Pune: Fast improving grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi stands as India's best bet to bring home the world junior title after a gap of six years.
Won by Abhijeet Gupta back in 2008, the World junior title has remained elusive to the Indians since then even as Gujrathi and grandmaster Sahaj Grover annexed the bronze medal in 2013 and 2011 respectively in the premier championship for players under 20 years of age.
Earlier won by Viswanathan Anand in 1987 and P Harikrishna in 2004, the world junior remains as one of the most prestigious event on the FIDE, the world chess federation's, calendar and India is hosting it only after a gap of two years after a successful conduction in Chennai in 2011.
Just ahead of tomorrow's inauguration ceremony, the event has attracted 139 players in the open and 78 participants in the girls' section to be played simultaneously. 51 countries have registered thus far and the figure may go up by one or two more players before the drawing of lots.
With none other than Anand as the brand ambassador, the championships have been in news like never before and there is much hype already created around the events. The venue will be the plush Hyatt hotel where the participants will also be staying.
With an ELo rating of 2635 according to October FIDE list, Gujrathi is going to be the fourth seed. However little separates him from higher ranked players as the difference in rating is not so overwhelming.
For the records, Vladimir Fedoseev of Russia starts as the rating favourite with 2661 points while Robin Van Kampen of Holland and Wei Yi of China are second and third seed with an identical rating of 2641 points.
Grover could be the other Indian in with a chance as he is the only one who has been on the podium before in the open section. Also, the young Grandmaster is very fresh from a successful outing in the Durban International Open Chess tournament where he tied for the first place in a strong field.
Ankit Rajpara, Diptayan Ghosh, Aravindh Chithambaram and Murali Karthikeyan are the other Indians who can beat the best on their days.
The girls' section will see defending champion Alexandra Goryachkina of Russia back in action as the top seed. Scoring 10.5/13 in last edition, the Russian girl was a runaway winner and her main rival would be Meri Arabidze of Georgia and Indian Padmini Rout, seeded second and third respectively.
Padmini Rout won many hearts after her brilliant performance in the women's chess Olympiad where she won the Individual gold. With many medals in her kitty playing for India, the World junior gold is missing from the list and the Odisha girl would like to emulate Koneru Humpy, D Harika and Soumya Swaminathan who won the gold in 2001, 2008 and 2009 respectively.
As usual the championships will be played over two weeks and there will be 13 rounds in all. It will be survival of the fittest as normally the last five rounds are considered most important. In 2008 Abhijeet Gupta had won it scoring five wins in last five games.
The championship will be inaugurated by S K Roy, chairman LIC of India in a formal ceremony.