New Delhi: National champion Parimarjan Negi will spearhead India's challenge in the inaugural AAI Grand Masters Chess Tournament to be held from June 21 to July 2.

Apart from Negi, the other Indian in the fray is Grand Master Krishnan Sasikiran, while World champion Hou Yifan of China, World Junior No. 1 GM Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Philippines' GM Wesely So and Czech Republic's No. 2 GM Viktor Laznicka complete the line-up.

Big time chess returns to India for the first time since the mid-1980s when Delhi hosted a string of Grandmaster tournaments which produced a World champion in the form of Viswanathan Anand.

The 17-year-old Yifan, who last year became the youngest-ever world champion in either men or women's section, will become the first women reigning champion to play in India since Maya Chiburdanidze played in the early 1980s.

The trio of Sasikiran (seeded sixth), Parimarjan (ninth) and Wesley (12th) will be up against Yifan in the tournament to be played at the AAI Officers' Institute near Safdarjung Airport.

An early qualifier for the World Cup 2011 to be held in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia in August, Hou recently won the first-ever Chinese Female Professional chess tournament held in Wuxi, Jiangsu in China in April with a highly impressive score of 9/11.

This event will offer total prize money worth $24,500. The winner will take home $8,000, while the runner-up receives $6,000. The purse for the next four finishers will be $4,000, 3,000, 2,000 and 1,500 respectively.

"The game was given to the world by India and we also have the world champion from India in Viswanathan Anand. 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 V P Agrawal, chairman of the Airports Authority of India.

"It will be a treat for chess lovers in Delhi and all over the country. We will have all modern facilities and use the event to promote the game in India by inviting youngsters to watch and learn," said Bharat Singh Chauhan, president, Delhi Chess Association, which is also supporting the event.

The event will be India's first-ever Category 17 chess tournament with a unique group of six grandmasters playing in a double round robin event.

"To have a Category 17 event in India has always been Delhi Chess Association's dream. And now that Delhi also has its first-ever national champion in Parimarjan Negi, it is only logical that we have the tournament in Delhi," said Agrawal.

The event is the highest-ever rated tournament for more than three decades in India.

(Agencies)