Tromso, Norway: Indian team, sans five- time world champion Viswanathan Anand, will be spearheaded by Krishnan Sasikiran at the 41st Chess Olympiad, here.
Anand, having last played the event in 2004 in Spain, is givig it a miss again and the second-highest rated ever and fast climbing P Harikrishna is also not playing this time.
However the team has in-form Parimarjan Negi who had a good show in the just concluded Politiken cup and B Adhiban who won the Biel Masters open just a few days back in addition to M R Lalith Babu and S P Sethuraman who all, on their day, are formidable opponents. Sasikiran at 33, is the oldest member in the team.
Seeded 19th among a record participation of 179 countries this time, the Indian team can do better than its billing provided Sasikiran, Negi and Adhiban remain at the top of their game.
The Indian women team will again miss the services of top star Koneru Humpy who has not been a part of the chess Olympiad for some time now. Humpy is getting married just a few days after the Olympiad.
Dronavalli Harika will be the star among the Indian eves that came up with a flourish to finish fourth last time in the biennial event. Seeded fifth this time, the team comprises Tania Sachdev, Mary Ann Gomes, Eesha Karavade and Padmini Rout. There are 139 teams in women`s competition.
The chance of an encore for the Indian eves or bettering their performance will heavily rely on the performance by Harika and Tania Sachdev who had won a personal bronze medal for her performance last year.
The Russian team starts as the rating favourite in the open section while in the Women`s its China that has the highest average rating. The event will be played on FIDE`s Swiss system. For every win a team will get two match points and one in case of a tied result.
It will also be the first daylight Olympiad as the Sun does not set in Tromso in the present period. Less than 2000 KMs from the north pole, Tromso has been the starting point for the Polar expeditions for more than 200 years now.
The focus will be chess though and the presence of most of the top stars of the world makes it a unique event. World Champion Magnus Carlsen will be the biggest star representing the local team. Also present will be Vladimir Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin for Russia, Levon Aronian for Armenia and Veselin Topalov for Bulgaria.
Among the women, Judit Polgar of Hungary will be cynosure of all eyes playing in the open section. Yifan Hou, the women`s world champion will don the first board for China while new import Kateryna Lahno will play under the Russian flag for the first time.