After letting England off the hook, India will have to come up an improved performance against Israel when teams meet in the sixth round of Chess Olympiad on Monday.
Sunday’s day of rest should help the team take stock of the performances so far. Though undefeated so far, India could have easily been placed higher than its current 8th place at eight match-points, a tally matched by teams placed from 5th to 21st.
For the 13th seeded Indian team, Germany offers a stiff challenge.
Israel, seeded 12th, is headed by the current World championship runner-up Boris Gelfand, who has contributed two points from three outings so far. The team has several seasoned campaigners like Emil Sutovksy (2 points from 4 rounds), Maxim Rodshtein (2.5/5), Evgeny Postny (2/3) and an in-form Boris Avrukh (4/5).
India should aim at holding the positions on the first and fourth boards and try to strike on the second and third. K. Sasikiran (2/4) can be expected to prove equal to a sedate Gelfand. P. Hari Krishna (3.5/4) and Parimarjan Negi (2.5/4) have managed some exciting positions after the opening phase. Abhijeet Gupta’s (4/5) recent form is helping the team stay optimistic on the fourth board.
Tuesday will also witness the much-awaited leaders’ clash between top seed Russia and twice winner, third seed Armenia, which defeated defending champion Ukraine, seeded two, on Sunday.
In the ladies section, India will have to shake off the crushing defeat to China and aim to get its campaign back on track. Up next, sixth seed India faces Germany, seeded ninth. Currently, India is placed 22nd. Teams placed from the 17th to the 28th spots have seven match-points each.
India has reasons to look ahead optimistically. Should India play more positively, unlike the passive manner in which Eesha Karavade and Tania Sachdev succumbed to their Chinese rivals on Sunday, it will surely be back into the top-10 before the business-end of the medal-race.
If D. Harika is expected to blunt the spearheads of the rivals, so far, she has done well. Eesha, Tania and Mary Ann Gomes have the necessary tactical prowess to give India the cutting edge against lower-seeded opposition. But at the same time, the inconsistency of these ladies cannot be overlooked. Coaches Abhijit Kunte and R. B. Ramesh will have to spend more time with the ladies team, motivating the unit to believe in its strength, before each of the remaining six rounds.
So far, the second seeded Russian girls have done enough to maintain its all-win record for the lead, at 10 match-points.