Back to competitive chess after a gap of four months, World champion Viswanathan Anand will face Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain in the first round of the 5th Final Masters 2012, which starts in Sao Paulo, on Monday.
The six-player double round robin will yet again see a very strong field with world number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway starting as the top seed.
World no. 2 Levon Aronian of Armenia, rising star Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Sergey Karjakin of Russia and Pons complete the line-up in this super category tournament.
Anand will be playing his first tournament since winning the World Championship for the fifth time in May early this year at Moscow. The Indian ace had beaten Boris Gelfand of Israel in a tense affair and he must be raring to go after a four-month break.
The event will continue its tradition and like last time, the first half will be played in Sao Paulo and then the battle ground will shift to Bilbao in Spain from October 8.
The time control is different as well with 90 minutes allotted for the first 40 moves and sixty minutes for the remaining game with a ten-second increment after every move is played.
The tournament will follow soccer-like scoring system with three points for a win, one for a draw and none in case of a loss.
Anand will have the advantage of playing three white games in the first leg, while at Bilbao he will have an extra black game. With white games lined up for the first two round and including a game against lowest ranked Vallejo, the World champion will be definitely looking for a positive start, which can be crucial in such a tournament.
Armenian star Aronian will face Karjakin in the first round, while the other match will be played between Caruana and Carlsen.
Carlsen and Aronian remain Anand's main rivals in the tournament but the likes of Caruana and Karjakin obviously can match evenly with any opponent.
Caruana is an improving player in elite circles and despite being just 20, he has broken in the top-10 world ranking.
Carlsen missed out on a tournament victory at Biel, Switzerland, a couple of months ago despite scoring maximum points under normal point scoring system. For once, the Norwegian was relegated to the second spot behind Wang Hao of China who had more points under soccer-like scoring system also followed at Biel.
Carlsen is also chasing a rare dream of attaining highest ever ELO rating. The world number one will achieve that if he earns nine rating points in this tournament.
Garry Kasparov holds this record having topped 2851 during his playing days.
Aronian is fresh from leading Armenia to a gold-medal win in the Chess Olympiad and it is clear that he is high spirits too.
For Karjakin the in-depth knowledge in many position work wonders and the Russian will be looking forward to capitalising on that.
In the last edition, Vallejo Pons caused a couple of big upsets including a victory against Carlsen. The Spaniard will be happy if he can repeat that being the only out-of-top-ten player in the tournament. Vallejo is ranked 51st in the world.
Pairings Round 1: Viswanathan Anand vs Francisco Vallejo Pons; Fabiano Caruana vs Magnus Carlsen; Aronian vs Karjakin.