India 'B' team capable of podium finish in Chess Olympiad: Coach Ramesh Babu
The youthful India 'B' team can finish on the podium in the Open section of the Chess Olympiad if the players perform to their potential.
The youthful India 'B' team can finish on the podium in the Open section of the 44th Chess Olympiad if the players perform to their potential, the side's coach Grandmaster R B Ramesh said.
The 'B' team, seeded 11th comprises Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, R Praggnanandhaa, B Adhiban and Raunak Sadhwani, all Grandmasters, and Ramesh believes if the players can keep their focus during the 11 rounds of the Olympiad, beginning at nearby Mamallapuram on July 28, they can finish on the podium.
Barring Adhiban, who is 29, the rest of the squad are in their teens. "The preparations have gone very well. The men's second team (B team) which I am coaching has got very good chances of a podium finish. We (team) have to play well throughout the tournament," Ramesh said in an interaction.
"The players need to keep their focus during the entire duration of the Olympiad. The youngsters have been in good form. Praggu and Gukesh have done well in recent times and that should give them confidence. We have had two preparatory camps and they were fruitful."
Ramesh said the legendary Viswanathan Anand interacted with the players and shared his expertise. The 46-year old Ramesh, a former Commonwealth chess champion and a renowned coach now, said all the three teams fielded by India in the Open section were strong.
"The three Indian teams are strong and we could be competing against each other at some stage of the Olympiad," he said, adding that even in the women's section, the host would be fielding three teams with the 'A' squad being the top-seed.
The absence of powerhouses like Russia and China have boosted India's chances, he said, but cautioned against taking any opponent lightly.
Speaking about the players in his team, Ramesh said Gukesh, who won four tournaments in Spain and breached the 2700 ELO barrier in live rating, and Praggu, having won an event in Serbia recently, would be the ones to watch out for.
"Gukesh and Praggu are in good form and will be expected to do well. Adhiban has played in the Olympiad previously and with his experience can handle the pressure. Nihal (Sarin) and Raunak Sadhwani are playing to their strengths and add value to the team," he said.
"The 'B' team is capable of beating stronger teams and there are definitely medal chances. Everyone knows his role. It all depends on how the players play on a given day."
The India 'A' team is seeded second behind formidable USA. On his role, Ramesh said, "My (role) is to keep the players in a positive frame of mind, especially during a long tournament (like the Olympiad). Also, I would be deciding the board order and helping with the strategy. It is also important to make sure that the players are motivated and don't lose focus."
The Chess Olympiad is being held in India for the first time and will run from July 28 to August 9. Prime Minister Narendra Modi would inaugurate the competition on July 28 and the matches would begin the next day.