Minus 3. The world candidates matches will start on Sunday in Elista, Russia. Sixteen players will fight to qualify for the Mexico City tournament, where a new world champion will be crowned next September. There will be a two rounds of matches: each match will consist of six games, and, if necessary, tie-break rapid games. As everybody knows, the four winners will join Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, Peter Svidler and Alexander Morozevich in the above mentioned tournament. "Deep Fritz" and "Deep Junior" will have a 6 game match alongside the Elista event.
Here are my "non-scientific" predictions about he upcoming matches.
1. Aronian Levon (ARM) - Carlsen Magnus (NOR)
The score between these two players is 3.5-2.5 (only classical games are considered) in favour of Aronian. I think the Armenian idol is the clear favourite, as he is a much experienced player and Magnus has never defetead him up to now. Possible result: Aronian wins 3.5-2.5 (or even 3.5-1.5).
2. Leko Peter (HUN) - Gurevich Mikhail (TUR)
I can’t believe that Gurevich could be a really tough opponent for Leko, even if he has a 1.5-0.5 score against the Hungarian: he won one game when Peter was a 2465 rated player! Leko didn’t play at his best in the most recent tournaments, but it is time for a revenge... Possible result: Leko wins 3.5-1.5.
3. Ponomariov Ruslan (UKR) - Rublevsky Sergei (RUS)
Rublevsky is not an easy opponent and Pono will have to be very careful if he wants to beat his opponent, against whom he has a 1.5-1.5 score. The Ukrainian is obviously favourite, but no wonder if he will lose. Possible result: 3-3 with Rublevsky winning on tie breaks.
4. Gelfand Boris (ISR) - Kasimdzhanov Rustam (UZB)
Another difficult result to be predicted. I think Boris is slightly favoured, but Rustam won a Fide world title against all predictions. The only classical game between these two opponents ended in a draw at move 26. Possible result: Kasimdzhanov wins 3.5-2.5 or on tie breaks.
5. Bacrot Etienne (FRA) - Kamsky Gata (USA)
Bacrot hasn’t played a high class tournament for a long time. Kamsky should be quite tired after Mtel Masters, but also better prepared to a hard match like this. I think Gata can do it... Possible result: Kamsky wins 3.5-2.5.
6. Grischuk Alexander (RUS) - Malakhov Vladimir (RUS)
The only “derby” whole competition, at least in the first round. Both players are young and Alex is more experienced; I think he is slightly favourite, but Malakhov should be a tough opponent for him. Possible result: 3-3 with Grischuk winning on tie breaks.
7. Polgar Judith (HUN) - Bareev Evgeny (RUS)
Bareev was a first class player some times ago, but he is no longer in the "big" circuit. Judith rarely plays chess now, but she is still in the Fide top 15. She has a 8.5-5.5 score against Evgeny and she can win this match. Possible result: Polgar wins 3.5-2.5 (or even 3.5-1.5)
8. Shirov Alexei (ESP) - Adams Michael (ENG)
This is a difficult prediction to do for me. Shirov is one of my favourite players, at least when he plays like Shirov, but he didn't score good results in his most recent tournaments. Adams is not at his best, too, but he is more solid and it's not simple to beat him, even if Alexei has an impressive 21-14 score against him. So? Possible result: 3-3 with Shirov winning on tie breaks.
That's all, folks, I hope my predictions will be at least 50% right :-) Round 2 pairings: Winner 1-Winner 8; Winner 2-Winner 7; Winner 3-Winner 6; Winner 4-Winner 5.
Official site of the event hasn't been announced yet. I hope there will be one... There will be a WCM section on my Italian site, www.messaggeroscacchi.it.