India will be looking to better their fourth-place showing in 2012, besides winning a medal in the women’s section of the 43rd Chess Olympiad, which starts in Batumi, Georgia, on Monday.
Koneru Humpy’s return to the team improves India’s chances of a podium finish. Humpy and Dronavalli Harika’s performances on the top two boards will be crucial for team’s medal hopes.
Even though Humpy is coming back into the game after a long absence, her experience at the highest level should come in handy, when she faces tough opposition on the first board.
One can expect a positive score from the former World Championship Challenger. Harika comes into the tournament after doing well in the Asian Nations Cup, where India won gold in the blitz section.
Consistency has been her strength and if she strikes form, India will be in the reckoning for a podium finish. If Padmini Rout, Tania Sachdev and Eesha Karavade play the supporting role well, India’s dream of winning a medal will become a realistic possibility.
“It’s always best to play with your full strength team. I am glad that Humpy is back. We proved ourselves individually and it’s time now to prove ourselves as a team,” reflected India’s No 2 women’s player Dronavalli Harika when asked about Humpy coming back into Indian team.
GM Sundararajan Kidambi felt Humpy being back in the team will have a positive effect on the team, saying: “Humpy coming back will make the team stronger despite she being inactive for the last few years. Very high chances of a medal finish this time.” When queried about India’s chances, Harika sounded upbeat: “I would rate it as 10/10 as I am positive about my team.
But in general all we can do is to try our best and one day or the other we would achieve it.” Appointment of Jacob Aagard as coach has lifted the morale of the team. Aagard is one of the reputed coaches and played a part in Sam Shankland winning the USA Championship this year with a stunning show.
“It’s been a great experience working with Aagard and the team. He is good at taking firm decisions. We share a good rapport which creates a good atmosphere in the team,” said Harika on Aagard being roped in as coach. Kidambi echoed the same: “I feel Aagard’s inclusion will be a positive one.” Russia, who has won three titles in the last four Olympiads, will be a slight favourite to win the title.
Despite having reigning World champion Ju Wenjun in the team, China will find it hard to retain the title in the absence of world No 1 Hou Yifan and former World champion Tan Zhongyi. Hosts Georgia and Ukraine are the other strong contenders for the crown.