Indian juggernaut rolls on as all six teams win their matches for third day in succession at Chess Olympiad

D Harika in action during the third round match of the Chess Olympiad in Chennai on Sunday. (Pic credit: FIDE/Lennart Ootes & Stev Bonhage)
D Harika in action during the third round match of the Chess Olympiad in Chennai on Sunday. (Pic credit: FIDE/Lennart Ootes & Stev Bonhage)

Both the Indian men's and women's teams competing at the 44th Chess Olympiad, being played at Mamallapuram, Chennai, won their matches to maintain a clean slate on Sunday (July 31).

Second seed India A team outwitted Greece with a 3-1 score. India B team trounced Switzerland 4-0, while India C team prevailed over Iceland 3-1.

Indian women won their third-round matches to keep up the perfect scores. India A defeated England 3-1, while India B downed Indonesia 3-1. Rounding up a perfect day, India C got the better of Austria 2.5-1.5.

The highlight of Sunday’s round was Ramesh Babu Pragnanandhaa. Playing for Team B, Ramesh Babu wriggled out of an inferior position, which appeared totally lost at one point against Swiss grandmaster Yannick Pelletier.

The teenager, without giving up, continued to pose problems, making it difficult for his opponent to find a winning way. Pelletier fell short on time, missed his way and ended on the losing side on the 67th turn.

Ramesh Babu wasn’t satisfied despite winning a point, as he said:

“I have played badly and this point doesn’t give me any joy and I struggled throughout this game in a bad position.”

While his captain RB Ramesh was more pragmatic. He said:

“In any professional sport, one has to be ready for any type of position and situations.”

The last-minute entrant Indian Women’s C team defeated Austria by a narrow 2.5-1.5 points to win their third-round match. The women’s A Team also looked poised to win their match against England.

In the Open section, all three Indian teams clinched their third-round matches against Greece, Switzerland and Iceland respectively, even though one game for each team was still in progress.

D. Harika replaces Koneru Humpy on the top board for the India A team

Koneru Humpy was rested on Sunday and D. Harika took over on the top board for her first game at this Olympiad, which incidentally is her 9th one along with two virtual ones.

Harika is in the advanced stages of her first pregnancy and played Jovanka Houska of England on the top board for the India A team. Harika opted for the Queen’s gambit and declined variations against Jovanka as fortunes fluctuated throughout the game.

The players indulged in a spate of exchanges at regular intervals to enter a rook with three pawns at each end. With no progress possible, decided to split the point on the 40th turn.

A disappointed Harika quipped:

“The game was balanced with the position fluctuating only slightly and I never had enough of an advantage to press.”

WGM Nandhidhaa P V, representing Team C, was the first player to gain a point, courtesy a walkover by Chiara Polterauer, who was unwell.

Nadhidhaa, who has notched 3 points in 3 outings said:

“This is my first Olympiad and I am playing in my hometown Chennai and this is enough to give me extra energy. In my opinion, ratings and seedings don’t matter. Even our team has a chance to be amongst the medals and we are ready to give our best."

Eesha Karavade enhanced her space advantage in a Sicilian Defense game against Katharina Newkla, with the latter playing passively.

A centralized knight and a well-posted piece indicated the winning possibilities for Eesha, but the game ended abruptly in a draw after 27 moves with most pieces still gracing the board.

Representing Team A, Harikrishna played an exciting game in the Catalan Open against Dimitri Mastrovasilis, one which was replete with fireworks. Harikrishna was at his tactical best and launched an attack with a bishop sacrifice on the 24th turn. Black’s castle was ripped open and a well-posted knight in enemy territory started creating problems for the black King, especially with the queen also joining the action.

Harikrishna then offered the sacrifice of his second bishop on the 28th turn, which was promptly rejected.

However, with Harikrishna’s pieces swarming around the Black King, Dimitri decided to resign on the 29th turn.

Harikrishna was happy with the proceedings and summed up:

“I gave a lot of thought before sacrificing the double bishops as I wanted to ensure my calculations were right and reckoning that if it didn’t work out in a checkmating position, I would hold sufficient advantage to walk towards victory.”

The fourth round will be played on Monday evening.

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