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Batumi Chess Olympiad - Will India bring home its first gold?

by Niklesh Jain - 04/09/2018

Although the World Chess Olympiad saw its inception in 1924 in Paris, it wasn't until its 1927 edition in London that the event got an official status. 16 teams participated in this first 'official' Olympiad and was won by Hungary. India's first appearance in the Olympiad was in 1978 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Here, amid 31 other participating federations, India finished 15th. From 1978 till today, India's best result has been at the 2014 Chess Olympiad held in the northern Norwegian city of Tromso where the team had won the bronze medal. At the previous Olympiad in Baku, Azerbaijan, India came very close to a podium finish but had to settle for the fourth place in the end. This year, India is considered to be one of the strongest contenders for the title among the 184 participating federations. Can the team powered by Anand bring home its first gold? 

A special report on the Indian team in the Open group

An impression from the first official Chess Olympiad held in 1927 in London | Photo: Wikipedia

The countdown for the 43rd Chess Olympiad in Batumi Georgia has begun. Here, the Indian team will be looking to create history by winning its first gold medal

And if you think about it, it isn't too much to expect the fifth seeded team to win the event!

Anand, just the name is enough!

The participation of Viswanathan Anand in the team is a big and a welcome change for team India. The man has already brought glory to the country by winning the world championship title five times and it would be worth watching if he will be able to lead the Indian team into winning the coveted gold medal. Anand will be 49 years old this year and one can't be sure if he will be playing in future Olympiads. Anand, too, understands the importance of this. His presence in the team will not only bring in a ton of experience to the team but he will also be a source of motivation to the other players and an important strategist.

Anand will be returning to the Olympiad after a decade almost and the presence of a former five time world champion is sure to galvanize the team. | Photo: Amruta Mokal
With a rating of 2771, Anand has made it back into the world's top 10

Besides Anand, India's MVP of the previous Olympiad, the 2743 rated GM Pentala Harikrishna will also play an important role in the team. 

Will Harikrishna bring back last year's magic?

In Baku last year, Harikrishna had brought down elite players like Karjakin and Mamedyarov while holding Carlsen, Caruana, Guru and Mickey Adams to draws. If he could repeat this magic in Batumi, a podium finish will not be difficult to achieve for the Indian team.

Finishing with a performance rating of a staggering 2831, Harikrishna was instrumental in India's fantastic finish at the Baku Olympiad in 2016 | Photo: Sophie Triay

India had come very close to a podium finish in Baku. Finishing fourth, the team had shown its potential to the world.

Vidit, India's rising star

Vidit Gujrathi was yet another player who impressed everyone with his wonderful performance in Baku. Back then, he had finished with a performance rating of 2786 and this time he has already breached the 2700 Elo mark in his classical rating. In these last two years, Vidit has clearly unleashed his potential and we are hopeful that he will bring some big wins in Batumi. Besides, Anand and Harikrishna are always there to motivate him.

India's latest sensation, the extremely talented Vidit Gujrathi has transformed himself into a solid, experienced player since the last Olympiad. With a current rating of 2711, he will be a big asset to the Indian team. Brimming with energy and inspiration, Vidit's presence makes India's contention for the title much stronger | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Adhiban Baskaran - the man who never quits!

Adhiban Baskaran is known for his never say die attitude not only within Indian chess circles but also internationally. At the 2017 Tata Steel, he had proven to the world that he holds the potential to play off beat and still bring down some of the very best in the world. Even in the last edition of the tournament, Adhiban had managed to eke out a draw against the reigning world champion, Magnus Carlsen. The last few months haven't been very good for him, however, and he has narrowly missed breaching the coveted 2700 Elo mark.

Once again, Adhiban will be expected to bring some big results and we know he will give it his all | Alina L'ami

India's Mr Dependable - Krishnan Sasikiran!

One of the most experienced players in the team, Krishnan Sasikiran has been well on his way to reclaiming his 2700+ rating lately. He is also known to be a great team player. His presence in the team had played an important role in bringing India its first ever medal at the Tromso Olympiad. This year again, his formidable play will allow India to freely shuffle its playing four at the Olympiad.

Sasikiran's presence in the team makes India a team in which every player is capable of replacing the other. | Photo: Niklesh Jain

Team India's Guru Dronacharya - GM RB Ramesh

Grandmaster RB Ramesh has made a name for himself as one of the best coaches in the world today. He has trained some of the finest talents in the country and proved his worth time and again. This time, he will be training India's strongest team at the Olympiad and is sure to motivate the players well and help them achieve a great result.

The Dronacharya of the Indian team, GM RB Ramesh | Photo: Ramesh's Facebook

With an average rating of 2723, the Indian team is seeded fifth at the event. Along with the non-playing captain and coach, GM RB Ramesh, the team has already begun its preparations for the big event.  The top-seed in Batumi will be the United States of America, with an average rating of 2777. The team includes some big names including Nakamura, Wesley So and the world championship challenger, Fabiano Caruana. Russia is seeded second with an average rating of 2772 and players like Kramnik, Karjakin and Nepomniachtchi in the team. China will be the third seed with a rating average of 2752 while, with an Elo average of 2742, Azerbaijan is seeded fourth.  

Translated from Hindi by Aditya Pai