Gujrathi, who has had a phenomenal run for the last one year in International chess, starts as a strong contender and is one of the five super Grandmasters (Rating above 2600) in fray.
Padmini, the most medal-decorated girl in Age Categories, will also be a favourite, especially after a glittering gold medal performance in the recently concluded World Chess Olympiad. Incidentally, Padmini is also amongst the top five highest rated girls in fray.
The last time that India hosted the championship here in 2008, Abhijeet Gupta and Dronavalli Harika clinched the titles. Incidentally, it was the first and only time in the history of the game that two players from the same country had won the title.
The event is spread over 15 days and will comprise of 13 rounds with more than 200 players from 45 countries confirming their participation.
The Government of Maharashtra and Life Corporation of India (LIC) are the main sponsors while ONGC, Amanora, Jain Irrigation and Everstone are the other sponsors.
Vladimir Fedoseev (2661) of Russia, currently ranked 88th in the World, is the top seed followed by Robin van Kampen (2641) of the Netherlands, Yi Wei (2641) of China, Gujarathi (2635) and Jorge CoriA (2612) of Peru.
It is expected to be a close contest amongst these super GMs. The other Indians to be watched out for in this section are GM Ankit Rajpara, GM Sahej Grover, IM Aravindh Chithambaram, IM Shardul Gagare, IM Murali Karthikeyan and IM R. Prasanna among others.
In the girls section, WGM Alexandra Goryachkina (2430), the defending champion is the highest rated player in fray and is followed by Meri Arabidze (2409).
Interestingly, there is a wide rating gap between these two girls as other strong contenders are rated 2300 plus. Padmini, after an indifferent showing in the National Women’s Challenger has lost a few precious points.
Gujarathi has gained around 30 rating points from the recent Rating List released on October 1 which is a clear-cut indication of him gaining strength in the build up to this event.
He recently won a strong Category-16 tournament in Armenia and would be definitely wanting to elevate his performance from bronze at the last edition to a gold.
“I am happy that the event is being conducted in Pune, as there is nothing better than home advantage and most importantly, food advantage,” he said.
Orissa-based Padmini is also very upbeat on the event and confessed: “I really love Pune and am looking forward to putting up a good show here. It has been a lucky venue for me as I won the best woman player award in both editions of the Maharashtra Chess League (MCL) and the organization of chess events in Pune has always been excellent.”