Travel ordeal for players before Chess Olympiad

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Coach RB Ramesh on Thursday took to social media to draw attention to the ordeal Indian players had to undergo on their way to Baku, Azerbaijan, for the Chess Olympiad.

"Should really appreciate the gentleman/woman who made the booking for Indian chess team to Chess Olympiad at Baku," Ramesh said in a Facebook post. "Chennai to Delhi three hour flight. Eight hour halt in Delhi. Delhi to Dubai by Fly Dubai airlines, food, water not included in fare. Flight delayed by two hours after boarding. Three and a half hours halt at Dubai airport. Three hour flight to Baku. Almost 24 hours for travel time with no provision for food or water. Heartfelt thanks from Indian team..."

The All India Chess Federation (AICF) distanced itself from the matter, saying it had little to do with the arrangements. An AICF official told ESPN that the bookings were made by travel agency Balmer Lawrie on the instructions of the government.

"At the World Youth Chess Olympiad [held in Slovakia in July] too we had to travel by bus for six hours to reach the venue," Ramesh, who is accompanying the players, told ESPN from Baku. "But in that case the venue wasn't too accessible from the airport."

Women's team captain Vishaal Sareen, SP Sethuraman, Murali Karthikeyan, Vidit Gujarathi, Padmini Rout, Soumya Swaminthan and Pratyusha Bodda were among the chess players travelling from Chennai to Baku.

Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand, who last participated in Olympiad in 2006, is giving it a miss this time too. It is considered to be among his least favourite events -- primarily due to its Swiss format that, unlike the round-robin format, has players or teams with equal points facing off against each other in every round. The Olympiad also applies the zero-tolerance rule, which essentially means any player who reaches even a few seconds late at the board loses the game.

In all, 2,245 players from 176 countries will participate in the Chess Olympiad, which runs from September 1 to 14. The biennial tournament is considered one of the biggest events in the chess calendar. The Indian men's team, led by P Harikrishna, is seeded 11th while the women are seeded fifth.

India had won its first Chess Olympiad medal, a bronze, in the last edition in 2014.