Chennai: Two from Kerala are part of India's biggest-ever squad for the 44th Chess Olympiad that will be held in Chennai from July 28 to August 10.
Grandmasters SL Narayanan and Nihal Sarin are in the 20-member squad that was announced by the All India Chess Federation (AICF) on Monday.
India being the host are entitled to field two teams each, in the Open category as well as in the women’s section. The Olympiad will witness participation from over 150 countries.
Thiruvananthapuram-based GM Narayanan is part of Team A that comprises Vidit Gujrathi, who led India to gold in the 2020 edition that was held virtually. Pentala Harikrishna, Krishnan Sasikiran and Arjun Erigaisi are also part of the first team.
India's Team B is full of young talents namely Thrissur-lad Nihal, R Praggnanandhaa, Gukesh D and Raunak Sadhwani. Joining them is the experienced Adhiban B, who was part of India's bronze winning squad in 2014.
India's finest women's player, Koneru Humpy and World No. 10 Dronavalli Harika along with Tania Sachdev, R Vaishali and Bhakti Kulkarni make the first team in the women's section.
The second team in the women’s section consists of national champions Soumya Swaminathan, Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout along with Vantika Agarwal and 15-year-old Divya Deshmukh.
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.
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.
India won a bronze medal at the Tromso Chess Olympiad in 2014. While in the two virtual Olympiads, India won gold jointly with Russia in 2020 and the women's team won bronze in 2021.
Vishy, the mentor
Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand, who decided against playing the upcoming Chess Olympiad, will be very much in action as 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.
(With agency inputs)