Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will be back in action and will take on Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France in the first round of the Altibox Norway Chess in Stavanger. In what is termed as one of the strongest tournaments in the history of the game, reigning world champion and local hero Magnus Carlsen starts as the favourite but will face stiff competition from the likes of Wesley So of United States.
Anand will start his campaign with black pieces following a mediocre performance in the preceding blitz tournament that was played to determine the colours. The Indian ace could only finish seventh among 10 participants and will get five blacks as a result out of total nine games.
This is a super field studded with top stars of the world. There are 10 participants in all and according to the current world rankings, the least rated – Anish Giri of Holland – is ranked number 12. When all the players were signed, they were the top 10 in world rankings.
The event will be played on a round-robin basis and each player will play against the other. Classical time control will be used. The blitz tournament decided the first round pairings and the biggest game will be between Carlsen and Wesley So.
Carlsen was the runaway winner in the rapid scoring a massive 7.5 points out of a possible nine. The Norwegian drew three games against Hikaru Nakamura of the United States, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Anand and proved too good for the rest.
Such was Carlsen’s supremacy that the second placed finishers Nakamura and Levon Aronian of Armenia were two points behind the winner. Vachier-Lagrave finished fourth while Kramnik edged out compatriot Sergey Karjakin on tiebreak to take the coveted fifth spot that guaranteed an extra white in the nine rounds event.
Anand finished seventh, ahead of Wesley So on four points while Fabiano Carauana of the United States finished ninth on three points. Anish Giri ended the blitz on a disappointing note, scoring just 1.5 points in nine games. Anand has a mixed draw in the tournament but the most important clash for him has been saved for the last round when he will take on Carlsen with white pieces.
In other first round clashes, Nakamura takes on Giri, Aronian meets Caruana while Kramnik will take on Karjakin.