“I don’t remember a (chess) tournament where the prize-fund was the same for both men and women,” said Anna Muzychuk, the World No. 8 from Ukraine. “Because such a tournament didn’t exist,” she explained, with a smile that belied the travails back home.
Women will be in focus over the next six days during the fourth edition of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament, which opens at the National Library here on Tuesday. It is the first time India’s biggest chess event is conducting a women’s edition.
And the organisers of this prestigious rapid and blitz tournament could afford to be proud of the fact that they are starting off with equal pay ($41,500). “So can I play in the women’s section?” joked Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, the former World rapid champion from Azerbaijan.
He will have to be content with matching wits against fellow men here, in a rather strong field featuring some of the world’s best players, like the Americans Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, ranked fifth and eighth, respectively, in the world, the reigning World rapid champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan. Then there is the magnificent young Indian quartet of Arjun Erigaisi, who won the rapid section last year, D. Gukesh, R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin.
Former World rapid champion Koneru Humpy leads the Indian challenge in the women’s event. Anna, her younger sister Mariya Muzychuk, another Ukrainian Anna Ushenina, Georgia’s Nana Dzagnidze and Poland’s Oliwia Kiolbasa add the strong foreign flavour.
As Viswanathanan Anand, the tournament ambassador and five-time World champion, summed up during the draw of lots at the Taj Bengal Hotel, it is India’s going to be best against the world’s best.