Anand puts Carlsen down as the favourite

Says Nepomniachtchi will be a strong opponent

Viswanathan Anand has competed in 10 World chess championships since 1995 and won five. This time the 51-year-old will be travelling for the championship but in a different role. One without the pressure and intense preparations that come with it as a player.

Anand will be one of the official commentators for the 2021 World Championship match between champion Magnus Carlsen and challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia from November 24 to December 16.

“I will see it from a different side! I will be in a World championship without the tension and pressure. In the end, I am a chess fan and so will be happy in a chess competition,” said Anand to The Hindu here on Wednesday.

Carlsen’s form, observed Anand, has been very impressive in the last year (2020-21). “If you see the two tournaments in Norway (Norway Chess in 2020 & 2021) and the one in Wijk Aan Zee (Tata Steel tournament in 2020), and the other tour events, he is playing continuously and playing well despite a hectic schedule. He is very consciously trying to get himself into good shape for the Worlds,” said Anand.

Going by his current form, Anand said Carlsen will be the clear favourite. “Even though there were moments when he has looked wobbly, this is again a perception rather than reality. Because people have unrealistic expectations from him. But if you see the consistency in the tournaments he has won, we still have to call him the favourite,” he said.

Nepomniachtchi, according to Anand, has a bit of catching up to do when it comes to fitness. “Because he probably had to do this match practice for the first time. And I think he took much more time off. But he has managed some reasonable performances. He is strong enough to be a good rival,” he said.

Elaborating that 14 games plus tiebreaks (since the 2008 edition, it has been 12-game format with tiebreaks) this time will be taxing on both players, Anand said: “Two extra games will make it slightly more tiring. They now play three games before a rest day and not two games like before. Longer games give both players more chances for a comeback from setbacks,” he added.

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