Ukraine scored a big win away from the battlefield Tuesday as its women’s chess team captured the gold medal at the 44th Chess Olympiad in Chennai, India.
It was the first gold medal for the women’s squad since 2006 and came after the Russian team was barred by international officials in the wake of the invasion of Ukraine and China declined to send a team citing COVID-19 protocols. Both would have been strong contenders for a medal.
The Ukrainian women took the title on the strength of the 3-1 win over Poland in the final round, barely edging the team from Georgia on tiebreaks. India‘s female team women held on for the bronze despite a 3-1 loss to the U.S. team in the final round.
The Olympiad, held every two years, is one of the most comprehensive sporting events outside of the Olympics. Even with Russia and China not competing, nearly 180 countries sent teams for the open and women’s competitions to Chennai.
Russian players were not only barred from competing, but FIDE, the international chess federation, earlier this year stripped the Russian city of Khanty-Mansiysk of the right to host the tournament and moved the event to India.
There was another major upset on the men’s side, with tiny Uzbekistan claiming its first-ever gold medal, with Armenia and India capturing silver and bronze, respectively.
The favored U.S. team, which boasted the highest average rating in the open section, finished off the podium in fifth place.