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Travel during Covid bigger test than chess at WC: Vidit Gujrathi

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Express News Service

CHENNAI: In just a month’s time from now, Grandmaster (GM) Vidit Gujrathi will be gearing up for his fourth chess World Cup in the scenic resort town of Sochi in Russia. The 26-year-old is well-versed with the pressure and competitiveness of a World Cup, having been there in 2015, 2017 and 2019. While his preparation for the event — which will run from July 10 to August 6 — won’t vary from previous tournaments, the Indore-born GM feels he has a bigger challenge to deal with this time around. It doesn’t have anything to do with the chess board but rather deals with the uncertainty of travelling during times of Covid-19.

Having not travelled overseas and played an over-the-board tournament since February 2020, when he played in Prague, Vidit is anxious about the prospect of travelling and possibly quarantining for a few days.            

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“I will find out in due course if there are any challenges of playing over the board after such a long time. I feel that the main challenge will not be the game itself. The main challenge will be the travel, quarantine and Covid situation. That is very complicated. I haven’t travelled overseas since the onset of Covid. So that might be the biggest issue,” Vidit told this daily on Friday.

Once the uncertainty around travel is out of the way, Vidit will shift his focus towards putting up a good show. Although he lost in the third round of each of the last two World Cups — to finalist Ding Liren in 2017 and semi-finalist Wesley So in 2019, Vidit believes his improvement over the past couple of years should help him go further in the event.

“I draw a lot of confidence from the fact that I was able to reach the third round in the last two World Cups. In the third round in 2017, I was so close to knocking Liren out but I became nervous and wasn’t able to see it through. Liren went on to be the finalist in 2017 and Wesley also did well in 2019. I came up against very strong opponents. I have taken the positives out of those experiences. I believe my game has improved in the past two years and I feel I can go further in the competition,” noted Vidit.

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Alongside Vidit, P Harikrishna, Aravindh Chithambaram, P Iniyan and B Adhiban are the other Indian men who have qualified for the event. Among these players, Vidit expects Harikrishna to enter the latter stages of the event. “Among those going for the World Cup, Harikrishna is the top Indian player as far as rating goes. He has a good chance of doing well in the tournament,” Vidit said.         

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