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AICF faction feud casts doubts over Chess Olympiad team

Friday - July 3, 2020 3:34 pm , Category : SPORTS
Chennai, July 3 (IANS) The power struggle in the All India Chess Federation (AICF) between two factions has now started impacting the players as well as the nation's interests. It has also put the junior players under unnecessary pressure, said chess players and officials.

The two warring factions in the AICF 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.
"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.
The AICF is split into two factions -- one headed by President P.R. Venketrama Raja and the other by Secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan.
The Central government continues to recognise Raja as the AICF President and Chauhan as the Secretary even though the two factions recognise different persons as the President and Secretary.
"The Chess Players Forum (CPF), a newly formed body representing the players, has written to the Central government to resolve the crisis and smoothly select the Indian team in the best interest of the game," CPF President and International Master (IM) told IANS.
The AICF has been selecting the Indian team for the Chess Olympiad held by FIDE based on the players' international ratings.
"We have selected the players as per the selection criteria approved by the central council of AICF. We have also got the confirmation from many players," Chauhan told IANS.
He said the Indian team for the Olympiad has been approved by majority of the AICF's selection committee comprising GM R.B. Ramesh, IM Lanka Ravi and FIDE Master Ashwini Tiwari. "I have not got a reply from Tiwari," Chauhan said.
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 A.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).
"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.
Deshpande has written to the players seeking their willingness to participate in the online Olympiad before July 4.
According to Deshpande, the last date for sending the team list to FIDE is July 13.
"Most of the players selected by us have confirmed their willingness to participate in the event. Humpy said she would confirm her availability on Friday while Anand said he would confirm in a couple of days," Chauhan said.
Meanwhile, in a letter to Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, CPF President 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.
It will be interesting to see which team list FIDE accepts -- the one sent by the Chauhan faction or the one sent by the Raja camp.
Chauhan said there is also the risk of top players not agreeing to play if weaker players are included in the team.
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.
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.

--IANS vj/arm