A star-studded Indian team, led by Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi and featuring former world champion Viswanathan Anand, will eye for a podium finish when it competes in the top division of the Online Chess Olympiad beginning on Friday.
China, Russia and USA will also be among the favourites to win a medal in the virtual event
Besides Anand, the other members of the Indian team include P Harikrishna, Gujrathi (captain), Koneru Humpy, D Harika and young talents R Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin.
India, seeded seventh with an average rating of 2419, is placed in top division Pool A which has formidable teams like China and Georgia, apart from Vietnam, Germany, Iran, Indonesia, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and Zimbabwe.
The online Olympiad has a different structure as each team will have six players, including at least two women. A male and a female player will have to be 20 years of age or less.
The top three teams from each of the three pools in the top division advance to the knockout stage.
The Indian team had finished fifth out of six teams in the Online Nations Cup in May last and would be aiming to make amends with a strong performance in the Olympiad.
Looking ahead to the event, Gujrathi said India has a strong team but how it performs on a particular day will be crucial.
“How you perform on that day matters, in sport it doesn’t matter how good one is,” Gujrathi told PTI.
“Also, it (Olympiad) is happening online, there will be upsides and downsides,” he added.
He said each member’s contribution would be important.
“It is overall a balanced team. Everyone has to do (their) bit. I don’t think we can rely on any particular player,” Gujrathi said.
Asked if he felt any pressure after being named captain, he said: “It is my first time. Let’s see. Of course there are more responsibilities. It will take more time and attention. It is a new thing and I am just exploring.”
The Prague-based GM Harikrishna said India has a strong team and has a good chance of winning a medal.
“We have quite a strong team. Of course, while playing online there can be some unfortunate incidents like internet connection or mouse slip. But, if no such things happen Indian team is one of the favourites,” he said.
“The first task is to do well in the group stage,” he added.
Schedule for India:
August 21: Vs Zimbabwe (1.30 pm), vs Vietnam (2.30 pm), vs Uzbekistan (3.30 pm).
August 22: Vs Indonesia (1.30 pm), vs Iran (2.30 pm), vs Mongolia (3.30 pm).
August 23: vs Georgia (1.30 pm), vs Germany (2.30 pm), vs China (3.30 pm).
Men: Vishwanathan Anand, Vidit Gujrathi (captain); Reserves: P Harikrishna and Arvindh Chithambaram.
Women: Koneru Humpy, Dronavalli Harika; Reserves: Bhakti Kulkarni and R Vaishali.
Junior boys: Nihal Sarin; Reserve: R Praggnanandhaa.
Junior girls: Divya Deshmukh; Reserve: Vantika Agrawal. PTI