Anand takes on Wesley So in Tata Steel Chess India
The 48-year-old Indian chess wizard last played in the country at his hometown in 2013 when he lost the World Championship title to Magnus Carlsen of Norway.
Anand termed it an emotional moment returning to Kolkata where he lost his final GM norm by a whisker in 1986.
"It's a very nice feeling to be back in Kolkata. I've got a lot of memories here. I'm really excited," Anand, who last played here at the 3rd Goodricke Open in 1992, said on the sidelines of the draw ceremony.
The top board will see India number two and former world junior champion Pentala Harikrishna against local challenger Surya Sekhar Ganguly.
A former second of Anand during three World Championship matches, Ganguly is looking forward to face Anand for the first time in his life.
"I remember making the demo board during Anand's match here in 1992. It's strange but for the first time I'll take him on a real board. I'm absolutely honoured," an excited Ganguly said.
Anand started 2018 on a rousing note, winning the Tal Memorial Rapid title in Moscow.
However, he has been off colour in his last three rapid events in Leuven, Paris and St Louis. Having won the most number of rapid titles among current players, the Indian will be a strong challenger.
The USD 40,000 prize money tournament will feature three players in the top 10 ranking including Azerbaijan GM and world number three Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who will start off against India no 3 Vidit Gujrathi in the second board.
Mamedyarov, who has an Elo rating of 2817, said he does not give much importance to his rating.
"I'm not under any pressure. I will forget my rating and play my own game. I think it's an open field with seven or eight players who can go all the way," he said.
Current World Cup winner Levon Aronian, who missed his flight and is slated to arrive Friday morning, is drawn against Hikaru Nakamura who will play with white in the third board.
Armenian GM and world number six Levon Aronian, American world no 9 Wesley So, Japanese-American GM and four-time United States champion Hikaru Nakamura (world number 14) and Russian GM Sergey Karjakin (world number 15) also feature in the draw.
The tournament features six Indian and five overseas Grandmasters including two wildcard entries -- Nihal Sarin and Praggnanandhaa Rameshbabu -- who will compete in the rapid and blitz formats respectively.
The first three days' of action will be of rapid chess in round-robin format followed by a rest day on Monday.
The final leg will be of double round-robin blitz concluding on November 14.
Round One: Pentala Harikrishna v Surya Sekhar Ganguly; Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan) v Vidit Gujrathi; Hikaru Nakamura (USA) v Levon Aronian (Armenia); Nihal Sarin v Sergey Karjakin (Russia); Viswanathan Anand v Wesley So (USA).
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