While top contenders Russia and China are not participating, India will be fielding three teams each in the Open and women's sections respectively.

DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin in a test competition ahead of the 44th Chess Olympiad DMK leader Udhayanidhi Stalin in a test competition ahead of the 44th Chess Olympiad
news Chess Olympiad 2022 Wednesday, July 27, 2022 - 18:02

Chess fever is well and truly on in Chennai with just one day to go for the 44th Chess Olympiad. India will be hosting the showpiece event for the first time in the prestigious tournament's history from July 28 to August 10. While top contenders Russia and China are not participating, India will be fielding three teams each in the Open and women's sections respectively. Though the five-time world champion and legendary Viswanathan Anand has chosen not to play and donned the mentor's hat this time, the Indian teams, nonetheless, wear a formidable look. 

The upcoming edition of the Olympiad has attracted a record 188 teams in the Open section and 162 in the women's section. India as the host could field two teams and got to field an additional team in each section as the number of entries was odd. The Indian 'A' team, seeded second behind the star-studded USA is likely to be among the main challengers for the top prize along with Norway — led by world champion Magnus Carlsen — and Azerbaijan. On the other hand, the second Indian team (B) is seeded 11th but comprises a bunch of youngsters like R Praggnanandhaa and D Gukesh, who have impressed all and sundry in recent times. 

While the absence of both Russia and China does weaken the field, it provides the other nations with an opportunity to go for glory. India, which won a bronze in the Open event in 2014 in Tromso, Norway, tied for gold with Russia in the 2020 online Olympiad and secured a bronze in the 2021 edition. The upcoming edition provides the Indians with a huge opportunity to claim the yellow metal in the over-the-board edition.

The teams and India’s prospects 

The Americans boast a line-up that includes the likes of Fabio Caruana, Wesley So, Levon Aronian, Sam Shankland and Leinier Dominguez with an average ELO rating of 2771 and should be considered the hot favourite simply on the basis of the gulf (on average rating). However, in a team event, especially the Olympiad, teamwork is also key apart from the form of the players.

In the Open event, the India 'A' team comprises the seasoned P Harikrishna and the fast-rising Arjun Erigaisi, Vidit Gujrathi, who was captain when the country shared the gold with Russia in the 2020 Online Olympiad, the experienced K Sasikiran and SL Narayanan. While the No.2 seeded India 'A' would consider themselves in the frame for a medal, the 'B' team seeded 11th and boasting of talented youngsters - D Gukesh and R Praggnanandhaa - along with Nihal Sarin, Raunak Sadhwani and the experienced B Adhiban has the ability to beat stronger teams, according to coach RB Ramesh. Being a longish event, he feels the players need to find ways to keep themselves motivated through the 11 rounds and this would be crucial in the final analysis.

Reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen has also spoken highly of the Indian players and felt the teams could be in the reckoning for medals. "Both Indian teams have a very strong and impressive line of players and I think both have a chance to be amongst the medals," Carlsen said. The five-time world champion is in Chennai and is part of Team Norway, which is ranked third among the 187 nations taking part in the event. India’s 'C' team, seeded 17th, has a mix of experience and youth, and with Surya Shekhar Ganguly at the forefront, can be expected to spring a few surprises. 

The India 'A' side is the top seed in the women's event and will be gunning for gold with the experienced Koneru Humpy and D Harika in the ranks. Apart from the seasoned duo, the fast-improving R Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni add further strength to the team. The challenge for India ‘A’ could come from countries such as Ukraine, Georgia and Kazakhstan, which are seeded second to fourth respectively. The other two Indian teams in the women’s section could also spring surprises.

The Indian teams are: 

Open: 

A: Vidit S Gujrathi, P Harikrishna, Arjun Erigaisi, S L Narayanan, K Sasikiran.

B: Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, B Adhiban, Raunak Sadhwani.

C: Surya Shekhar Ganguly, S P Sethuraman, Abhijeet Gupta, Karthikeyan Murali, Abhimanyu Puranik.

Women: 

A: Koneru Humpy, D Harika, R Vaishali, Tania Sachdev, Bhakti Kulkarni.

B: Vantika Agarwal, Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes, Padmini Rout, Divya Deshmukh.

C: Easha Karvade, Sahithi Varshini. Pratyusha Bodda, P V Nandhidhaa, Vishwa Vasnawala.

What are they playing for:

Winner in the Open section: Hamilton-Russel Cup

Winner in the Women's section: Vera Menchik Cup

1st place in combined classification: Nona Gaprindashvili Trophy

Number of teams: 

Open: 188

Women: 162

Format: 

All the matches at the Chess Olympiad will be played in the Classical Swiss League Format.

Venue: 

Four Points by Sheraton, Mamallapuram (located about 58 km from Chennai).

Preparations and traffic diversions

A five-tier security ring will be in place ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to inaugurate the 44th Chess Olympiad on Thursday, Chennai police said, adding that  22,000 police personnel will be on duty, including senior officials. Under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC), the police prohibited the flying of objects like microlight aircraft, hot air balloons, gas-filled balloons, small-sized powered aircraft and para-jumping, on July 28 and 29, in connection with the security measures ahead of Modi's visit. Over 3500 plants have been placed in the driveway in front of the Chennai Airport Arrival Terminals to beautify the arrival zone. 

The Greater Chennai police announced in a press release that there will be slow traffic movement at EVR Salai, Central Square, Anna Salai, Raja Muthiah Salai and the areas near Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium, where the inauguration ceremony will happen. Vehicles coming from Puliyanthope towards Periamet will be diverted at Demellows Point towards Puliyanthope. Similarly, the vehicles from EVK Sampath Salai and Jermiah Road junction will be diverted towards Doveton. 

Commercial vehicles moving towards Chennai Central will not be allowed beyond Gengu Reddy Point, Nair Point and Gandhi Irwin Point. Commercial vehicles from Parry’s will be diverted at Kuralagam junction in Parry’s through Mint Street, Wall Tax Road, Moolakothalam to Vyasarpadi flyover to reach their destination. As there is a chance of traffic congestion from 12 pm to 9 pm in Raja Muthiah Salai, EVR Salai, Anna Salai (until Spencer junction) and surrounding areas, police have advised those who are travelling towards Chennai Central to plan their travel in advance.

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