Making amends for falling short of finishing the job in the second set, India scripted a commanding 5-1 victory in the blitz tiebreaker against Ukraine to enter the semifinals of the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad on Monday.
After India comfortably won the first set 4-2, Ukraine rallied from 0.5-2.5 in the second to win the last three games, involving Vidit Gujrathi, R. Vaishali and K. Humpy, in that order.
In the tiebreaker, played under the time-control of three minutes for each player and a two-second increment per move, India dominated in great style after resting Viswanathan Anand, P. Harikrishna on the top two boards.
Nihal Sarin, beneficiary of a 12-minute advantage on the clock after Platon Galperin reported late in the first set, won against the same rival when the Ukrainian’s internet connection dropped.
Soon, Vidit drew with Vassily Ivanchuk and Harika scored her third victory of the day by destroying Nataliya Buska with a fine display of tactics. Vaishali returning to winning ways before Humpy drew to complete India’s triumph.
One factor that affected Ukraine was the unavailability of their spearhead Anton Korobov, who was unable to join the action after finishing sixth in the Tolstoy Cup in Tula, 200 kms from Moscow.
“Relived”, was how Anand described the feeling after the match, before adding, “obviously disappointed not to score in the second game, which would have clinched it (for India). When I made the draw, I thought we had clinched it anyway. I looked at the three (ongoing) games and thought on at least two, we were safe. Then a dramatic turnaround happened after which India did extremely well in the blitz.”
Harika’s return to form was great news for India. Recovering from viral during the league phase during which she was involved in three draws, Harika produced a scintillating performance by winning against in-form Nataliya Buska and Natalia Zhukova.
“Actually, I was not prepared to play the blitz as I had assumed we were winning the second set. In blitz, I decided to play a random opening and make my decisions over the board. I am so happy I could contribute to India’s victory,” said Harika.
The results (quarterfinals): Set I: Ukraine lost to India 2-4 (Vassily Ivanchuk drew with Viswanathan Anand; Kirill Shevchenko drew with P. Harikrishna; Iulija Osmak drew with K. Humpy; Nataliya Buska lost to D. Harika; Platon Galperin lost to Nihal Sarin; Mariia Berdnyk drew with R. Vaishali). Set II: India lost to Ukraine 2.5-3.5 (Anand drew with Ivanchuk; Vidit lost to Kirill Shevchenko; Humpy lost to Osmak; Harika bt Natalia Zhukova; R. Praggnanandhaa bt Galperin; Vaishali lost to Berdnyk). Blitz tie-breaker: Ukraine lost to India 1-5 (Ivanchuk drew with Vidit; Shevchenko lost to B. Adhiban; Osmak drew with Humpy; Buksa lost to Harika; Galperin lost to Sarin; Berdnyk lost to Vaishali).