Defending champions India reached the semifinal of the 2021 FIDE Online Chess Olympiad with a dramatic victory over Ukraine in the round of 16 of the tournament. After both teams won the first round each, India outscored their European rivals with a victory in the tiebreaker blitzkrieg round.
The India team, which had already topped their preliminary league group, faced Ukraine in the two-round quarter-final match at the 2021 FIDE Online Chess Olympiad, from their base in Chennai. The Indians won the first round of rapid chess games 4-2, with Harika Dronavalli and Nihal Sarin winning their respective games.
However, Indian legend Viswanathan Anand drew with experienced Vesselin Ivanchuk, while Pentala Harikrishna fell to Ukraine’s No. 2 player Kirill Shevchenko. Another stalwart, Koneru Humpy, also couldn’t beat a lower ranked Lulija Osmak. But, a couple of victories by Harika and Nihan were enough for the Indian to close the round.
India was aiming for a comfortable victory, having taken a 2-0 lead in the second round as well, but Ukraine had other plans. Anand was retained again by Ivanchuck, while Santosh Gujrathi lost to Krill Shevchenko. However, with a couple of wins, Harika won her game against Natalia Zhukova and R Praggnanandhaa against Platon Galperin, she made things brilliant for the moment, but R Vaishali lost to Mariia Berdnyk and then Humpy lost to Lulija Osmak, making things worse. .
Ultimately, Ukraine won the round 3.5-2.5 and forced the match into a blitzkrieg tiebreaker round.
In the blitzkrieg round of playoff, India benched veteran Anand and introduced former national champion B Adhiban on the second board against Krill Shevchenko. R Praggananandhaa replaced Nahil. Both changes were important as India won round 1-5 and advanced to the semifinal of the match.