The Indian teams faced a challenging tenth round at the Baku Olympiad on Monday, but that did not deter them from drawing their matches against the higher-rated teams. In the open’s section, the men played out a 2-2 draw against Russia. In the women’s section too, the team drew against Ukraine.
Playing on the first board, world number 11, GM P Harikrishna played out a sharp game against World Championship challenger Sergey Karjakin. Playing with white, Harikrishna pressed the advantage from the beginning after the game had evolved from the Italian opening. As the game progressed, the Indian was a pawn up and had an active rook against Karjakin’s two knights. The Russian eventually resigned on move 44, to give India the lead, momentarily.
On the second board, however, India faced a setback, as GM Baskaran Adhiban lost to former World Champion GM Vladimir Kramnik in 46 moves, to level the scores at 1-1. On the remaining boards, GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi and GM SP Sethuraman drew their games against their much higher rated opponents GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and GM Alexander Grischuk respectively.
In the women’s section, the Indians were pitted against another favourite, the Ukraine team. The tense battle saw both the teams fighting out to finish at a higher position in the standings. On the first board, GM Harika drew against GM Anna Muzychuk in the Vienna game. IM Padmini Rout too played out a 31-move draw against GM Mariya Muzychuk. On the third board, the Indian team drew first blood, as IM Tania Sachdev defeated GM Natalia Zhukova with white pieces in the Queen’s pawn game.
The most consistent player for India in the women’s section, WGM Soumya Swaminathan, who was unbeaten in the tournament, lost her game against GM Anna Ushenina, as both teams settled for a 2-2 draw.
Both the men’s and the women’s team remained joint third in the standings, and they would need nothing short of a miracle in the final round to achieve a podium finish. In the Open section, the men take on Norway, while in the women’s section, India will play the USA.