Viswanathan Anand in elite company in Shamkir ChessShamkir (Azerbaijan): Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will have his hands full when he competes in a very strong field in the Shamkir Chess 2015, held in the memory of Vugar Gashimov.Come Friday, the Heydar
Shamkir (Azerbaijan): Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will have his hands full when he competes in a very strong field in the Shamkir Chess 2015, held in the memory of Vugar Gashimov.
Come Friday, the Heydar Aliyev Centre will come alive buzzing with the world's best Grandmasters including World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who starts as the top seed in another super tournament of the year.
On rating count, Anand starts the tournament as the third seed and if the last tournament that he played was anything to go by, the Indian ace is in excellent form to carry on the good work he did in the Zurich Chess Challenge in March.
Anand won the Classical section in Zurich and tied for over-all first with Hikaru Nakamura of United States only to lose the decider play-off that was incorporated to find the winner at the last minute. Anand had superior tiebreak and the trophy would be his without the tiebreak game.
Here, it's a different ball game especially with the participation of Carlsen in the 10-player round-robin tournament under Classical system. There will be nine rounds in all. The time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 for the next 20 and another 15 minutes for the remaining part of the game with a 30 seconds increment from move 61. There is also 100000 Euros prize money at stake.
Apart from Carlsen, Anand will face stiff challenge from the likes of Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Anish Giri of Holland and old foe Vladimir Kramnik of Russia. Rising star Wesley So of United States, local star Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, Michael Adams of England and Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan complete the star-studded line-up.
Carlsen starts the tournament as the defending champion, having won the first edition despite losing to Caruana and Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan. While Caruana might still want to torment Carlsen this year too, Radjabov withdrew from the tournament a few weeks ago citing personal reasons.
The Norwegian has only played two tournaments this year, but won both. In the Tata Steel tournament at Wijk aan Zee, Holland, Carlsen won with 9.0/13 and a few weeks later Carlsen beat Arkadij Naiditsch in a playoff to win the third Grenke Chess Classic.
Caruana is the second seed but the Italian has not been as impressive in the last few tournaments. At the Tata tournament, Caruana finished seventh while in Zurich he was last in a field of six. The Italian would surely want to regain his best form that he displayed in the Sinquefield cup in 2014, winning it handsomely ahead of Carlsen.
Anish Giri, 20, starts as the youngest participant but his wit and wisdom on and off the chess board look much beyond his years. A smart chess-player, having a Nepalese father and a Russian mother and someone who can speak Dutch, Russian and English, and, knows his Japanese, Giri is the cynosure of many eyes in all his tournaments.
His recent form has been decent and at number seven in the world, the Dutchman must be raring to have a go here. Kramnik comes to the tournament absolutely fresh having just played the Zurich Challenge this year where he finished third. The Russian must have got ample time to fine tune his game ahead of this important event.
Wesley so has been in the news recently for all the wrong reasons. Having changed his nationality from Philippines to United States, the young man was forfeited for taking encouraging notes for himself during a game in the US Championship. So, cited stress and family problems behind his gesture but it will help if he can quickly get over his blues and get cracking as he was while finishing joint second in the Tata tournament earlier this year.
Among the rest, Vachier-Lagrave, Mamedyarov and Adams have all been going through ups and downs in tournaments while Mamedov might be the punching bag everyone is looking for in strong tournaments. The Azerbaijani is almost 100 points below the ninth seed Adams here. For Anand the stage is set for a cracker of a contest. As the famous lines from the movie Departed goes: The readiness is all. You know the players, call the game!
Players with ELO ratings: Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 2863); Fabiano Caruana (Ita, 2802); V Anand (Ind, 2791); Anish Giri (Ned, 2790); Wesley So (Usa, 2788); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 2783); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra, 2762); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 2754); Michael Adams (Eng, 2746); Rauf Mamedov (Aze, 2651).