Bilbao : It will be a test of time for World Champion Viswanathan Anand when he starts his campaign in the Bilbao final masters chess tournament that starts here later on Saturday.
Hitting category-22, the event is the strongest tournament in the history in terms of average rating of participants touching a little over 2788 ELO points surpassing its own record set in 2008.
The four player tournament in double round-robin format spread over one week will see the Indian chess ace up against some of the best names in the game, such as World number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and Alexei Shirov of Spain.
Carlsen starts as the top seed of this super tournament and Anand is second seed ahead of Kramnik and Shirov. The last two qualified for the tournament by finishing in the top two in the Shanghai Masters held in September earlier this year.
Carlsen is licking his wounds after the Chess Olympiad where he performed way below his true potential. The Norwegian prodigy, who models for G-Star, will hope to cover some of the important rating points he lost in the Olympiad and will be the one to watch out for in this elite company.
For Anand, Carlsen is likely to be the main rival as the other two, Kramnik and Shirov have not posed him much of a problem lately. It may be recalled that Anand had beaten Kramnik in the World Championship match at Bonn in Germany in 2008 and had won the World Championship in 2001 disposing Shirov in the finals at Tehran.
The double round-robin format makes it an even playing field as all participants play each other twice, once with white and once with black. There will be six rounds in all and the rest day has been scheduled for the 12th of October.
The Bilbao and Sofia Rules will be in force to make the event more competitive. Sofia Rules, which forbid players from agreeing for draws without the consent of the arbiter have been widely accepted by players and enthusiasts alike.
However, there is apprehension about the Bilbao Rules, which have a football-like scoring system, giving three points for a victory and one for a draw.
The Alhndiga, one of Bilbao`s most prestigious venues and situated in the heart of the city, will host the tournament, with the grandmasters playing in a glass room in view of the public. The players will be assigned 90 minutes for the first 40 moves and another 60 minutes to finish the game, with 10 seconds added per move from the 41st turn.
After the Chess Olympiad, the chess season remains busy. Immediately after the Bilbao Masters, Anand will move to Nanjing in China to play the next tournament.
Pairings round 1: Alexei Shirov v/s V Anand; Vladimir Kramnik v/s Magnus Carlsen.