Chennai, Sep 22 . Several Indian players missed winning chances after being in promising positions at the just concluded World Chess Olympiad at Baku, Azerbaijan, but nevertheless did well overall, a top Indian Grandmaster (GM) has said.
Ranked fifth in the world based on the average rating of its top 10 players, the Indian team came fourth in the open category at the Olympiad. There is no doubt the Indian team played well, drawing with top seeds Russia and Norway and winning against Azerbaijan, the Netherlands and England, among others.
However, chess experts told that Indian players, though in advantageous positions, were at crucial times not able to convert these into wins and had to settle down for draws.
“When you play a tournament like chess Olympiad, it is quite common to make mistakes. I think if you check the games, several players missed wins or went wrong after getting into promising positions,” World No.15 GM P. Harikrishna told IANS in an email interview.
Harikrishna played a critical and confidence-building role at the Olympiad, winning against World Chess title challenger and World No.9 GM Sergey Karjakin of Russia (ELO rating 2769) and GM Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan and drawing against World No.1 Magnus Carlsen (2857) of Norway, World No.12 GM Anish Giri of the Netherlands and World No.3 Fabiano Caruana (2808) of the US.
“Looking back at the Olympiad, India played excellent chess. We started as the ninth seed and, after six rounds, were leading the tournament with victories against Cuba, Azerbaijan and the Netherlands,” he said.
Experts had also predicted India winning a medal at the tournament — even a different colour than the bronze it won at the 2014 Olympiad.
“As players, we have to play all 11 rounds well. So there is no point in thinking about medals during the tournament,” Harikrishna said.
Queried whether there was any pressure on the Indian team as it was leading the pack at the end of the sixth round, but later lost to the US and Ukraine, he said: “If there was any pressure on us, we probably would not have been in the lead after six rounds. The US and Ukraine finished 1st and 2nd, respectively. Both these matches were quite close. In fact, against the Ukraine, we had a chance to win the match.”
While Harikrishna is orbiting in a different league in the chess world with a FIDE rating of 2752, the other Indian players also seem to be on course to soon touch 2700 points.
Among the other GMs, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi has a rating of 2669, B. Adhiban is at 2671 and S.P. Sethuraman is at 2649. However, national champion Karthikeyan Murali (2514) has to travel several miles to touch the magic 2700 points.
But what was interesting to note was that Gujrathi, Adhiban and Sethuraman faced opponents with a much higher rating and performed creditably. As a matter of fact, Gujrathi had a 5/5 score at the end of the fifth round.
But chess experts told IANS that playing against GMs with a rating of over 2700 round after round is a tiring affair and that might have taken a toll on the Indian team members.
GM Abhijit Kunte had said earlier that the only issue with the Indian team is that it does not have a strong reserve. This would have eased the pressure on the main players and they could have been rested before a crucial match.
Overall, referring to his team members, Harikrishna said: “These youngsters have a bright future as they played extremely well. Murali who played two games and won both, also helped during preparation.”
By Venkatachari Jagannathan
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)