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Focus on Praggnanandhaa as India begins campaign in chess at Asian Games

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Hangzhou, Sept 23 (PTI) The focus will be on young Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa in the chess competition of the Hangzhou Asian Games following his exploits in the World Cup recently as India will aim to land a few medals to swell their overall tally.

The 18-year old Praggnanandhaa is part of a strong squad for the team event (to be played under standard time control), which also includes fellow teenager and GM D Gukesh as India will vie for the gold medal.

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The two will be expected to spearhead India’s pursuit for the yellow metal given the strong form they have been in recently with the experienced P Harikrishna, Vidit Gujrathi and the fast-improving Arjun Erigaisi set to provide solid support.

The individual event, to be played on a rapid format, will get underway on Sunday followed by the team event.

Gujrathi and Erigaisi will represent India in the men’s individual event while Koneru Humpy and D Harika will do so in the women’s section.

Among the women, the country’s top player Humpy, a two-time gold medallist at the Asian Games, will be the main attraction as chess returns to the continental event after 13 years and will be keen to win another medal.

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Praggnanandhaa, who lost to world No.1 Magnus Carlsen in the World Cup final in Baku, will look to recreate some of the magic in the Chinese city and help India snatch a gold.

Gukesh, the top-ranked Indian player currently, will be keen to add an Asian Games medal to his kitty and will be a key for the team’s fortunes.

Vidit Gujrathi, Erigaisi and P Harikrishna are the other members of a strong men’s team and should be favoured to strike gold.

While Humpy and Harika would face a challenge from the Chinese players in the individual event, the team event could see India in the race for the medals if the two experienced stars live up to expectations.

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But it would be easier said than done as a few other nations like Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Vietnam have the potential to put up strong performances though a very strong Chinese team which includes former world champions will be the odds-on favourite.

According to N Srinath, one of the coaches with the team, stiff competition would come from China and Uzbekistan, both in the individual and team events.

“The preparation has been good,” he added.

There would be nine rounds each in the individual and team competitions.

Four gold medals — women’s team and individual and men’s team and individual — are on offer in chess at the Games.

Indian teams: Men: D Gukesh, Vidit Gujrathi, Arjun Erigaisi, P Harikrishna and R Praggnanandhaa.

Women: Koneru Humpy, D Harika, R Vaishali, Vantika Aggarwal and B Savitha Shri.

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