Chess Olympiad: India, Russia declared joint winners after server malfunction

Viswanathan Anand
Viswanathan Anand. File photo
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India and Russia were on Sunday declared joint winners of the 2020 Online Chess Olympiad after the final was marred by internet disconnection and server malfunction.

Russia were initially declared winners after two Indian players -- Keralite teen Grandmaster Nihal Sarin and Divya Deshmukh -- lost out on time in the final after suffering a disconnection with the server.

India lodged a protest against the controversial decision which was reviewed.

This was the first time FIDE, the international chess federation, was holding the Olympiad in an online format, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an official statement, FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich said the the global internet outage severely affected several countries, including India so a decision was made only after carefully examination.

"Two of the Indian players have been affected and lost connection, when the outcome of the match was still unclear. The Appeals Committee has examined all the evidence provided by Chess.com, as well as information gathered from other sources about this internet outage.

After being informed of their considerations and in absence of an unanimous decision, and taken into account these unprecedented circumstances, as FIDE President I made the decision to award gold medals to both teams," Dvorkovich said.

Indian chess wizard Viswananthan Anand shared his excitement by tweeting, "We are the champions !! Congrats Russia!," the wrote on his Twitter handle after the final."

The first round of the final ended in a 3-3 draw with all the six games finishing in stalemate. Russia won the second round 4.5-1.5 with wins for Andrey Esipenko over Nihal and Polina Shuvalova over Divya, leading to a controversy as the Indians claimed the losses were due to connection issues.

In the second round, Anand, coming in for P Harikrishna, had drawn with Ian Nepomniachtchi while captain Vidit Gujrathi drew with Daniil Dubov.

Koneru Humpy, the world rapid champion, was beaten by Alexandra Goryachkina and D Harika drew with Alexandra Kosteniuk.

In the first round matches, Gujrathi drew Nepomniachtchi, while Harikrishna and Vladimir Artemiev shared the honours.

Nihal Sarin
Nihal Sarin. Photo: Facebook

In other matches, Humpy and Harika drew with Lagno and Kosteniuk respectively, while young prodigy R Praggnanandhaa and Deshmukh, too, held their opponents.

Reacting to the win, Humpy said, "Well it is a bit strange that we lost due to serve failure and our appeal was accepted. Well I can say, we fought till the end."

"Joint Champions.. Gold medal it is. First place medal Proud of my whole team #TeamIndia #ChessOlympiad," Harika tweeted after the final.

India enjoyed a great run in the tournament, beating among others the powerful Chinese team in the preliminary phase.

Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju congratulated the Indian side.

"I congratulate our Indian contingent that won the Gold at the @FIDE_chess Online Chess Olympiad. India was declared the joint winner with Russia. My heartiest wishes to all players!," he tweeted.

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