations, defeated Nataliya Buksa, her third win in the quarter-final. India dominated the bottom two boards in blitz as Nihal overcame Platon Galperin and Vaishali defeated Variia Berdnyk to wrap a superb victory for India.

In the semi-final, India will take on the winner of the match between Kazakhstan and the United States.

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The Indian players, most of whom were accessing the chess,com server from a hotel in Chennai while Harikrishna, Humpy, and Harika were taking part from their respective homes, were elated by the result as they had managed to put in across a dangerous opponent in the dramatic encounter.



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