It's a sport in which India is a powerhouse even on the world stage. Indeed, on the Asian stage in Doha, the Indians were quite unstoppable. Two gold medals out of three is no mean feat, considering the fact that the booty has been amassed by just a three-member team.
Koneru Humpy, who brought India the first gold at the Doha Games 10 days ago, combined with Krishnan Sasikiran and Pentyala Harikrishna as the Indian team emerged easy winners on Thursday evening, landing India their last gold at Doha.
The team, in fact, had practically ensured a gold three days before the final day, and only the formalities remained. The Indians completed the job on Thursday evening, when the ninth and final round was played out against Kazakhstan in the silence of the Al-Dana Indoor hall.
Earlier, on Wednesday, a small group of chess aficionados watched the Indian trio decimate the Indonesians in the eighth round in silence. Just a few steps away, the Indian mixed doubles pair of Leander Paes and Sania Mirza was finishing off a Japanese pair in the final amidst the deafening roar of close to 5,000 people.
The contrast was difficult to miss. Two gold medals, in two different arenas — and one “superior” to the other in terms of appreciation! But Humpy does not want to be drawn into that discussion.
“They played their own game and we played our own… They are good in their sport while we are the best in ours,” Humpy summed it up.
In their moment of triumph, the Indians, however, missed the champion — Viswanathan Anand.
Bharat Singh, the team manager, sitting in the stands watching tennis, could only say: “If Vishy had been here, we would have won the gold in the men’s individual rapid chess as well. In the team event it wouldn’t have made much difference as all the players were very good.”
Humpy, not wanting to be drawn into the controversy of Anand skipping the Games, cited her own example, saying: “Playing at the Games had only a negligible effect on my ELO points.”
The tall Vijayawada girl, coached by her father, said she was ecstatic after the team gold on Thursday.
“I am very happy. This has been our best performance ever…We have never been able to score resounding victories like these in the past. It’s very surprising for us and I think luck has also favoured us,” said the champion.
Saiskiran, who failed to make a mark in the men’s individual event, said, “It’s a morale-boosting win for the team, especially after the chess Olympiad in Turin earlier this year when we finished only third and felt very bad about it.”
“As a team, we performed very well. We co-ordinated our preparations… Had Vishy been around, we would have been even stronger. But we did very well even without him. I believe he is doing well elsewhere. Now I would be preparing for the Aeroflot Tournament in Moscow,” Sasikiran, who has the distinction of beating Anand, said with a smile.
Anand or no Anand, the Indians have indeed made the others look like pawns on the boards.