New Delhi: There is a sense of great expectancy as the six-player field descends here for the inaugural AAI Grandmasters Chess tournament starting Tuesday.
The six-player field includes women`s world champion Hou Yifan of China, besides the prodigiously talented Fabiano Caruana, who completes 19 years next month, Czech Champion Viktor Laznicka, Filipino No. 1 Wesley So, Indian National champion Parimarjan Negi and Krishnan Sasikiran, India`s second highest rated player after Viswanathan Anand.
The draw for the tournament will be held Tuesday in the presence of the six players and Sports Minister Ajay Maken.
The four foreign stars are all excited about coming to India. They not only want to play chess, but are also keen on tasting Indian food and experiencing Indian culture, about which they have heard so much.
"I have never been to India before and I very much look forward to playing there," said junior World No. 1, Caruana.
"I know that Indian chess is growing in terms of the strength and the number of players."
Though Laznicka feels that Sasikiran, with whom he shared the top spot back in Kolkata Open in 2008, is one of the favourites, Caruana sees the tournament is very open.
"I believe there is no favorite. All players are young, experienced and quite strong," he said.
Asked about what he knew about India and Indian chess, Laznicka said: "I like many things about India. It will be hard to express it in one sentence or in shot. But generally, I like the way chess players are treated in India."
The Indian duo, Sasikiran and Negi, have already qualified for the World Cup in Khaty-Mansiysk in Russia later this year. Negi, who holds the record of being the youngest Grandmaster from India, recently became the first Delhi player to win the National championships. The two are also Arjuna Awardees.
Sasi, the seniormost player in the field at 30, is a former national champion and winner of many international events, is also the only Indian other than Indian to cross 2700 in ratings. Amongst Sasi`s many credits is a win over Anand in 2002.
Hou Yifan will look do well in the tourament and defend her world title
later this year.
Wesley So of the Philippines is World Junior No. 4 and the National Champion of his country.