Back to competitive chess after a gap of four months,World Champion Viswanathan Anand will face Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain,the lowest ranked player in the field,in the first round of the 5th Final Masters which starts on Monday.
The six-player double round robin will yet again see a very strong field with World number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway starting as the top seed. World no. 2 Levon Aronian of Armenia,rising star Fabiano Caruana of Italy,Sergey Karjakin of Russia and Pons complete the line-up in this super category event.
Anand will be playing his first tournament since winning the World Championship for the fifth time in May early this year at Moscow. The event will continue its tradition and like last time,the first half will be played here and then the battle ground will shift to Bilbao in Spain from October 8. The time control is different as well with 90 minutes allotted for the first 40 moves and sixty minutes for the remaining game with a ten-second increment after every move is played.
The tournament will follow soccer-like scoring system with three points for a win,one for a draw and none in case of a loss. Anand will have the advantage of playing three white games in the first leg,while at Bilbao he will have an extra black game. With white games lined up for the first two round and including a game against lowest ranked Vallejo,the world champion will be definitely looking for a positive start,which can be crucial in such a tournament.
Armenian star Aronian will face Karjakin in the first round,while the other match will be played between Caruana and Carlsen. Carlsen and Aronian remain Anands main rivals in the tournament but the likes of Caruana and Karjakin obviously can match evenly with any opponent. Caruana is an improving player in elite circles and despite being just 20,he has broken in the top-10 world ranking.
Carlsen missed out on a tournament victory at Biel,Switzerland,a couple of months ago despite scoring maximum points under normal point scoring system.