Two teams will each represent India at the Open and the women’s section at the 44th Chess Olympiad, with five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand named host mentor for the prestigious tournament which will be played from July 28 to August 10. Host India are entitled to field two teams each – in the Open category as well as in the women’s section for the very first time. This boosted the home team’s medal chances at the 14-day event, which is expected to see the participation of the world’s biggest names from more than 150 countries.
Vidit Gujrathi, who led India to a gold medal at the Chess Olympiad 2020, held virtually, will be part of India’s first team in the open section alongside Pentala Harikrishna and Krishnan Sasikiran, based in Chennai, who has represented India on numerous occasions.
Arjun Erigaisi, 19, and SL Narayanan will also be part of the first team.
Arjun has been impressive over the past year and will be one of the players to watch on his event debut for SL Narayanan, whose solid style has been very impressive.
The second team, meanwhile, will be made up of young talents, who have grabbed headlines with their consistent performances over the past couple of years, including Praggnanandhaa R, Nihal Sarin, Gukesh D and Raunak Sadhwani.
They will make their Chess Olympiad debut. The team will also have experienced player Adhiban B, who was part of the Indian team that won the bronze medal in 2014.
In the women’s section, the first team will have the immense talent of Koneru Humpy and the world number 10 Harika Dronavalli, who marked their authority in many international tournaments, and the prolific Tania Sachdev with R Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni.
The second team will consist of national champions Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout along with 15-year-old Vantika Agarwal and Divya Deshmukh.
Anand, who has decided not to take part in the next Chess Olympiad, will be very active as a mentor for the Indian teams.
“I play very few events these days and after playing many Olympiads I thought it was time for the youngsters to play. India has many talented youngsters like Nihal, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh , Arjun and a few others,” Anand said.
Interestingly, Praggnanandhaa and Vaishali will be the second set of siblings to represent the country at the same Olympiad after N Saritha and N Sudhakar Babu, who played in the 1988 edition held in Greece.
GM Pravin Thipsay will be the head of the delegation. GM Srinath and GM RB Ramesh will be the first team and second team coaches of the open section respectively.
GM Abhijit Kunte will coach the women’s first team and GM Swapnil Dhopade the second team.
India won a bronze medal at the Tromso Chess Olympiad in 2014. In both Virtual Olympiads, India won gold jointly with Russia in 2020 and the women’s team won bronze in 2021 .
“The possibility of fielding two teams in the Chess Olympiad opens the door for many young Indian talents to showcase their game on the biggest stage, which would otherwise have been possible after waiting probably a few more years.
“The teams look strong and have a good mix of experience as well as young talent and I am confident they will make the most of this unique opportunity. I wish all the members the best of luck for the event and their preparations,” AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan said.
The Chess Olympiad was moved out of Russia after it invaded Ukraine and was awarded to Chennai in March.
Along with the Olympiad, the 94th FIDE Congress and elections will also take place in the city.
Teams: Open –
India A:Vidit Gujrathi, P Harikrishna, Arjun Erigaisi, SL Narayanan, K Sasikiran.
India B:Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, B Adhiban, R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani.
India A:Koneru Humpy, D Harika, R Vaishali, Tania Sachdev, Bhakti Kulkarni.
India B Team: Vantika Agarwal, Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes, Padmini Rout, Divya Deshmukh.
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