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Format, ‘zero-tolerance’ keep Anand away from Olympiad

Viswanathan Anand’s disenchantment with the chess Olympiad is well known. The next edition of this team championship involving over 100 countries takes place in Istanbul, Turkey, next month and least surprisingly, Anand has maintained his position of staying away from the biennial event.

The chess world has often wondered why Anand prefers to give this event a miss. The most accepted reason is that Anand does not wish to risk losing precious rating points should he not score as per his playing strength.

But ask Anand and he comes up with two main reasons, one known and the other not-so-well-known.

Anand has consistently expressed his dislike for the Swiss Format where players or teams with equal points face-off in each round, unlike in the round-robin league.

“The Olympiad with its Swiss format is so unpredictable. That is something that I found out in Calvia (in 2004). I think we did ridiculously well. We had four accidental slips here and there. We could have easily come second. But in the end, we just came sixth.

“The Swiss format pays a role here. You can put in a lot of effort but it’s the effort in the last two rounds that matters. So I would say it is difficult to have expectations from any country, including Russia and Ukraine. You go there and make sure you don’t do anything silly in the first few rounds and do what it takes in the last couple of them.

“Secondly, there are lots of strong rules, like the zero-tolerance rule, that simply make playing unpleasant for no benefit,” explains the five-time World champion.

Zero-tolerance rule means that any player who arrives even a few seconds late at his board, loses the game.

“It is fine to have the zero-tolerance rule in the World championships and elite tournaments. But the rule makes little sense in the Olympiad where you have 2000 players!”

Looking at the prospects of the Indian team in the upcoming Olympiad, Anand says, “We have a reasonable team which is well poised for this lottery. We can do the routine in the first few rounds. But I don’t have any expectation from such a format. It is so random.”

In fact, Anand was aware of the cancellation of the two proposed coaching camps for the Indian team for the Olympiad. The camps were slated to be held from June 1 to 15 in Chennai and August 1 to 15 here. However, senior team member, Grandmaster P. Hari Krishna, declined to attend “any camps.”

In addition, Hari also needed a guarantee that the All India Chess Federation that he would be given a single room during the Olympiad.

Hari had underscored the importance of playing strong tournaments instead of attending camps in the days leading to the Olympiad and made himself available for the Olympiad.”

The AICF, sensing the lack of interest among the rest of the team members towards joint-preparations for the Olympiad, decided to call off the coaching camps.

Though K. Sasikiran, Hari, Parimarjan Negi, G. N. Gopal, Abhijeet Gupta along with K. Humpy, Mary Ann Gomes, D. Harika, Tania Sachdev and Eesha Karavade form the men and women teams, a few drop-outs cannot be ruled out.

Anand was delighted with the decisions of the AICF to increase the prize-fund of the National championship from Rs. 4 lakhs to Rs. 10 lakhs and return to the old round-robin format, involving 14 players.

“It is unbelievable. Rs. 4 lakhs in today’s world is not much but Rs. 10 lakh is a nice figure,” ends Anand on a positive note.

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Printable version | Nov 28, 2021 11:47:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/sport/other-sports/format-zerotolerance-keep-anand-away-from-olympiad/article3666738.ece

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