How a Server Error (and Excellent Play) Resulted in a Dramatic Win For India at the Chess Olympiad


How a Server Error (and Excellent Play) Resulted in a Dramatic Win For India at the Chess Olympiad

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

For the first time in the history of its 44 editions, the Chess Olympiad, hosted by FIDE, the international chess federation, was held online due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The tournament was originally supposed to be held in Russia, but the matches have been taking place on an online server since they began in July. And now, the first-ever online Chess Olympiad has come to a close, and the internet has played as much of a role in deciding the result as either of the two countries competing in the final.

India and Russia squared off against one another, but after two players from the Indian team lost connection to the server while the games were in progress, FIDE decided to jointly award the gold medal to both countries.

Worldwide, sporting events have yet to return to their full pomp and splendour. However, chess does not require the players to be in each other’s physical proximity, which makes it the perfect online sport for the times of the pandemic. Winning a gold medal in the Chess Olympiad was celebrated by Indians who were proud of their compatriots for their victorious display. Prime Minister Modi was among the first to congratulate the victors.

In the rarest of rare occasions, Modi’s political rival, Rahul Gandhi, was also in agreement with the PM, at least on the subject of lauding India’s chess players, saying that they had made the country proud, while also congratulating co-champions Russia.

While chess might not be as popular as cricket with the Indian public, an endorsement from Sachin Tendulkar, the God of Cricket himself, would go a long way toward correcting that. Tendulkar called India’s victory in the Chess Olympiad as the perfect end to a great weekend for Indian sports, as the country also celebrated National Sports Day.

Vishwanath Anand, perhaps India’s best-known chess player, who was also part of the winning team, happily shared the news with his half-million-and-counting followers on Twitter.

While India is used to achieving successes on the cricket field, watching sportspersons from other disciplines win glory on the international level is exciting.