A young USA, without some of their best players, turned the table on India 4.5-1.5 in the blitz tie-breaker and set up the final with the mighty Russia in the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad on Tuesday.
Having rested Viswanathan Anand and P. Harikrishna in the blitz games, India suffered following uncharacteristic blunders from Vidit Gujrathi and K. Humpy coupled with “lost-on-time” verdicts against B. Adhiban and R. Vaishali.
For the second day, an irrepressible D. Harika won all three games. Nihal Sarin drew the blitz game but that was not enough to deny USA.
In the first semifinal, Russia expectedly defeated second seed China in two sets. After getting past 3.5-2.5 in the first set, it became easier for Russia in the second as it closed with a 4-2 triumph.
After India destroyed USA 5-1 in the opening set, a resurgent USA hit right back to win the second 4-2 to force the blitz tie-breaker.
A little earlier, needing only a draw to advance, India looked on course in the second set after Harika and Vaishali held clear advantages to more than offset the signs of worry faced by Anand. Suddenly, Anand blundered on the 33rd move and two moves later, suffered his first loss that also saw Jeffery Xiong avenge the defeat suffered in the first set.
Soon Harika’s second win of the day saw India level the score. However, Vidit lost on the second board, Vaishali lost her advantage, and her brother R. Praggnanandhaa lost his grip and crashed to an unexpected loss.
For the better part of the first set, both teams fought tooth and nail before India raced away with the four games to make the result look one-sided.
Humpy, better off throughout the game, was the first to draw. Vaishali benefited from some erratic display from Thalia Cervantes Landeiro. Soon Anand doubled the lead after seeing off an opening novelty from Jeffery Xiong. Anand kept improving his position to win handsomely.
Harikrishna gained from a late error of judgement from Dariusz Swiercz to give India the winning lead. Harika, too, struck late to enhance the lead before Nihal drew in a game where he held winning chances until a few moves from the end.
Thereafter, it was the USA all the way.
Semifinals: Set I: India bt USA 5-1 (Viswanathan Anand bt Jeffery Xiong; P. Harikrishna bt Dariusz Swiercz; K. Humpy drew with Irina Krush; D. Harika bt Anna Zatonskih; Nihal Sarin drew with Awonder Liang; R. Vaishali bt Thalia Cervantes Landeiro).
Set II: USA bt India 4-2 (Xiong bt Anand; Ray Robson bt Vidit Gujrathi; Irina drew with Humpy; Nazi Paikidze lost to Harika; Liang bt R. Praggnanandhaa; Thalia drew with Vaishali).
Blitz tie-breaker (Time control: 3-minute plus two-second increment per move): India lost to USA 1.5-4.5 (Vidit lost to Xiong; B. Adhiban lost to Robson; Humpy lost to Irina; Harika bt Paikidze; Sarin drew with Liang; Vaishali lost to Thalia).
Set I: China lost to Russia 2.5-3.5; Set II: Russia bt China 4-2.