Server error? India in Chess Olympiad semis after Armenia forfeit

The first game involving the top-ranked players, Viswanathan Anand (above) and Levon Aronian, ended in a draw EPA/NICK SOLAND

India's quarterfinal match in the Online Chess Olympiad on Friday was mired in controversy, ending in opponents Armenia forfeiting the encounter. It helped India move into the semi-finals. Led by world No 7 Levon Aronian, Armenia, who have had a strong run through the tournament, appealed to the arbiters and the appeals committee after team member Haik Martirosyan lost on time to India's Nihal Sarin. Both the appeals were turned down. Sarin was a pawn up when opponent Martirosyan ran out of time. Armenia's claim was that their internet connection was stable and it was a problem with the chess.com server, where the tournament is being hosted.

In the second round, two games were in progress -- Sarin vs Martirosyan and Koneru Humpy vs Elina Danielian -- when Martirosyan lost access to the chess.com server and lost on time. Armenia protested unsuccessfully against the defeat to the arbiters and then approached the appeals committee to look into the matter. Humpy, meanwhile, lost her match to Danielian.

Armenia's argument was that since the team was gathered together and were playing out of the same venue, an internet failure at their end would have affected both the ongoing games. Following an hour's deliberation, however, the appeals committee decided to turn down Armenia's protest and requested the teams to continue with their second round matches. Miffed with the decision, Armenia withdrew from the tournament and India progressed into the last four with a 3.5-2.5 win.

The first game involving Aronian and India's top-ranked player Viswanathan Anand ended in a draw. It was followed by wins from Harika Dronavalli and Vidit Gujrathi, handing India a 2.5-1.5 lead at the end of the first round.

Such an instance isn't the first in the tournament. Last week, India was leading Mongolia 3-1 with Gujrathi and Humpy in a positional advantage over their respective opponents when both the Indian players lost their internet connection and the match ended up being tied 3-3.

"Yesterday's incident was pretty unfortunate. The same thing happened to us as well in one of the earlier rounds and many other online tournaments when playing as an individual," said Srinath Narayanan, India non-playing captain. "There are a lot of things we can take care of. But as I understand, sometimes there is a communication breakdown between our ISP and the chess.com server somewhere in between. So far I have not been able to find a 100% failsafe way to avoid this, but we have exerted conscious effort from our side to reduce the probability of this," he said.

"During the whole period of waiting, we just wanted to get on with the next game. We were eager to play and continue. Changing the result wasn't an option because firstly Nihal was a bit better in that position and pressing. Down to less than one minute and under pressure, mistakes can happen in such a situation, as it happened in the other boards in the same match. However, after having some time to think, it is an entirely different game. Secondly, there is a possibility that having the score at 3.5-1.5 could have influenced other games. Therefore, the only reasonable option was to accept the scoreline and get on with the second match. I also felt that a clear precedent was set as far as this tournament goes. We lost in a similar way and we had to accept it. That was the precedent and that cannot be suddenly changed for the knockout games," he added.

India will play Poland on Saturday while the U.S. will take on Russia in the other semi-final.