Dethroned world champion Viswanathan Anand will have to reproduce sublime form this fortnight to earn the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen for the world title later in the year.
When the eight selected players commence a 14-round world Candidates tournament in Khanty Mansisyk (Russia) on Thursday to find the challenger for the Norwegian world champion, nothing should help Anand’s confidence more than a winning start against top seed Levon Aronian.
The €600,000 championship, where each player faces the other with both colours, has two former champions, Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov, in a field which includes four Russians.
Know the Candidates:
Levon Aronian (Armenia): World ranking 2; Rating: 2830; Qualified as per world ranking. A favourite to become the next challenger.
Vladimir Kramnik (Russia): World ranking 3; Rating: 2787; Qualified as winner of the 2013 World Cup. A former champion, he has rediscovered himself through some inspired performances.
Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria): World ranking 4; Rating: 2785; Qualified as winner of the 2012-13 Grand Prix. The 2005 world champion has the game to win, but currently lacks form.
Viswanathan Anand (India): World ranking 8; Rating: 2770; Qualified as the finalist of the last title-match. Struggling for form, the five-time champion is nobody’s favourite.
Sergey Karjakin (Russia): World ranking 9; Rating: 2766; Qualified as per rating list. The youngest Grandmaster in the game, Karjakin is a dangerous ‘floater’ in the field.
Peter Svidler (Russia): World ranking 11; Rating: 2758; Qualified as host entry. The popular Russian, an avid cricket fan, promises to cause a few upsets.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan): World ranking 13; Rating: 2757; Qualified as the runner-up of the 2012-13 Grand Prix. A strong player who loves unusual openings, he is capable of making life difficult for the title-aspirants.
Dmitry Andreikin (Russia): World ranking 42; Rating: 2709; Qualified as the 2013 World Cup runner-up. A former world junior champion, he has everything to gain and little to lose from this competition.
First round pairings: Anand-Aronian; Andreikin-Kramnik; Karjakin-Svidler; Mamedyarov-Topalov.