The top division of the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad kicked off today, with some of the best chess players in the world going head to head against each other in the rapid 15 mins + 5 seconds format.
India started their campaign at the Olympiad registering two wins and a draw on the first day of the event. While the Indian players managed to whitewash Egypt 6-0 in the first match, they were held to a 3-3 draw by France in second before clinching the final match of the day against Sweden 4-2.
The first match against Egypt saw the women stars GM Koneru Humpy and GM Harika Dronavalli given a rest, and IM Tania Sachdev, WGM Bhakti Kulkarni starting for India.
It was a smooth ride for India as captain Viswanathan Anand, Tania Sachdev and GM Praggnanandhaa registered an easy win with the white pieces. On the other hand GM Adhiban Baskaran and Bhakti Kulkarni won with black, but the young WGM Vaishali Rameshbabu fell to a defeat with black against a lower-rated Adel Sara.
However Vaishali's loss was later registered as a win following Sara violating fair play regulations. This gave India a strong 6-0 start.
The second match against France proved to be a bit tricky even with the return of GM Vidit Gujarathi, Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli on the board.
While all the top players – Anand, Vidit, Humpy and Dronavalli, drew their respective games, the young Praggnanandhaa fell to an unexpected defeat against Maurizzi Marc Andria with the black pieces.
With things looking a bit difficult for India, Pragg's sister, Vaishali, overcame her first match defeat to register a crucial win and help India draw the match 3-3.
GM Pentala Harikrishna, GM Nihal Sarin and WIM Savita Shri made their first appearance of the Olympiad in the final match against Sweden.
It was a closely fought encounter, but a couple of effortless wins on the top boards for Harikrishna and Adhiban Baskaran and for Nihal Sarin in the junior meant that India were never really in the trouble of losing the tie.
While Savita Shri suffered the only loss of the tie for India, Tania Sachdev and Koneru Humpy drew their respective games to ensure India win the tie 4-2.
At the end of the first day of the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad India is ranked second in Pool B, only behind Hungary, who registered a shock 4-2 victory over heavyweights Azerbaijan.
India will take on Shenzhen China, Azerbaijan and Belarus on the day 2 of the 2021 Online Chess Olympiad.