Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand will aim to seal a World Finals berth in the star-studded Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz 2019, to be held in Kolkata from November 22-26.
The second edition of the Tata Steel event has now become part of the Grand Chess Tour and the showpiece annual circuit will be held in Asia for the first time.
The five-day meet, which will be held at the Bhasha Bhawan Auditorium at the iconic National Library, will serve as the penultimate leg to determine the top-four spots for the GCT Finals slated in Olympia London from December 2-8.
The Indian chess wizard is currently competing in the Superbet Rapid & Blitz GCT circuit in Bucharest where he started his campaign emphatically, taming Russia’s Vladislav Artemiev with black pieces.
Anand is currently lying low with 24 GCT points at eighth place but he has two events left including the ongoing meet in Bucharest.
Anand is virtually in a three-way race with fourth-placed Levon Aronian who is just ahead by 1.5 points, and ninth-placed Wesley So (23.5), as they have two tournaments left.
But with Kolkata being a ‘lucky’ venue the 49-year-old is excited.
“There’s a lot more at stake and I’m looking forward to it. I’m really excited,” Anand, who won the inaugural Tata Steel Blitz event last year, said in a video message.
The Kolkata circuit has attracted a top-draw with reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen leading the field that will see eight of the top 15 players.
Apart from Carlsen and Anand, the field includes Ding Liren, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, Anish Giri, Wesley So and Hikaru Nakamura, who won the Rapid event here last year.
This is the first time Carlsen is coming to India to play a competitive tournament after he dethroned Anand in the World Championship in Chennai in 2013.
As for Indian challengers, Anand will have the company of Pentala Harikrishna and Vidit Gujrathi who were given wildcards to bolster the hosts’ strength.
True to his reputation as one of the fastest thinkers in world chess, Anand won the Blitz event in the inaugural edition beating Japan-born American GM Nakamura, who became the overall champion.
Anand’s win also worked as a crowning moment for the tournament, which established itself as a premier event among the country’s growing chess fraternity.
The tournament, however, may lose some of its sheen as the dates are clashing with India’s historic first-ever day-night Test at the Eden Gardens.
Anand-Carlsen to ring Eden Bell?
Carlsen and Anand in all likelihood would ring the customary Eden bell on one of the days during the India-Bangladesh Test in Kolkata from November 22-26.
The Sourav Ganguly-led BCCI, which is organising the first-ever day-night Test in India, is awaiting confirmation from the Norwegian world champion, who would be competing in the Tata Steel Chess India-Rapid & Blitz 2019, the penultimate leg of the Grand Chess Tour.
“The BCCI has invited Carlsen to ring the Eden bell and if time permits, he along with Anand will be seen at the stadium in one of the five days,” Jeet Banerjee, director of Gameplan Sports, the official sponsors and branding partner of the tour, said here on Thursday.
According to the Cricket Association of Bengal (CAB) sources, Anand has already accepted the invitation and they are now awaiting a nod from Carlsen, which could make it a double delight.
Working out the logistics could be a concern as the timings of both the events too are almost clashing, one of the organisers told PTI.
“While the Test will get underway at 1 pm, the GCT Kolkata circuit will start at 2 pm at the National Library,” he said.
The day one’s proceedings of the first Test is slated to begin with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ringing the Eden Bell.
A galaxy of Indian sports stars including cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar, Olympic champion Abhinav Bindra, tennis star Sania Mirza, world badminton champion PV Sindhu and six-time boxing world champion MC Mary Kom among others would be seen in the Test.
The CAB will felicitate the team members of the first-ever Bangladesh-India Test in 2000, a game where Sourav Ganguly, the BCCI president, made his debut as Test captain.
The first day of the match could see a helicopter revolving around the Eden Gardens from which a skydiver will come flying into the ground with the trophy.