Editorial

A golden moment: On India's win in Chess Olympiad

If further proof was needed of India’s growing stature in world chess and of the mind sport’s rising popularity in the country, the online Chess Olympiad provided it in emphatic fashion on Sunday. India became the joint champion, along with title favourite Russia, even as the Olympiad trended on Twitter and thousands followed the action through live streaming on social media. The title had to be shared because the result in two games in the second match of the final was affected by a net outage. India’s Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh had lost on time — competitive chess is always a race against the clock — but probably neither would have if they were not disconnected. The Indian team management lodged a complaint and the world chess governing body FIDE’s decision to have joint champions was agreeable to Russia too, and thus there was a fruitful ending to the final. That was not quite the situation, though, when Armenia raised a similar complaint after it lost a crucial game, involving Nihal, to India in the first match of the quarter-final. The Armenians protested by not playing the second match and withdrew from the competition. But that incident should not take the sheen off India’s triumph. Chess Olympiad has always been the most prestigious team event in the game, and its history stretches to 1924. India’s best effort has been the third place in 2014. FIDE decided to conduct an online Olympiad because the 44th edition had to be postponed till next year due to the pandemic.

Though India was seeded only seventh, among 163 countries, no contender would have taken it lightly, given the presence of strong players in the three categories — men, women and junior. If Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy are among the greatest players the world has ever seen, Nihal and R. Praggnanandhaa could be tomorrow’s stars. In the euphoria surrounding the great Indian victory, some grim facts should not be overlooked. On Saturday when the Arjuna awards were being distributed by President Ram Nath Kovind online, the Indian chess team pulled off a thrilling victory against Poland in the semifinal of the Olympiad. Ironically, no chess player has won an Arjuna for seven years, though there have been several outstanding performances and India is ranked fourth in the world. India captain Vidit Gujrathi had said how the team was on its own ahead of the Olympiad with no support from the All India Chess Federation. The federation officials are embroiled in a tussle for power. They announced two separate teams for the Olympiad, forcing chief selector R.B. Ramesh to quit. This moment of glory, therefore, is also a time for introspection.

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Printable version | May 18, 2021 1:30:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/a-golden-moment-on-indias-win-in-chess-olympiad/article32499392.ece

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