SPORT

Russian men, Chinese women clinch titles

Bled Nov. 10 Russia men and Chinese women won the 35th Chess Olympiad after the final round concluded here at the Sports Hall here on Sunday. For Russia it was their sixth straight title triumph and for China it was a hat-trick of titles.

Hungary which managed a 3-1 win with scores from the lower boards won the silver medal. They scored 37.5 points, one point below Russia on 38.5 points. Armenia won the bronze medal with 35 points after scoring a spirited 3-1 win Georgia.

The race for the women's title was decided after the Chinese won on the two bottom boards and world women's champion Zhu Chen struggled and made a draw for a 2.5-0.5 win over Bulgaria. They finished on top with 29.5 points, half a point ahead of second placed Russia. Russia ended with the silver medal scoring a 2.5-0.5 half win over Slovakia. Georgia who were on the race for the title, lost their fourth match in a row and their 1-2 defeat kept them out of the medals list for the first time in history. Except for Georgia's poor finish the Olympiad had few surprises. Poland overtook them to win the bronze medal with 28 points.

Indian teams lost their second matches in a row by 1.5-2.5 to Iceland in men and 1-2 to Israel and finished with 31 and 23.5 points. This is lower than what they achieved last year at Istanbul when they scored 33 and 24 points in each of the sections. India finished 29th with 31 points in men and 19th in women with 23.5 points. India finished behind their seeding number and last years placing in both sections. India played without the best players in men and women, Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy.

When Peter Leko of Hungary signed a quick draw against Ye Jiangchuan of China with the black pieces on the second table, the Russians sprang to their feet offering four draws to ensure the gold medal. Yugoslavia was only happy to provide them with that and the Grischuk v Ljubojevic, Damljanovic v Morozevich, Ivanisevic v Svidler and Kovacevic v Rublevsky games ended in half an hour with the long game lasting twelve moves.Russia has dominated the Chess Olympiads in the post Soviet Union phase since 1992 and are winning their sixth title. They totalled 38.5 points from 56 games winning ten matches including one against India, losing one to Hungary and drawing three against Armenia, Israel and Yugoslavia. This win is important for the Russians as they had lost the World Team title to Ukraine last year and to the Rest of the World recently at Moscow. Russians were in total control of the team event and their individuals scores were also of a high order: Kasparov (7.5/9), Grischuk (7/11), Khalifman (7/9), Morozevich (7/11), Svidler (6/9), Rublevsky (4/7).

Answering a question from The Hindu, Kasparov said, "I could do better here than in classical (seven hour) chess and as a professional player and somebody who believes in caring for the quality of the game this control is awful. This time control is killing the beauty of the game. If we preserve this time control as the only time control, it could actually destroy the game of chess. Now FIDE has four different time controls. They said play here. I played. Now I can criticise it and join the voice of other critics. This time control is good for open tournaments and it helps organisers with their logistics. I think FIDE is in right side coming up with four time controls. They can use it for the special purposes." Answering to another part of a question from The Hindu, he said, "I would not have undergone the drug testing (had his name being picked in the lot). I do not want to look like a fool because in my view there is no proof that there are drugs that are enhancing our mental performance. We are a sport. But we are quite different. Our career is not for eight years. We play for many years. I am in the chess field for nearly 25 years and I will be here for a couple of more years. We do not have to follow with the ultimatum of the IOC. IOC made it clear that chess is not going to be part of the Olympic games at least in my lifetime. We have to work hard through research and find out if there are drugs or substances which can increase the performance of the players. If it is prepared and proven, fine, I could easily do it (undergo the drug test). We are copying the IOC regulations by ignoring the nature of the game. As a chess player I will be more worried about someone carrying a microphone getting information from outside or using the Internet. I am not against going through these tests and procedures. As an intelligent person I will feel stupid to do it.''

Defeat smiled on the Indian women as they slipped back on the placings and points they scored two years back at Istanbul. They won six matches, lost five and drew three to finish 19th. Last year we finished 13th. Swathi Ghate (4.5/9) was rested for the final round.

Medal aspirant, Vijayalakshmi had the white pieces against Masha Klinova, the woman grandmaster from Israel. After 58 moves, Vijayalakshmi signed a draw after reaching a level rook and opposite colour bishop ending. Klinova never allowed white to establish any big advantage and played the game accurately to thwart the big Indian from scoring. Vijayalakshmi ended with a personal score of 9.5 points from her 13 games. Barring Vijayalakshmi none of the others fared well.On the 30th move, Aarthie overlooked black's response and paid for it by losing a rook for knight and soon got into a lost ending. WFM Irina Botvinnik's victory gave Israel a 2-1 upset win over India. Aarthie was the lowest scorer on minus two with five points from 12 games. Meenakshi was better early in the Slav defence game with the black pieces but could not win against WGM Angela Borsuk on the second board. The draw took her tally to 4.5 points from eight games, the second best scorer on plus one.

Successive defeats push India down in both sections. India never lose two matches in a row. When you lose a match the Swiss pairing gives you a weaker team. Indians failed against lower ranked Iceland in round 14. Many of our players tired out as the weather chilled. However, Sasikiran squeezed a point from a level position after being in a rook and knight ending. This marathon win against GM Hannes Stefansson gave India some respect in defeat.

Ganguly hit an unexpected low after being the key player in the Indian men's team. That led the team to an early collapse on other boards. He blundered a centre pawn in the Ruy Lopez, on move 13, then, Gretarsson won a rook for knight and smoothly in 43 moves. Ganguly who made the grandmaster title here damaged his fine showing to end with seven points from eleven games.

Kunte refused a draw offer as Indian trainer Evgeny Vladimirov asked him to play on against GM Helgi Olafsson. After a long game, Kunte got perpetual checks to draw with the black pieces where he had opened with the queen's Indian defence.

Ramesh was the last to lose when he bowed to lower rated GM Throstur Thorhallsson in a rook and minor piece ending with the white pieces in a French defence.

About the performance, the most experienced member of the team, Thipsay said it was disappointing. He said it was not that were not trying, we could score only this much. Ramesh was perhaps tired at the end but Vladimirov decides who plays and Harikrishna's form was vital. Harikrishna (3.5/10) did not win a game while Thipsay (3.5/5) and Kunte (5.5/9) did not lose a game. Sasikiran was working and burning hard in each game and had to take a big responsibility for his six points from eleven games. "I should have played more games and I should have won more games,'' said Kunte.

The results (round 14):Men: Yugoslavia (33) drew Russia (38.5) 2-2, China (33.5) lost to Hungary (37.5) 1-3, Armenia (35) bt. Georgia (34) 3-1, Israel (33) lost to Netherlands (33.5) 1.5-2.5, Poland (32.5) lost to England (33.5) 1.5-2.5, Germany (32.5) drew Spain (32.5) 2-2, Iceland (32) bt. India (31) 2.5-1.5.

Women: Bulgaria (24.5) lost to China (29.5) 0.5-2.5, Georgia (27.5) lost to Yugoslavia (25.5) 1-2, Slovakia (24) lost to Russia (29) 0.5-2.5, Poland (26.5) bt. Vietnam (24.5) 3-0, India (23.5) lost to Israel (24.5) 1-2.

Final placings:

Men: 1 Russia 38.5 (gold medal), 2 Hungary 37.5 (silver), 3 Armenia 35 (bronze medal), 4 Georgia 34, 5-7 China, Netherlands, England 33.5 each, 8-12 Slovakia, Israel, Yugoslavia, Macedonia, Switzerland 33 each, 29 India 31.Women: 1 China 29.5 (gold medal), 2 Russia 29 (silver medal), 3 Poland 28 (bronze medal), 4 Georgia 27.5, 5-8 Hungary, Ukraine, Yugoslavia, Azerbaijan 25.5 each, 9-10 USA, Czech Republic 25 each, 19 India 23.5.

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