Chess has a very niche fan following in India as mainstream sports like cricket and hockey dominates the news. However, with COVID-19 shutting down all sporting activities in India, the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad made a lot of headlines in the country.
FIDE was supposed to organize the 44th Chess Olympiad in Russia this August but due to the coronavirus pandemic, the organizers decided to proceed with an online tournament. The online tournament took place over a period of 5 weeks and countries from around the world took part. More than 1500 of the world’s top chess players went online to battle it out with one another and see if they can win gold for their country.
Each team were made up of 6 players and two female players had to compulsory be a part of each team. Chess fans from around the world eagerly followed the results of the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad as there were a number of surprises and shock defeats.
India Win Gold But With Controversy
There were not a lot of high expectations on Team India to win gold at the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad. India was seeded in 7th place and were part of Pool A which had a number of strong teams including China.
However, India surprised a lot of other teams as their players put up a great performance on a consistent basis and managed to top Pool A after defeating China and moving into the quarter-finals. They were led by captain Vidit Santosh Gujrathi who showed some great leadership skills and led by example.
India won their semi-final match up against Poland after a fierce contest that went back and forth. In the second semi-final, Russia took on the United States and also had a difficult match but managed to defeat the Americans and set up an exciting final clash with India.
While chess fans were hoping for an exciting matchup between India and Russia, they were left disappointed as internet outages in India saw two games being cancelled mid-way. Those games were forfeited by the Indian players on time. This wasn’t the first instance in the tournament that Indian players have faced downtime and disconnects due to power failures in India.
Russia should have been awarded the gold medal but India quickly lodged an appeal with the International Chess Federation (ICF) and it did not take long for President Arkady Dvorkovich to make a ruling on the matter.
PM Modi Congratulates India
Dvorkovich said that before the power outage that led to the disconnect, it was hard to decide the outcome of the two games. Since it was hard to make a proper decision, Dvorkovich decided to make an unpredicted decision and announce both India and Russia as the winners and give them gold medals.
India will gladly take the win and will be happy with the result as they have emerged as join-winners when a total of 160 countries took part. Prime Minister Narendra Modi took to social media to congratulate the team on winning FIDE Online Chess Olympia. He said the dedication and hard work of the team was rewarded with the gold medal. PM Modi also congratulated Russia on their win.
Did India Get Special Treatment?
The gold medal win by Team India is a little controversial because the ICF has been up and down with its decision making. Team Armenia took on India in the quarter-final on Aug 28 and also faced issues with connectivity. Armenia also lodged a complaint with ICF but their complaint was overruled.
Armenia was upset with the decision making process and withdrew from the tournament. Given the fact that the ICF has now ruled in favour of India over the same outage issues, will certainly upset Armenia and some of the other teams who feel that India have been given special treatment.