India, without World champion Viswanathan Anand, will be the 17th seed when the 39th Chess Olympiad commences at Khanty-Mansisyk, Russia, on Tuesday.
The 11-round Swiss league, held every two years, has attracted 118 teams, including two from Russia. Looking at the recent form of the Indians, not much is expected from them but a surprise or two cannot be ruled out. The Indian team, comprising K. Sasikiran, P. Hari Krishna, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, G.N. Gopal and substitute B. Adhiban, has an average rating of 2645.
Russia One, represented by Vladimir Kramnik, Alexander Grischuk, Peter Svidler, Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Malakhov, heads the field.
The host is looking to regain the title after slipping out of the medal bracket formed by champion Armenia, Israel and USA two years ago. Former champion Ukraine and China are seeded to be among the medals, followed by Russia Two, represented by Ian Nepomniachtchi, Evegeny Alekseev, Nikita Vitiugov, Evgeny Tomashevsky and Artyom Timofeev.
In the women's section, India, without K. Humpy, is seeded eighth. The team consists of D. Harika, Tania Sachdev, Eesha Karavade, Subbaraman Meenakshi and Nisha Mohta. In 2008, India finished 15th, four places below its seeding.
Like in the open section, Russia One begins favourite. The team includes Tatiana Kosintseva, her sister Nadezhda, World champion Alexandra Kosteniuk, Alisa Galliamova and Valentina Gunina. Two years ago, Russia was fourth behind Georgia, Ukraine and USA.
Since the FIDE presidential elections are due to be held during the Olympiad, there is plenty of interest even on the sidelines of the main competition.
The top-eight teams:
Open: 1. Russia One, 2. Ukraine, 3. China, 4. Russia Two, 5. Hungary, 6. Armenia, 7. Azerbaijan, 8. Bulgaria.
Women: 1. Russia One, 2. China, 3. Ukraine, 4. Georgia, 5. Russia Two, 6. USA, 7. Armenia, 8. India. — Special Correspondent