World Team C’ship: Time for India to punch above its weight

When the action resumes after Thursday’s rest day, India faces joint-leader Russia and then meets formidable China which is desperate to improve its medal prospects after the opening round loss to the host.

Indian women’s team is presently ranked third behind Russia and Ukraine.   -  Harika Dronavalli/ Facebook

Indian women need to step up the pace in the next two days to be in the hunt for a medal in the World team chess championship here.

When the action resumes after Thursday’s rest day, India faces joint-leader Russia and then meets formidable China which is desperate to improve its medal prospects after the opening round loss to the host.

India is presently ranked third behind Russia and Ukraine. With just one point separating India and the two leaders, India cannot afford to be overwhelmed by higher-ranked rivals in the next two days.

Thereafter, India plays Vietnam and Azerbaijan.

The defeat of D. Harika in the tie against rank underdogs Egypt on Wednesday should spur the Indian spearhead to salvage pride against the Russians. The quartet of Tania Sachdev, Eshaa Karavade, Padmini Rout and S. Vijayalakshmi, too, need to raise the bar in the two key matches.

In terms of average rating, if China tops the list with 2520 and Russia is next at 2515, India is way below at 2427. So Indians will have to punch above their weight to make it an even contest. India will need plenty of luck to come out stronger against these teams.

Unlike Russia, China looks beatable considering the indifferent form of some of its players. In the open section, fifth-placed India’s rivals in the remaining four rounds are Turkey, Ukraine, Russia and Norway. Though India has won the last three encounters, the defeats in the first two rounds continue to hurt its chances of a possible medal.

The consistency of Vidit Gujrathi, the resurgence of B. Adhiban coupled with the solidity of K. Sasikiran and Parimarjan Negi helped India bounce back from a poor start. Should India stay in hunt for a medal, it looks unlikely that the hardworking national champion M. Karthikeyan will get another game.

Sixth round pairings:

Open: India (6) v Turkey (7); Poland (8) v Russia (9); China (8) v Ukraine (4); Belarus (2) v Norway (2); USA (4) v Egypt (0).

Women: India (7) v Russia (8); Ukraine (8) v Azerbaijan (4); USA (4) v China (6); Georgia (4) v Vietnam (4); Poland (5) v Egypt (0).