Grandmaster B. Adhiban heads a star-studded field that includes 23 GMs and 30 International Masters in the 58th Senior National Chess Championship beginning here on Friday.

Former champion Adhiban of Petroleum Sports Promotion Board (PSPB) has been given the top billing and is expected to face stiff challenge from the likes of fast-rising Arjun Erigaisi, defending camp Aravindh Chithambaram, Karthikeyan Murali, S P Sethuraman and M R Lalith Babu, apart from talented youngsters D Gukesh and Abhimanyu Puranik.

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Erigaisi has been in good form of late and won the prestigious Tata Steel Challengers event in Wijk Aan Zee in the Netherlands recently and will be the one to beat.

Gukesh, the third youngest Grandmaster ever in history, and Tamil Nadu teammates Chithambaram, Karthikeyan Murali and Sethuraman can be expected to produce strong performances in the tournament.

The tournament, featuring a total of 184 players, will be played under the Swiss System with rounds with a time control of 90 minutes with 30-second increment from the first move.

Cash prizes to the tune of Rs 30 lakh are up for grabs with the winner set to receive Rs 6 lakh as prize money.

The national championship winner will also get 25 bonus points while deciding the Indian team for the Chess Olympiad and the Asian Games scheduled for later this year, a release said.

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AICF secretary Bharat Singh Chauhan was quoted as saying in the release that the Federation had drawn up ambitious plans to unearth new talent through the 'Chess in Schools' programme.

According to the organisers, this was probably the first time that 23 GMs and 30 IMs are taking part in the national championship.