Baden-Baden, Germany: Considered the favourite to lift the title, world champion Viswanathan Anand has been given the top billing at the Grenke Chess Classic and and will take on Michael Adams of England in the first round here.
After his third place finish in the Tata Steel Chess tournament, Anand will look to score his first classical tournament victory in quite some time.
The six-player double round-robin tournament has Fabiano Caruana of Italy as the second seed and only one who looks capable of giving the world champion a run for his money.
Besides Adams, the German trio of Arkaditsch Naiditsch, Daniel Fridman and Georg Meier complete the lineup.
There will 10 rounds in all with February 12 selected as the sole rest day.
The time control will be under classical chess rules with 100 minutes for the first 40 moves, 50 for the next 20 and then a 15 minutes to both players with a 30 seconds increment from move one. The draw agreement is not allowed before move 40.
At 43 years, the the Indian ace starts as the oldest participant ahead of Adams, 41. Caruana is the youngest in the lot at 20 and has a lot to prove after a dismal show in the Tata Steel tournament.
The Italian in fact slipped from an all time high fifth world ranking to 13th after just one tournament and would be looking forward to an improved performance.
With 2714 as the average rating of the participants, the tournament is pegged at category-19 according to FIDE charts.
Incidentally, it is just one category higher than the sole super tournament organised in India last December which was category-18.
Indications are high that should the trend continue in India, chess buffs might see Anand in action on home turf sooner.
Anand is no stranger to southern German spa town as he has represented the local club for many years in Bundesliga, the German Chess league. The Indian is also known to speak fluent German.
The Indian will look forward to avenge his defeat at the hands of Adams in the London Classic last December in the opener. Anand will start his campaign with black pieces.
In other first round matches, Caruana will meet Meier while Naidtisch will take on Fridman.
Pairings round 1: Michael Adams (Eng) v/s V Anand (Ind); Arkaditsch Naiditsch (Ger) v/s Daniel Fridman (Ger); Fabiano Caruana (Ita) v/s Georg Meier (Ger).