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USA hits back, draws level with India

India destroyed USA 5-1 in the opening set but a resurgent USA hit right back to win the second 4-2 to force the blitz tie-breaker in the second semifinals of the FIDE Online Chess Olympiad on Tuesday.

In the first semifinal, Russia expectedly defeated second seed China in two sets. After getting past 3.5-2.5 in the first set, Russia made it more easily in the second and finished with a 4-2 triumph.

Needing only a draw to advance in the second set, India looked on course after D. Harika and R. Vaishali held clear advantages to more than offset the signs of worry faced by Viswanathan Anand. But suddenly, Anand blundered on the 33rd move and went on to suffer his first loss, helping Jeffery Xiong avenge the defeat suffered in the first set.

Soon Harika’s second win of the day saw India level the score. However, Vidit Gujrathi lost on the second board, Vaishali lost her advantage to draw and her brother R. Praggnanandhaa lost his grip to crash to an unexpected loss. Humpy settled for a draw.

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For the better part of the first set, both teams fought tooth and nail before India raced away with the four games to make the result look hopelessly one-sided.

K. Humpy, better off throughout the game, was the first to draw. R. Vaishali benefited from some erratic display from Thalia Cervantes Landeiro. Soon Anand doubled the lead after seeing off an opening novelty from Jeffery Xiong. Anand kept improving his position to win handsomely.

P. Harikrishna too gained from a late error of judgement from Dariusz Swiercz to give India the winning lead. Harika, too, struck late to enhance the lead before Nihal drew in a game where he held winning chances until a few moves from the end.

The results:

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Semifinals: Set I: India bt USA 5-1 (Viswanathan Anand bt Jeffery Xiong; P. Harikrishna bt Dariusz Swiercz; K. Humpy drew with Irina Krush; D. Harika bt Anna Zatonskih; Nihal Sarin drew with Awonder Liang; R. Vaishali bt Thalia Cervantes Landeiro).

Set II: USA bt India 4-2 (Xiong bt Anand; Ray Robson bt Vidit Gujrathi; Irina drew with Humpy; Nazi Paikidze lost to Harika; Liang bt R. Praggnanandhaa; Thalia drew with Vaishali).

Set I: China lost to Russia 2.5-3.5; Set II: Russia bt China 4-2.

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