Nanjing, China :World champion Viswanathan Anand starts as the favourite to win his maiden Grand Slam of the year in the Pearl Spring Chess tournament that gets underway in China.
Following his decent performance in the recent Bilbao Final Masters that saw him regain the number one ranking in terms of ELO rating in the unofficial live rating list, the Indian ace will be hoping to win his first Grand Slam of the year ahead of Norwegian Magnus Carlsen who has been struggling for form.
Carlsen has lost more than 25 points from his last outings at the Chess Olympiad and Bilbao and is currently ranked second in the world.
The event will also see former world champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria vying for the top slot.
Topalov, who lost to Anand in the last World Championship in Bulgaria will be hoping for an improved performance against the Indian and given his uncompromising style, he is the other contender for the title besides the top two.
It will be played on a double round-robin basis between six players and each participant will get to play against the others twice.
The Sofia rules will be in place and the draw offers are not allowed. The draw can be agreed to in theoretically drawn positions only.
The total prize fund of the tournament is 2,50,000 Euros (over Rs 1.5 crore) with the winner's purse being 80,000 Euros.
Wang Yue of China will spearhead the local challenge. The current World University champion has been playing in top events regularly for some time now and is known as a solid player.
Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan and Etienne Bacrot of France complete the line up. Gashimov was surprisingly left out of the Azerbaijan's national team in the Chess Olympiad and he will be itching to prove his mettle in this elite field while Bacrot has been a consistent performer for many years now.
For Anand, the main challengers will be Carlsen and Topalov who are not playing their best at the moment. Like Carlsen, Topalov too lost many rating points in the Olympiad and both need to recover lost ground.
Anand meets Wang Yue in the opener where the former will play with white. Carlsen and Topalov also open their campaign with white pieces against Bacrot and Gashimov respectively.
Pairings round 1: V Anand (Ind) v/s Wang Yue (Chn); Magnus Carlsen (Nor) v/s Etienne Bacrot (Fra); Veselin Topalov(Bul) v/s Vugar Gashimov (Aze).