Viswanathan Anand to play tournament in India after 25 years
Viswanathan Anand will be part of a heavyweight field of 11, including four currently in the world’s top 10, at the first Tata Steel Chess India, to be held here from November 9-14. To be played in the rapid and blitz formats, the $40,000 prize money competition will also have Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (world No. 3), Levon Aronian (world No. 6), Wesley So (world No. 9) apart from Anand who is now ranked No 10 and is the reigning world champion in rapid chess.
After the Goodricke Open in Kolkata in 1993, this is the first time that Anand is playing a tournament in India. Proof of how much chess has grown in the country in those 25 years lies in the fact that if at 48, Anand is the oldest player in the fray, at 13, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa, would be the youngest with 14-year-old Nihal Sarin being the second youngest. Among those Praggnanandhaa, the world’s second youngest GM, will play here is Russian GM Sergey Karjakin who is the youngest grandmaster.
This seems like a season of comebacks for Anand. Before he returns to tournament play in India, Anand will also end a 12-year wait to be part of the India team for the Chess Olympiad that begins in Georgia on Saturday. “There’s no specific reason why I didn’t play this long but I was open to the idea and am glad the federation (All India Chess Federation) was cooperative,” said Anand, who will be part of a strong team comprising P Harikrishna, Vidith Gujrati, B Adhiban and K Sasikiran.
“We have got a very strong team and but India’s performance has made life very hard for us. The bar has been set very high. I didn’t like Turin (2006 Olympiad) but we were unlucky in Calvia (Spain, 2004) in some six or seven games. Hopefully, we will have good results this time,” said Anand. India were third in 2014 and fourth in 2016.
Anand accepted that he will go into the Olympiad on the back of some ‘wobbly’ form but said he isn’t particularly concerned. “Most suffer from that at some period… barring perhaps (Magnus) Carlsen and (Fabiano) Caruana.”
Carlsen and Caruana, the world’s top two players, will vie for the world championship in London; “we can follow that match while we play here,” said Anand. “Fabiano has won so many games that Magnus’s confidence in the inevitability of the result may not be there anymore. Both will go at each other and we should see an open match. We will also perhaps need more confession booths,” said Anand. A confession booth is where players share their thoughts to a live audience during games.
The Tata Steel India field:
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze), Levon Aronian (Arm), Wesley So, Viswanathan Anand, Sergey Karjakin, Hikaru Nakamura, Pentala Harikrishna, Surya Sekhar Ganguly, Vidit Gujrathi, Nihal Sarin, Rameshbabu Praggnanandhaa.
■ Viswanathan Anand during the launch of 'Tata Steel Chess India' in Kolkata on Saturday.