Khanty Mansiysk, Russia: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand will start his campaign against top seed Levon Aronian of Armenia in the first round of Candidates chess tournament.
After a first round with white against Aronian, the Indian will have two black games to negotiate against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan.
The eight-player super tournament will decide the next challenger for world champion Magnus Carlsen later in the year. The event will be played under classical time control with 120 minutes for the first 40 moves and 60 minutes for the next 20.
If the game still continues the sudden death time control will come in to effect giving both players 15 minutes each with a 30 second increment from move 61.
For Anand, Aronian has posed some real challenges in the past and the five times world champion is expected to be cautious against the rating favourite. Post that two black games means Anand will get a good chance to get in to the groove before he takes on Russian opponents in the last four rounds of the first half.
This will be a test of time for Anand who has not been at his best since losing the world title to Magnus Carlsen in November last. In the London Classic rapid thereafter Anand was ousted in the quarterfinals while in the Zurich Chess Challenge recently the Indian could score just one win - against Boris Gelfand of Israel - out of five games that he played.
The worrying factor in Zurich was the fact that Anand was losing too many games. In classical chess, Anand started with two losses while in rapid he lost first three rounds.
According to the rules, the four Russian players in the eight-player tournament are supposed to finish matches among them first and the pairings have been decided in accordance with that.
As a result four Russians, Vladimir Kramnik, Dmitry Andreikin, Sergey Karjakin and Peter Svidler will play among themselves in the first three rounds of the first half as well as first three rounds of the second half of the 14-rounds tournament.
The other first round pairings are quite interesting. Andreikin will meet Kramnik and would like to avenge his defeat at the World Chess Cup finals. However, Kramnik has been out of Chess for almost three months mostly paying very deep attention to all his opponents here and it will be a worth watching contest.
Sergey Karjakin is pitted against seven-time Russian champion Svidler. The 37-year old Svidler looks in pink condition for this event and he is likely to give his best shot while in Khanty Mansiysk. For Karjakin, a first round victory could be vital for a start in such an event.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov meets Topalov in the other match of the first round and given the intensity of chess these two play, its likely to be a nail-biter contest.
Pairings round 1: Dmitry Andreikin (Rus) v/s Vladimir Kramnik (Rus); Sergey Karjakin (Rus) v/s Peter Svidler (Rus); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze) v/s Veselin Topalov (Bul); Viswanathan Anand (Ind) v/s Levon Aronian.