The Indians fought back in style at the Baku Olympiad, by defeating England 2.5-1.5 in the 8th round on Saturday. The victory came as a much-needed boost to the Indian team, who were crushed 3-1 by one of the favourites USA in the seventh round.
The team earned the crucial points, thanks to GM SP Sethuraman’s timely win over former World Championship challenger GM Nigel Short. The Tamil Nadu lad, who had white pieces, chose the Scotch opening and constantly put pressure on his opponent. By the 41st move, Sethuraman had a winning position which made Short resign. It was an especially sweet victory for Sethu, after his harrowing performance in the seventh round against Sam Shankland of the US. In that particular game, the Indian had blundered from a completely winning position and lost the match.
Playing on the first board, Indian number two, GM P. Harikrishna made peace with GM Michael Adams in 58 moves. It was the Indian’s fifth draw in the tournament playing on the top board. On the second board, GM Baskaran Adhiban, who has had a decent tournament so far, drew with GM David Howell. Meanwhile, India’s top performer in the Olympiad thus far, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, who surprised all by winning his first five matches, also scored an easy draw against GM Gawain Jones.
In the women’s section, the strong India team, which was pitted against Uzbekistan, also prevailed with a 2.5-1.5 scoreline. It was GM Dronavalli Harika’s win against WGM Nafisa Muminova which propelled the team into the lead. The rest of the team consisting of IM Padmini Rout, WGM Soumya Swaminathan, and WIM Pratyusha Boda all played out comfortable draws on their respective boards.
In the crucial ninth round, the open section will see the clash of the Indian men’s team against Ukraine, who are also the joint leaders in the tournament. The women’s team will face off the Netherlands. Both the teams currently are well within the reach of the medals. A few more consistent performances in the final few rounds will see both the men’s and the women’s team walk away with Olympiad medals.