India to meet Greece in 1st round of World team chess

Ten teams including Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, will take part in the round robin competition, which began here on Monday. The Indian contingent consists of six players, including two reserves but the think tank will be banking heavily on Grandmaster trio of P Harikrishna, Surya Shekhar Ganguly and Krishnan Sasikiran to deliver the goods.

Besides them, GM G N Gopal, S Arun Prasad and national champion B Adhiban complete the line up. While the Indian line-up looks impressive, their entry into the event was confirmed only after the last-minute withdrawal of China.

The qualification to the tournament is given to the best continental teams, the top three finishers in the chess Olympiad and to the hosts and wild cards. India, being second to China in the last Asian continental championship, the qualifier for this event, it got a lucky ticket after China's pull out.

With star performers like Alxander Morozevich and current Russian champion Alexander Grischuk up its rank, Russia is the rating favourite to win the tournament. But Olympic champion Armenia and current European champions Azerbaijan are expected to give the top seeded Russians a run for their money.

India, however, start as a firm favourite against Greece in their opener. Sans Viswanathan Anand, the Indian team is ranked fifth in the tournament behind Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Israel and will have to come up with something special to be in with a chance of a podium finish. In the opening ceremony the Indians drew number three, which means they will meet the top teams only from the third round. After the Greece encounter, India will meet USA and Azerbaijan in the next two rounds.

But for India to create any real chance, the form of Sasikiran and Harikrishna is going to be crucial. While Sasikiran still remains a force to reckon with even though he has dropped in Elo ratings, Harikrishna will be hoping to get back his magical touch and Ganguly is expected to go for the big fishes when they come his way. The remaining three members of the team are young and are still being nurtured. Adhiban presently stands out as one of the best talents in the country while Gopal and Arun are establishing themselves as strong Grandmasters.

Besides the composition of the side, it is also the team spirit that matters in a big event like this and the fact that the top three players have been together for many years now will definitely work in India's favour. To add to it, Grandmaster Lev Psakhis of Israel has been retained as the coach.

Teams: Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Israel, India, Egypt, Brazil, Greece, USA and Turkey.

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