Though everyone associated with the sport agrees that chess is not spectator friendly and cannot attract huge crowds like football, the rulers of the game have always dreamt of it being part of the biggest multi-discipline event of all — the Olympics Games. Though chess is nowhere near to becoming part of World’s biggest sporting extravaganza, it will be making its debut at the Asian Games in Doha.
The organisers have picked two exciting formats for the big event and the competition starting on December 2 is sure to attract a lot of eyeballs, if not on television then surely on the internet.
Three gold medals will be on offer — one each in men's individual and women's individual categories and one in mixed team championship. The individual events will be competed under rapid time controls with each player getting thirty minutes to complete the game with 10 seconds adding to the clock after every move.
The team event, which will be played over three boards, will be in the normal time-control with each player getting 90 minutes to complete the game with 30 seconds increment in time after every move. Each team comprises three players — two male and one female. This format, unique for a chess team event, was decided because the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) had put a cap on the number of players.
This new format gives India a good chance of winning a few medals if the team members play to their form. With Viswanathan Anand deciding not to play, the All India Chess Federation (AICF) has picked the three highest rated players — Krishnan Sasikiran (ranked 31 in the world with a rating of 2676), Pentala Harikrishna (rated 32 with 2674 rating) and Koneru Humpy, ranked second in the world among women at 2545.
Considering the strength of the three Indians, they should be among the favourites with China, Uzbekistan, Vietnam and Iran. Women’s World No 5 Yuhua Xu will in all probability lead China’s campaign with Xiangzhi Bu and Wang Yue (the highest rated Chinese in FIDE ratings at 37 and 62 respectively) as other members.
In the individual events, Uzbekistan’s Rustam Kasimdzhanov, the former FIDE World Champion, will be among the front-runners in the men’s section along with the two Indians while another former World Champion Zhu Chen, formerly of China who has now settled in Qatar, will be among the top contenders in women's section besides Humpy and Yuhua Xu.