Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand will work in tandem to guide the Indian chess players ahead of the 44th Chess Olympiad as the All India Chess Federation (AICF) have brought the two legends together for the home team's first coaching camp with an aim to enhance medal chances at the prestigious event.
The six-time World Championship candidate from Israel, Gelfand has been roped in as the coach by the AICF alongside mentor Anand. The members of the first teams in both the open as well as women's sections will take part in the camp, scheduled to take place at Hotel Leela in Chennai from May 7 to 17.
Apart from winning the World Cup in 2009, Gelfand has competed in 11 Chess Olympiads. He was ranked in the top-30 in FIDE rankings from 1990 to 2017 during his 27-year long astonishing career. The 52-year-old has also trained some of the top international players in the past, helping them succeed in big events.
"We want to ensure that the Indian teams have the best of everything, be it good staying facilities and the best of coaches. We want to create an atmosphere which is conducive to give them their best," said AICF President Sanjay Kapoor.
The former World champion in rapid chess, Koneru Humpy believes the decision to appoint Gelfand in addition to mentor Anand, will motivate the players ahead of the Olympiad, which will be conducted in India for the first time ever, beginning in Chennai on July 28.
"Well, I don't often participate in the coaching camps in general. This time having Gelfand and Anand as coaches and mentors will definitely motivate the team and for sure there will be a lot to learn from their experience," she said.
The author of numerous popular books like 'Dynamic decision making in chess', 'Technical decision making in chess' and 'Positional decision making in chess' to name a few, Gelfand will use his in-depth technical as well as strategic knowledge of the game while interacting and training the Indian players in the camp.
"With the numerous decision-making books authored by Gelfand we hope that our decision to rope in Gelfand pays off," added AICF Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan.
The members of the first team in the open section — Vidit Gujrathi, Pentala Harikrishna, Arjun Erigaisi, SL Narayanan and Krishnan Sasikiran—and the players of the first team in the women's section— Koneru Humpy, Dronavalli Harika, R Vaishali, Tania Sachdev and Bhakti Kulkarni, will take part in the camp along with their respective coaches Srinath Narayanan and Abhijit Kunte.
Arjun and Sasikiran, who are currently playing tournaments in Europe, will join the camp a couple of days later. Sasikiran, a member of the bronze-winning team at Tromso in 2014 who had also won an individual silver medal at the same Olympiad, is excited to work with Gelfand. "I am a big fan of him and this is the first time that I would be training with such a strong player though we have played a few games against each other," he said.
"It is great to have him [Gelfand] as a coach. His experience and knowledge will immensely help the Indian team," added Harikrishna, who will be playing his 10th Olympiad in Chennai.
The 11-day coaching camp will be intensive and gruelling with players involved in six to seven hours of rigorous training in a day. The players will also have a regular routine of yoga and meditation to enhance their mental willpower along with physical strength training.
"I am really looking forward to it. The facilities will be excellent, and it will be a very important platform for the team to get together and bond before the Olympiad," said coach Srinath.