Chennai: Billed as the most high-profile clash in chess history in more than 40 years between defending champion Viswanathan Anand and challenger Magnus Carlsen of Norway, the World Chess Championship match begins on Saturday with the experts divided over who will walk away with the coveted title.
The hype surrounding the match between the ageing five-time champion Anand and 22-year-old world number one Carlsen, comparable to the historic clash between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky in 1972, will come to an end when the two rivals take on each other in the opening game at the Hyatt Regency Hotel.
Carlsen has the advantage of playing white in the opener but that may not count much as both players get six white and black games in this 12-games November 9-28 contest.
Anand has seen similar situations before while Carlsen is playing his first match in a World Championship. So, while the Norwegian enjoys the tag of a favourite, his mannerisms thus far have suggested that he is gullible like any other youngster in a certain sense.
Twirling in his chair, scratching his head while answering questions during the first press conference here yesterday, Carlsen gave the impression of someone tense but exuded confidence once the tete-a-tete was over.
Anand, who has won World Championship matches in 2000, 2007, 2008, 2010 and 2012, is used to open with black pieces in World Championship matches.
Against Vladimir Kramnik of Russia in Bonn in 2008 and against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria in 2010, Anand had started with black, which is known as a slightly unfavourable colour in the game, and yet won in style. In 2012 though, Anand had white in game one against Boris Gelfand of Israel.
Seeking his sixth title, Anand looked upbeat ahead of the biggest challenge of his life while Carlsen seemed to get the game going. The mind games have just begun and much would unfold once the match starts. Whether Anand's preparation holds him in good stead or Carlsen will play his typical long games to grind out the reigning world champion Indian will have to be seen.
Anand, the undisputed world champion since 2007, faces a strong challenge from the Norwegian sensation in one of the most awaited and most followed World Chess Championship matches in recent history.
Asked how well he has prepared for the event, Anand said, "I worked as I always did. Couple of months of training and I think I am ready to attack. We will see how it goes but I think I am ready to play. I am really excited to play in my home city. I am looking forward to the match starting."
Having won five world titles, Anand said his experience could come in handy in the match.
"Obviously, it is one factor among many. I will bring to bear those factors into my game. Definitely it is one of my resources I would like to draw from. We will have to see."
Carlsen sought to downplay the view of some experts that he will start as favourite in the match.
"I do not know if everyone considers me a favourite but in general I expect to do well in tournaments. If I manage to do well to my abilities and levels, I can win and that will be my mind set here as well," he said.
For Anand, there is an extra motivation to win the match, according to legendary chess player Garry Kasparov.
"While the world champion has never given any importance to matters of chess history or his legacy, he must know that his entire career will get an extraordinary new dimension should he beat the Norwegian wunderkind against the odds," he said.
While Anand has this chance of reinventing himself once more, a motivated Carlsen though should know that he will be world champion one day or the other.
"The difference (between us) is that I have been winning tournaments and he (Anand) has been holding on to his title. It will be an interesting clash between two different ideas of what constitutes the best player in the world," Carlsen had said.
In all, 12 games will be played in the match under Classical System in which both players will get 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 and the 15 minutes for the remaining game with an increment of 30 seconds per move effective from the 61st move.
The first to score 6.5 points will win the match and the remaining games will not be played should it happen before the 12th game. The winner will take home 60% of the prize fund.
In case of a tied score after twelve games, games of shorter duration will be played to determine the winner.
However, if the tiebreak stage is reached the winner will get 55% of the total prize at stake. The players will play two games on the trot followed by a rest day till 10th game and for the last two games, there is rest day after each game. If needed, the tiebreak games will be played on November 28 followed by the closing ceremony.
There is a special illness clause which can delay the match. In case a player reports sick, he has the right to postponement for a day. However, chances of it being used are minimal unless, health wise, something drastically goes wrong for either player.
The match was officially opened yesterday by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalitha. The Tamil Nadu Government is the official sponsors of the match and have given a cap of Rs 29 crore as the total budget which is inclusive of a prize fund of around Rs 14 crores.
Meanwhile, the final preparations for the much-awaited clash were almost done and the players will be behind a glass cube when the first game begins.
Glass cube was first introduced in the Masters Chess tournament in Bilbao, Spain. The idea is to keep noises from the spectators away from the players. This effective technique does not even let the sound of a huge sneeze sneak in.
The games will be beamed live through internet as well as on Doordarshan's sports channel. The commentary team has the likes of former world champion Susan Polgar, International Master Lawrence Trent and Tania Sachdev.