The Indian men’s and women’s teams will start as favourites in the Asian Online Nations (Regions) Cup Team Championship, beginning on Saturday.
Grandmaster Surya Sekhar Ganguly will lead the men’s team which also includes B Adhiban, Nihal Sarin, SP Sethuraman and K Sasikiran. However, GM Viswanathan Anand is not taking part in this event.
The Indian squad is the highest-ranked among the 39 teams and is the top seed followed by Kazakhstan and Iran, who are expected to provide a stiff challenge. The Indians had last month won the gold medal in the FIDE Online Olympiad.
Three members of the triumphant squad-Sarin, Bhakti Kulkarni and R Vaishali will be seen in action in the Asian team event. The top-seeded women’s team includes Bhakti Kulkarni, WGM Mary Ann Gomes, Padmini Rout, Vaishali and P V Nandhidhaa, and is the highest-rated among 31 nations taking part.
Apart from India, Kazakhstan and Indonesia are likely to be among the contenders for the top prize. The tournament will be played on nine-round Swiss System preliminaries in both men’s and women’s division with a time control of 15 minutes + 5 seconds increment.
The top eight teams will qualify for the knockout stage of quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals. Each stage will be a duel of two matches. Cash prizes worth $20,000 and gold, silver and bronze certificates as individual board prizes in the preliminary stages are up for grabs. The tournament will conclude with the finals on October 25.