Defending champions India reached the semi-final of 2021 FIDE Online Chess Olympiad with a dramatic win over Ukraine in the last-eight fixture of the tournament. After both the teams won the first one round each, India edged past their European rivals with a win in the tiebreak blitz round.
Team India, having already topped in their preliminary league group, faced Ukraine in the two-round quarter-final match at the 2021 FIDE Online Chess Olympiad, from their base in Chennai. The Indians claimed the first round of rapid chess matches 4-2, with Harika Dronavalli and Nihal Sarin winning their respective games.
However, Indian legend Viswanathan Anand drew with the experienced Vesselin Ivanchuk, while Pentala Harikrishna was held by Ukraine’s no.2 player Kirill Shevchenko. Another stalwart, Koneru Humpy, also could not beat the likes of a lower-ranked Lulija Osmak. But, a couple of wins by Harika and Nihan were enough for the Indian to seal the round.
India were aiming for a comfortable win, having taken a 2-0 lead in the second round too, but Ukraine had other plans. Anand was held again by Ivanchuck, while Santosh Gujrathi lost to Krill Shevchenko. However, with a couple of wins – Harika winnings her game against Natalia Zhukova and R Praggnanandhaa against Platon Galperin, did make things bright for the time being, but, R Vaishali lost to Mariia Berdnyk and then Humpy lost to Lulija Osmak, making things worse.
Eventually, Ukraine won the round 3.5-2.5 and forced the match into a tie-break blitz round.
In the tiebreak blitz round, India benched veteran Anand and introduced former national champion B Adhiban on the second board against Krill Shevchenko. R Praggananandhaa came in for Nahil. Both the changes proved consequential, as India won the round 1-5 and progressed to the semi-final of the meet.