India and Russia emerged joint gold medal winners at the first-ever FIDE online Chess Olympiad on Sunday. India created history by winning a gold medal in the biennial championship.
The Indian contingent comprised Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh, Vishwanathan Anand, Vidit Gujrathi, P. Harikrishna and R. Praggnanandhaa.
A euphoric Humpy describes the victory as an ‘unexpected win’. “It’s the world’s preeminent team tournament, and 163 countries participated, so it’s a celebration of team spirit,” she said.
An inspiration for GenNext
Koneru Humpy says the victory was particularly unexpected as they had a bad tournament in the recent summer. “But everyone chipped in at the right time, and youngsters too rose to the occasion. It’s a committed team,” she shares, adding that the camaraderie in the team has been great.
“Since it is an online championship it is challenging to have the entire team on the same page. But everyone quickly gelled as a cohesive unit,” Humpy exults.
She is confident that the Olympiad win will inspire GenNext. “We have won several tournaments individually, and as a team, but the magnitude of this title (Olympiad) will create a significant impact among the youngsters to take up chess,” feels the World No. 2.
Admitting that doing household chores while playing chess is challenging, she said, “My family’s support was crucial during the 10-day championship. My parents looked after my child while I was playing.”
During the finals, at a time when the match was on a knife’s edge, two Indian players lost Internet connection due to a server crash. “We were so worried; I thought we had lost the game as I could not see anything on the screen,” reveals Humpy, stating that they appealed to the authorities on the server crash. “As sportspersons, we were ready to accept any decision of the authorities. But it was very heartening that they declared both the teams joint winners. Losing the championship for no fault of ours would have been so frustrating,” the Grand Master signs off.
Perfect anniversary gift!
Harika Dronavalli sees winning the Chess Olympiad as a team effort. “All of us congratulated each other over the Zoom call. Since the format was also new (online), it was even more thrilling,” Harika says, and feels that the win is a great leap for Indian Chess.
She reveals that a couple of weeks back, she and her husband (Karteek Chandra) had celebrated their second wedding anniversary. “Perhaps this win is an ideal anniversary gift for my husband,” she quips.
The Arjuna Award winner describes the win as a dream come true. “I always like playing in team championships. I dreamed from the start of my career of winning this championship. So it was a very gratifying moment,” she shares.
Harika, who won three bronze medals in the Women's World Chess Championship, ascribes her success to her parents. “My husband knows how hard I prepared for this championship,” she adds. “He saw to it that guests did not disrupt my concentration. And whenever he went out, I would play well, so he ensured that he went out of the house for the final match too,” the Grand Master chuckles.
“My eyes were burning,” says Harika, referring to challenges she encountered while playing online. “I put ice cubes on my eyes for a long time before the finals started so that I would feel fresh. Practising and playing online was very tiring on the eyes and brain,” she says.