India’s growing chess depth on display in Olympiad

The entire team performed in the Olympiad victory

Shortly before the final of the Chess Olympiad between India and Russia kicked off on Sunday, former World champion Vladimir Kramnik expressed an unusual wish. “I hope both the teams win,” he said, smiling, during his stint as a commentator on an Indian YouTube channel streaming the match live.

A couple of hours later, that statement turned out to be one of the strangest predictions-come-true.

As it turned out, Kramnik got his wish. FIDE decided to make India and Russia the joint champions after the internet outage disrupted the final.

Kramnik, who had ended the long reign of fellow-Russian Garry Kasparov 20 years ago, has trained India’s young chess players. So he has first-hand knowledge of the growing depth in Indian chess.

That depth in talent is what helped Indian chess register one of its unforgettable moments on Sunday. Only one or two great players won’t take you far at a team event like the Olympiad.

In Viswanathan Anand and Koneru Humpy, India has two exceptional players, both of whom have been World champions and have figured consistently among the game’s elite for a long time. They both played their parts in India’s victory, too.

Doing their bit

But for India to succeed, the others had to fire as well. Skipper Vidit Gujrathi and P. Harikrishna, India’s best male players after Anand, faced stiff resistance from some of the world’s finest players, and they delivered. In Aravindh Chithambaram they had capable back-up.

D. Harika, India’s best bet in women’s chess after Humpy, also had a good tournament. R. Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni, too, put their hands up when required.

In Nihal Sarin and R. Praggnanandhaa, India is fortunate to have two prodigies who could mount challenges for the World championship one day. Their consistent shows helped the team immensely on the junior boards. The two junior girls, Divya Deshmukh and Vantika Agrawal, served India well, too.

The 12 mind champions deserve to be celebrated.

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