Tajikistan Grandmaster Farukh Amonatov will headline a 140-player field that includes 17 GMs in the inaugural Maharashtra International Open Grandmaster Chess tournament beginning here on Tuesday.
The tourney for players rated above Elo 2000 will see 17 GMs, 29 International Masters, a handful of WGMs and 140 players from 24 countries vie for top honours, according to a press release.
GM Amonatov, with an Elo rating of 2622, is the top-seed and starts favourite while GM Lalith Babu (2563) who has won as many as 20 gold medals in international events will spearhead the Indian challenge as the highest host player in the fray.
Former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine, who was expected to participate in the event, could not make it as his visa application was rejected by the authorities, reasons for which were not clear.
"He (Ponomariov) is not coming...His visa did not come through. Yet, the field is strong, there are good players," the organisers told PTI.
The event to be played till June 8 will be a 11-round Swiss League and has attracted players from Tajikistan, Belarus, Georgia, Azerbaijan, USA, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh apart from top Indian players.
Among the Indian women, International Masters Bhakti Kulkarni and Soumya Swaminathan, WGMs Mary Ann Gomes, Divya Deshmukh and Priyanka Nutakki are expected to perform well during the event.
The tournament, which offers a total prize money of Rs. 20 lakh, is organized by the Maharashtra Chess Association under the aegis of the All India Chess Federation.
Meanwhile, over 455 players from seven countries including India have confirmed their participation for the 1st Pune Open Chess Tournament (for players rated below Elo 2000) which will be held here simultaneously.
The open event will offer a total prize money Rs 10 lakh and will be on a 10-round Swiss League basis, organisers said in the release.