Check mate: Ukraine, Uzbekistan scale summit of Chess Olympiad

India also won a special award as the best-performing country overall at the competition

Ukrainian GM Anna Ushenina during the 11th round at the Chess Olympiad on Tuesday. — FIDE
Ukrainian GM Anna Ushenina during the 11th round at the Chess Olympiad on Tuesday. — FIDE

By Leslie Wilson Jr

Published: Tue 9 Aug 2022, 11:39 PM

Last updated: Tue 9 Aug 2022, 11:49 PM

Uzbekistan’s young stars reached the pinnacle of their sport when they won the 44th Chess Olympiad, the world’s most prestigious team event, on a high-pressure final day’s action in Chennai, India, on Tuesday.

After key rivals Armenia beat Spain 2 ½- 1 ½ earlier in the day, Uzbekistan faced a must-win situation when they faced the Netherlands in the 11th and final round.

The tension began to show in both camps as the first three matches ended in tight draws. The onus was on Jakhongir Vakhidov who rose to the occasion to defeat reigning Dutch champion Max Warmerdam and earn his team a historic first Olympiad gold.

Meanwhile, there were plenty of emotional scenes as the Ukrainian women’s team defeated Poland 3-1 to win the title and lift the spirit of a nation pounded by war.

However, victory did not come easy as the winners barely edged the team from Georgia on tie-breaks. The USA took the bronze.

It was also the first gold medal for the women’s squad since 2006 and came after the Russians were barred in the wake of the conflict with Ukraine.

Uzbekistan, a country laden with sharp chess minds, was led by 17-year-old chess prodigy Nodirbek Abdusattorov, and featured 20-year-old Nodirbek Yakubboev and 16-year-old Javokhir Sindarov.

Armenia, the 12th seeds, emerged in second place overall.

India B finished third, ahead of India A with favourites USA having to settle for fourth place ahead of Moldova.

The future of Indian chess looks bright with India B, another team made up of teenagers led by 16-year-old Dommaraju Gukesh proving to be the find of the tournament with a stellar display all through the 11 rounds of the Swiss format event.

Playing on the top board against some of the strongest players in the world Gukesh won all of his first eight games before he drew the ninth before going down to Abdusattarov.

However, Gukesh won the prestigious individual gold as the strongest board 1 player in all the competition, His teammate Nihal Sarin, 18, was adjudged the strongest board 2 players among the men.

Meanwhile, Swedish legend Pia Cramling, pulled one back for the older generation when she was declared the strongest women's board 1 player at the age of 59. Cramling played the competition alongside her daughter Anna, on Sweden's board 2.

India also won a special award as the best-performing country overall at the competition, the biggest in the history of the sport that featured186 teams in the Open section and 162 from the Women's section.

England’s David Howell had the highest score for an individual player in the Open event, scoring 7½ out of a possible 8 points for a performance rating of 2898

Polish player Olivia Kolbasa, 22, had the highest individual score in the Women's event, 9½ of a possible 11 points, for a performance rating of 2565.

Her only loss was in the last round against Ukrainian GM Anna Ushenina.

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