By Venkatachari Jagannathan
Putting to rest the controversy of a different set of players suggested by the two factions in the All India Chess Federation (AICF), the player Selection Committee has told the factions as to the players who are all eligible to represent the nation in the upcoming Online Chess Olympiad as per the existing criteria, said a Committee Member.
“The Selection Committee has sent its decision to the two factions of the AICF by email. The actual players who play will be known only after AICF decides on these names and communicates it to players and players confirm their availability. We only ensure the laid out rules are followed in selecting the team, we don’t decide the team. If a player is not available it will go to the next in line as per rules,” Grandmaster (GM) R. B.Ramesh told IANS.
Ramesh said as per the recommendations of the Selection Committee, the two lists would be identical.
“The Selection Committee has sent its recommendation and only now the AICF will take final decision,” Ramesh said.
As per the existing rules, players for Chess Olympiad would be selected based on their international ratings.
The two warring factions in the AICF — one led by President P. R.Venketrama Raja and the other by Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan — have chosen two different sets of team members to represent India in the FIDE Online Olympiad that is scheduled to start from July 22.
While the two lists have common names when it comes to senior players, in the case of junior players, the lists have different names, raising the hopes and ambitions of eight players.
The players selected by the Chauhan faction are: (For Open Board) GM V. Anand (Elo rating 2,753) and GM Vidit Gujrathi (2,726); (U-20 Open Board) GM Nihal Sarin (2,620); (Women’s Boards) GM Koneru Humpy (2,586), GM Harika Dronavalli (2,515); (U-20 Girl) WGM R. Vaishali (2,393).
The reserve players are: GMs P. Harikrishna (2,719), B. Adhiban (2,659), R. Praggnanandhaa (2,508), IMs Bhakti Kulkarni (2,391), Tania Sachdev (2,392) and WIM Divya Deshmukh (2,305).
On the other hand, the U-20 players selected by the Raja faction are: Aradhya Garg (2,198), Mitrabha Guha (2,445), Srishti Pandey (2,026) and Arpita Mukherjee (2,206) and this was seen as a deviation from the set rules.
“This is not the final list. The selection committee will go through the list and can also suggest other names,” Vijay Deshpande, who has been appointed as AICF Secretary by Raja, told IANS on Friday.
However, Deshpande had written to the players seeking their willingness to participate in the online Olympiad.
“This has put the junior players under unnecessary pressure. It will also have psychological impact on the young players whose hopes of representing the nation in the Chess Olympiad were raised and then deflated,” Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte told IANS on Friday.
Pointing out that it is very normal procedure for AICF to suggest names Ramesh said it is also very normal for the Selection Committee to give their recommendations as per laid own rules and decisions taken after that.
“So, this time also, AICF factions have given their recommendations and the Selection Committee has given the same reply to both factions,” he added.
According to him, the recommendation sent by AICF to Selection Committee is not final as most people have jumped to conclusion without understanding the issue fully.
“It is only an internal communication which was have leaked to media and made an issue out of it before a final decision was taken. A controversy when none existed,” Ramesh said.
If the Indian team is selected based on their international ratings, then India will be one of the strongest contenders and the top seeded team in the world which would be advantageous during the initial rounds, experts sad.
If lower rated players are included in the team, the average rating of the team will drastically go down and so would be the seeding.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, Chess Players Forum President International Master Varugeese Koshy said: “As we had anticipated and feared, the feud seems to have reached a flashpoint currently, as the two factions have selected two different teams to represent the country in the FIDE Online Olympiad 2020 to be held between July 22 and August 30.”
“This selection of teams separately by the two factions has led to much consternation among the players and chess lovers of the country. It has also caused the contacted players uncertainty as they are left in the dilemma of which of the factions to communicate in return, and how this will be perceived by the other faction,” Koshy wrote.