Pragg, Nihal, and Gukesh in the hunt

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R. Praggnanandhaa will look to stave off strong challenges from top seed Nodirbek Abdusattorov, second seed Nihal Sarin and D. Gukesh when the Gelfand Challenge online rapid chess tournament begins on Thursday.

Winner of the Polgar Challenge — the first leg of the Julius Bar Challenge Tour — third seed Praggnanandhaa gained an opportunity to play in the elite New in Chess Classic and performed creditably.

The Indian prodigy not only drew with Magnus Carlsen, Hikaru Nakamura and Alireza Firouzja in the last three games, but also scalped Teimour Radjabov, Sergey Karjakin, Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Johan Sebastian Christiansen.

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In the 20-player round-robin event, which features world’s 10 talented youngsters each from Team Kramnik and Team Polgar, Abdusattorov will once again be the rating favourite.

In the Polgar Challenge, Abdussattorov, Gukesh, Nihal and Russian wonder-kid Volodar Murzin shared the second spot at 14 points — 1.5 points behind Praggnanandhaa. Luke Mendonca, the other Indian in the fray, was tied eighth at 12 points.

To meet the eventuality of a player withdrawing during the event, like Dinara Sauakassova did in the previous event, the organisers have named four reserves — a boy and a girl for each team. They are Aditya Mittal and Leya Garifullina for Team Polgar and R. Vaishali and Yahli Sokolovsky for Team Kramnik.

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The players:

Team Kramnik: Nodirbek Adbusattorov (Uzb), R. Praggnanandhaa, Jonas bjerre (Den), Leon Mendonca, Lei Tingjie (Chn), Dinara Saduakassova (Kaz), Christopher Yoo (USA), Olga Badelka (Blr), Carissa Yip (USA) and Nurgyul Salimova (Bul).

Team Polgar: Nihal Sarin, Awonder Liang (USA), Vinchent Keymer (Ger), D. Gukesh, Sarasadat Khademalsharieh (Iri), Volodar Murzin, Polina Shuvalova (Rus), Zhansaya Abdumalik (Kaz), Zhu Jiner (Chn) and Gunay Mammadzada (Aze).

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