The presence of World No.16 Grandmaster P Harikrishna in the Indian team at next month’s World Chess Olympiad has not only boosted the morale of the younger players in the squad but also improved its seeding.
“The presence of Harikrishna in the team is a good morale-booster for youngsters,” GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, a team member, said. “He mingles well with us. His presence in the team is an added strength,” another team member, GM S P Sethuraman, added.
This will be Harikrishna’s eighth chess Olympiad after debuting in the premier event in 2000 when he was only 14. Owing to his other professional commitments, he skipped the 2014 Olympiad, where India won a bronze for the first time.
“As usual, we had asked for his availability for the tournament to represent the country and he agreed,” All India Chess Federation (AICF) CEO Bharat Singh Chauhan said.
The 11th seeded Indian team for the open category comprises GMs Harikrishna (ELO rating 2752), Gujrathi (2669) B. Adhiban (2671), Sethuraman (2649) and national champion Karthikeyan Murali (2514).
With the Indian team’s average ELO rating at 2651 points, its seeding went up several notches this time as compared to 18th seeding with 2617 points during the 2014 chess Olympiad at Tromso, Norway.
“The seeding is done based on the team’s average ELO points,” Sethuraman explained.
Interestingly, on the average ELO ratings of its top 10 players, India is rated at number five in the world after Russia, China, the US and the Ukraine.
India’s top 10 chess-player club includes World No.8 and former World champion GM V. Anand; India’s third highest-rated player GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly (2676); and seasoned GM K. Sasikiran (2658) who also won a board prize at the last Olympiad. These players are not part of the team.
The absence of other top-rated players in the Indian team is also due to the selection process adopted by the AICF.
The federation selects the Indian team for top tournaments like the Asian and World championships and the Olympiad based on the players’ FIDE rating. The national champion becomes the default member of the team.