The Grandmaster-quartet of favourite B. Adhiban, S.P. Sethuraman, veteran Surya Shekhar Ganguly and S.L. Narayanan forms the creamy layer of the AICF World Cup qualifier that opens on Wednesday.
The winner of the five-day round-robin rapid online event gets a spot in next month’s $1.89 million World Cup, where even the first-round loser collects $3,750 (approx. ₹2.75 lakh).
The withdrawal of top seed Vidit Gujrathi on Monday improved the prospects of the remaining title-aspirants in the 17-player field.
Adhiban’s consistency gives him a slight edge over Sethuraman.
Recently, he was one of the two Indian qualifiers for the ongoing Meltwaters Champions Chess Tour.
Ganguly, the oldest of the eight GMs in the fray, could face unexpected challenges since many younger players appear more at ease in moving the pieces with the help of a ‘mouse’.
Narayanan is another serious title-contender. He has increasingly looked better when playing online.
Considering the limited opportunities he gets, Nayarayan remains silently determined to make them count.
Teenage GMs D. Gukesh and P. Iniyan are the ‘dark horses’ with bright chances of causing surprises. Two other GMs Deep Sengupta and Vishnu Prasanna could find it tough to make their presence felt.
Among the seven International Masters, 14-year-old Aditya Mittal is the one to watch out for.
Unlike some names from his peer group, Aditya does not enjoy much exposure. He sure holds immense potential to make a lasting impression.
Soumya Swaminathan, the 2009 World junior girls’ champion, is the lone woman in the fray. She returns to competitive chess after a break to test her preparedness for the upcoming events.
On Wednesday, three rounds are scheduled and the action will commence at 11 a.m. on the online platform, tornelo.com.