Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will start his campaign against Dutchman Anish Giri in the first round of Bilbao Chess Masters Final. (Latest Chess News)
It will be a clash of generations as Anand is pitted against a very young field comprising 21-year-old Giri, American Wesley So (22) and Liren Ding of China who just celebrated his 23rd birthday.
Anand, who turns 46 in December, will have his task cut out against an agile opposition, known to be fierce fighters.
The Indian starts as the rating favourite ranked fourth in world rankings while Giri is the second seed ahead of Ding and Wesley So. The live rankings, however, tell a different story where Anand is tied second in world rankings while Ding, Giri and Wesley are placed eighth, ninth and tenth respectively.
The 'Sofia-rules' along with Soccer-like scoring system will be back in use here. A victory will be worth three points while one point will be awarded for a split point. As per 'Sofia-rules' the players cannot offer draws which can be achieved through Arbiter's intervention or as otherwise stipulated in the FIDE rules.
The format is small with just six rounds slated over a week wherein each of the four players will compete twice against others.
The rate of play is also interesting with 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and then 60 minutes to finish the game. After move 41, the players will get a 10-second increment for every move they make.
In the last edition, Anand won the tournament scoring 11 points in all which was one more than Levon Aronian of Armenia. The Indian ace will be looking forward to a similar performance this time too and this event will also work as a warm-up to the London Chess Classic in December wherein Anand will be vying for the Grand Chess tour title.
The start will be crucial for Anand as Giri is known as a rock-solid player. An early victory could lend wings to Anand's campaign and he can look forward to good outings against Wesley So and Liren Ding too.
Ding is clearly the most uncompromising player in the field and he may provide some twists in the tale of this year's event.
The Chinese and Wesley So have elevated themselves in the world elite recently and they would want to retain their places. In the other first round game, The American will start with white pieces.