Batumi Chess Olympiad 2018: Viswanathan Anand to lead India's quest for elusive gold in biennial event

It is no secret that India are emerging rapidly as one of the biggest chess-playing nations. Today, India not only have Viswanathan Anand to boast of, but also a stellar trove of strong grandmasters. However, when it comes to a gold medal finish at the Olympiad, it’s always been a matter of 'so close yet so far' for Team India.

A look at the performance of the Indian team in the last two Olympiads makes it clear that they have been a force to be reckoned with. However, the fact remains that they, even if only by a slither, have missed out on winning a gold medal. In the 2014 edition, the team won its first-ever medal by securing the third place. At the last Olympiad held in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2016, India finished fourth.

India have assembled their strongest ever squad for the Olympiad. Image courtesy: Niklesh Jain

India have assembled their strongest ever squad for the Batumi Chess Olympiad. Image courtesy: Niklesh Jain

While the young stars kept up their relentless efforts to bring home an Olympiad gold, the All India Chess Federation, in a remarkable breakthrough, managed to get Anand to confirm his participation this year. The veteran grandmaster also attended all preparatory camps with all of his young colleagues in the team.

Of course, with the inclusion of Anand, this will be the strongest Indian team to participate in any chess Olympiad thus far. Anand had also mentioned in the past that he felt a certain level of comfort with his teammates, which only make the Indian prospects brighter.

Playing for India once again after 12 years, Anand said, “Even without my participation, the team has set a very high bar (finishing third and fourth in the last two Olympiads). That leaves a very narrow scope for improvement.”

Anand also pointed out that the Olympiad is a very tough event and that the team will have to fight hard in Batumi. “There are no favourites in this. You have to fight for it every day,” he added.

The women’s team will also see the country’s best woman player, GM Koneru Humpy, stage a comeback to the game after a two-year hiatus. With a rating of 2557, Humpy is the fourth strongest woman player in the world. Her inclusion means that the women’s team will also be India’s strongest ever to participate in any women’s Olympiad.

The rest of the team is very excited to have Humpy on board. “She is a very strong player. I don’t think we can have a better top board player than her, so I am extremely happy that she is a part of the team,” said Tania Sachdev, the third strongest player by rating in the women’s squad.

Humpy too said that she is very excited to be a part of the team and is looking forward to a great event. “I think we have the best team ever (to be playing) in the Olympiad and that too with the best conditions possible from the Federation (AICF) and the government of India. So we will try our best to bring a medal to the country,” said Humpy at the send-off organised for the team in Delhi.

Both the open and the women’s team have undergone three coaching camps in the last several months. While the country’s best chess coach, GM RB Ramesh was appointed to train the open team, Scottish GM Jacob Aagard coached the women.

Both teams have already reached Batumi for the event that will played until 6 October. The first round begins on Monday.

Teams

Open: Viswanathan Anand, Pentala Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi, Adhiban Baskaran, Krishnan Sasikiran

Women: Koneru Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev, Padmini Rout, Eesha Karavade

 

Aditya Pai is an editor at ChessBase India


Updated Date: Sep 23, 2018 17:58 PM

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