The Candidates: Corona notwithstanding, Caruana clear favourite

Coronavirus has pressed the pause button on the world. But on Tuesday, Russia will host one of the biggest chess tournaments of the year - The Candidates.

Favoured: Fabiano Caruana has the credentials to emerge as the challenger to Magnus Carlsen yet again.

Favoured: Fabiano Caruana has the credentials to emerge as the challenger to Magnus Carlsen yet again.   -  Getty Images

Shutters are down on malls. Stadia are empty. The coronavirus pandemic has pressed the pause button on the world.

However, on Tuesday, Russia will host one of the biggest chess tournaments of the year - The Candidates.

The next three weeks will tell us who, from among the eight players, will stake a claim to challenge Magnus Carslen for the next World Championship, scheduled to be held later in the year.

For the uninitiated, the world champion has the privilege of playing the title match directly.

It is extremely difficult for someone to emerge as the new champion. In the 134-year-history of the championship, there have only been 16 undisputed champions.

(There have been a total of 20 world champions. But Garry Kasparov and challenger Nigel Short split with FIDE in 1993 and played their title match under the auspices of the Professional Chess Association. Between then and 2006 when the PCA and FIDE world titles were unified, there were four FIDE champions were not be considered undisputed since they didn't win the unified championship.)

Carlsen became the 16th undisputed champion when he dethroned Viswanathan Anand in 2013, in the latter’s hometown of Chennai. In late 2018 at London, the Norwegian genius was given a tough fight in the title match by Fabiano Caruana.

READ | Commentary to keep Anand busy after travel restrictions delay India return

The match was tied 6-6 and it was through the tie-breakers that Carlsen emerged victorious.

Caruana is the favourite to be the challenger once again. The Italian-American is the World No. 2, with 2842 Elo points. He could face the strongest challenge from China's World No. 3 Ding Laren, who had been in quarantine recently. He has a rating of 2805.

Russians Alexander Grischuk (2777), Ian Nepomniachtchi (2774) and Kirill Alekseenko (2698), Dutchman Anish Giri (2763), France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2767) and China’s Wang Hao (2762) are the others in the fray.

“I think Caruana is too strong for this field,” says Mumbai-based Grandmaster Pravin Thipsay. “As he proved in the last World Championship, he could pose the toughest challenge to Carlsen.”

One can follow the tournament live on chess.com. Anand, who is stuck in Germany, after competing in the Bundesliga chess league, because of travel restrictions, will debut as a commentator for the tournament.

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