India`s Viswanathan Anand is pictured during the Norway Chess 2013 Blitz tournament in Sandnes near Stavanger, on May 9, 2013. (AFP/Scanpix Norway/Kent Skibstadt)
CHENNAI: Reigning world chess champion Viswanathan Anand finds himself relegated to the role of underdog as he prepares to defend his crown against Norwegian sensation Magnus Carlsen at home in Chennai from Saturday.
Anand has been the game's undisputed champion since 2007 -- having won his fifth title last year in Moscow -- but experts predict the end of the road for the Indian against current world number one Carlsen.
It could take up to 12 games and a tie-breaker over a three-week period before the contest is eventually settled, but the young pretender appears to have a clear edge over the incumbent.
Speaking at a media conference in Chennai on Thursday, the 22-year-old sounded confident when asked about his chances of winning a maiden world title.
"I expect to do well in all the tournaments I play in. It is the same here," the Norwegian said.
He refused to reveal his team of advisers, even though Anand had no hesitation in naming Indian grandmasters K Sasikiran and Sandipan Chanda, Hungarian Peter Leko and Poland's Radoslav Wojtaszek as his seconds.
"Thank you, Anand, for giving out your team, but I will not return the favour," Carlsen told the assembled reporters.
Anand, 43, who remains one of the most popular sports figures in cricket-mad India, said he was ready for the big match in front of home fans.
"It is a special feeling to be playing in my home town," he said. "I have prepared well. I am ready for the match."
Asked if his experience could make a difference, Anand said: "I hope to draw from my experience. It is one of my strengths."
Both players have enjoyed a remarkably similar rise in their careers since they were teenagers.
Anand became an international master at 15, was crowned Indian champion at 16, won the world junior title at 17 and became the country's first grandmaster at 18.
Carlsen turned grandmaster at 13 and in 2010, aged 19, he became the youngest player in history to be ranked world number one. He won the Candidates Tournament this year to earn the right to challenge Anand.
The Indian, who lives in Spain with his wife and young son, trails the challenger by a whopping 95 rating points and his world ranking has tumbled from number one to eight.
After losing to Carlsen in a matter of hours at the Tal Memorial event in Moscow in June, Anand admitted the experience had been "embarrassing" and acknowledged the Norwegian was "a resourceful and dangerous opponent".
Observers say Anand is starting to show his age, especially when pitted against a man 21 years his junior, and that Carlsen had a clear psychological edge over him.
"Chess is not like football or other sports, but still it works against you if you are much older than your opponent," said Russian Vladimir Kramnik, who lost the title match to Anand in 2008.
"Carlsen has much more energy, more motivation as he has not been a world champion yet," Kramnik was quoted as saying by the Times of India.
"Anand is somewhat intimidated by Carlsen. He has not been confident playing against him -- he's scared of him, I would say."
The 12-game format, where one point is awarded for a win and half a point for a draw, means the first man to reach 6.5 points will be declared the winner.
If points are equal after the 12th game on November 26, the match will be decided by a tie-break or sudden-death on November 28.