Gold for Gukesh and Nihal; silver for Arjun – The Hindu

Sports

It rained medals for India following its best ever Chess Olympiad campaign here.

Though a bronze in each section — Open and women — was a first, India 1 claimed the Gaprindashvili Cup — a symbol of combined supremacy of a team in both sections.

Named after former Soviet and Georgian World champion Nona Gaprindashvili — the first woman to become a Grandmaster — the honour highlights India’s growing chess strength. India 1 finished ahead of close contenders USA, India 2, Armenia and Azerbaijan.

India 1 women started the day as a leader, missed the gold and finished with a bronze. India 2 men let slip a gold-winning opportunity following Tuesday’s heartbreaking draw with eventual champion Uzbekistan and took a bronze.

But soon this muted joy turned into a more expressed celebration when the Board prizes were announced.

The host’s share was a never-before haul of two gold, a silver and four bronze medals on the back of some sterling individual performances. India’s combined tally of individual medals was 10 before this unprecedented scoop.

Fittingly, D. Gukesh and Nihal Sarin won gold medals for their displays on Board 1 and Board 2. Gukesh, winner of the first eight rounds, became the first Indian to earn the honour. Nihal emulated Dibyendu Barua’s effort in the 1990 Novi Sad Olympiad.

Arjun Erigaisi, who like Gukesh crossed 2700 in live ratings in the competition, took the silver on Board 3 where the bronze went to R. Praggnanandhaa.

With this teen quartet getting duly rewarded for their phenomenal performances, that too, on debut, this served as a cushion in dealing with the disappointment of their teams not finishing higher on the podium.

R. Vaishali and Tania Sachdev, key players on Board 3 and Board 4 for India 1 on way to a long-awaited team medal, along with Divya Deshmukh, a reserve for India 2, collected bronze for their consistent showing.

These prizes were decided on rating performances, and not percentage of points scored.

For the record, Gukesh scored 9 points from 11 rounds while performing at a whopping 2867 rating. Nihal (7.5/10, 2774), Praggnanandhaa (6.5/9, 2767), Arjun (8.5/11, 2767), Vaishali (7.5/11, 2452), Tania (8/11, 2441) and Divya (7/9 2298) also played way above their rating.

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