New Delhi: He expects the World Championship duel between Viswanathan Anand and Magnus Carlsen to be an intense contest but Indian Grandmaster Abhijeet Gupta feels his compatriot is still the favourite in the much-anticipated face-off owing to the wealth of experience he has.
Gupta, a former world junior champion like Anand, spoke to PTI in an exclusive chat from Bad Weissee in Germany where he is currently stationed to play in an International open.
"It will be a very intense match and Anand`s experience in such events should come in very handy," said Gupta.
Anand has played against the likes of Garry Kasparov of Russia his compatriot Anatoly Karpov and more recently against another Russian Vladimir Kramnik, Bulgarian Veselin Topalov and Israeli Boris Gelfand to fight for the world title.
The last three matches have been the high point of Anand`s career taking him from the category of great players to legends of the game.
"Anand has established himself as an all round player, winning the world championship in knockout, match-tournament and matches. Carlsen undoubtedly is the most worthy challenger but one needs nerves of steel for such matches," Gupta said.
Citing the qualification Candidate`s tournament that Carlsen won by the skin of the teeth, Gupta said Carlsen can fumble when put under pressure.
"Carlsen lost the last two games under pressure when a draw might have been enough to clinch the right to challenge Anand, he was lucky in some way as Kramnik also lost the last game.
"It was nerve-wrecking to say the least but it also tells us that Carlsen is capable of losing as well, giving Carlsen the tag of overwhelming favourite is probably not justified," he said.
It was indeed by sheer coincidence that Kramnik lost when a draw in the last round of the Candidates tournament against Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine would have put him as the challenger for Anand. Carlsen qualified by virtue of better tiebreak.
The match in Chennai gives Anand the home advantage that the Indian has never enjoyed before in a match of this stature.
"There is a thin line between pressure of playing at home and enjoying the home advantage, Anand will surely tackle it. He beat Topalov in Bulgaria which would surely help in learning how not to let this advantage slip," he said.
On the likely outcome, the latest Arjuna awardee was quite candid.
"It will be a very close affair surely. I guess the first half will be important from Anand`s perspective, Carlsen will be full of energy in those games and mostly will come down guns blazing. In the second half it won`t be so simple for Carlsen that`s why matches are so difficult," Gupta noted.
About the impact of first victory, Gupta said it was irrelevant if it comes in the first half.
"Against Topalov in 2010 Anand started with a loss and won the second game itself. Against Gelfand in 2012 too Anand lost first before winning while against Kramnik in 2008 he simply outclassed the Russian, so for Anand it probably doesn`t matter.
"He comes back harder when down, and rolls over you when he is up. The stuff legends are made of."