Moscow, Russia: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will make his opening move against former challenger Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria in the first round of the Candidates in Moscow.
It appears to be a favourable draw for the Indian ace as he gets four whites in the first half of the three-week long event, to be played on a double round robin basis between eight players.
Historically, Anand has finished well when he has started well and the pairings, if anything, promise a decent start for the Indian.
With white against Topalov, Hikaru Nakamura of United States, Italian turned-American Fabiano Caruana and Russian Peter Svidler in the first half of the 14-rounds, Anand has his task cut out.
A plus score leading to the second half will greatly enhance the chances of his making it to the top and emulate the result in 2014.
In the other first half games, Anand will have black against Sergey Karjakin of Russia, Levon Aronian of Armenia and Anish Giri of Holland and will have to be cautious in these encounters.
The games against Topalov in the past have been entertaining and one cannot forget the 2010 World championship match when Anand beat Topalov at Sofia in Bulgaria.
Topalov has been pretty consistent in the last one year while Anand has had his share of ups and downs.
In form Hikaru Nakamura appears huge favourite with his back-to-back victories at Gibraltar International and the Zurich Chess Challenge. However, it will be a test of nerves for Nakamura, who is setting his sights for his first world championship contest.
If the views of the reigning World champion Magnus Carlsen matter, Caruana, Aronian or Karjakin are going to be his likely challenger for the next world championship match slated in United States in November this year.
While Caruana also starts as the top seeded player here, it will still be a matter of nerves for the young Grandmaster.
Aronian has been in the Candidates before and would like to make amends on his previous results while Karjakin will have the home support.
Not many are giving Topalov a chance due to the unpredictability in his games while Anish Giri is dubbed as too solid to win enough games in a strong event like this.
Svidler is the nice guy who might play a spoiler but as the lowest rated player in the event, does not have many backers either.
Anand has been known for his comebacks and here is another opportunity for an encore. A forgettable Gibraltar followed by a decent Zurich means that on form, the Indian is on a recovery path.
In what might be prophetic words, former world champion Vladimir Kramnik said there are no clear favourites: "In this tournament there's no clear favourite. We've now got a situation where all the participants are roughly equal and it'll all depend on who gets into the best form and is as ready as they can be. In my view it's a tournament that any participant can win and I'm almost sure that it's all going to be decided in the final three rounds."
Its eight players and only one place matters. The first place that will guarantee a showdown for the ultimate title of World Champion.
That the Candidates is the tournament of the year is undoubtedly true. Who will be the first among equals is the question that will keep millions of chess fans across the globe glued to their web devices over the next three weeks.