With the Chess Olympiad just a couple of days away, the well-prepared members of the Indian teams are raring to go. After the extended preparatory camp in Chennai, it is time for some of those players to unwind a bit, before deep-diving into some serious action.
India A, seeded two for the first time in the biennial competition, is looking to improve upon the country’s only bronze-medal performance of 2014. Even without Viswanathan Anand, the team looks rich in experience with P. Harikrishna, K. Sasikiran and Vidit Gujrathi around.. Young Arjun Erigaisi brings in the dash of excitement while S. L. Narayanan appears as focussed as ever.
“Not having Anand makes a big difference to the team,” said Harikrishna on Tuesday and continued, “on the other hand, we have so many young players playing exceptional chess. We have a nice mixture of experienced players and youth in the team. Definitely, we will try to improve from the previous Olympiad.”
Ahead of his 10th Olympiad, Harikrishna said, “It’s a responsibility that I enjoy. It’s a great honour to play for the Indian team and I see every Olympiad as my first. So I go in with the same excitement as when I played my first Olympiad (as a 14-year-old in 2000).
“I was pretty excited to play my first Olympiad. I played freely. As you get stronger, you need to play better and contribute as much as possible to the team. Also, I have to give back from the experience I gained over the years to the younger team members so that they can play freely and not feel any kind of pressure. As I play more, the responsibilities increase.”
Reflecting on the teams in the medal-hunt, Harikrishna said, “I think, there are at least 15 teams which are really strong. There will be a couple of teams which are extremely solid. Therefore, it’s important that in order to perform well, all four players have to do very well. And we also need a little bit of luck. We should not be too focussed on the medal.”
Harikrishna made light of USA being the overwhelming rating favourite in the Open section. He pointed out, “Russia was seeded No. 1 for many years but it last won the gold (in the Open section) in 2002! It’s a tough, tough event. Of course, the USA is strong and maybe a huge favourite. But it doesn’t guarantee anything.”
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