Chennai, Aug 27 (IANS) India is still mulling the board order strategy that it will adopt at the upcoming World Chess Olympiad at the Azerbaijan capital Baku, the Indian team captain has said.
“It is being deliberated. Whether we continue with the 2014 Olympiad strategy or chalk out a new one cannot be said in advance. It will be shared with the organisers a day before the Olympiad begins (September 2),” Grandmaster (GM) R.B. Ramesh, the non-playing captain, told IANS.
The chess Olympiad is a team event where each country’s squad consists of four players. The player board order cannot be changed once it is intimated to the organisers. Deciding the board order is also a crucial aspect in the overall game strategy.
Ramesh declined to comment when asked whether the players for the four boards would be decided by the descending order of their ELO ratings. But going by the composition of the Indian team, the board order may most probably be just that.
This would be different from the strategy that the team adopted at the 2014 Olympiad in Norway, where India won the bronze medal — the country’s first at the prestigious event.
In 2014, the Indian team fielded the strongest players at the lower boards and a mix of high- and lower-rated but solid players at the top two boards. The idea was to secure a win at the lower boards while the lower-rated team members try to hold/draw their games at the top boards against stronger opponents.
The Indian team may now have to rethink that strategy as India is considered a serious contender by many other leading chess-playing nations after winning the 2014 bronze and the gold at the Asian Nations Cup earlier this year, ahead of China.
“The Indian team players will be marked like the top players in football. So the opponents this time will not take India lightly and would field a strong team in their outing against India,” a chess coach told IANS, not wanting to be quoted.
According to him the situation for the Indian team has changed when compared to 2014. The team was then seeded 19th with an average ELO rating of 2,617 and was not considered a serious medal contender. This time around, the Indian team is seeded 11th with an average ELO rating of 2,651.
Not quite agreeing that the Indian team members will be marked or that it makes much of a difference Ramesh said: “The team’s performance actually depends on the way you play on a particular day.”
That aside, World No.16 GM P. Harikrishna (2,752) will also be playing for the Indian team this time. He had missed the 2014 Olympiad owing to other professional commitments.
The other team members are GMs Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (2,669) B. Adhiban (2,671), S.P. Sethuraman (2,649) and the national champion Karthikeyan Murali (2,514).
Except for Harikrishna at the top and Murali at the bottom in terms of rating, the difference between the other three team members is not very huge.
“The current Indian team is strong. It is a youthful team with good performance to show under their belt. There is again a fair chance of a podium finish this time by the Indian team,” All India Chess Federation CEO Bharat Singh Chauhan told IANS.
Ramesh, however, played it safe. “We will take each game as it comes. I will not say we are playing for any particular medal. The general plan is not to lose a game,” Ramesh said.
Speaking about the styles of each player in the team, Ramesh said Harikrishna is a solid player and has taken on most of the top players in the world.
“Vidit is also solid and a positional player. Adibhan is aggressive and also a bit volatile. But his style seems to be working for him and we expect a lot of wins from him. Sethuraman is also a solid player,” Ramesh said. Murali is said to be strong in calculations.
A total of 182 teams from 176 countries are competing in the 11 round Olympiad that concludes on September 13.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)