Khanty Mansiysk (Russia): Reigning Asian champion Grandmaster P Harikrishna will spearhead the Indian challenge, starting out against Maxim Rodshtein of Israel, in the World Chess Cup in Russia.
While Harikrishna starts as a favourite in the event starting on Saturday, 2008 world junior champion Abhijeet Gupta has a higher-ranked opponent in Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan.
The other Indian in the fray- Parimarjan Negi meets Vladimir Akopian of Armenia and is likely to get a walkover due to a leg injury that the latter suffered some days back.
Surprisingly, there are only three Indians in the fray in the World Cup this year as GMs such as K Sasikiran and Surya Shekhar Ganguly could not make the cut from a couple of qualification tourneys organised in the past two years.
With 128 participants in fray, the participants` list is as impressive as ever even without the big four; Viswanathan Anand, Magnus Carlsen of Norway, Russian Vladimir Kramnik and Armenian Levon Aronian.
The World Cup is a part of the 2013 World Championship cycle.
Sergey Karjakin of Russia starts as the top seed in the USD 1.6 million knockout event in which each round will see two games under normal time control of 90 minutes with 30 seconds increment as each move is played.
If the scores are tied after two games, rapid games shall come in to effect followed by a couple of blitz games. If the deadlock continues, a final Armageddon game will be played with five minutes to white and four for black and white must win to proceed to the next round.
It will be a real test of preparation, perseverance and nerves for the Indian trio.
Though higher on rating points, Harikrishna has a tough nut to crack in Rodshtein who has been working with some top guns in the past few years.
The Israeli has had stints with the likes of Levon Aronian and next world championship challenger Boris Gelfand as seconds and obviously one can expect a lot of depth especially in terms of opening knowledge from him.
Parimarjan Negi spent time preparing for Akopian, a member of the Gold medalist Armenian team in the World team championship this year, only to find a few days back that he has broken his leg and is likely to withdraw.
Though the official announcement is still awaited, former World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan quipped soon as he saw Parimarjan, "why are you here so soon?”,referring to the start of the second round which is still four days away.
While proceeding to the second round seems like a formality, Parimarjan is likely to face a bigwig in Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan there.
The Indian will have four days to prepare for his formidable opponent. Parimarjan is here as the Indian national champion after India was given the status of a `Zone` by FIDE last year.
The first Indian qualifier here was Abhijeet Gupta who made the cut back in 2010 by bagging the bronze medal in the Asian Championship at Subic bay in Philippines.
Abhijeet`s opponent Mamedov was incidentally the top seed in the World Junior that he had won. While this is comforting, the rating difference between the two stands at 40 odd points making Mamedov a favourite in this mini-match.