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 here tomorrow 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 tomorrow.
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 tomorrow.
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.