Chess Olympiad: Anand to mentor India, hosts to field two teams in open and women's section

File photo of Viswanathan Anand EPA/NICK SOLAND

Two teams each will represent India in the open and women's section at the 44th Chess Olympiad, which starts on July 28 in Chennai. Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will be the mentor of the home teams.

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 bolstered the home team's medal chances at the 14-day event, which is expected to witness participation of world's top names from more than 150 countries, according to All India Chess Federation.

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, Chennai-based Krishnan Sasikiran, 19-year-old Arjun Erigaisi and SL Narayanan. Arjun has been impressive in the past 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.

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 Adhiban B, who was a part of the Indian side which won the bronze medal in 2014.

In the women's section, the first team will have experienced Koneru Humpy and World No 10 Harika Dronavalli, who have stamped their authority on many international tournaments, and the prolific Tania Sachdev with R Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni. The second team will consist of national champions Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout along with Vantika Agarwal and 15-year-old Divya Deshmukh.

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.

Anand, who decided against playing the upcoming Chess Olympiad, will be involved 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.

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.

Previously, India won a bronze medal at the Tromso Chess Olympiad in 2014. In the two virtual Olympiads during the pandemic, India won gold jointly with Russia in 2020 and the women's team won bronze in 2021.

"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. 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," AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan, said.

The Chess Olympiad was moved out of Russia after it invaded Ukraine and was awarded to Chennai in March. Alongside the Olympiad, the 94th FIDE Congress and elections will also be held in the city.


India A: Vidit Gujrathi, P Harikrishna, Arjun Erigaisi, S L Narayanan, K Sasikiran
India B: Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, B Adhiban, R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani
India A: Koneru Humpy, D Harika, R Vaishali, Tania Sachdev, Bhakti Kulkarni
India B team: Vantika Agarwal, Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes, Padmini Rout, Divya Deshmukh