A rejig in the rules for the selection of the national chess team by the All India Chess Federation (AICF) coupled with an attitudinal change in offering facilities to the team members has enabled India to field its strongest team for the 2018 Olympiad to be held in Batumi in Georgia this September, said a senior AICF official.
The five-member Indian men's team at the Olympiad will be spearheaded by five-time World Champion and presently the World No.10 Grand Master (GM) Viswanathan Anand (ELO rating of 2,776). The other members are World No.26 GM P. Harikrishna (ELO 2,731) and World No.34 GM Vidit Santosh Gujrathi (ELO 2,723).
The fourth and fifth members of team would be selected from World No.77 GM K. Sasikiran (ELO 2,671), GM Surya Shekhar Ganguly (ELO 2,657), AGM B. Adhiban (ELO 2,650) and GM S.P. Sethuraman (ELO 2,649) based on their rating at the cut-off date.
On a rough calculation, the average rating of the Indian team will be around 2,700.
But what is the logic for changing the team selection rules?
A team with higher average ELO rating has the advantage of being seeded high and facing weaker opponents in the initial rounds.
"Now the opponent teams will have to discount a win on the top board against Anand and have to slog it out in the remaining three boards against players figuring in the top 100 in the world," R.R. Vasudevan, International Chess Arbiter, elaborated further.
"With three players in the top 50 in the World and the remaining with a rating of over 2,600, the psychological advantage for the Indian team is huge," Vasudevan said.
The second camp will also be held in a similar hotel and the third camp over seven days will be held in Georgia, ahead of the Olympiad.
"The Indian players have now grown in stature and we have to offer facilities to match their international stature. Further the camp in Georgia will enable the Indian players to acclimatise to the local conditions," Chauhan said.
The Indian men's Olympiad team that won the bronze medal in 2014 did not get any financial incentives either from the central or the state governments.
Putting at rest all speculation, Chauhan said the rule change and better facilities have nothing to do with Anand deciding to play in the Olympiad.
"These were decided well ahead of 48-year-old Anand giving his consent to play for India," Chauhan said.
(Venkatachari Jagannathan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)