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Battle royal between Anand & Carlsen starts today

The ‘revenge match’ between reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and challenger Viswanathan Anand kicks off on Saturday at the Sochi Winter Olympics Complex in Russia. The two grandmasters will play 12 games for a purse of euro 1 million and the title of world champion. In case the match is tied after 12 games, they will play tiebreakers at faster time controls.

In 2013, the pair met in Chennai in the previous world championship match. Anand was the reigning world champion but failed to defend his title, with the Norwegian grandmaster winning 3-0, with seven draws. Anand has qualified as the challenger by winning the Candidates Tournament to set up this rematch.

Anand revealed his team of seconds, consisting of Krishnan Sasikiran and Radoslaw Wojtaszek, who have both worked with him before, and a new man, Grzegorz Gajewski, a 30-year-old grandmaster from Poland. Carlsen continues to work with Peter Heine Nielsen (who used to be Anand’s second) and Jon-Ludvig Hammer. There are unconfirmed rumours that several other strong players are helping both camps.

Though Carlsen won the world title comprehensively at Chennai, their lifetime record is equal. Both have won six games, with 28 draws. They have played five games in 2014 and traded one win each with three draws.

Carlsen must be reckoned the favourite since he has, the higher rating. The 23-year-old is also much younger than his 45-year-old rival, and this could make a difference in physical stamina.

Both appeared relaxed at the press conference. Carlsen brushed off a question about how it felt being the favourite, saying it hardly mattered, the match would be won only by playing well. Anand said he felt rejuvenated winning the Candidates and was willing to take another shot at the title.

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