When it comes to one of the games that have maddened the players throughout since the beginning, the name of chess indeliberately pops up. A board game having 64 squares present in the form of 8*8 grids and requiring apt use of ample skills and strategies, chess is considered to be a highly engrossing game that is played in almost all the countries over the entire globe. There are a plethora of competitions and contests that keep on being organised from time to time to celebrate the sharp minds and enthusiasm of the people who participate in them.
The International Chess Federation, usually referred to by its French acronym, FIDE is an international organization that connects chess federations of various nations. It is based in Switzerland and acts as the governing body of all the chess competitions that are organised on international level. Currently, it has 195 nations associated with it. Talking about the federation’s major events, the FIDE online chess Olympiad is one of the biggest chess events that take place. In the year 2020, it ran from 25th July to 30th August on the ‘chess.com’ server. Records show that over 1500 people from 163 countries participated enthusiastically in this Olympiad. It was quite captivating for the chess fans throughout the summer.
The team composition for the Olympiad was as follows: Each team consisted of six players with the constraints like there had to be at least two women present, at least one player aged 20 or less and a girl who was 20 years old or younger. Each team had to have a team captain and was relaxed to have up to six reserves: two players in each of the first two categories and one player in each of the latter categories. In the tournament, the time control for all the matches was 15 minutes for the game with five seconds increment per move, starting from move one. Each pool lasted for three days with three rounds being played per day. The scoring was done in such a way that winning fetched 2 points, a draw resulted in 1 point and losing the game amounted to 0 points.
Pool A: India, China and Germany
Surprisingly but much anticipated, India and China were placed in the same pool of the Top Division. While both the teams bore the potential to get to the finals, India defeated its opponent in round nine wherein Praggnanandhaa and Deshmukh Divya won on the bottom boards. The former proved to be an extremely strong Under 20 representative and became the youngest player to score 5 out of 5 in the tournament in one of the weeks. The Indian team also consisted of the world champion, Viswanathan Anand on the top board. On the other hand, China had Ding Liren and Wei Yi on top boards in its Squad and had Hou Yifan and Ju Wenjun as the female representatives. Germany secured the third place in the pool maybe because they lacked some of their high-rated players.
Pool B: Azerbaijan, Hungary and Ukraine
Pool B came across as the most balanced group of the Top Division. In the end, Azerbaijan and Hungary stood with 14 points each and were closely followed astonishingly by 3 squads who tied at but 13 points. In this pool, extraordinary performance was displayed by Rauf Mamedov (6/6, AZE), Kirill Schevchenko (6/6, UKR) and Sabrina Vega (7½/9, SPA). For reaching the playoffs, Ukraine obtained the most board points. It was followed by Spain and Kazakhastan.
Pool C: Russia, Bulgaria and Armenia
Russia performed remarkably well as it was able to win all their matches in the Top Division. Despite the absence of Veselin Topalov, Bulgaria bagged the second position in the pool. Antoaneta Stefanova, former women’s world champion came up with flying colours and proved to be a key player for the Bulgarian team. She successfully obtained an undefeated score of 5.5 out of 7. The third place in this pool went to Armenia.
Pool D: USA, Greece and Poland
In this pool, USA was led by Wesley So and Sam Shankland on the first two days and they won six matches in a row. But however, they won over Canada clearly in round 9 and this made them secure first place followed by entry into the quarter finals. Greece, on the other hand, performed consistently and ended up on the second place in the pool. Also, Poland stood on the third place just ahead of Peru.
The entire league had been very intriguing and witnessed active participation with some notable personalities like, GMs Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Alexander Grischuk, Levon Aronian, Viswanathan Anand, Anish Giri, and Wesley So. The top division section of the Olympiad was held in the last week of August during which three teams qualified either to the quarter finals directly or to the preliminary stage from each pool. India, Azerbaijan, Russia and the United States were the first ones to reserve a place for them in the quarter finals wile eight teams fought for the remaining four spots in the first knockout stage of the playoffs. To determine that which squads would move on the final stage of the FIDE Olympiad 2020, forty teams were divided into groups of ten teams each who further played a 9-round single round robin. The winner from each group advanced directly to the quarter finals while the first and the second runner-ups played a preliminary knockout to compete for the remaining spots.
In the Top Division (where each team was granted two points), Russia obtained the perfect score of 18/18 under the leadership of Alexander Grischuk and Ian Nepomniachtchi. In Pool A, the performance of India was very impressive as it beat China in the last round and won the group. The power failure followed by disconnection proved to be quite catastrophic as Vijit Gujrathi and Humpy Koneru lost their games. This resulted in India conceding a draw against Mongolia. Pool B and Pool D however, witnessed cut throat competition but in the conclusion, Azerbaijan and United States won these groups and headed straight away to the quarterfinals. The preliminary stage matches were held on 27th August, 2020 while the quarter finals, semi finals and final took place from 28th to 30th August, 2020.
All in all, FIDE online Olympiad 2020 proved to be a great success with India and Russia tied for the first place.