Back with a bang, world champion Viswanathan Anand will be up against world number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway in a much-awaited fifth-round clash of the Tata Steel Chess tournament here.
After enduring some indifferent form and results in the second half of 2012, Anand has finally shown his true mettle at his favourite hunting ground.
The five-time winner here is gunning for a sixth title and he has had a fantastic start.
The fourth-round victory over Levon Aronian must have been a great confidence booster for Anand as the Armenian has been his nemesis for a long time.
Already in the first month of the year, the battle was dubbed as the game of the year and also the game of the decade by some.
A fine opening preparation well compiled with required aggression led to a finish which had the spectators awestruck.
Such games were usually played only 100 years back.
Prior to the win against Aronian, Anand had warmed up with a technical demolition of fast-improving Fabiano Caruana of Italy in the third round after two draws. From a seemingly harmless position, the Indian ace simply outclassed his younger opponent.
With three points from four games Anand is sharing the lead with Carlsen and Sergey Karjakin of Russia. These three are now separated from the pursuers by a full point and the list includes P Harikrishna who is making his debut in the premier section.
Many had believed Harikrishna to be a pushover but the Hyderabad-based has proved them all wrong. With an excellent victory against Anish Giri of Holland in the opener, Harikrishna announced his arrival and after that a missed chance again Fabiano did not spoil his mood.
The loss against Carlsen in the previous round, however, could have been a dampener but the Indian fought very well before conceding the point.
In the fifth round, Harikrishna will take on Loek van Wely who is also on two points. Given the form and commitment he is showing, Harikrishna starts as favourite in this clash.
After attaining the highest ever rating of 2861 points, there is only one thing that is left to be achieved for Magnus Carlsen - the world championship title.
The Norwegian will be looking forward to the qualification candidates tournament in London in April and if he wins, he would earn the right to challenge Anand for the world title later this year. Carlsen obviously starts as a huge favourite to win the candidates.
After a sedate start, Carlsen is back where he belongs and the game against Anand might be a prelude to the match between them.
The Norwegian agreed that Anand had played some mind-blowing chess to beat Anand but when he was asked if he was scared that Anand is back in shape and he plays him in the next round -- “no” was the smiling reply.
It’s early days in the category-20 super tournament between 14 players on a round-robin basis but Anand has had the start he has been wanting for a few tournaments now. The game against Carlsen is expected to be a nail-biting contest.
Pairings round 5: V Anand (Ind, 3) v Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 3); P Harikrishna (Ind, 2) v Loek van Wely (Ned, 2); Ivan Sokolov (Ned, 1.5) v Levon Aronian (Arm, 1.5); Peter Leko (Hun, 2) v Fabiano Caruana (Ita, 2); Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 3) v Anish Giri (Ned, 1.5); Yifan Hou (Chn, 1) v Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 2); Erwin L’Ami (Ned, 1.5) v Wang Hao (Chn, 2).