World champion Viswanathan Anand will take on world number four Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine in the first round of the Bilbao Grand Slam of chess.
The event, which was opened on Monday, will be a crucial test for Anand ahead of the World Championship match against Vladimir Kramnik of Russia slated next month and the Indian ace will be looking forward to get in to peak form for the much awaited clash.
Ivanchuk is the man in form after his recent triumph in the Tal Memorial tournament that he won ahead of Kramnik. Ivanchuk stands at second position on 2787 points, 11 behind Anand in the unofficial live rankings. After winning the Tal Memorial classical, Ivanchuk also won the blitz tournament that was also star studded.
Ivanchuk and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, also at 2787 in live rankings, are two players eyeing the number one slot and it will surely be a great contest according to the pundits of the game.
The other round one pairings will see Levon Aronian taking on Carlsen and Azerbaijani Teimour Radjabov will clash with former world champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.
Magnus Carlsen will be the one to watch out with his growing rating and form will play a crucial role in determining the standing of Topalov and Radjabov, who are both uncompromising players. Aronian, in top form, can topple any field and Ivanchuk is at his peak too. To sum it up, the chess buffs are in for a great treat.
While there is talk about world rankings and numero uno position, there is also an unprecedented prize fund of 400000 euros for the players with 150000 reserved for the winner.
The experimental scoring system makes the event more unpredictable as winner will get three points and a draw will result in one point for both players. It clearly means that two draws won't be equal to one win which is usually the case in classical tournaments.
To ensure that the games are fought hard and till the very end, the players are forbidden to offer draws, a rule that has been taken from the famous MTel Masters tournament at Sofia in Bulgaria. In the event of a drawn position, the officials will intervene to declare the result.
Pairings round 1: Viswanathan Anand (Ind) v/s Vassily Ivanchuk (Ukr); Teimour Radjabov (Aze) v/s Veselin Topalov (Bul); Levon Aronian (Arm) v/s Magnus Carlsen (Nor).