The National team chess championship for men and women, which gets underway at the Kotla Vijaya Bhaskara Reddy Indoor stadium in Hyderabad on Wednesday, is expected to witness exciting battles amongst the best players from across the country as many Grandmasters have confirmed participation.

The tournament, to be played in the Swiss format of nine rounds with each team fielding four players, will not see big names like K. Sasikiran, P. Harikrishna and K. Humpy, who are busy with international commitments.

Chance for others

However, it does provide a chance for others to showcase their skills in the big league.

The Petroleum Sports Control Board (PSCB) men’s team, which included the likes of Abhijeet Gupta, Deep Sengupta, P. Sethuraman, B. Adhiban and M.R. Lalith Babu, is fancied to retain the title.

However, teams like Air India, which has in its ranks Tejas Bakre, Satyapragyan and Tamil Nadu, generally a mix of experience, youth and talent, are expected to give a tough fight in the meet which has total prize money of Rs. 2 lakh.

The presence of GM D. Harika of Airports Authority of India enhances the stature of the tournament.

This gifted player from Guntur, who earned the reputation of a potential world champion with her consistency over the years, is sure to be a huge influence on teammates Mary Ann Gomes and Padmini Rout when they defend the title.

Air India, comprising S. Vijayalakshmi, Tania Sachdev, S. Meenakshi and Bhakti Kulkarni and PSCB, which includes Sowmya Swaminathan, Nisha Mohota, are bound to prove a point or two.

“We cannot be complacent. All I hope is to defend the title. The biggest challenge comes from Air India and PSPB,” Harika, who arrived in the City straight from Moscow, said.

Interestingly, she has not played in India after the National team championship in 2012. Significantly, as part of promoting chess in schools in a big way, the organisers have also decided to conduct a two-day inter-school tournament.

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