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Zurich (Switzerland): Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will take on his 2008 world championship challenger Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in the first round of the Zurich Chess Challenge. Anand drew number one post an exciting drawing of lots after a blitz tournament in which the Indian ace tied for the second spot and finished third. Also Read - FIDE Chess Olympiad 2020: India Clinch Historic Gold, Russia Declared Joint Winners After Server Malfunction
Levon Aronian of Armenia comprehensively won the blitz with four points out of a possible five, winning against Anand in the final round. Fabiano Caruana of Italy and Anand tied for the second spot but the former had a better tiebreak pushing the Indian to the third spot with both tallying 3.5 points apiece. Also Read - Legends of Chess: Viswanathan Anand Suffers Eighth Defeat to End Disastrous Campaign
Pre-blitz favourite Hikaru Nakamura of United States had to be content with a fourth place finish, ending on just two points while Russian duo of Kramnik and Sergey Karjakin finished tied last on just one point each. As is the custom, Aronian was asked to pick his colour first and the Armenian chose number two while Caruana settled for number three. Anand had to choose number one which means that the Indian will play white in the first two rounds of the tournament and will also get three white games in Classical format out of a possible five.
This could be crucial in a short tournament like this and Anand did well in the blitz to achieve this. Just a week ago the Indian was seen struggling when he lost three out of seven games in the Grenke Classic in Germany. Playing against Kramnik is routine for Anand and he will also get white games against Aronian and Nakamura in the Classical stage.
The tournament has a unique format with five Classical and five rapid games to decide the winner. The Classical games, however, will carry two points for a win and one for a draw, while in rapid the players will get one point for a win and half for a draw. Clearly, one who does well in the Classical games holds a big advantage here.
The first round is expected to be exciting with Aronian also playing white against Karjakin. The Russian was out of sort in the blitz tournament but much can be expected from him as the tournament gets in to its groove. The biggest game of the first round is between Caurana and Nakamura in which the Italian top seed plays with white pieces. After some mediocre performances recently, Caruana did well to maintain his rating in the Grenke Classic, while Nakamura is fresh from his victory in the Gibraltar open, the highest prize money tournament.
Anand will have his task cut out after a dismal show in the Grenke Classic. The Indian lost heavily in terms of Elo points also and the only way out is to do better here. The tide seems to have swung in Anand’s favour past the blitz tournament wherein he beat Kramnik, Nakamura and Karjakin and drew with Caruana besides the lone loss against Aronian in the final round.
Pairings round 1: V Anand (Ind) V/s Vladimir Kramnik (Rus); Fabiano Caruana (Ita) v/s Hikaru Nakamura (Usa); Levon Aronian (Arm) v/s Sergey Karjakin (Rus).