Special Correspondent

MUMBAI: For a good look at the future stars of Indian chess, one has to be present at the Goregaon Sports Club here for the Asian junior chess championship.

Teenagers like GM Parimarjan Negi, G. Rohit, Aswin Jayaram, Deep Sengupta, S.P. Sethuraman and B. Adhiban are among those who hold the promise of making India a major force in times to come.

The presence of these names have surely lit up the nine-round competition that begins on Thursday. Last year, in New Delhi, India won five of the six medals at stake in the open and girls’ sections.

Threat from Alavi

This year, Iran’s IM Alavi Sayed, rated 2475, is the one threatening to spoil India’s medal sweep. Though there are players from Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal and Maldives, the host will have to be wary only of the Iranians.

With China, Vietnam and the Philippines staying away, Iran will be the nation testing the capabilities of the host.

The Iranians, who managed to get visas at the last minute, have surely given the leading Indians in both sections something to think about.

With British GM Nigel Short taking over as the new National coach of Iran, some surprises from Alavi and IWM Atousa Pourkashiyan cannot be ruled out. Atousa is the strongest International Woman Master ever from Iran. Though Atousa’s current rating is 2308, her best rating stands at 2329. Considering the field here, Atousa starts as a very strong medal-contender.

Among the Indian girls, defending champion Mary Ann Gomes and runner-up Kiran Manisha Mohanty are back. Kiran, following her stupendous showings in the past year, is the top seed.

Like Kiran, Soumya Swaminathan is the other member of the Indian team for the next year’s Olympiad present here. Never before have two members of the National team formed part of the Indian challenge in the junior continental championship.

Kruttika Nadig, Padmini Rout and P. Priya are some of the others capable of gate-crashing into the medal-bracket.

For the first time in the history of the meet, the Indian challenge will be headed by a Grandmaster. Parimarjan Negi, clearly the star of the show, will try to emulate the feat of Vietnamese GM Nguyen Ngoc Truong Son who justified his seeding last year.

Tough event

“This will be a very tough event with some very good Indian players around. The presence of Alavi should also make it interesting. There are more favourites than one in this event,” said the 14-year-old who will be making his debut in this under-20 event.

Like Negi, his older colleagues like triple GM-norm holder Rohit, Aswin and Deep are equally determined to make amends for their below par performances in the recent Commonwealth championship in New Delhi. Though there are only 49 entries in the open section and another 19 in the girls, there will be no dearth of engrossing encounters over the next nine days.

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