In the absence of top stars, Grandmaster B Adhiban will spearhead country's challenge at the World Teams Chess Championship where a bunch of formidable men's teams will test the Indians.
As Viswanathan Anand, P Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi have been forced to skip the meet, Adhiban will don the top board for India while experienced Grandmasters Krishnan Sasikiran, S P Sethuraman, Surya Shekhar Ganguly and newly-crowned national champion Aravindh Chithamabaram complete the Indian lineup.
Since the event was announced barely six weeks beforem it did not help in getting many of the top players for their teams.
It transpires that both Harikrishna and Gujrathi had already committed to play a semi-super tournament in Czech Republic starting later this week while Anand was seen playing for his Bundesliga team Baden OS in Germany over the weekend.
That said, the ability of Adhiban, the will-power of Sasikiran, the high standards of Sethuraman, the guile of Ganguly and the never-say-die attitude of Chithambaram can actually bring home a medal.
The team also has a young captain in N Srinath who is on his first solo-appointment as team-India coach in the absence of R B Ramesh. He sounded confident ahead of the opening ceremony.
"The team is very motivated and in high spirits. World Teams is an elite event with no freebies. I am optimistic that we can find the right momentum. We are aiming to play good chess and be consistent as a whole for the nine rounds we have," Srinath said.
China and Russia start as the hot-favourite in the 10-team event while United States has fielded a highly depleted team sans their four top players who all are in top thirty of world rankings.
Besides defending champion China and Russia, Azerbaijan and England are ahead of India in terms of average ratings. A young Iranian team can trouble them all as was the case in the last Asian continental championship when the boys won it ahead of powerhouses India and China.
The women's championship will also be played simultaneously and here Russia starts as the favourite thanks to presence of big players like Alexandra Kosteniuk and Kateryna Lagno.
The Indian women will be without the services of the two biggest stars Koneru Humpy and D Harika, also the only two Indian ladies who are full-fledged Grandmasters.
Soumya Swaminathan will be the top rated Indian in the fray along side Tania Sachdev, Bhakti Kulkarni, Eesha Karavade and Asian women's champion Padmini Rout.
While the absence of Humpy and Harika will be sorely felt, Tania, Padmini and Bhakti have won the Asian Continental championship while Soumya is a former world junior girls' champion.
Eesha Karavade has a Grandmaster norm too which means that the team can compete with any opposition.
Russia is not the only top team in the women's section, Ukraine and Georgia have fielded their best players while China is always a huge threat for everyone with their bench strength even when the top players like Yifan Hou and world women's champion Ju Wenjun are not available. Besides, the local team from Kazakhstan also has a composition that can worry any top team.
Both the championships have 10 teams in all and the event will be played under Round-Robin rules wherein each team will play once against the other. There will be nine rounds in all with one rest day after five rounds.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)