This is going to be the biggest tournament since the World Championship tournament of 2007. That was a great triumph for the current World Champion Anand with 6 of the 8 participants from the 2013 Candidates also present in 2007. The current number 1 and 4 in the World, Carlsen and Radjabov, were not playing, and both will hope to be significant factors in London. Meanwhile all the 6 who played 6 years ago will certainly believe they are better players now than then. And so what we have is the promise of one of the greatest tournaments in history, with the fantastic format of a double round robin.
There is a little over 24 hours before the event begins and after last week's whinge about the lack of coverage, my hopes picked up. First Chessbase started to preview the players, with short biographies and results and chances against their opponent's. Unfortunately, they have only managed to preview 5 of the 8 players, which is rather disappointing especially seeing that Carlsen and Kramnik haven't been examined yet! Still, they have looked at Svidler, Grischuk, Ivanchuk, Radjabov and Aronian and that is certainly good.
Of course, we in Australia like to tip winners and so when I saw a tweet form Chessvibes saying that some top players had made their predictions I was intrigued. I have to say that it is an excellent article, but I was a little disappointed with the punditry. Caruana completely sat on the fence, as did Ponomariov. Gawain Jones stated the obvious (as did all the pundits) in as much as Carlsen is the favourite, but almost anyone can win (actually Jones only mentioned 6 players with Gelfand and Radjabov missing out). Dutch GM Erwin L'Ami is the only one to stick his neck out and say that Carlsen will win (if he is in form) and the only ones to stop him are Aronian and Kramnik. He also says there could be a surprise outsider such as Svidler but I don't think L'Ami thinks he will win the event. Other tipsters have been Anand (total diplomacy) and Anish Giri who feels Carlsen is 80% favourite to win, while interstingly he doesn't rate Aronian's chances and seems to only rate Kramnik as a challenger to Carlsen.
So it's time to stick my neck out, get off the fence for once. So first I'll state that I'll be happy if almost anyone wins as long as the level of play and competition is high. I'd really like to see Aronian do it, but like Giri I'm not sure I fully believe in him. Nevertheless as the last player to beat Carlsen in a tournament I'm going to go with Aronian to win the event. I guess I could be eating my words after the very first round when the pairing of Aronian-Carlsen comes up, but even a first round loss for any of these players will not spell disaster.
As well as social media sites such as twitter and facebook, I'll be following the news primarily from the official site (at least the FIDE official site as I'm not sure the Agon official site is being fully updated), the internet chess club (icc) and The Week in Chess (TWIC). I'll be passing on my own impressions here but won't be watching the games live due to the time zone difference which means the games will not start until abut 1am here. It's about time we had a big event in Beijing, and if the World Championship is held in Chennai, that will be better for us in Australia!