Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzbekistan)

RAKESH RAO
World ranking: 35. Rating: 2670. Date of birth: December 5, 1979.

IRONICALLY, reigning World Champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov will be the weakest player in the field at San Luis. Though Kasimdzhanov has gained the respect of the chess elite in the past 15 months, he is still considered the whipping boy of this championship. But it must be remembered that Kasimdzhanov, ranked a distant 54th at the start of last year's World Championship at Tripoli, had humbled players like Vassily Ivanchuk, Zoltan Almasi, Alexander Grischuk and Veselin Topalov, in that order, before adding the name of Michael Adams to the list, in the final. The triumph had earned him the right to challenge Kasparov but the oft-postponed match was never held. Before becoming the World champion, Kasimdzhanov's best result was runner-up to Anand in the 2002 World Cup. He won the 1998 Asian championship and finished runner-up in the 1999 World junior championship. His inexperience of playing among the elite is his biggest drawback. Still, Kasimdzhanov can be expected to have his moments. A surprise or two cannot be ruled out from the defending champion who starts as an underdog.