China will not be taking part in the 44th Chess Olympiad to be held at Mamallapuram near Chennai from July 28.
Replying to a question on the sidelines of the Candidates tournament, world No.2 and China's top player Ding Liren, who is currently playing in the event in Madrid, said neither he nor the team will take part in the Olympiad.
"No, I think the Chinese team will not play," Liren said.
The Chinese, however, did not give any reasons for their withdrawal, according to AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan, who is the Olympiad Tournament Director. "Yeah...the Chinese (Open) men and women's teams will not be playing in the Chennai Olympiad. The reasons are not clear," he said.
China would have been among the top medal contenders in the Olympiad and their absence would brighten India's chances.
China's Open team won the gold medal at the Chess Olympiad held at Batumi (Georgia) in 2018 and at Tromso (Norway) in 2014. The Chinese women team won the gold medal at the previous two Olympiads in Baku and Batumi respectively.
According to leading chess coach and Grandmaster R B Ramesh, the absence of China in addition to that of Russia, brightens India's chances.
"Yes, without China and Russia, it increases our chances for a medal," Ramesh, coach of the India's 'B' team in the Open section, said.
Russia and Belarus were barred from participating in tournaments by the FIDE (world chess federation) following the Russian invasion of neighbouring Ukraine in February.
Host India is fielding two teams each in the Open and women's sections and there is a possibility of having an extra team in case the number of entries are in odd numbers.
The host nation's top players including Vidit Gujrathi, P Harikrishna, K Sasikiran, R Praggnanandhaa (among men) and Koneru Humpy, D Harika, R Vaishali, Vantika Agarwal (women) are part of the two different squads for the Open and women's events and would be expected to challenge for top honours.
Five-time champion Viswanathan Anand has opted out and would mentor the players.