New Delhi: Czech chess champion Viktor Laznicka is hoping to cash in on happy memories of previous visits to India when he opens his campaign at the inaugural AAI Grandmasters Chess tournament here from June 21.

Laznicka, who has been twice before to India in 2008 and 2009 won the Kolkata Open in his first visit and was tied second going into the final round on his next visit. But he lost the last game and finished sixth.

The first time around, he shared the top position with Krishnan Sasikiran, who will be one of his opponents in the AAI (Airports Authority of India) Grandmasters tournament, but Laznicka won the title on a better tie-break.

"I have been to India two times before. I played in Kolkata in 2008 and 2009. I enjoyed it very much and in 2008 I was the winner. I have also been to New Delhi as a tourist and (from there) I went to see Taj Mahal and many other interesting things.

"This time after AAI tournament I am going to a few more places and also to Sri Lanka for two weeks. So I am looking forward to a good trip in many ways," said Laznicka ahead of his visit for the AAI Grandmasters event.

"The game was given to the world by India and we have a great history in the game. So it is only logical that the AAI supports an endeavour which showcases India's ancient game and young talent from around the world," said VP Agrawal, Chairman AAI, which is also celebrating 100 years of Civil Aviation and supporting the highest rated chess tournament ever in India.

Apart from Laznicka, the other participants will be Women's world champion Hou Yifan of China, World Junior No. 1 GM Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Philippines' No. 1 GM Wesely So, India No. 2 GM Krishnan Sasikiran and the reigning Indian National Champion GM Parimarjan Negi.

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.

"I have always enjoyed playing chess in India and it is a pleasure playing a tournament in India, especially strong one. I am really looking forward to this event."

He also said that the field will be quite tough.

"It (the field) will be quite tough with many young strong grandmasters with huge potential. It is very interesting composition."

When asked to point out who could be the favourite, he said, "I guess favorites will be (Fabiano) Caruana and Sasikiran, but almost every player can top the field."

Laznicka, meanwhile admitted that he is not in great form but would like to regain it during the upcoming tournament.

"I did not play very often after Olympiad in September 2010 in Khanty-Mansiysk. At the European Championships in France, I performed badly. But before Olympiad I had great results like winning of World Open in USA and winning of Marx Gyorgy memorial in Hungary."

The 23-year-old learnt chess at six and progressed quickly to playing and winning junior tournaments across many age groups. One of his big early achievements was the bronze medal at the European Youth Chess Championship in 2005. A year later he became a Grandmaster.

In 2006 he won the full national Czech Championship and also started his Olympiad career, scoring the best individual result of the Czech team in Turin.

In 2007, he was joint winner of the Czech Open held in his home town and qualified for the Chess World Cup 2007.

In 2008, he shared victory with Krishnan Sasikiran at Kolkata and was declared winner on tie-break. He then took a share of second place at the EU Individual Open Chess Championship in Liverpool.

In July 2010, he took clear first place at the World Open Chess Tournament with 7.5/9.

Laznicka is a technically solid and yet dynamic player, who is adept with both colours.

During his 6-0 run to start the 2010 World Open, which he eventually won, he scored two
points with black against strong grandmasters.

The tournament will offer total prize money worth USD 24,500. The winner takes USD 8,000, while the runner-up will receive USD 6,000. The purse for the next four finishers will be USD 4,000, USD 3,000, USD 2,000 and USD 1,500.

(Agencies)