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Chess Olympiad gold similar to 1983 Cricket World Cup win – Vidit Gujrathi

India won the chess Olympiad gold for the first time in the tournament’s history and the team’s skipper Vidit Gujrathi has revealed that this win is on par with how Indian cricket was put on the world map after their 1983 World Cup win against the West Indies in Lords.

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Chess Olympiad gold similar to 1983 Cricket World Cup win – Vidit Gujrathi
Chess Olympiad gold similar to 1983 Cricket WC win: Vidit Gujrathi
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India created history on Sunday when they won the gold medal and shared it with Russia in the Chess Olympiad for the first time in their history in a final that was marred with controversy. Two players had their matches declared lost on time after a global internet outage cut their links to the match servers. The Indian team appealed to FIDE and the decision was made to share the gold. This was the first time India had won the gold medal in the 96-year history of the tournament. The Indian chess team overcame power and internet issues to secure the top prize albeit it was shared.

Speaking exclusively to DNA web, Vidit Gujrathi, the captain of the Indian team said the Olympiad gold was similar to how Indian cricket was put on the world map following the 1983 World Cup win against the West Indies. He also revealed that the massive interest of the fans led to extra motivation for India winning this prize.

“For chess, 2020 has been the highlight. When the cricket team won the 1983 World Cup, the nation was going through an economic crisis. The sport brought it together. Fans had something to look forward to this. I have gotten so many messages from fans. That would never have happened before. People are following chess. Whenever I went down for the Ganesh Aarthi, they would be saying why you did not play that move or why did you not try anything different? 69,000 people watching the live broadcast of the Olympiad is something surreal,” Vidit told in interaction with DNA.

The idea of preparation

The Indian chess team faced several issues when it came to internet and power outages. They had to upgrade their internet to fibre net but they could not be prepared for the power outages. During the press conference organised by the entire Indian team, they revealed the struggles that they had to go through to ensure the internet and power were stable. Even Viswanathan Anand, the five-time world chess champion, was not immune to the power situation and he revealed he had to prepare for his games knowing of a power outage.

“There was a power cut in Chennai for maintenance work. They were going to cut power from 9 to 5. I was using two connections, one Ethernet and one mobile. When the power is restored, that is when the issue would crop. I was planning through that. Srinath Narayanan (team vice-captain) called me and said he had spoken to TNEB, they decided to restore power to three hours earlier and they would not cut any until the final,” Anand revealed in the press conference.

Vidit said preparing for any kind of eventuality was the key. “I learnt two things. The importance of being prepared. We could have anticipated to a certain extent about internet outages. However, power was an issue. My main internet going down which had a power supply and then I got three internets with power supply. It thought me about preparation,” he said.

Did Vidit give any special message to the team before the final? Far from it! He said giving motivational messages often puts undue pressure but he did write once in the finals. “Usually, I don’t write much motivational stuff. It looks good only in moves. You pump up the team and you win it is awesome. However, when you are playing, it puts unnecessary pressure. In the group stages, whenever it was required we would chip in. In the finals, I did write a few messages. My message was: This win will be sweeter when the stakes are high and the odds stacked against you,” Vidit said.

Achievement to be recognized

The win comes in the backdrop of chess being ignored once again by the Government of India during the National Sports Awards. Chess has not seen a player been given an award since 2013 while no chess coach has won the Dronacharya since 1996. Vidit hoped that this feat would get recognition.

“I wish this performance is not overlooked upon. It is not an easy thing. 163 countries and so many difficulties. The pressure and when everything depends on you, it is massive. This effort should not be overlooked. If it leads to growth in the sport in any way, that is encouragement. Awards are a way of encouragement,” Vidit said.

One hopes that amidst all the doom and gloom of the pandemic, the Olympiad gold will go a long way in establishing the popularity of a sport that after cricket has put India on the world map.

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