With a good mix of experienced elite players, debutants and promising prodigies, six Indian teams, comprising 30 players, are all set to begin their challenge at the 44th edition of the Chess Olympiad, which kick-started in Mamallapuram on Thursday.
The event was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday. Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, and Governor RN Ravi also attended the opening ceremony along with Union Sports minister Anurag Thakur.
World Champion Magnus Carlsen’s Team Norway is third-seeded at Elo 2692 followed by Spain (Elo 2687), Poland (Elo 2683) and Azerbaijan (Elo 2680).
Team India 2 boast of teenage prodigies Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, and Raunak Sadhwani and also has 30-year-old B Adhiban as the oldest player. It has caught the imagination and fancy of most enthusiasts, not just in India but abroad too. The average Elo of this team is 2649 but their ability to score over fancied opponents in the past six months place them as strong contenders for the medal.
The top Indian team, comprising Vidit Gujrathi, Pentala Harikrishna, Arjun Erigaisi, SL Narayanan and Krishnan Saiskiran, has experience and strength combined. Arjun and Narayanan are making their debut. Arjun has been hovering tantalisingly close to the Elo 2700 mark and Narayanan exhibits an enviable positional and solid style. Harikrishna and Sasikiran are old warhorses with proven credentials while Vidit, too, has made a mark amongst the elites.
The women’s team with Koneru Humpy, D Harika, R Vaishali, Tania Sachdev and Bhakti Kulkarni are given top billing with an average Elo of 2487 and are firm favourites. Ukraine (2478) and Georgia (2475), on the other hand, are too close for comfort and India needs good performances each day to gun for gold.
The other Indian teams, too, have the potential to notch upsets and with no pressure, they have the ability to snatch a medal.