He arrived to a hero’s welcome in his hometown Chennai on Wednesday. Another rousing welcome awaits R. Praggnanandhaa in Kolkata.
After his exploits at the Chess World Cup in Baku, the 18-year-old will be the biggest attraction of the fifth edition of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament, which opens at the National Library on Thursday. The fans — and there are many of them here — will have to wait for a few more days though to have a glimpse of him, as the event’s open section begins only on September 5.
It is going to be ladies first. The first five days will see the action in the women’s section, which is only into its second year.
Praggnanandhaa’s elder sister R. Vaishali, who caused a sensation by winning the blitz title last year, was scheduled to play, but she has had to pull out because she is unwell, according to the organisers. Divya Deshmukh is her replacement.
Despite the absence of Vaishali, the field looks pretty strong. It is led by the reigning women’s World champion Ju Wenjun. She is in form too, having won her fourth successive World title only last month.
Koneru Humpy, a former World rapid champion, and Dronavalli Harika are more than capable of continuing with the theme of India shining in chess. Sixteen-year-old B. Savitha Shri, who won a stunning bronze medal at the World rapid championship last year, Vantika Agrawal and Divya complete the Indian contingent.
Defending champion in the rapid section Anna Muzychuk, Nino Batsiashvili, Polina Shuvalova and Irina Krush are the other women who feature in the event that has earned appreciation for its policy of equal pay. The open section also boasts several big names, such as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Nodirbek Abdusattarov, Vincent Keymer, Teimour Radjabov, Alexander Grischuk, D. Gukesh and Arjun Eriagaisi.
India’s only world class chess tournament concludes on September 9.