India’s talented youngsters made a mark on Sunday in the Fide Online Chess Olympiad. R Praggnanandhaa and Divya Deshmukh starred with crucial wins to help their side beat a formidable China 4-2 in the ninth and final preliminary round.
As a result, India made the quarterfinals of the online event by topping pool A.
The pool winner advances directly to the quarterfinals while the second and third-placed team from each of the four pools move to the preliminary phase of the knockout.
“Nerve wracking moments throughout the day. So happy to see India win all the matches today. Defeating China in the last round made sure we qualify to quarterfinals,” tweeted India captain Vidit Gujrathi.
The Indian team, which finished at the top of Top Division Pool ‘A’, will play the quarterfinals against a yet-to-be-decided opponent on August 28.
Four draws and two wins on Under-20 boards helped India pull off the victory against the Chinese.
The 15-year-old Grandmaster Praggnanandhaa appeared to be on the ropes, but managed to turn the tables on Liu Yan and finished with a perfect 6/6 score. Divya Deshmukh, a former world under-10 and 12 champion, put it across Jiner Zhu to underline her potential.
Gujrathi held world No 3 Ding Liren to a creditable draw on the top board while P Harikrishna also shared honours with Yangyi Yu.
Indian ace Koneru Humpy signed peace with the women’s world No 1 Yifan Hou as did D Harika against the current world champion Wenjun Ju.
India claimed the top spot in Pool A with 17 points and 39.5 board points and became the first team to qualify for the quarterfinals.
India No 2 Harikrishna said he was delighted with the win over China and credited the youngsters – Praggnanandhaa and Divya.
Earlier in the seventh round, India posted a 4-2 win over Georgia with former world champ Viswanathan Anand being held to a draw by Levan Pantsulaia.
In the eighth round, India registered a comfortable 4.5-1.5 win over Germany with captain Gujrathi leading the way by beating Rasmus Svane.
Round 7: India beat Georgia 4-2 (Viswanathan Anand drew with Levan Pantsulaia; P Harikrishna beat Luka Paichadze; Konery Humpy drew with Meri Arabidze; D Harika lost to Nino Batsiashvili; R Praggnanandhaa beat Nikolozi Kacharava; Divya Deshmukh beat Diana Lomaia).
Round 8: India beat Germany 4.5-1.5 (Vidit Santosh Gujrathi beat Rasmus Svane; Harikrishna drew with Matthias Bluebaum; D Harika drew with Lara Schulze; Bhakti Kulkarni beat Filiz Osmanodja; Nihal Sarin drew with Roven Vogel; Vantika Agrwal beat Jana Schneider).
Round 9: India beat China 4-2 (Vidit Gujrathi drew with Ding Liren; Harikrishna drew with Yangyi Yu; Humpy drew with Hou Yifan; D Harika drew with Wenjun Ju; R Praggnanandhaa beat Yan Liu; Divya Deshmukh beat Jiner Zhu).
(With PTI inputs)