Viswanathan Anand, the five-time world champion and reigning World Rapid Chess championship, will defend his title in the next edition of the tournament which will be held in St Petersburg on December 25. The tournament will conclude on December 31. The previous edition of the tournament was held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Anand stunned the world with a magnificent performance to clinch the title. A total of 196 players will participate in the rapid section while 192 players will participate in the blitz edition of the tournament. Magnus Carlsen, who defeated Fabiano Caruana in the recently concluded world championship, will also be one of the star attractions in the tournament.
The win in the 2017 tournament in Riyadh was Anand’s first after he had won the championship title he had won in 2003 beating Vladikir Kramnik in the final. The win also dispelled many of the doubts that lingered regarding Anand’s capabilities. Many people were questioning whether age had slowed Anand down but he silenced his critics in style. Speaking to Hindustan Times after the event, Anand said, “Riyadh will be something that I will cherish for a long time. It is nice to be termed a world champion rather than a former champion. But to say that Riyadh is the starting point of greater things is asking for too much.”
In 2018, Anand’s form has once again been patchy as he has struggled for consistency. He won the 2018 Tal Memorial Rapid chess tournament with a score of six out of nine in a field that included former champion Vladimir Kramnik and other strong players like Hikaru Nakamura, Boris Gelfand, Shakriyar Mamedyarovc and Ian Nepomniachtchi. However, in the first Tata Steel Rapid and Blitz tournament which was held in Kolkata, Anand once again silenced the detractors in style by winning the Blitz tournament in grand style.
Along with Anand, the other major Indian names in the tournament include Pentala Harikrishna, Nihal Sarin, Vishnu Prasanna and Dinesh Sharma. In the women’s section, Koneru Humpy and Harika Dronavalli will lead India’s charge in the rapid and blitz tournament.
Carlsen cemented his reputation as the game’s greatest player after demolishing US hopeful Fabiano Caruana in the world championship tournament which went to tiebreaks after all the 12 classical games ended in draws. The 27-year-old won three successive rapid-chess tiebreakers in a display of intuition and guile that overwhelmed the 26-year-old American in London.