Saint Louis: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will hope for a turnaround in fortunes when he takes on Hikaru Nakamura of United States in the first round of the Sinquefield Cup, a part of the Grand Chess tour at Saint Louis.
Tied on the eighth spot with just three points with a lone outing thus far in the Grand Chess tour, Anand will have to come out with an impressive performance in the super tournament that also has Magnus Carlsen of Norway starting as the top seed.
The Indian will get five whites and four black games in the 10-player round-robin event being played under classical time control for a total prize pool of $ 300000.
For Anand, this tournament and the St Louis rapid and blitz that starts immediately after, will serve as the perfect preparation ground before the World Cup of Chess that begins in the first week of September.
The World Cup will be a knockout event and if Anand finishes in top two, he will get a direct entry in to the next Candidates tournament that decides the challenger to Carlsen in the World Championship.
On paper Carlsen is still the favourite but the reigning world champion has been struggling with his form and has not won any classical tournament for over a year now.
In fact, another bad tournament can even result in Carlsen losing his number one world ranking that he has possessed for over six years. For the records, the Norwegian on 2822 rating is just 12 points ahead of second placed Wesley So of the United States.
Fabiano Caruana of USA is another player closing in on Carlsen’s domination at 2807 points and the first round might be crucial for the American to bridge the gap as he plays with white against the reigning world champion.
Going by current form, Levon Aronian emerges as the best player in classical chess as the Armenian recently won the Grenke Classic as well as the Norway Chess held in Carlsen’s den.
Wesley So has been in top gear as well with some brilliant victories. The Filipino turned American will hope for another great run as the defending champion of the circuit.
The Grand Chess tour has five events this year compared to four in 2016. The St Louis Rapid and Blitz is a welcome addition after Paris and Luven events that ended recently.
Sinquefield Cup and the London Classic are the only two events that are played under classical chess.
With 25 points in his bag, Carlsen is well ahead of second placed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave in the Grand Chess tour standings.