With the two warring factions of the All India Chess Federation (AICF) proposing separate Indian teams for the upcoming FIDE online Olympiad, the players have started feeling the heat.

For over nine months, the differences between President Venketrama Raja and secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan have split the AICF.

After receiving a mail from Chess Players’ Forum to intervene in the matter, the Union Sports Ministry immediately sought clarifications from both factions. Since the last date of sending names to the FIDE is July 13, a consensus over the names is still likely.

The online event, organised in place of the postponed Chess Olympiad scheduled from August 5 to 17 in Moscow, will take place from July 22 to August 30.

Each participating team consists of six players (and six reserves) in a mixed format, including a minimum of three female players and two juniors.

Not surprisingly, both teams include Viswanathan Anand, Vidit Gujrathi, K. Humpy and D. Harika. Among the reserves, P. Harikrishna and Bhakti Kulkarni are in both lists.

However, the factions differ on the selection of the juniors.

Chauhan’s list includes Nihal Sarin and R. Vaishali, with R. Praggnanandhaa and Divya Deshmukh as reserves, whereas Raja’s proposal has National junior champions Aradhya Garg and Srishti Pandey, with runners-up Mitrabha Guha and Arpita Mukherjee, as reserves.

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Fortunately, chief selector Grandmaster R. B. Ramesh came clear when asked how the three-member National selection committee (Ramesh, Lanka Ravi and Ashwini Tiwari) could approve two different lists?

“We, selectors, have not approved two teams. The first proposed team (sent by the Chauhan group) was based on the three-month average rating of the players, as decided by AICF in 2017. I checked everything and gave my nod. One more selector also approved this proposal.

Subsequently, I received another mail with a different provisional team (from the Raja group) in which the junior players were chosen based on their performances in the National junior championship, and not rating. I wrote back saying, this is not correct. I suggested we should stick to the norms and select every member of the team based on their average rating of January, February and March, 2020.

“Perhaps, the rationale behind choosing the juniors, not based on their ratings, was because the format is going to be different from Olympiad and other team events.

“Therefore, as things stand, we (selectors) have made our suggestions. After all, it is of paramount importance to follow the correct criteria,” stressed Ramesh.

Chauhan said, “In my explanation to the Sports Ministry, I’ve mentioned the team members were chosen as per the AICF approved norms (based on rating) and I’ve already received confirmation from two selectors. Moreover, four out of six playing members (not counting reserves) have confirmed their participation. Anand and Humpy have asked for a couple of days to decide.”

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Vinod Deshpande, named AICF secretary by Raja, indicated this was not the final list and changes were possible.

Earlier, in a letter to the Sports Minister Kiran Rijiju, CPF president Varugeese Koshy pointed out the announcement of two teams has “led to much consternation among the players and chess lovers of the country. It has also caused the contacted players uncertainty as they are left in the dilemma of which of the factions to communicate in return, and how this will be perceived by the other faction.”

“As the ultimate authority of sports governance in the country, we appeal to you to resolve the crisis between the two factions to smoothly select the Indian team in the best interest of the game.”

Koshy was pleased to see the Ministry taking cognizance of the letter and acting on it. “The CPF only has the interest of Indian chess. I know our forum will be accused of taking sides, but we players have come together for the betterment of our country’s chess and chess players.”