Hangzhou, Sep 21 : Quarterfinalists at the recently-concluded FIDE World Cup in Baku, India’s Vidit Santosh Gujarathi and Arjun Erigaisi will get into action in the men’s individual competition as chess returns to the Asian Games after a gap of 12 years at Hangzhou.
Both Gujarathi and Erigaisi will represent the country in the nine-round rapid competition to be played in Swiss League format at the Hangzhou Qi-Yuan (Zhili) Chess Hall from Sunday (September 24).
In the corresponding women’s individual competition, India will be represented by two of the country’s most experienced and accomplished women players — former World Rapid Champion Koneru Humpy and World championship medallist Dronavalli Harika.
Humpy won the gold medal in women’s Individual Rapid in the 2006 event in Doha, Qatar.
She was also part of the India team that won the Mixed Team competition.
FIDE World Cup 2023 runner-up Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa and India’s highest-ranked player in classical chess, Dommaraju Gukesh, along with Vidit and Arjun will form the India men’s team that will participate in the men’s Team Competition.
Seasoned Pentala Harikrishna is the fifth member of the Indian team.
While India has put up strong contenders in all sections, it would not be an easy campaign for both men’s and women’s sections because host China has pulled out all the stops to put up very strong squads in all sections.
Reigning men’s World Champion Ding Liren will be leading the Chinese challenge in the men’s individual championship while three-time World Champion Hou Yifan will spearhead China in the women’s individual and team competitions.Yifan won the individual gold and led the hosts to gold in the women’s team competition in 2010 at Guangzhou when chess was last played.
Besides Ding Liren, Bu Xiangzhu, Xu Ziangyu, and Yi Wei will form the Chinese team for the Men’s team competition.On paper, the Indian men’s team looks a bit stronger than the Chinese considering that four of them had reached the World Cup quarterfinals.
Apart from India and China, the Iran team led by Patham Magshoudloo, Uzbekistan led by Nodirbek Abdusattoriv and Vietnam, spearheaded by Le Quang Liem, who won silver in the men’s event when chess last appeared at the Asian Games, at Guangzhou 2010, and is the next highest FIDE-rated athlete at the Games.
Ding Liren looks favourite for the Men’s Individual gold after India decided to field Gukesh and Praggnanandhaa only in the team competition.
Though Vidit, who was captain when India won the Online Olympiad a couple of years back, is very experienced having played all the top events.
However, all eyes will be on Ding LIren in the Men’s Individual competition as he seeks to win his first Asian Games gold medal.Ding Lirenis the World No.1 in the rapid section in the latest rankings while India’s highest-ranked player in this format, Viswanathan Anand is giving the games a miss.Vidit is ranked 23rd.
Born in Wenzhou, 300km south of Hangzhou, Ding became China’s first men’s world champion in 2023 and has been among the world’s top five chess players since 2018.
Also competing in the men’s individual event is Ding’s teammate Wei Yi, who is a grandmaster who, at the age of only 15, broke Norwegian Magnus Carlsen’s record for being the youngest player to reach a rating of 2700.
Unlike more physical sports, young and old meet on equal terms in chess.
The youngest chess player at the Games is 11-year-old Li Yiheng of Hong Kong China, while 57-year-old Niaz Murshed of Bangladesh is the oldest.Bangladesh also has fielded the 49-year-old Grandmaster Ziaur Rahman and 41-year-old Enamul Hossain.
Many other teams have sent young players to the Games, to gain experience.
One never knows when Chess will again make its appearance at the Asian Games.
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