India’s first participation in the final of the Chess Olympiad is undoubtedly proof of its growing stature internationally. But warnings accompany glory. The feat is undoubtedly historic, but India is still far from living up to the performance of chess superpowers like Russia, China or the United States.
What is the relevance of the Chess Olympiad?
- The biennial Chess Olympiad, the world’s largest team tournament, is to play what the Davis Cup is to tennis, a celebration of team spirit. But like its tennis counterpart, the Chess Olympiad is not seen as the pinnacle of greatness in the game. Rather, it is a testament to a country’s depth of talent; It’s ironic that Norway is hardly a force despite world champion Magnus Carlsen.
- The world n ° 5 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from France or Anish Giri from the Netherlands did not reach the knockouts. Also missing the American couple of Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura, ranked respectively No. 2 and No. 18 in the world.
- In the past, Viswanathan Anand has skipped the Olympiad to focus on the World Championship.
- For these reasons, chess, like tennis, is above all an individual activity, the Olympiad does not have the same brilliance as a World Championship or the Candidates. In the past, big chess has given priority to Linares and Tata Steel in the Chess Olympiad.
- With 163 teams in the fray, it’s the biggest chess tournament in the world, but not the biggest. The game itself fundamentally celebrated individual glory more than team triumphs. The only time the Chess Olympiad has been followed with enthusiasm is during the height of the Cold War.
- It is not surprising that the USSR won it more often (18 times), and even after its fragmentation, Russia won the gold medal six times. Former Soviet states like Armenia and Ukraine have successfully broken Russia’s monopoly in recent years.
What is the format of the Olympiad?
- The large number of participants in an Olympiad only makes the fast format viable. The classic format will last too long, while the blitz does not feel suitable for a tournament called “Olympiad”.
- The format has further shortened this duration due to the online participation mode; it is played for 15 minutes and with an increase of five seconds per game, compared to 25 plus 10 in previous editions.
- It also made structural changes, such as the rules that at least half of the squad must be made up of young male and female players. Until this year, they were the top four players plus a substitute.
- The logic of FIDE is that it brought more diversity, even though it upset several teams that had disproportionate male-to-female ratios like the United States and Iran.
- So, in fact, the Olympiad juxtaposed the Regular Olympiad, a Women’s Olympiad and a Junior Olympiad, which according to the chess world diluted the level of competition of the tournament.
- The addition of the junior segment benefited India when it met China. The tough clashes between senior men and women ended in draws.
- But the Indian juniors proved to be better than China’s as R Praggnanandhaa edged out Yan Liu and Divya Deshmukh edged out Jiner Zhu to give India a 4-2 victory.
How to put in perspective the career of dreams in India?
- Now is the perfect time to check the reality out. Although five-time world champion Anand sparked a chess boom in the country throughout the 1990s and 1990s, no Indian player has looked good enough to be considered a suitable successor.
- There have been flashes of talent, but none with Anand’s global potential, which only widens the halo around him.
- WGMs Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli have endured mixed tournaments: they were strong against China but broke under relentless aggression from the Armenians.
- However, there is hope for the future as Praggnanandhaa (who has lost only one of their matches) and Deshmukh performed well. Nihal Sarin, who was in good shape this year.
- India were also lucky, for example, in the quarterfinals against a formidable Armenia. Haik Martirosyan lost network connectivity and wasted time as he went to make his 69th move against Nihal Sarin.
- FIDE firmly asserts that if a player’s internet connection is lost, for two minutes or less, they will not only lose the match, but will also be expelled from the tournament. Armenia appealed to FIDE for Sarin’s victory, but was rejected.
- By the time Martirosyan lost connection, the party was on a razor’s edge.
How should you put India’s dream run in perspective?
- This is an ideal time for a reality check. Although five-time World Champion Anand did trigger a chess boom in the country throughout the 90s and the noughties, no Indian player has looked good enough to be called a fitting successor.
- There have been glimpses of talent, but none with the world-beating potential of Anand – which only enlarges the halo around him.
- WGMs Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli endured mixed tournaments — they were solid against China but cracked under the relentless aggression of the Armenians.
- There, though, is hope for the future, as both Praggnanandhaa (who lost just one of his games) and Deshmukh have put in strong performances. So has Nihal Sarin, who has been in fine form this year.
- India has enjoyed slices of luck as well – for example, in the quarterfinal against a formidable Armenia. Haik Martirosyan lost Net connectivity and lost time when he was to make his 69th move against Nihal Sarin.
- The FIDE sternly states that if a player’s Internet connectivity is lost, for two minutes or less, they will not only lose the match, but also be banned from the tournament. Armenia appealed to FIDE on Sarin’s win, but it was rejected.
- At the time Martirosyan lost connection, the match was on a knife’s edge. An angry Levon Aronian tweeted:“In our match against India Haik Martirosyan lost on time due to disconnection from http://chess.com. We proved that our connection was stable. It was a problem with access to http://chess.com, not on our side. All we asked for was to continue that game from the same position and same time.
Is it too much to ask?”
So, rather than seeing the achievement as a definitive sign of India’s emergence as a chess powerhouse it would be helpful to see it as an indicator of the potential it has to be a powerhouse. The result could thus be a catalyst to the end result.