Anand, Carlsen top draw in Tata Steel Grand Chess Tour penultimate leg

Bharat Sharma

Kolkata, Nov 7 (PTI) 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 here 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 the India's historic first-ever day/night Test at the Eden Gardens. PTI TAP BSBS