The focus will be on young grandmaster R. Praggnanandhaa in the chess competition at the Hangzhou Asian Games following his exploits in the Fide World Cup recently as India will aim to land a few medals to swell their overall tally.
The 18-year-old Praggnanandhaa is part of a strong squad for the team event (to be played under standard time control), which also includes fellow teenager and GM D. Gukesh.
The two will be expected to spearhead India’s pursuit for the yellow metal given the strong form they have been in recently. The experienced P. Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi and the fast-improving Arjun Erigaisi are set to provide solid support too.
The individual event, to be played in rapid format, will get underway on Sunday followed by the team event.
Gujrathi and Erigaisi will represent India in the men’s individual event while Koneru Humpy and D. Harika will do so in the women’s section.
Among the women, the country’s top player, Humpy, a two-time gold medallist at the Asian Games, will be the main attraction as chess returns to the continental event after 13 years and will be keen to win another medal.
Praggnanandhaa, who lost to world No.1 Magnus Carlsen in the World Cup final in Baku, will look to recreate some of the magic in the Chinese city. He will be key to India’s success in the team event.
Gukesh, the top-ranked Indian player currently, will surely not be left behind as India aim for gold.
The Indian men’s team is very strong, at least on paper, but hosts China will pose a tough challenge.
The Chinese players will also be a formidable presence in the women’s section and Humpy and Harika will have to be at their best to overcome the hurdle.
But it is not just about China. A few other nations, like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Vietnam, also have the potential to put up strong performances.
According to N. Srinath, one of the coaches with the team, stiff competition would come from China and Uzbekistan, both in the individual and team events. “The preparation has been good,” he said.
There would be nine rounds each in the individual and team competitions.
Four gold medals — women’s team and individual and men’s team and individual — are on offer in chess at the Games.
With inputs from PTI
Box for berths
The coveted Olympic berths will serve as extra motivation for the India boxers when they step in the ring in the Asian Games here from Sunday, eager to better the two medals secured in the previous edition.
India have fielded a strong contingent led by two-time world champion Nikhat Zareen and Olympic bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain in the women’s section.
Among the men, the trio of World Championship medallists — Shiva Thapa, Deepak Bhoria and Nishant Dev — will look to add an Asian Games medal to their kitty and secure their passage to Paris.
The Asian Games are the first Olympic qualifying event for boxers from the continent. There are a total of 34 quotas up for grabs across the 13 weight classes.
Zareen (50kg) has a tough draw and opens her campaign against two-time Asian champion Nguyen Thi Tam of Vietnam. Lovlina has been handed a first-round bye.