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World Youth Chess Championship: Praggnanandhaa wins Gold

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Mumbai, Oct 12 India’s R Praggnanandhaa emerged as the unconquered king in the World Youth Chess Championship, claiming the coveted gold in the Under-18 Open here on Saturday.

The 14-year-old Grand Master from Chennai etched out a cautious draw in the 11th and final round against Valentin Buckels (Germany) to top the charts with 9 points. He, however, will have to thank compatriot IM Arjun Kalyan for engineering a crucial draw against top seeded Shant Sargsyan (Armenia).

Praggnanandhaa would have been under pressure if Grand Master Shant had won; but Shant couldn’t unravel a determined Arjun, allowing Praggnanandhaa to call truce and annex the title.

The Championship ended on a high note for India, with six other medals, including three silver, coming their way. Only the Under-16 Girls proved elusive for India, although BM Akshaya gave a good account of herself. Akshaya lost the medal to Anousha Mahdian, after suffering an unexpected defeat to her in the final round.

The country’s Under-14 Girls were the toast of the day, with Divya Deshmukh and Rakshitta Ravi bringing home two medals. Top seed WIM Divya, who seemed to be out of contention midway through the event, pulled off a well thought out victory in the last round to clinch the silver.

Rakshitta too beat overnight leader Bat-Erdene Mungunzul on the top board to earn the bronze. Kazakhstan’s Meruert Kamalidenova, however, was the star of this category, reeling off five straight wins to clinch the gold medal.

FM LR Srihari (Under-14 Open) and Vantika Agrawal (Under-16 Girls) collected the country’s other two silver medals, playing out draws in their respective matches. Vantika had an outside chance of pocketing the gold, especially after top seed Polina Shuvalova (8.5) settled for a draw; Vantika (8), however, couldn’t beat Alexandra Obolentseva of Russia to finish half a point behind the eventual winner.

Srihari (8), who was in contention for the gold at the start of the penultimate day, endured draws in the last two rounds to slip to the second position. S Maralakshikari won the bronze, after beating the surprise package of the championship, R Abinandhan.

CM Aronyak Ghosh (8) claimed the other bronze for the country in the Under-16 Open after drawing with Iran’s Arash Daghli. He will, however, look back at the WYCC as a missed opportunity, after accepting a quick draw in the penultimate round.

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Australia suspends Olympic bid amid COVID-19 recovery

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Sydney, May 25 (IANS) Australia’s Queensland has suspended its bid to host the 2032 Olympics recently as the state government focuses on economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk confirmed the bid process had been paused, reports Xinhua news agency.

“It’s just on hold. I wouldn’t read too much into that,” Palaszczuk told reporters last weekend.

“We’re focused absolutely on the economic recovery at the moment.”

The Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) said it fully supported the Queensland government’s position in placing the Brisbane 2032 candidature on hold.

AOC President John Coates said in a recent statement that meetings of the Olympic Candidature Leadership Group (OCLG) scheduled earlier this year were deferred, allowing governments to focus on dealing with COVID-19.

Coates said he’d proposed to OCLG members that the meetings would not proceed while all three levels of governments dealt with the pandemic.

He also told the AOC Annual General Meeting on May 9 that discussions with the IOC on the candidature would resume when appropriate.

“We all understand there are pressing issues of public health and community wellbeing for governments to address,” Coates said.

“The candidature will have its role to play in terms of jobs and growth in the Queensland economy once we have seen our way through the current crisis.”

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‘Hockey has lost its brightest star’: Balbir Singh Sr passes away

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Balbir Singh Senior

New Delhi, May 25 (IANS) Hockey India has expressed condolences on the sad demise of legendary player Balbir Singh Sr who breathed his last on Monday morning in Mohali. The triple Olympic Champion and World Cup-winning team manager had been battling for life since May 8 when he was hospitalised.

“Today, we have not only lost our greatest hockey legend but we have also lost ‘our guiding light’. While his achievements in post-independent era have been well-documented, Balbir Sr remained the greatest fan of the sport and was always there when we needed his advice. Hockey has lost its brightest star and everyone at Hockey India is pained by this news,” said Hockey India President Mohd Mushtaque Ahmad.

He further said: “Balbir Singh Sr’s exemplary achievements, his passion for the sport, his life as an icon of the game will remain an example for generations to come. On behalf of the federation, I express my deepest condolences to his family.”

He was the most decorated athlete in Indian sports history with Olympic medals in 1948, 1952 and 1956 Summer Games. He coached the Indian team which won the bronze medal at the 1971 World Cup and was manager of the Indian team that won the gold medal at the 1975 World Cup.

He had scored five goals in India’s 6-1 victory over the Netherlands in the gold medal match of the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. Under his captaincy, India scored 38 goals and conceded none on its way to the gold medal in 1956 Melbourne Olympics.

Beating England 4-0 in their own backyard during the final of the 1948 Olympic Games as an independent nation was Balbir Sr’s ‘greatest moment’.

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Former Pak batsman Taufeeq Umar tests positive for COVID-19

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New Delhi, Former Pakistan opener Taufeeq Umar tested positive for COVID-19 on Saturday. Umar featured in 44 Tests and 12 ODIs, amassing 2,963 and 504 runs respectively for Pakistan.

He played his last international match in 2014, a Test against New Zealand in Dubai.

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