CHENNAI: India not only hosted what is arguably one of the best editions of the Chess Olympiad — which ended on Sunday — but also put on its best show in the competition by winning two bronze medals. The highlight of the tournament from India’s perspective was the young gun D Gukesh‘s splendid spectacle.
Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand, the team’s mentor, praised Gukesh’s run to the Olympiad. The Indian legend has revealed how he has struggled to keep up with the youngster’s progress over the past few months.
“It was just a breathless performance (by him) and we couldn’t keep up. (His rise) was quite spectacular because now I rate a different chess player than I did in May of this year. He got into the top 100 in April and now he’s gone into the top 20. I’ll probably have to sit down and do the review again,” Anand said, at an event on Wednesday to announce the fourth edition of Tata Steel Rapid and Blitz Chess tournament—to be held in Kolkata from November 29 to December 4. Besides the open category, this year’s tournament will also feature a women’s category event with the same format—rapid and blitz.
For Anand, the biggest benefit of the Olympiad was the performance of the youngsters. “Gukesh was the biggest achievement of the tournament, but others in the team like R Praggnanandhaa, Nihal SarinRaunak Sadhwani and B Adhiban also did a great job. Everyone played their part. Nihal and Adhiban were consistent, while Praggu and Raunak delivered during critical moments. Also, for India 1 — Arjun Erigaisi was in great form, improved as the tournament progressed and broke the 2700 ELO barrier in the live ratings, which is a tremendous achievement” , the 52-year-old said.
On the 16-year-old’s heartbreaking defeat in the penultimate round of the competition, Anand said: “Gukesh was not only winning, but his position was crushing as well. Many of we thought his opponent (Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan) would have resigned in the next removals. However, the breakthrough for Gukesh did not happen. Gukesh couldn’t stop playing for the win even when the team had already won.
Gukesh, after the tournament, revealed how Anand’s pep talk had lifted his spirits after the loss to Nodirbek. “He said these things have happened many times in his career. Anand showed examples of when he lost winning positions. I felt better after such a great player also went through the things I go through,” Gukesh had said.
Anand felt that the medal-winning spectacle of the Indian women’s team should inspire more female players to enter the sport in the future. “In the women’s section, India’s performance has been a dramatic improvement. In general, I think we need to continue this momentum and that will happen when we have more women’s and junior tournaments that will inspire players to starting chess at a young age. Events like the Tata Steel Women’s Chess this year are a step in the right direction,” Anand stressed.
While India produced stunning performances, fans missed player Anand. There was a feeling that if the legend himself was playing, India might have done better than they did at the event. The newly elected FIDE vice-president said he would choose tournaments as has been the case for the past two years.
“I haven’t decided yet what the next event will be. Like this year, I hope to play a few tournaments in the months of May, June and July but nothing is planned yet. I love playing chess and I will continue to play a few tournaments,” Anand said.

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