Grandmasters S. P. Sethuraman and Aravindh Chithambaram spearhead the home challenge when the 20th Delhi International Open begins at the Nehru Stadium here on Thursday.
The event, with Rs. 45 lakh as prize money, has attracted participation from 16 countries, including Russia whose players are required to play under the FIDE flag.
Last March, champion Arjun Erigaisi and runner-up D. Gukesh battled for the honours. Since then, these exceptionally-talented youngsters have joined the elite club of those with ratings of 2700 and above.
Sethuraman and Aravind, the only two players in this field with ratings above 2600, are expected to face severe tests from some Georgians and Russians. The top prize is Rs. 6 lakh.
In the mix is Russian teen Volodar Murzin, ranked 20th among the juniors. He is seen as the one with a bright future from the world’s chess superpower. He has done well in the rapid online Challengers Tour. The progress of this sixth seeded prodigy will be watched with added interest.
Overall, the field of over 1000 overs has 18 Grandmasters and 12 International Masters among 56 titled players.
Close to 750 players are rated but the presence of 22 players with rating of 2400+ provides the depth needed for an exciting title-race spread over 10 rounds.
The organisers had to limit the number of entries due to the paucity of space. The event had to be moved from January to March after its regular venue, the Indira Gandhi Stadium, was booked for India Open badminton. Again in March, the IG Stadium remained unavailable since it was booked for the ongoing World Women’s Boxing Championships.
This left the Delhi Chess Association with no choice but to look for a new venue.
Top-10 seeded players (Indians unless stated): 1. S. P. Sethuraman (2639), 2. Aravindh Chithambaram (2607), 3. Levan Pantsulaia (Geo,2597), 4. Mikhail Kobalia (FIDE, 2577), 5. Mikheil Mchedlishvili (Geo,2569), 6. Volodar Murzin (FIDE, 2554), 7. Boris Savchenko (Rus, 2552), 8, M. R. Lalit Babu (2544), 9. Michal Krasenkow (Pol, 2527), 10. Luka Parchadze (Geo, 2515)