With GM researchers, computer servers and spices, Indian chess teams set for Olympiad

Chennai, Sep 19: With high-speed servers or "chess engines", four young chess Grand Masters (GM) to provide research and analytical assistance, a foreign coach and select Indian spices, two Indian teams -- for the open and women's sections -- are all set for their World Chess Olympiad medal hunt at Batumi in Georgia Sep 23-Oct 6, officials said.

"Food used to be an issue for Indian players. This time around we found a person owning Indian restaurant in Batumi and have made arrangements to provide Indian food for our players. He had requested us to bring in some spices which we are taking with us," Bharat Singh Chauhan, Honorary Secretary, All India Chess Federation (AICF) explained to IANS.

Chauhan declined to share the names of the young GMs and the chess engine on grounds of secrecy.

According to him, he had made a couple of visits to Batumi to check out the facilities there.

The AICF has taken several drastic steps to form a strong team in both the sections by changing its team selection rules as well as its attitude towards offering facilities to the players.

Four GMs -- two each for the two teams -- for research and analytical assistance were never heard of earlier in the Indian chess history.

Both the Indian teams are seeded fifth in their respective categories.

Chauhan said a total of about Rs 60-70 lakh would be spent for the Olympiad, apart from the government grant.

The five-member Indian open team is spearheaded by five-time World Champion and current World No. 10 GM Viswanathan Anand (ELO rating of 2,771). The other members are World No. 19 GM Pentala Harikrishna (ELO 2,743) and World No. 37 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (ELO 2,711), World No. 71 GM K.Sasikaran (ELO 2,672) and World No. 73 GM B. Adhiban (ELO 2,668).

The ratings are as per world chess body FIDE's September 2018 figures.

Meanwhile, India is planning its board order strategy to be adopted at the Olympiad.

"We cannot divulge that in advance," GM R.B.Ramesh, the non-playing captain of the open team told IANS.

"Anand and Koneru Humpy will play on the top boards of their respective categories," Chauhan said.

According to officials, this is done to respect their achievements at the global level.

As for the other three boards, it is learnt the players will be sitting in the descending order of their rating on the four boards.

The chess Olympiad is a team event where each country team consists of four members/players.

Once the player board order is intimated to the organisers, it cannot be changed.

Deciding the board order is also a crucial aspect in the overall game strategy.

The world chess body FIDE has said the fixed board order should be finalised by Sep 21.

"Anand, Adhiban, Sasikiran and I will be leaving for Delhi tomorrow (Wednesday). Gujrathi will come to Delhi while Harikrishna will fly down to Batumi from Prague," Ramesh said.

According to Ramesh, the current Indian team is the strongest one ever to be playing in the Olympiad.

"The team is also a balanced one with experienced players -- Anand, Harikrishna and Sasikiran -- and young Gujrathi and Adhiban," Ramesh said.

The field is also strong with USA, Russia, Ukraine and China ahead of India. India has three players rated above 2,700 ELO points and two players with over 2,650 ELO points. With the reserve player also being strong, one can rest the top rated players without much worry.

Ramesh said from second round onwards, the top boards will have players with about 2,700 ratings playing against each other.

With Anand at the top board, it gives an advantage for the Indian team.

Ramesh thanked the AICF and the team sponsor Ramco group for providing the necessary facilities.

The Indian women's team consists of Humpy, Harika Dronavalli, Tania Sachdev, Karavade Eesha and Padmini Rout.

The AICF has hired noted foreign coach Aagaard Jacob to train the Indian women's team and also be their non-playing Captain.

Chauhan had earlier told IANS that the Olympiad team members will also be offered financial incentives on a graded scale based on their rating.

According to the AICF, in the case of the men's team, players with ratings over 2,650 will be paid Rs 200,000 and players with a rating over 2,600 will get Rs 150,000.

For the women's team members, those having a rating of over 2,400 will be paid Rs 100,000 and players with a rating over 2,000 will be paid Rs80,000.

If the team wins a golf medal, the AICF will pay all the team members a cash incentive of Rs 300,000. If the team wins the silver medal, the incentive would be Rs 150,000 and for bronze Rs 75,000.

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