SEMI-FINALS – INDIA V/S POLAND
Poland entering the semi-finals was itself a surprise as everyone rooted for Azerbaijan. Reaching the semis proves that the team has it to beat anyone on any given day, On the paper team, India was the favourite. Expecting our team to follow their “open book strategy” of holding the top boards and juniors scoring points.
Match 1. INDIA 2-4 POLAND
Harika was the first one to draw with black pieces, that was a good result. Then it was Humpy who drew her game while defending a major piece endgame. Score 1-1. Things started to get tough onboard one where Anand was in trouble. Divya Deshmukh rose to the occasion and tactically won a pawn. Meanwhile, Nihal Sarin was enjoying his advantage and Vidit was going all guns blazing. Suddenly Divya Blundered a mate and lost. This did make things worse as even Vidit was a pawn down and so was Anand. Meanwhile, everyone expected Nihal to bring the full point, He did it to level the scores 2-2 but suddenly Vidit lost the game and In due course, even Anand also lost. Losing a match with a 2-4 margin is a big blow. In the post-match interview Vidit did accept the fact that he was disappointed but managed to gather himself for the next round.
Match 2. INDIA 4.5-1.5 POLAND
India made 2 changes, one was expected and the other was shocking. Divya was rested after a heartbreaking loss and Vantika took charge of the last board. Nihal Sarin was rested and Praggnanandhaa had to play the black pieces. This was shocking because Nihal had just won the game and seemed in good shape. Probably the reason must be when India wins this rematch and forces the Armageddon, the team might have thought to prefer Nihal in the Junior boys category. And also Praggnanandhaa was on 5/5 so even he needed the opportunity to score more.
The way all openings had gone, even a 6-0 wouldn’t have been surprising! Humpy scored the first win and soon did Harika! Captain Vidit Gujrathi brought the 3rd point and now we needed just one draw. Praggnanandhaa lost his game. But soon Vantika drew her game and when everything was clear even Anand increase pressure on Duda and won a beautiful Rook and opposite colour Bishop ending. This round gave Anand his first win of the tournament and Praggnanandhaa suffered his first loss.
Armageddon Monika Socko V/s Koneru Humpy!
With a convincing win, the Armageddon was on cards. FIDE took the draws and Women’s category was picked for the tie breaks.
Monika Socko of Poland had the white pieces and 5 minutes while Humpy had the black pieces with 4 minutes. This unique time control gives draw odds to the black player meaning if the game is drawn, the black player wins it. A confident Humpy went to the match knowing a lot was at stake. But these champions have a very sorted way of thinking. Once they start playing the game they are fully focused on playing the best moves. Humpy played the game excellently and when a draw was fine, she even went all the way to beat her opponent! Thus India won the semi-finals.
Also, I must appreciate Monika for accepting the loss with a smile! Also, the polish league is going on and she was the to play it soon after this painful loss!
Thus India goes into the finals of Online Olympiad and faces Russia. The match is at 4.30 pm IST. Today. Make sure you are there to support team India. A lot of people are covering the match on their youtube channel.