Tata Steel Chess: Magnus Carlsen to start against Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand meets Ding in first round
Revenge will be on his mind when world No 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway takes on Philippines-born American Wesley So in the opening round of the Tata Steel India Rapid and Blitz Chess Tournament— the penultimate leg of the Grand Chess Tour (GCT)—starting here on Friday.
Carlsen, who has been in great form and is leading the GCT standings with 54.5 points, was stunned by So in the final of the Fischer Random World Championships a couple of weeks ago. Though the players in Kolkata will be playing a different format than Fischer Random—a version in which the initial position of the pieces is randomly changed with slightly tweaked rules thus making the players think on their feet—Carlsen will still like to establish his superiority over So and silence his doubters.
Despite the recent setback, the 28-year-old Carlsen, who will start with black pieces against So, will be the favourite to lift the trophy and set the ball rolling for the GCT finale in London, which will be played from December 2-8.
Also, hoping to qualify for the GCT Finals in London will be India’s five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand, who will open his campaign with black pieces against China’s Ding Liren.
Anand is currently placed sixth in the standings with 32 points ahead of this 10-player rapid and blitz event and is in contention for one of the four places to London with Ding (37.8), France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (36.8), who has completed his quota of five events, Levon Aronian (36.5) and Sergey Karjakin (36.5), who is also giving the tournament a miss.
The tour has grown from strength to strength and the Tata Steel India tournament is already the sixth edition before the grand finale in London. Hikaru Nakamura of United States, Anish Giri of Holland and the Indian duo of P Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi complete a star-studded lineup, making it the strongest ever tournament to be held on Indian soil.
The format is nine rounds of rapid and nine rounds of blitz with rapid games yielding two points for a win and the blitz worth a point for every win. The cumulative scores at the end of the event will be taken into account to declare the winner. The total prize pool for the four-day event is $1,50,000.
Anand, who had won the blitz title during last year’s edition of Tata Steel India, jumped into contention for GCT finale with a tremendous performance in blitz in the previous event at Bucharest, Romania. He had 19½ points from 27 games and had finished behind joint leaders Aronian and Karjakin.