For Indian chess stars, the upcoming Asian Games in Hangzhou, China, presents yet another opportunity to make an impact at the global stage and increase the sport's and their own prestige by winning medals for their country. Chess is making a comeback to the Games after a span of 13 years and considering recent performances as well as the wealth of talent, India are one of the strong favourites to win multiple medals at the Games.
India have named a 10-member strong squad for both men's and women's events.
Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli, previous Asian Games medallists, will represent the country in the individual women's category while Vidit Gujrathi and Arjun Erigaisi will compete in the individual men's event.
The men's team includes Gukesh D, Pentala Harikrishna, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa along with Gujrathi and Erigaisi. Vaishali Rameshbabu, Savitha Shri B, Vantika Aggarwal, Humpy and Harika will form the women's team.
There will be four events at the Asian Games. The individual events will be played in the rapid format while the team event will use the standard (classical) format.
Why aren't Gukesh or Praggnanandhaa representing India in the individual event?
In the AICF's own words, "In Asian Games the team championship is played under Standard format and Individual championship in Rapid format. However, the maximum number of players can't exceed 5 for a country to play both Team as well as Individual event. Considering this, the team for the team championship will be selected based on average rating of March, April and May 2023 standard rating list and individual championship players (02 Players) will be selected based on average rapid rating for the month of March, April and May 2023 within the selected 5 players of team championship."
India's record at previous Asian Games
The last time chess featured at an Asian Games was back in 2010. Humpy won the gold medal in the individual section back in 2006, when the sport made its debut at the Asian Games. At the same Games, India's mixed team comprising of Humpy, Harikrishna and Krishnan Sasikaran also won a gold medal.
Harika won the bronze in the individual event in 2010 while India's men's team won the bronze in the same edition. In short, India do have a good record whenever chess was played at the Asian Games.
India's form and the field at the Asian Games
As stated above, India are strong favourites for medals. It's a positive situation that the comeback of the sport at the Asian Games has coincided with the rise of Indian youngsters.
Gukesh, world no 8, is the top ranked Indian at just 17, having recently overtaken the legendary Viswanathan Anand. Praggnanandhaa, who turned 18 last month, played a sensational World Cup in Baku, Azerbaijan, going all the way to the final and ending up claiming the silver medal after a narrow loss against Magnus Carlsen.
The likes of Gujrathi and Erigaisi are also among the best 30 players of the world with plenty of big tournament experience.
Meanwhile, Humpy and Harika are previous medallists at the Asian Games and also feature inside the top ten rapid rankings of the world.
However, the biggest obstacle for India when it comes to their gold medal ambitions is China who have also named a strong squad. Ding Liren, the current men's world champion, will lead the team along with multiple women's world champion and world no 1 Hou Yifan. Wei Yi, another top men's player from China will also feature at the Asian Games and Tan Zhongyi, who's also a top ten women's player has been named in the squad.
Apart from India and China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam are also contenders for the medals.
Men's Individual: Round 1 begins at 1:30 pm IST on September 24th, with the final on September 27th at 3:30 pm IST.
Men's Team: Round 1 begins at 1:30 pm IST on September 29th, with the final on October 7th at 3:30 pm IST.
Women's Individual: Round 1 begins at 1:30 pm IST on September 24th, with the final on September 27th at 3:30 pm IST.
Women's Team: Round 1 begins at 1:30 pm IST on September 29th, with the final on October 7th at 3:30 pm IST.