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Baku 07+08: Heartbreak, tears, and a comeback!

by Priyadarshan Banjan - 10/09/2016

Do you know how it feels to be beaten down to the ground? Do you know how to not lose hope, but stand up to fight another day, and make a comeback? The Indian team had not lost a single game, on all the boards, in the entire Olympiad until the sixth round. The hopes of the entire country reached an all-time high following India's unexpected win over the Dutchmen. And then, we faced the United States of America, who crushed us 3.5-0.5. It was merciless. To make matters worse for the team, Sethu, who was winning against Shankland on the fourth board, blundered tragically and lost. It was brutal, and dark. India took on England in the eighth round. The first three boards ended in a draw. But then Sethu did something so amazing that his previous round opponent could not help but give him a standing ovation! Team India was back in the lead! Find out what happened in our illustrated report.


Baku 07+08: Heartbreak, tears, and a comeback!

Do you know how it feels to be beaten down to the ground? Do you know how to not lose hope, but stand up to fight another day, and make a comeback?


For the first time in chess history, India had been leading the ranking list in a chess olympiad. In a space of a week, India had shown the world that we are not pushovers anymore. The new generation of Indian players is here to stay. Nevertheless, it is one thing to win the crown, quite another to hold on to it.


The hopes of the entire country reached an all-time high following India's unexpected win over the Dutchmen in the sixth round. Praises rang in from all corners. Journalists were jostling to get bytes and comments from the young and mighty Indians. Twitter and Facebook was abuzz with chants of 'Go India!', etc.

Almost amazingly, the Indian team had not lost a single game, on all the boards, in the entire Olympiad until the sixth round. [Photo: G. Sudhakaran]

All of a sudden, the whole world was doffing its hat to India, and heaping praises on our country. But then we faced the USA in the seventh round. Indians were crushed 3.5-0.5 by Caruana, Nakamura, Wesley So, and Sam Shankland, for a heart-wrenching loss. Was the fairytale ascent come to a crashing halt?

GM P. Harikrishna v, Fabiano Caruana [Photo: M. Emelianova]

P. Harikrishna was a wee bit worse out of the opening, but he was having a fine position. Maybe, he was even better at some point, but that did not matter as Caruana was always in the game. It was a draw. The only draw for India in the seventh round.

[Event "WCO 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.09.09"]
[Round "7.1"]
[White "Harikrishna P."]
[Black "Caruana Fabiano"]
[Result "1/2-1/2"]
[ECO "C80"]
[WhiteElo "2752"]
[BlackElo "2808"]
[PlyCount "91"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:20:36"]
[BlackClock "0:28:39"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 a6 4. Ba4 Nf6 5. O-O Nxe4 6. d4 b5 7. Bb3 d5 8. dxe5
Be6 9. Nbd2 Nc5 10. c3 Be7 11. Bc2 d4 12. Nb3 d3 13. Bb1 Nxb3 14. axb3 Bf5 15.
b4 O-O 16. Bf4 Qd7 17. h3 Rfd8 18. g4 Bg6 19. Bg3 Kh8 20. Re1 Qc8 21. Nd2 a5
22. bxa5 Rxa5 23. Rxa5 Nxa5 24. f4 f5 25. exf6 Bxf6 26. Ba2 Nc4 27. Bxc4 bxc4
28. g5 Qxh3 29. Qf3 Bh5 30. Qf2 Be2 31. gxf6 gxf6 32. Qg2 Qe6 33. Kh2 Rg8 34.
Ra1 Rg6 35. Qe4 Qxe4 36. Nxe4 Bf3 37. Nf2 d2 38. Ra7 Rh6+ 39. Bh4 d1=Q 40. Nxd1
Bxd1 41. Kg3 Kg8 42. f5 Bc2 43. Rxc7 Bd3 44. Rc5 Rh5 45. Bxf6 Rxf5 46. Rxf5


Team USA is a terrifying unit made up of Caruana, Nakamura, and Wesley So. This is the first time Caruana and So are playing for the USA since changing federations. [Photo; E. Kublashvili]

GM B. Adhiban [Photo: M. Emelienova]

Adhiban landed in a bad position in the middle game, but Adhiban is known to fight back well in such pressure positions. But there was no coming back for him this time as Nakamura finished off without any troubles.

[Event "WCO 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.09.09"]
[Round "7.2"]
[White "Nakamura Hikaru"]
[Black "Adhiban B."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "A21"]
[WhiteElo "2789"]
[BlackElo "2671"]
[PlyCount "105"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:21:31"]
[BlackClock "0:21:37"]
1. c4 e5 2. Nc3 Bb4 3. Nd5 Bc5 4. Nf3 c6 5. Nc3 d6 6. e3 Bb4 7. d4 e4 8. Nd2
Nf6 9. Qc2 Qe7 10. a3 Bxc3 11. Qxc3 a5 12. b3 O-O 13. Bb2 Re8 14. h3 d5 15. a4
b6 16. Ba3 Qd8 17. Be2 Ba6 18. Nf1 Nbd7 19. Ng3 g6 20. O-O h5 21. Rfc1 Rc8 22.
Rc2 b5 23. cxb5 cxb5 24. Qd2 Rxc2 25. Qxc2 Qb8 26. Qd2 h4 27. Nf1 Re6 28. Qxa5
bxa4 29. Bxa6 Qa8 30. Bd6 axb3 31. Qa3 b2 32. Qxb2 Rxd6 33. Bb7 Qd8 34. Ra8 Nb8
35. Bxd5 Rb6 36. Bb3 Kg7 37. Qc3 Qe7 38. Nd2 Rc6 39. Bc4 Nbd7 40. Ra7 Rb6 41.
Bb3 Qd6 42. Qc4 Qf8 43. Rc7 Rb4 44. Qa6 Rb8 45. Qc4 Ra8 46. Nxe4 Nxe4 47. Rxd7
Ra1+ 48. Kh2 Kh6 49. Qc7 Ng5 50. Qf4 Qe8 51. Rxf7 Qe4 52. Bd5 Qxf4+ 53. Rxf4

GM Vidit Gujrathi (2669) [Photo; G. Sudhakaran]

Vidit too had an off-colour showing after a wrong choice of plans left him struggling to stay alive. Wesley So converted without any issues.

[Event "WCO 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.09.09"]
[Round "7.3"]
[White "Vidit Santosh Gujrathi"]
[Black "So Wesley"]
[Result "0-1"]
[ECO "D02"]
[WhiteElo "2669"]
[BlackElo "2782"]
[PlyCount "82"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:28:44"]
[BlackClock "0:30:28"]
1. Nf3 d5 2. d4 Nf6 3. c4 e6 4. g3 Bb4+ 5. Bd2 Be7 6. Bg2 O-O 7. O-O c6 8. Qc2
b6 9. Ne5 Bb7 10. Rd1 Nfd7 11. Nd3 Nf6 12. a4 c5 13. dxc5 bxc5 14. Be3 Qc7 15.
Bf4 Qc8 16. cxd5 Nxd5 17. Bxb8 Rxb8 18. Nd2 Ba6 19. Nc4 Nb4 20. Nxb4 cxb4 21.
b3 Bxc4 22. Qxc4 Qxc4 23. bxc4 Rfc8 24. Rd7 Bf6 25. Rb1 a5 26. Ra7 Bd8 27. Rc1
b3 28. Rb7 b2 29. Rb1 Bf6 30. Rxb8 Rxb8 31. Bc6 Rb3 32. Kg2 Ra3 33. c5 Ra1 34.
Be4 Rxa4 35. Bd3 Rb4 36. c6 Rb6 37. Be4 Be5 38. f4 Bc7 39. Bc2 Kf8 40. Kf3 Rb4
41. Ke3 a4 0-1

 GM Samuel Shankland (2671) [Photo: M. Emelienova]

Sethuraman was completely winning against Shankland until a sad blunder towards the time control left him in tears.

[Event "WCO 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.09.09"]
[Round "7.4"]
[White "Shankland Samuel L"]
[Black "Sethuraman S.P."]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "D11"]
[WhiteElo "2679"]
[BlackElo "2640"]
[PlyCount "149"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:12:33"]
[BlackClock "0:13:19"]
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. e3 Bg4 5. cxd5 cxd5 6. Nc3 e6 7. Qa4+ Nbd7 8.
Ne5 a6 9. f3 Bf5 10. g4 Bg6 11. h4 b5 12. Qd1 b4 13. h5 Bxh5 14. Nxd7 Nxd7 15.
Rxh5 bxc3 16. bxc3 Qc7 17. Bd2 Bd6 18. Bd3 Nb6 19. Ke2 h6 20. g5 Kd7 21. gxh6
gxh6 22. Rb1 Rag8 23. Bxa6 Rg2+ 24. Kd3 Ra8 25. Bb5+ Kd8 26. Rxh6 Rxa2 27. Rh8+
Ke7 28. Re8+ Kf6 29. Be1 Kg7 30. f4 f5 31. Qb3 Qf7 32. Qd1 Nc4 33. Rd8 Be7 34.
Rd7 Rab2 35. Bxc4 dxc4+ 36. Kxc4 Qe8 37. Rxb2 Rxb2 38. Qa1 Rb8 39. Qa7 Kf8 40.
Kd3 Ra8 41. Qb7 Rb8 42. Qh1 Qxd7 43. Qh8+ Kf7 44. Qxb8 Qc6 45. Qb2 Qe4+ 46. Kd2
Qg2+ 47. Kc1 Qf1 48. Kd1 Qd3+ 49. Qd2 Qc4 50. Qe2 Qa4+ 51. Qc2 Qc4 52. Kd2 Qf1
53. Qd3 Qh1 54. Qe2 Qe4 55. Qh2 Qb7 56. Ke2 Qb2+ 57. Bd2 Qb5+ 58. Kf2 Kg6 59.
Qg2+ Kf7 60. Qf3 Bh4+ 61. Kg2 Qd3 62. Qh5+ Kf8 63. Qd1 Kg7 64. Qg1 Qxd2+ 65.
Kh3+ Kf8 66. Kxh4 Qxc3 67. Kh5 Qc6 68. Kh6 Qf3 69. Qg7+ Ke8 70. Qe5 Kd7 71. Kg7
Qg4+ 72. Kf8 Qh4 73. Qg7+ Kd6 74. Ke8 Qh5+ 75. Qf7 1-0

S.P. Sethuraman (2640) [Photo: D. Llada]

In the win against Azerbaijan, Sethu could only draw a winning position. He barely managed to hold a draw in the match against Netherlands. And now, he had lost a position as winning as that in the previous game. Team India, that was undefeated even on a single board until then, had lost 3.5-0.5.

Round 08: India vs. England [Photo; P. Truong]

In a must -win situation to stay in contention for the medals. India took on England, who had shocked China in the previous match. Harikrishna and the legendary Michael Adams settled for a draw, and so did Adhiban against Howell, and Vidit against Jones. What about Sethuraman, who had missed many chances already in this Olympiad?

 Let Sethu's seventh round opponent tell you about Sethu's magnificence.


White to play, and there is only one good move.

Of course, Sethu has a tangible advantage, just as he had in many of his previous rounds. It is easy to be discouraged and lose the thread, especially in pressure situations. But Sethuraman is Sethuraman. India took the match 2.5-1.5, and was back in the lead!

[Event "WCO 2016"]
[Site "?"]
[Date "2016.09.10"]
[Round "8.12"]
[White "Sethuraman S.P."]
[Black "Short Nigel D"]
[Result "1-0"]
[ECO "C44"]
[WhiteElo "2640"]
[BlackElo "2666"]
[PlyCount "81"]
[EventDate "2016.??.??"]
[WhiteClock "0:34:35"]
[BlackClock "0:31:02"]
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. d4 exd4 4. Nxd4 Qf6 5. Nxc6 Bc5 6. Qf3 bxc6 7. Nd2 h5 8.
Nb3 Be7 9. Bc4 d6 10. Be3 Bg4 11. Qg3 d5 12. e5 Qg6 13. Bd3 h4 14. Qf4 Qh5 15.
e6 Bxe6 16. Qxc7 Rc8 17. Qxa7 Bd6 18. f3 Nf6 19. O-O-O O-O 20. g4 Qh8 21. Kb1
Ra8 22. Qd4 Nd7 23. Bf5 c5 24. Qd2 g6 25. Bxe6 fxe6 26. Qe2 Qe5 27. Rhe1 Rf7
28. f4 Qe4 29. Bc1 Qa4 30. a3 Nf8 31. f5 c4 32. fxe6 Rb7 33. e7 Bxe7 (33...
Rxe7 34. Qf3 cxb3 35. Qxd5+ Kg7 36. cxb3 Qa5 37. Rxe7+ Bxe7 38. Qe4 $16) 34.
Qf3 cxb3 35. Qxd5+ Kh8 36. cxb3 Qa6 37. g5 Kg7 38. Bf4 Bxa3 39. Be5+ Kh7 40.
Re4 Ne6 41. Rxh4+ 1-0


Sethu's opponent: chess player, writer, coach, commentator, olive farmer, guitarist and sexy beast (that is what he says!). [Photo; D. Llada]

And thus, with this timely resurgence, India joined the US and Ukraine at the top of the table with 14 points. Team India has already played the Americans, and in this crucial ninth round clash, will take on the Ukrainians. It is make or break now!

Times are changing and it is a brand new world... 

Report on women's section to follow soon...

Video report by Vijay Kumar:

Check out Sethuraman's interview by Susan Polgar

 Pairings four Round 09:


Games in PGN for Open and Women

Other Pairings

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