Indians eye medal sweep at Commonwealth Chess Championships

In a rare instance, the event will feature more grandmasters (12) than international masters (11), even as stronger Commonwealth nations, led by England, stay away.

Top seed and four-time winner Abhijeet Gupta will be looking to add to his tally.

In the absence of any quality opposition from overseas challengers, India appears set to make a clean sweep of medals in all 16 categories at the Commonwealth Chess Championships beginning in New Delhi on Sunday.

Top seed and four-time winner Abhijeet Gupta will be looking to add to his tally. Ranked joint-ninth in the country, Abhijeet expects a serious challenge from, among others, S. L. Narayanan, national champion Aravindh Chithambaram, former champion M. R. Lalit Babu and several other Indian grandmasters.

In a rare instance, the event will feature more GMs (12) than international masters (11). In fact, two of the IMs, P. Iniyan and Swayams Mishra, are awaiting confirmation of their GM titles. In all, there are 614 entries across all categories.

Among the leading ladies, Divya Deshmukh, 14, is the ratings favourite, ahead of defending champion Tania Sachdev and fellow former Asian women champion Bhakti Kulkarni.

Divya, winner of two world (under-10 and under-12) titles, took her rating from 2127 to 2432 in just two months earlier this year, mainly after gaining a whopping 139 rating points on the way to winning an international round-robin women event in Chennai. But this week, Divya is expected to find the going very tough when competing with the seniors.

Women players play in the open section, and the best three finishers will make it to the podium. In all other categories, competitions are held separately in open and girls sections.

For the record, out of the 94 entries, India accounts for 83. The remaining 11 entries are from Bangladesh, Botswana, Malaysia, the Maldives, Mauritius, South Africa, the Seychelles and Singapore. As usual, stronger Commonwealth nations, led by England, have stayed away.

Initially, this edition was awarded to South Africa. After South Africa expressed its inability to host it, Sri Lanka was the likely host. But once Sri Lanka opted out, India took the responsibility. As a result, for the third year in succession, the Hotel Leela Ambience will play host to the championships, which has gained the reputation of being the best organised international event in the country.

Top 10 seeds

1. Abhijeet Gupta (2606)

2. S. L. Narayanan (2603)

3. Aravindh Chithambaram (2598)

4. M. R. Lalit Babu (2571)

5. Deepan Chakkravarthy (2557)

6. Arjun Erigaisi (2526)

7. P. Iniyan (2525)

8. Swayams Mishra (2493)

9. Swapnil Dhopade (2488)

10. C. R. G. Krishna (2481)

Women’s top five

1. Divya Deshmukh (2414)

2. Tania Sachdev (2401)

3. Bhakti Kulkarni (2380)

4. R. Vaishali (2338)

5. M. Mahalakshmi (2245)