CHENNAI, India – Reigning world chess champion Viswanathan Anand will open the defence of his crown against Norwegian sensation Magnus Carlsen at home in Chennai later on Saturday in a battle that favors the challenger.
The 12-game showpiece, spread over three weeks, will be held at a local luxury hotel, watched by a select gathering of 350 inside the main hall and by thousands on live television.
Anand, 43, has been the game’s undisputed champion since 2007, but experts predict the end of the road for the Indian against current world number one Carlsen, who is 21 years younger.
“Carlsen has much more energy, more motivation as he has not been a world champion yet,” Russian grandmaster Vladimir Kramnik was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
“Anand is somewhat intimidated by Carlsen. He has not been confident playing against him — he’s scared of him, I would say.”
Carlsen, asked at a media conference on Thursday if he was the favorite, said: “I don’t know who the favorite is. In general I expect to do well in tournaments I play in.
“If I manage to play my best, I can expect the best results.”
Anand, who remains one of the most popular sports figures in cricket-mad India, said he was ready for the big match in front of home fans.
“I try to get ready to play against a certain opponent and that’s it,” he said. “The favorite’s tag does not matter to me.
“It is a special feeling to be playing in my home town. I have prepared well. I am ready for the match.”
The 12-game format, where one point is awarded for a win and half a point for a draw, means the first man to reach 6.5 points will be declared the winner.
If points are equal after the 12th game on November 26, the match will be decided by a sudden death game on Nov 28.
The total prize fund for the title clash is approximately $2.24 million, with the winner getting 60 percent and the loser taking home the rest.