India’s Open team slipped to the sixth spot after losing to Ukraine on Sunday in the ninth round of the 42nd Chess Olympiad in Baku in Azerbaijan. The Indian team of Pentala Harikrishna, Baskaran Adhiban, Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and SP Sethuraman lost 1.5-2.5 against Ukraine. Harikrishna, Adhiban and Gujrathi drew 1.5-1.5 against their respective opponents but Sethuraman went down 0-1 to Anton Korobov.
This leaves India with 14 match points, with two rounds left to play and two points behind first-placed United States who steamrolled through world champion Magnus Carlsen’s Norway 3-1 on the same day, maintaining their position at the top of the table with 16 points along with Ukraine.
After largely holding his own against Anton Korobov until the 32nd move, Sethuraman missed a chance to gain a decisive advantage when he chose not to accept an exchange sacrifice (Bxf5) on move 32 and 33, for unclear reasons. The right move, as computers confirm, would have been to accept that sacrifice on both occasions. Shortly after, Sethuraman played a move that set back his position just one move before time control at move 40, and Korobov was able to convert.
The result leaves India facing Russia who are seeded first in this tournament. The Russian team boasts of former world champion Vladimir Kramnik in great form as well as the current World Championship challenger, Sergey Karjakin as board 1 and 2, and to keep their chances for a medal alive, India will need to secure at least a draw with the Russians, which could well be their toughest challenge since facing the US.
In the Women’s section, India’s clash with Netherlands produced four decisive games with Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev and Soumya Swaminathan producing wins against Peng Zhaoquin, Anna-Maja Kazarian and Maaike Keetman respectively. India’s only loss was Padmini Rout, who lost her game with black to Anne Haast.
This great result puts the women on 14 points, two points behind first-placed China, and in fifth place. It also sets up a rematch between India and Ukraine, with medal chances revived by this performance.