All India Chess Federation (AICF) on Monday announced the country's biggest-ever 20-member squad for the 44th Chess Olympiad as India gears up to host the prestigious tournament in Chennai from July 28 to August 10.
India being the host are entitled to field two teams each—in Open category as well as women's section for the first-time ever. It has certainly bolstered the medal chances at the 14-day event which is expected to witness participation of world's top names from more than 150 countries.
Vidit Gujrathi, who led India to gold medal in the 2020 Chess Olympiad, held virtually, will be part of India's first team in open section alongside Pentala Harikrishna and Chennai-based Krishnan Sasikiran, who have represented India on numerous occasions. The 19-year-old Arjun Erigaisi and SL Narayanan will also be part of the first team.
Arjun has been impressive in the last one year and will be one of the players to watch out for as he makes his debut at the event along with SL Narayanan, whose solid style has been very impressive.
On the other hand, the second team will comprise of young talents, who have been making headlines with their consistent performances in the last couple of years, including Praggnanandhaa R, Nihal Sarin, Gukesh D and Raunak Sadhwani. They will be making their debuts at the Chess Olympiad. The team will also have experienced player Adbhiban B, who was a part of the Indian side which won the bronze medal in 2014.
"Opportunity to field two teams at the Chess Olympiad opens the door for many young Indian talents to showcase their game at the biggest stage which otherwise would have been possible after a wait of probably another couple of years. It's a huge opportunity for them so early in their careers. Teams look strong and have a good mix of experience as well as young talents and I'm confident that they will make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. I wish all the members the best luck for the event and their preparations," said AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan.
The Indian women teams will have immensely talented Koneru Humpy and World No 10 Harika Dronavalli, who have stamped their authority on many international tournaments, and prolific Tania Sachdev included in the first team along with R Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni, who will be making their debuts.
The second team, in the women's section, will consist of national champions Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout along with Vantika Agarwal and 15-year-old Divya Deshmukh.
The five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand, who decided against playing the upcoming Chess Olympiad, will be very much in action as the mentor of the Indian teams. "I am playing very few events these days and after playing many Olympiads, I thought it was time for the younger ones to play. India has many talented youngsters like Nihal, Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh, Arjun and a few more," 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 1988's edition held in Greece.
GM Pravin Thipsay will be the Head of the Delegation. GM Srinath and GM RB Ramesh will be the coach for first team and second team of open section respectively. GM Abhijit Kunte will be the Coach for the Women's first team and GM Swapnil Dhopade for the second team.
India won a bronze medal at the Tromso Chess Olympiad in 2014. While in the two virtual Olympiads, India won gold jointly with Russia in 2020 and the women's team won bronze in 2021.