LONDON: Former world champion Viswanathan Anand will hope for a turnaround in his form when he begins his campaign against wild-card Michael Adams of England in the opening match at the London Chess Classic at the Olympia.
Winner here in the last edition in a shorter format with just six players in the fray, Anand will play with white pieces against Adams.
The event will also serve as the concluding part of the Grand Chess tour and besides the USD 300000 prize fund at stake, there is also an additional USD 150000 for the top three finishers of the tour.
The contest will be tough as seven of the world's top 10 players are present here and the other three also belong in the top 20 of world rankings.
The format is an all-play-all with nine rounds between 10 competitors. The conclusion of the Grand Chess tour makes this year's Classic all the more exciting as theoretically, barring the wild card Adams, anyone can win it.
Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria leads the tour standings on 17 points while Levon Aronian of Armenia follows him closely a full point behind thanks to a big win at the Sinquefield Cup in the United States.
American Hikaru Nakamura and reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen are also not far behind, tallying 16 and 14 respectively. The rules here favour the winner with 13 points awarded for a clear triumph while the second placed gets 10 points.
Theoretically, Anand, with 12 points, can win the tour if he wins outright and his main rivals are off-form. After finishing second in the first edition in Norway, Anand had slumped to ninth spot in the Sinquefield Cup where the Indian ace started with two losses and never recovered.
Carlsen is no longer the huge favourite he used to be but may still enjoy the same level of intimidation factor over some of his arch rivals. The two-time world champion, who just celebrated his 25th birthday, is now on 2834 points and this is his lowest rating in last four years. Still, the Norwegian enjoys a 31-point lead over nearest rival Topalov.
Anand, after dropping a few points in America, is on 2796, joint third in world rankings currently.
Anand has got a generally good draw with five white games in the tournament including one against Carlsen. The black games against Aronian and Nakamura will be crucial to determine where the Indian star will land up in the tournament.
Anand defeated Adams in the last round of the London Classic last year to win the crown and he will have every reason to look forward to a positive start in his last tournament of the year.
The event will be played under Classical time control with nine rounds spread over ten days.
Pairings round 1: V Anand (Ind) v Michael Adams (Eng); Alexander Grischuk (Rus) v Hikaru Nakamura (Usa); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) v Magnus Carlsen (Nor); Fabiano Caruana (Ita) v Levon Aronian (Arm); Veselin Topalov (Bul) v Anish Giri (Ned).