“I can’t remember a (chess) tournament where the prize fund was the same for men and women,” said Anna Muzychuk, World No. 8 from Ukraine. “Because tournaments like that don’t exist,” he explained, with a smile that belies the hardships of his hometown.

Women will be in focus over the next six days during the fourth edition of the Tata Steel Chess India tournament, which opens at the National Library here on Tuesday. This is the first time that India’s biggest chess event is holding a women’s edition.

And the organizers of this prestigious fast and furious tournament can be proud of the fact that they started on the same salary ($41,500). “So can I play in the women’s section?” joked Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, former world speed champion from Azerbaijan.

He will have to settle for match wits against his fellow men here on a rather strong pitch featuring some of the world’s best players, such as Americans Hikaru Nakamura and Wesley So, ranked fifth and eighth, respectively, in the world, reigning supreme. speed champion Nodirbek Abdusattorov from Uzbekistan. Then there is Arjun Erigaisi’s outstanding young Indian quartet, who won the fast section last year, D. Gukesh, R. Praggnanandhaa and Nihal Sarin.

Former world speed champion Koneru Humpy leads India’s challenge in the women’s event. Anna, her younger sister Mariya Muzychuk, another Ukrainian Anna Ushenina, Georgian Nana Dzagnidze and Polish Oliwia Kiolbasa add a strong foreign flavor.

As Viswanathanan Anand, tournament ambassador and five-time world champion, revealed during the draw at the Taj Bengal Hotel, India will be the best against the world’s best.

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