Young Grandmasters D Gukesh and R Praggnanandhaa will lead the Indian challenge in the year’s strongest open aptly titled, the FIDE Grand Swiss that gets underway here on Wednesday and is offering two slots for the Candidates.
Starting as the fifth seed, Gukesh has more pressure than Praggnanandhaa to finish in the top two as that will ensure his place in the next Candidates’ tournament that will decide the challenger to the World Champion Ding Liren in the next match.
Praggnanandhaa, by virtue of his excellent silver medal performance in the last World Cup has already qualified for the Candidates.
As many as 14 Indian players, highest from any country, are in the fray out of 114 players in the open section that carries a total prize pool of USD 460000 USD (over Rs. 3.6 Crores).
There will be eleven rounds in all with one rest day after round six.
American Fabiano Caruana starts as the top seed in the elite Swiss, that will see as many as 106 Grandmasters in action out of which a whopping 89 are rated above the 2600 Elo points.
Fabiano’s compatriot Hikaru Nakamura is seeded second ahead of Iranian turned French Firouza Alireza while Anish Giri of Holland is ranked fourth.
With two spaces up for grabs from here in the Candidates, Arjun Erigaise is one Indian who will hope not to choke towards the end.
The Warangal-based GM just threw up a drawn endgame against Nodirbek Abdusattarov of Uzbekistan in the final round of Qatar Masters that concluded just a few days back at Doha. A draw would have fetched him a chance to fight for first in a play-off match.
Earlier in the World cup Arjun was well poised against Praggnanandhaa but ended on the receiving end in the Quarterfinals. Arjun starts as the 16th seed, just behind the Indian duo of P Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi.
One Indian player who has been consistently moving up the charts is Nihal Sarin who is also closing in on 2700 rating barring being 2694 currently.
S L Narayanan, Aravindh Chithambaram, Raunak Sadhwani, Aryan Chopra, Leon Luke Mendonca, Murali Karthikeyan, Abhijeet Gupta and B Adhiban complete the impressive Indian line up.
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The Women event is being played simultaneously with a prize pool of 140000 USD (over Rs. one Crore) and here Grandmaster D Harika is the highest-rated Indian and seeded seventh in a competitive field boasting of 15 Grandmasters.
R Vaishali, the sister of Praggnanandhaa, will fancy her chances here after a rock solid performance in Qatar where she completed her third and final Grandmaster norm.
Still in need of rating points to reach the 2500 level, Vaishali will hope to inch closer to the figure while at the same time her attacking skills can help her beat any fancied player.
Vantika Agarwal, Divya Deshmukh and B Savitha Shree are three players who have been consistent in the past one year while Tania Sachdev can be brutal on her good days.
Alexandra Goryachkina will be playing under the FIDE flag to start as the top seed while her Russian compatriot till recently, Alexandra Kosteniuk changed federation to Switzerland and will play under the Swiss flag.
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