Chess Olympiad: India targets podium finish; to bank on good result and luck
Tromso (Norway): Having done exceptionally well thus far, the Indian men eye glory with a podium finish on what could be a historic day for Indian chess on the eve of the 68th Independence Day which is also the final day of the 41st Chess Olympiad.
Sitting joint third on 15 points out of a possible 20, the quartet of Parimarjan Negi, S P Sethuraman, Krishnan Sasikiran and B Adhiban will take on Uzbekistan in the final round.
The Indians start a favourite for the tie but they need to hold the first two boards together in the crunch game. Going in to the 11th and last round, China leads the Olympiad with 17 points, a half clear of Hungary who is sole second. As many as eight teams share the third spot. Russia, France, Azerbaijan, Poland United States, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and India share the honours on 15 points.
Not only victory, the Indians will need favourable results on other boards too for a podium finish. While China looks a certainty for the medal at least meeting Poland in the finale, Hungary meets Ukraine and one of them will go through to win a medal. Currently Indians hold a better tiebreak than Azerbaijan so an Azerbaijani victory over United States will not deter them much, however a draw will suit Indians the most in this clash. A similar scenario is for the Russia v/s France clash, where the team will be hoping that it ends in a tied result It will be more a battle of nerves for Uzbekistan also an average looking team powered by former FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov on the top board. While Kasimdzhanov will take on Negi with black pieces, the onus will be on Sethuraman to hold himself together against Anton Filippov on the second board.
Given the situation, Filippov is likely to come all guns blazing as this will be the best chance for Uzbekistan. If Sethuraman survives the onslaught with black pieces, then it is highly expected from Krishnan Sasikiran to deliver the goods on the third board where he meets an experienced but much lower rated Marat Dzhumaev of Uzbekistan.
While the rating difference of over 150 points hugely back Sasikiran, the Indian will be aware of the fact that Marat had won the Kolkata open the strongest Indian open tournament a few years back. What works also in India`s favour is the form of Adhiban on the fourth board. The recent winner in Biel Masters open takes on Jahongir Vakhidov on the last board and if something goes wrong, one can expect Adhiban to score a victory with black pieces.
It will be a pressure match but the Indians hold the obvious advantage. In the women`s Olympiad being held simultaneously, Russian women seems poised to win the gold despite a setback in the last round. China meets Ukraine to decide the other two medals while the Indian eves are pitted against Romania and a good result will push keep them in top ten.