Adhiban, Sasikiran lead Indian challenge at Gibraltar Chess Festival

Grand Masters B Adhiban and K Sasikiran will spearhead the Indian challenge in the masters category of the 18th Gibraltar International Chess Festival which starts in Gibraltar on Tuesday.

Leading the field are GMs Shakhriyar Mamedyarov from Azerbaijan and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave from France.

Other top players include Hao Wang of China, Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria), David Navara from the Czech Republic and GM Liem Le Quang from Vietnam.

A huge Indian contingent, comprising about 40 players, will be taking part in the tournament and the focus will be on gaining ELO rating points.

Among the men, apart from Adhiban and Sasikiran, young guns like D Gukesh, the country’s youngest GM R Praggnanandhaa, Raunak Sadhwani, S L Narayanan and several others including Karthikeyan Murali, who finished second in last year’s tournament, are in the fray.

Soumya Swaminathan, Padmini Rout, Divya Deshmukh, Nisha Mohota and Rakshitta Ravi will be the ones to watch out for among the Indian women in action.

The women’s field is led by Anna Muzychuk of Ukraine, Russian Alexandra Kosteniuk, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Iran), Zhongyi Tan and Lei Tingjie of China.

Adhiban, who had finished 23rd in last year’s Masters event in a formidable field, is looking forward to playing in the tournament featuring some of the big names.

He said Mamedyarov and Vachier-Lagrave would be the ones to beat.

The Chennai-based GM said the tournament offers the Indians a big opportunity to improve their ratings and gain norms.

His aim is to better the 2019 performance where he finished with 6.5 points and ended joint 23rd with compatriot Gukesh among others.

“It is here that I reached the 2600 ELO rating points mark. I want to perform well and gain some rating points,” he said.

Adhiban said he was keen to start 2020 on a good note and the Gibraltar event provides him with just the right opportunity.

“I want to start the year on a good note. I have always enjoyed playing here and the field is strong and a good performance will help improve my ratings and give me a lot of confidence for the tournaments in future,” he added.

The 10-round Masters event concludes on January 31.

The Gibraltar Chess Festival would see over 500 participants more than 50 countries in various categories (Masters, Challengers and Amateurs).