The rumblings of a Cold War-era chess war may not have been heard but defending champion Viswanathan Anand is still expected to face a bruising World Championship battle against his Norwegian challenger, Magnus Carlsen, in what has been dubbed as the Clash of Generations.
The 12-match series has captivated the world of chess and beyond like nothing in this mind game has in a long while.
And that is because of the anxiety to see who triumphs in the contest between a 43-year-old champion who has done it five times across three different formats and been a member of the chess elite for close to two decades and an astonishingly talented opponent half his age making his first attempt.
Carlsen turns 23 only on November 30, two days after the mega event. Anand defended the world title last year but his form is on the decline, which suggests that age is catching up.
Anand’s advantages stem for the fact that he plays in hometown Chennai, and will feel the positive energy of his compatriots and fans. In a game where players look to cash in on the slightest psychological advantage, this will be a bonus. And that should add to his sheer experience, deep understanding of the game and the situations classical match play can throw up.
Many also pin hopes on Anand’s 4-2 head-to-head win-loss record against the Norwegian. However, those in Carlsen’s corner, and even some neutrals, are convinced that Anand faces an uphill task.
Garry Kasparov, who coached the Norwegian in 2009, wants his ward to triumph to push the game forward. The great has always engaged Anand in little psychological games, but others who back Carlsen point to his distinct edge in the ratings.
The current world number one, with a record rating of 2,870, enjoys a 95-point advantage over Anand, which many believe can be decisive at the highest level.
Some also point to the manner in which Carlsen crushed Anand in just 29 moves in the Tal championship in Moscow in June, the last time they met before the Indian took a break from tournaments to begin his preparations.
The preparations will be vital for Anand as Carlsen is expected to be superior in terms of physical fitness and mental energy levels and will look to push Anand into lapses that can happen to a player of his age if he is drawn into a prolonged game.
The world can’t wait for Carlsen to make the first move on the table in Game One. It is universally acknowledged that victory will instal Anand among the greatest to play the game.
If Carlsen prevails, it will prove chess theorists right and mark a new world order.