Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: After technology issues, India declared joint-winners of Chess Olympiad

Year in Review 2020, Biggest Sports Stories: After technology issues, India declared joint-winners of Chess Olympiad

At the end of all the drama that took place, India’s gold medal will be remembered for it came during a difficult time and provided a little relief to fans.

India won their maiden Chess Olympiad title in 2020.

Editor’s NoteIt’s that time of the year already. Every end comes with an opportunity to look back and reflect, and while 2020, by general consensus, was a forgettable affair, sports did manage to conjure some moments of lasting relevance. From Liverpool ending their Premier League title wait to the mighty Indian cricket team crashing like never before in Adelaide to the passing away of some of sports’ all-time greats, the field of play, even in a truncated calendar, produced a fair share of shock, surprise, and awe. In Firstpost’s latest series, we take a look at some of the biggest sporting moments of 2020.

Drama on the chess board usually unfolds due to competitors making moves to outdo each other. As if this was not enough, the Online Chess Olympiad saw a strange factor adding to the drama in the final played between India and Russia: the internet connection.

The Chess Olympiad this year was held online, due to the coronavirus lockdown and the players took part in the competition from their homes all around the world. But know one would have expected how internet connectivity, or lack of, was going to play a role.

As the tournament progressed, the internet connectivity or lack of, became a key figure in the games, a big factor in deciding the winner as players struggled to make their moves in time.

India had similar issues earlier in the tournament, with Vidit Gujarathi losing his match against Mongolia.

The intermittent internet failure, a routine occurrence throughout the competition, came back to hurt India in the final against Russia as they lost the second round 1.5-4.5. However, an appeal by India citing internet issues made FIDE’s committee declare both the teams as champions, giving India their first-ever title.

The last-minute internet malfunction almost ruined the winning story for India. However, the chess enthusiasts all over the country, whose numbers have grown exponentially this year, thanks to many watching online chess streams during lockdown, had put their combined efforts to make sure the players did not face any internet lag or malfunction during the games.

From calls being made to electricity board in Chennai to stop their maintenance work near Viswanathan Anand’s house, to fans setting up two more internet connections for Vidit, to an engineer and linesman stationed outside Koneru Humpy’s house, all possible efforts were put into place, to ensure a smooth run of the matches.

The Indian team, comprising Anand, Gujarati, P. Harikrishna, Humpy, Dronavalli Harika, Bhakti Kulkarni, Nihal Sarin, Divya Deshmukh, R. Praggnanandha, Vantika Agrawal, R. Vaishali and Arvindh Chithambaram, celebrated with the fans in their own ways. While Vidit went live on YouTube to celebrate the win, Anand posted a tweet which went viral.

At a time, when sporting action was limited, chess with the virtue of internet was able to reach out to millions easily. Vidit felt it was a break-out moment for chess in India, even comparing it with Indian cricket team’s first World Cup win.

“This is a very special gold for me to add to my cabinet and I hope especially for the youngsters that whatever they go on to achieve in their careers they look back at this moment as a very special one. It is the first time we have won gold and that’s simply a magical moment,” Vidit had told Firstpost.

While the lockdown was a tough period, it really helped chess become big in the country for people had time in their hands and of course, the internet to stream matches and make new heroes in sport. At the end of all the drama that took place, India’s gold medal will be remembered for it came during a difficult time and provided little relief to fans.

Click here for more stories in ‘Year in Review 2020’ series

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