Baku (Azerbaijan): Asian champion Parimarjan Negi will lock horns with some strong Ukrainian and Russian Grandmasters in the upcoming International Chess Festival Baku Open starting on Saturday.

The tournament, to be held near the famous Aqua Park near Caspian Sea, will carry a purse of USD 50,000 with the winner taking $ 10,000. The first round begins tomorrow and the tournament runs through to October 1.

It is a nine-round Swiss tournament and the winner last year Sergei Zhigalko from Belarus, is back to defend his title.

The 18-year-old Negi is the fourth seed at a rating of 2658. The other Indian player in the field will be 22-year-old Abhijeet Gupta (2637). The top seed is GM Anton Korobov of Ukraine rated 2705 and Evgeny Alekseev of Russia rated 2682. The third seed is Zhigalko (2667).

Next month, Negi will also play an even stronger tournament, the Chigorin Memorial in St. Petersburg, where the purse is expected to be around $ 40,000.

The tournament has attracted a large number of professional players. Leading the field will be former World title challenger, Alexei Shirov, who has reverted his nationality to Latvia from Spanish.

Pavel Elianov of Ukraine and Alexei Dreev of Russia are also expected to play.

Apart from Negi, the other Indian in the field will be Krishnan Sasikiran, who is rated 2707 (the only Indian other than Anand to be rated over 2700 currently).

The competition for them could come from GMs Zvjaginsev, Zhigalko, Mateusz Bartel, Iordachescu and Timofeev, all of them above 2600 ELO.


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