Chennai, Jul 3 (PTI) India will field a third team in the Open section of the 44th Chess Olympiad to be held at Mamallapuram near here from July 28 to August 10, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) said on Sunday.
With a record 187 teams registering for the Open section and to even out the number of entries as per norm, FIDE (world chess federation) approved a third team from the host country (India).
The Indian 'A' team will start as the third seeds in the Open section and the 'B' team will be the 11th seeds. In the women's event, the host's 'A' team including Koneru Humpy and D Harika, will be the top-seed, while the 'B' team will be seeded 12th.
Grandmasters Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Karthikeyan Murali, SP Sethuraman, Abhijeet Gupta and Abhimanyu Puranik would form part of the third Indian team which received a last-minute entry with Gujarat's first GM, Tejas Bakre as the captain, an AICF release said.
As many as 187 teams, the highest-ever for any Chess Olympiad, registered for the Olympiad.
While the India 'A' team comprises Vidit Gujrathi, P Harikrishna, Arjun Erigaisi, S L Narayanan, K Sasikiran and have an average rating of 2696, the 'B' team (average rating 2649) includes Nihal Sarin, D Gukesh, B Adhiban, R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani.
"This is the best gift India could have ever got. Difficult to imagine even in the wildest dreams that 25 Indians would be competing together in an Olympiad," AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan, who is the Olympiad tournament director, said in the release.
Ganguly, a six-time National champion, was the legendary Vishwanathan Anand's second in four World Championships and has represented India in six chess Olympiads so far. Sethuraman is also a former National Champion and was a part of the bronze medal winning Indian team at the Tromso Olympiad in 2014.
Ganguly said, "Nothing could be more exciting or thrilling than to be playing in an Olympiad again after a long time and first time in your own country. And personally too, this Olympiad is going to be a very special one as I am a father now and it is a super happy feeling to be very honest."
Gupta, the third Indian to win the World Junior title after Anand and P Harikrishna, is the only Indian to win the Commonwealth title on five occasions. He won an individual silver medal at the Istanbul Olympiad in 2012.
Karthikeyan Murali, who has won the National title twice, will be making his debut for India at the Olympiad along with 22-year-old Puranik.
Each country can field only one team of five players (4 playing in every round) but as a host, India is entitled to field a minimum two teams and a maximum three teams in each category if the total participating number of countries is odd in number.
The women's section has attracted 162 entries, the highest ever and India will be fielding two teams in this section for the first time too.
The prestigious Olympiad being held in India for the first time ever will see several leading names from across the globe including world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway take part.
The tournament was allotted to India after FIDE moved it out from Russia following its invasion of Ukraine in February.
However, Russia and Belarus will not be participating after FIDE banned them following the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine. China also decided to opt out of the Olympiad.
China's Open team won the gold medal at the Chess Olympiad held at Batumi (Georgia) in 2018 and at Tromso (Norway) in 2014. The Chinese women's team won the gold medal at the previous two Olympiads in Baku and Batumi respectively.
A strong US team (average rating 2771) is the top-seed in the Open section followed by Azerbaijan (2705). PTI SS ATK