Anand to face Caruana in Sinquefield opener

Anand starts as the sixth seed in the 10-player round robin contest that will have nine rounds in all. The time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves and one hour for the rest of the game with an additional 30 seconds added to the clock from move 41.

Viswanathan Anand will get to play five white games out of a possible nine.   -  V. GANESAN

Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will be back in action and faces Fabiano Caruana of United States in the first round of Sinquefield Cup here.

It is again a star-studded field sans World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway who decided to skip the last two events of the tour in lieu of the impending World championship match against Sergey Karjakin of Russia later this year.

Anand starts as the sixth seed in the 10-player round robin contest that will have nine rounds in all. The time control is 120 minutes for the first 40 moves and one hour for the rest of the game with an additional 30 seconds added to the clock from move 41.

As part of the Grand chess tour (GCT), the Sinquefield Cup offers a prize pool of $300000 out of which $75000 is reserved for the winner. There is an additional $150000 prize fund for the overall top two winners of GCT.

In-form Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France who recently climbed to a career best No. 2 world ranking starts as the rating favourite in the event ahead of Caruana, who is world No. 4.

Seven out of 10 top ranked players in the world are taking part including defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia.

The other participants are Americans Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, Anish Giri of Holland, Peter Svidler of Russia, Ding Liren of China and Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.

After finishing fourth in the previous edition of the GCT at Leuven in Belgium, Anand currently stands at seventh spot on the tour and will have to do well both here and at the final leg in London later this year to be in contention for a podium finish.

The Indian had to miss out on the first tournament of GCT this year in Paris due to prior commitments.

Anand picked out a good draw and the Indian ace will get to play five white games out of a possible nine here. However, to make it an even playing field for the tour, the organisers put up a new rule that states that in the forthcoming London Classic, the players playing five white games here will play five blacks.

This is the third instalment of the GCT this year after the first two events were held in Rapid and blitz format in Paris and Leuven. The first edition was won by Nakamura, while world champion Carlsen had sealed the second event with some authority.

Round 1 pairings: V. Anand (Ind) vs Fabiano Caruana (USA); Wesley So (USA) vs Hikaru Nakamura (USA); Anish Giri (Ned) vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra); Ding Liren (Chn) vs Levon Aronian (Arm); Veselin Topalov (Bul) vs Peter Svidler (Rus).