Anand eyes record

NEW DELHI: Four-time champion Viswanathan Anand and World champion Veselin Topalov come face to face over the next fortnight once the much-awaited Corus chess tournament opens at Wijk ann Zee, near Amsterdam, on Saturday.

Fourteen players, including six from the top-10 list, form the field in this traditional season-opener. The players' average rating of 2716 clearly reflects the strength of this round-robin event.

After Topalov's runaway victory in the World Championship in San Luis, Argentina, last October and his subsequent crossing of the 2800-point barrier, the chess world has keenly awaited this mega event. With Topalov overtaking Anand in the ranking list, the on-board rivalry between the two has attracted more global attention that in turn promises to be good advertisement for the game in the post-Gary Kasparov era.

For once, Topalov will be under pressure to reinforce the gains of 2005 as he looks for his maiden Corus title. On the other hand, Anand will try to become the first five-time winner having won in 1989, 1998, 2003 and 2004.

Tough event

As Anand told the The Hindu, "I am not going to get ahead of myself. The event will be one of the toughest. There are some new faces in the top-10. For example, (Levon) Aronian has been the star of the year in terms of his meteoric rise. (Etienne) Barcot is also in good form. Of course, my old rival (Gata) Kamsky will be there."

Last year, Anand was looking for a hattrick of titles but his early loss to eventual champion Peter Leko led him to the second spot. Should Anand win this time, he will move ahead of three other four-time champions, the Netherlands' Max Euwe (1940, 1942, 1952 and 1958), Hungary's Lajos Portisch (1965, 1972, 1975 and 1978) and Switzerland's Victor Korchnoi (1968, 1971, 1984 and 1987).

In the concurrently played Grandmaster 'B' tournament, K. Humpy carries the Indian interest. She has everything to gain from this tough 14-player field where she is the second weakest.

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