Viswanathan Anand returns to action after a year

Viswanathan Anand, a five-time world champion, will restart his famous rivalry with Russian icon Garry Kasparov in the Croatia Grand Chess Tour Rapid and Blitz competition, which begins here on Wednesday, returning to over-the-board action after more than a year away.

Before Covid-19 and related regulations put a halt to athletic action around the world, the Indian maestro’s last over-the-board event was in March 2020. Anand will compete in both the rapid and blitz events, but Kasparov, a long-time opponent, and previous world champion will only compete in the blitz event.

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Anand and Kasparov, who both retired in 2005, played in several noteworthy encounters, including the 1995 PCA World Championships final at the World Trade Center in New York. He expressed interest in returning to over-the-board chess and competing against Kasparov.

“I am excited to be able to play again. I have had a lot of memories playing with Kasparov. But it (playing against him) will be different this time,” Anand said to PTI.

The chess genius from Chennai, who is now ranked 15th in the world, will be hoping for a strong showing in a competitive field. He was a member of the Indian team that won the FIDE Online Olympiad with Russia in August of last year. Anand, who was detained in Germany owing to the pandemic’s lockdowns and travel restrictions last year, returned to India in June.

The highest-ranked player in the field is Frenchman Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Elo 2807), who is joined by Russian Grandmaster Alex Grischuk, Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia).

Nepomniachtchi, who will compete for the world title against Magnus Carlsen later this year, joined the tournament as a wild card, similar to Anand. GMs Anish Giri (the Netherlands), Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Poland), Ivan Saric (Croatia), Anton Korobov (Ukraine), and Jorden Van Foreest (the Netherlands) are also in the fray. The tournament will feature ten elite Grandmasters fighting for a total prize fund of USD 150,000 over nine rounds of rapid chess (from July 7 to 9) and 18 rounds of blitz chess (from July 10 to 11).

Each player has 25 minutes to complete the game in rapid chess, with a 10-second increment time added after each move. Players have five minutes to play in the blitz event, with two seconds increment time added after each move.