Candidates – Boris Gelfand (2740 – World #18)

3/18/2013 – The Israeli GM is theoretically the top seed in this event, due to his his status as the incumbent challenger – he took Anand to the brink in the 2012 World Championship match. But he is eighth on FIDE ratings in this tournament, while a certain Norwegian is the world's number one (we are saving him for our final portrait). Boris Gelfand is the subject of today's portrait by Michael von Keitz.

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Boris Gelfand (2740 – World #18)

Boris Gelfand holds his coveted placement as the result of his status as the incumbent challenger – technically he is the top seed in this event. Born in Minsk, some of his maiden steps came in the “Petrosian School,” where he had the opportunity to meet the man himself. While there, Tigran imparted some advice, which Boris has lived by to this day: “Even when you’re playing blitz, always think!” Think he did, which ultimately brought him to the pinnacle of the chess world, where, in a gladiatorial struggle, he very narrowly missed out on pushing Anand into the abyss.

Gelfand’s early successes came in the arena of Soviet junior chess, where he, alongside Ivanchuk, stood out as a young all-star. They both missed out on the 1988 World Junior title by virtue of an inferior tiebreak to that of Joel Lautier, but that serves as only a small blemish on an illustrious career. What followed was quick ascension to the chess elite, with 1990 serving as his breakout year. Both he and Ivanchuk tied for first at the Manila Interzonal that year, eventually being eliminated in the quarterfinals of the Candidates matches by Nigel Short and Artur Yusupov, respectively.

Remaining loyal to FIDE following the split of the chess world, Gelfand went on to win the 1993 Biel Interzonal, this time capably marching past Michael Adams and Vladimir Kramnik en route to the semi-finals of the Candidates tournament, where he fell 6-3 to the eventual FIDE World Champion, Anatoly Karpov. His effort in the 2002 Classical Candidates tournament, however, fell short, as he failed to progress beyond the group stage.

A stalwart of the upper echelon of the chess world, he went deep in virtually every FIDE Knockout World Championship, but always seemed to fail to reach the final board, being eliminated in various years by the likes of Anand, Khalifman, Shirov and Svidler. If ever a controversy could be attributed to his own career, the 2004 FIDE Knockout World Championship, held in Tripoli, may be it. Predictably, he was unable to compete, which served as a double-blow, as, in the process of the chess world being mended, the finalists in that particular event were granted entry to the 2005 FIDE World Championship.

Gelfand’s absence from these all-important events was brief, however, as he went on to knock off Kasimdzhanov and Kamsky, respectively, at the 2007 Candidates tournament, which was soon followed by a tie with Kramnik for second, behind Anand, at the 2007 World Championship. What came next was an amazing performance at the 2009 World Cup, where he knocked off a series of recognizable faces in quick succession: Polgar, Vachier-Lagrave, Jakovenko, Karjakin and Ponomariov. This was followed by the premiere success of his career, reigning supreme at the 2011 Candidates tournament by winning matches against Mamedyarov (in regulation), Kamsky (tiebreaks) and Grischuk (in regulation), before taking Anand to the brink in the 2012 World Championship match.

Gelfand returns hungry, with an underappreciated ability to take his fellow candidates to task. Watch for him to make a keen effort, as he seeks to clear up unfinished business with Anand in a return title match.

 


Gelfand's opponents at the Candidates

Peter Svidler (2747 – World #14)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
26
1996 Tilburg B92 Sicilian, Opocensky
2 Win (w)
24
1996 Groningen E73 King's Indian
3 Loss (w)
77
1999 Dos Hermanas A29 English, Four Knights
4 Loss (b)
29
2000 Biel B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
5 Draw (w)
33
2000 Biel C92 Ruy Lopez, Closed
6 Win (b)
90
2000 Rubinstein Memorial B23 Sicilian, Closed
7 Draw (b)
21
2001 Biel C42 Petrov
8 Draw (w)
28
2001 Biel A15 English
9 Draw (w)
23
2001 FIDE World KO Championship E06 Catalan, Closed
10 Draw (b)
20
2001 FIDE World KO Championship C10 French
11 Draw (b)
30
2003 European Club Cup B31 Sicilian, Rossolimo
12 Loss (b)
52
2004 Armenia vs. Rest of World B90 Sicilian, Najdorf
13 Draw (b)
20
2005 Russian Team Championship C42 Petrov
14 Loss (w)
34
2005 World Team Championship D85 Grunfeld
15 Draw (b)
25
2006 Turin Chess Olympiad C42 Petrov
16 Draw (w)
29
2006 Dortmund D85 Grunfeld
17 Draw (b)
47
2006 European Club Cup C42 Petrov
18 Win (w)
43
2006 Tal Memorial A15 English
19 Draw (b)
24
2007 FIDE World Championship C42 Petrov
20 Draw (w)
22
2007 FIDE World Championship A15 English
21 Loss (b)
46
2008 Russian Team Championship C42 Petrov
22 Draw (w)
53
2008 Sochi Grand Prix A15 English
23 Draw (w)
48
2009 Russian Team Championship A15 English
24 Draw (b)
49
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix D43 QGD Semi-Slav
25 Draw (w)
15
2009 European Club Cup D85 Grunfeld
26 Draw (b)
30
2009 Tal Memorial C42 Petrov
27 Loss (b)
31
2010 Astrakhan Grand Prix A15 English
28 Draw (b)
40
2011 Tal Memorial A13 English
29 Draw (b)
45
2012 Tashkent Grand Prix B30 Sicilian

Overall: 3 Wins, 20 Draws, 6 Losses
White: 2 Wins, 9 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 11 Draws, 4 Losses

Svidler has been a problem for Gelfand in the recent past, winning more often than his Israeli counterpart. Count on the trend to end, however, as Gelfand seeks to affirm that 2011 was not a fluke. The English and Petrov seem safe bets for a return, as they proved more than sufficient between both of these players in the 2007 World Championship and forward.


Vassily Ivanchuk (2757 – World #13)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
19
1985 USSR Junior Ch C05 French, Tarrasch
2 Draw (w)
40
1986 Sochi Junior E04 Catalan, Open
3 Loss (b)
26
1986 Sochi Junior E06 Catalan, Closed
4 Loss (b)
39
1987 European Junior Ch E62 King's Indian
5 Win (w)
37
1989 USSR Junior Team Ch E94 King's Indian
6 Draw (b)
27
1990 Linares E15 Queen's Indian
7 Draw (w)
22
1990 Manila Interzonal D85 Grunfeld
8 Draw (b)
44
1990 Tilburg D76 Neo-Grunfeld
9 Win (w)
62
1990 Tilburg D85 Grunfeld
10 Loss (b)
18
1991 Linares D78 Neo-Grunfeld
11 Draw (b)
24
1991 Reggio Emilia E81 King's Indian, Samisch
12 Loss (b)
33
1992 Linares E97 King's Indian
13 Loss (w)
38
1993 Linares D37 QGD
14 Draw (w)
20
1994 Linares E47 Nimzo-Indian
15 Draw (b)
47
1994 Munich B23 Sicilian, Closed
16 Win (w)
93
1995 Belgrade D85 Grunfeld
17 Draw (w)
27
1996 Wijk aan Zee A04 Reti
18 Win (w)
33
1996 Dos Hermanas D85 Grunfeld
19 Draw (b)
80
1996 Novgorod E14 Queen's Indian
20 Draw (w)
32
1996 Novgorod D85 Grunfeld
21 Draw (w)
23
1997 Linares D19 QGD Slav, Dutch
22 Loss (b)
49
1997 Dortmund D55 QGD
23 Draw (w)
63
1997 Belgrade A41 Queen's Pawn Game
24 Loss (w)
46
1999 European Team Ch A15 English
25 Loss (w)
60
2000 Leonid Stein Memorial A04 Reti
26 Draw (b)
89
2000 Leonid Stein Memorial C42 Petrov
27 Draw (w)
41
2000 Rubinstein Memorial A04 Reti
28 Draw (w)
19
2000 Istanbul Olympiad E18 Queen's Indian, Old Main
29 Draw (b)
44
2004 Calvia Olympiad C42 Petrov
30 Win (b)
49
2005 Russian Team Ch D17 QGD Slav
31 Draw (b)
28
2005 World Team Ch B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
32 Draw (w)
61
2006 Wijk aan Zee E15 Queen's Indian
33 Draw (w)
40
2007 Russian Team Ch E15 Queen's Indian
34 Draw (w)
36
2007 Tal Memorial D11 QGD Slav
35 Draw (b)
22
2008 Corus A20 English
36 Draw (b)
58
2008 Russian Team Ch C42 Petrov
37 Win (w)
38
2008 Sochi Grand Prix A30 English, Symmetrical
38 Draw (w)
36
2008 Tal Memorial A30 English, Symmetrical
39 Draw (b)
31
2008 Dresden Olympiad D11 QGD Slav
40 Win (w)
46
2009 Russian Team Ch A04 Reti
41 Draw (b)
30
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix D12 QGD Slav
42 Draw (b)
37
2009 Bazna C42 Petrov
43 Draw (w)
20
2009 Bazna A04 Reti
44 Draw (b)
30
2009 Biel A15 English
45 Draw (w)
32
2009 Biel E11 Bogo-Indian
46 Loss (b)
98
2009 Jermuk Grand Prix A20 English
47 Loss (b)
43
2009 Tal Memorial D12 QGD Slav
48 Draw (w)
12
2010 Russian Team Ch D11 QGD Slav
49 Draw (w)
26
2010 Astrakhan Grand Prix D85 Grunfeld
50 Draw (w)
19
2010 Khanty-Mansiysk Olympiad D37 QGD
51 Draw (w)
23
2011 Russian Team Ch D16 QGD Slav
52 Draw (b)
41
2011 Tal Memorial D45 QGD Semi-Slav
53 Win (b)
42
2012 Wijk aan Zee E10 Queen's Pawn Game
54 Draw (b)
31
2012 Istanbul Olympiad D85 Grunfeld
55 Draw (w)
25
2012 London Grand Prix E15 Queen's Indian

Overall: 8 Wins, 37 Draws, 10 Losses
White: 6 Wins, 21 Draws, 3 Losses
Black: 2 Wins, 16 Draws, 7 Losses

Ivanchuk and Gelfand have a familiarity with one another that stretches back to their junior years in the former Soviet Union. Recent encounters favoured Gelfand, although Ivanchuk did manage two wins as white in 2009. With the opportunity of his lifetime on the line, count on the Ukrainian to punch hard and punch often, but Boris may yet prove sharper. English and Slav lines may be adopted between these two. 


Alexander Grischuk (2764 – World #10)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w) 29 2001 Biel D34 QGD, Tarrasch
2 Draw (b) 25 2001 Biel C42 Petrov
3 Draw (b) 28 2002 Corus C42 Petrov
4 Win (w) 45 2004 Russian Team Ch D34 QGD, Tarrasch
5 Draw (w) 22 2004 European Club Cup D19 QGD Slav, Dutch
6 Draw (w) 17 2005 Russian Team Ch E12 Queen's Indian
7 Win (w) 37 2005 FIDE World Cup E15 Queen's Indian
8 Loss (b) 62 2005 FIDE World Cup E12 Queen's Indian
9 Win (b) 65 2006 Russian Club Cup C42 Petrov
10 Draw (b) 26 2006 Tal Memorial C42 Petrov
11 Draw (w) 23 2007 FIDE World Ch E15 Queen's Indian
12 Loss (b) 61 2007 FIDE World Ch E21 Nimzo-Indian, Three Knights
13 Draw (b) 46 2008 Sochi Grand Prix E04 Catalan, Open
14 Draw (w) 38 2009 Russian Team Ch E97 King's Indian
15 Loss (b) 50 2009 Nalchik Grand Prix D58 QGD, Tartakower
16 Draw (w) 30 2010 World Team Ch E10 Queen's Pawn Game
17 Loss (b) 35 2010 Linares E55 Nimzo-Indian, Bronstein
18 Draw (w) 60 2010 Linares A29 English, Four Knights
19 Win (b) 32 2010 Russian Team Ch D43 QGD Semi-Slav
20 Draw (w) 41 2010 Tal Memorial D02 Queen's Pawn Game
21 Draw (b) 49 2011 Candidates D37 QGD
22 Draw (w) 58 2011 Candidates A37 English, Symmetrical
23 Draw (b) 14 2011 Candidates D37 QGD
24 Draw (w) 18 2011 Candidates A37 English, Symmetrical
25 Draw (b) 39 2011 Candidates D37 QGD
26 Win (w) 35 2011 Candidates D76 Neo-Grunfeld
27 Loss (b) 30 2012 London Grand Prix B25 Sicilian, Closed

Overall: 5 Wins, 17 Draws, 5 Losses
White: 3 Wins, 10 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 2 Wins, 7 Draws, 5 Losses

Gelfand’s results against Grischuk have been mixed. They split victories at the 2005 World Cup and Grischuk got the upper-hand at the 2007 World Championship. In turn, Gelfand struck in what may have been their most important contest to date, when he eliminated the Russian in the final game of the final match of the 2011 Candidates tournament; thus, qualifying for the 2012 World Championship. What comes next will be a new saga, as the English and Semi-Slav make possible returns.


Teimour Radjabov (2793 – World #4)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
26
2001 European Team Championship E54 Nimzo-Indian, Gligoric
2 Loss (w)
37
2003 Enghien-les-bains B31 Sicilian, Rossolimo
3 Draw (w)
34
2003 European Team Championship E92 King's Indian
4 Draw (b)
12
2004 Calvia Olympiad E12 Queen's Indian
5 Win (b)
31
2005 European Team Championship B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
6 Draw (b)
25
2005 Spanish Team Championship B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
7 Draw (w)
20
2006 Russian Club Cup E92 King's Indian
8 Draw (w)
32
2006 Turin Olympiad E92 King's Indian
9 Draw (b)
18
2007 Russian Team Championship E17 Queen's Indian
10 Loss (w)
37
2008 Corus E94 King's Indian
11 Loss (w)
49
2008 Sochi Grand Prix E97 King's Indian
12 Draw (b)
32
2009 Bazna C42 Petrov
13 Draw (w)
37
2009 Bazna E97 King's Indian
14 Draw (w)
40
2010 Astrakhan Grand Prix E92 King's Indian
15 Loss (b)
38
2010 Bazna C42 Petrov
16 Loss (w)
30
2010 Bazna E94 King's Indian
17 Draw (w)
30
2012 Wijk aan Zee E92 King's Indian

Overall: 1 Win, 11 Draws, 5 Losses
White: 0 Wins, 6 Draws, 4 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 5 Draws, 1 Loss

Gelfand’s results against Radjabov in the few games they have played have been somewhat dismal. He won when the Azerbaijani was young, lost when the same boy was even younger and has played the role of victim fairly consistently ever since. The elevated importance of this particular venue, however, may see a corresponding jump in the quality of Gelfand’s resistance. The KID and the Petrov seem as yet unfinished conversations between these two.


Levon Aronian (2809 – World #3)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (b)
98
2005 Spanish Team Ch E46 Nimzo-Indian
2 Draw (b)
24
2005 European Club Cup A29 English, Four Knights
3 Draw (b)
32
2005 World Team Ch D17 QGD Slav
4 Draw (b)
22
2006 Corus D17 QGD Slav
5 Draw (b)
29
2006 Russian Club Cup D43 QGD Semi-Slav
6 Win (w)
33
2006 Dortmund E15 Queen's Indian
7 Draw (w)
21
2006 Spanish Team Ch D38 QGD, Ragozin
8 Draw (w)
16
2006 Tal Memorial E01 Catalan, Closed
9 Win (w)
48
2007 FIDE World Ch A60 Benoni
10 Win (b)
40
2007 FIDE World Ch D43 QGD Semi-Slav
11 Loss (w)
30
2008 Corus D11 QGD Slav
12 Loss (b)
26
2008 Sochi Grand Prix E15 Queen's Indian
13 Win (b)
49
2008 Dresden Olympiad A29 English, Four Knights
14 Draw (w)
33
2009 Nalchik Grand Prix D39 QGD, Vienna
15 Loss (b)
78
2009 Jermuk Grand Prix D43 QGD Semi-Slav
16 Draw (b)
19
2009 European Club Cup D45 QGD Semi-Slav
17 Win (w)
66
2009 Tal Memorial D47 QGD Semi-Slav
18 Loss (b)
41
2010 World Team Ch D45 QGD Semi-Slav
19 Draw (b)
46
2010 Linares D48 QGD Semi-Slav, Meran
20 Draw (w)
40
2010 Linares D15 QGD Slav
21 Loss (b)
41
2010 Tal Memorial D43 QGD Semi-Slav
22 Draw (b)
40
2011 Tal Memorial D37 QGD
23 Loss (w)
53
2012 Wijk aan Zee D31 QGD

Overall: 5 Wins, 12 Draws, 6 Losses
White: 3 Wins, 4 Draws, 2 Losses
Black: 2 Wins, 8 Draws, 4 Losses

Gelfand has nothing but praise for the quality of Aronian’s play. With three of the last six encounters between these two being results in the Armenian’s favour, expect Gelfand’s reverence to be rewarded with a correspondingly uncomfortable experience. His white-wash of Aronian at the 2007 FIDE World Championship does serve as a trump in his favour, though, so do not count him out. The Meran and the Benoni might be rediscovered here.


Vladimir Kramnik (2810 – World #2)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Loss (b)
53
1993 Linares       E81 King's Indian, Samisch
2 Draw (w)
11
1993 Biel Interzonal D10 QGD Slav
3 Draw (b)
41
1994 Linares E92 King's Indian
4 Draw (b)
14
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
5 Draw (w)
33
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B30 Sicilian
6 Loss (b)
35
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
7 Win (w)
42
1994 Candidates Semi-Final D32 QGD, Tarrasch
8 Draw (b)
47
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B22 Sicilian, Alapin
9 Draw (w)
76
1994 Candidates Semi-Final A50 Queen’s Pawn Game
10 Draw (b)
23
1994 Candidates Semi-Final B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
11 Win (w)
63
1994 Candidates Semi-Final A34 English, Symmetrical
12 Draw (w)
27
1995 Belgrade Invest A35 English, Symmetrical
13 Draw (b)
11
1995 European Club Cup B52 Sicilian, Rossolimo
14 Draw (w)
33
1996 Euwe Mem A33 English, Symmetrical
15 Draw (b)
63
1996 Dos Hermanas A15 English
16 Draw (b)
24
1996 Dortmund E97 King's Indian
17 Draw (b)
51
1996 Novgorod E97 King's Indian
18 Win (w)
62
1996 Novgorod B70 Sicilian, Dragon
19 Draw (b)
35
1996 Vienna E97 King's Indian
20 Loss (w)
28
1996 European Club Cup D45 QGD Semi-Slav
21 Draw (b)
15
1997 Linares D15 QGD Slav
22 Draw (w)
17
1997 Dos Hermanas D46 QGD Semi-Slav
23 Draw (w)
17
1997 Novgorod E14 Queen's Indian
24 Draw (b)
76
1997 Novgorod D15 QGD Slav
25 Draw (w)
32
1997 Dortmund D55 QGD
26 Draw (b)
66
1997 Belgrade Invest E97 King's Indian
27 Loss (b)
40
1998 Wijk aan Zee D11 QGD Slav
28 Draw (w)
30
1999 Dos Hermanas D37 QGD
29 Loss (b)
60
2001 Astana E06 Catalan, Closed
30 Draw (w)
29
2001 Astana D58 QGD, Tartakower
31 Draw (b)
20
2005 European Club Cup D12 QGD Slav
32 Draw (w)
19
2006 Dortmund D47 QGD Semi-Slav
33 Loss (b)
62
2007 Dortmund D45 QGD Semi-Slav
34 Draw (b)
40
2007 FIDE World Ch D43 QGD Semi-Slav
35 Draw (w)
26
2007 FIDE World Ch D47 QGD Semi-Slav
36 Draw (w)
31
2007 Tal Memorial D12 QGD Slav
37 Draw (b)
48
2008 Corus E15 Queen’s Indian
38 Draw (w)
47
2008 Tal Memorial D45 QGD Semi-Slav
39 Draw (w)
81
2009 Tal Memorial E04 Catalan, Open
40 Draw (w)
32
2010 Tal Memorial E10 Queen’s Pawn Game
41 Draw (w)
48
2011 Tal Memorial D37 QGD
42 Draw (b)
59
2013 Zurich A04 Reti
43 Draw (w)
46
2013 Zurich E06 Catalan, Closed

Overall: 3 Wins, 34 Draws, 6 Losses
White: 3 Wins, 18 Draws, 1 Loss
Black: 0 Wins, 16 Draws, 5 Losses

Gelfand has some experience in meting out punishment to Kramnik, having eliminated him in their semi-final match of the 1994 Candidates tournament, while he also emerged unscathed in their encounters at the 2007 World Championship. Simply put, they can both expect tough games when they face across from one another. For those hoping to see history repeat itself, the Rossolimo would be a good choice.


Magnus Carlsen (2872 – World #1)

# Result
Moves
Year Event Opening
1 Draw (w)
29
2005 Biel E12 Queen's Indian
2 Draw (b)
26
2005 Biel B96 Sicilian, Najdorf
3 Win (b)
38
2006 Tal Memorial D17 QGD Slav
4 Draw (b)
27
2007 Dortmund D11 QGD Slav
5 Draw (b)
37
2007 Tal Memorial A20 English
6 Draw (b)
67
2008 Corus D45 QGD Semi-Slav
7 Draw (w)
27
2009 Tal Memorial D80 Grunfeld
8 Draw (b)
40
2010 Bazna D43 QGD Semi-Slav
9 Draw (w)
33
2010 Bazna D37 QGD
10 Loss (b)
38
2011 Tal Memorial D12 QGD Slav
11 Loss (b)
52
2012 Wijk aan Zee D12 QGD Slav

Overall: 1 Win, 8 Draws, 2 Losses
White: 0 Wins, 3 Draws, 0 Losses
Black: 1 Win, 5 Draws, 2 Losses

Gelfand has little experience against the young gun from Norway, but, as of late, these fleeting moments have been rather painful for him. In their last two encounters, Magnus has chalked up two victories on the white side of the Slav. On the plus side, he has never lost against the World #1 when holding the white pieces himself. If Boris is feeling ambitious, he may take another crack at the Slav, but, should that happen, few should expect the result to change.


Overall Stats Against Field

 
Wins
Draws
Losses
Draw %
Overall
26
139
40
67.80%
White
17
71
12
71.00%
Black
9
68
28
64.76%

Repertoire white

Line
score
Perf.
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 c6
62%
2723
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 b6
56%
2705
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6 3.Nc3
58%
2704
1.d4 Nf6 2.Nf3
65%
2723
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.Nf3
62%
2741
1.Nf3 Nf6 2.c4
57%
2723
1.e4
65%
2685
1.c4
60%
2724

Gelfand’s ability to handle the Slav is first-rate. With few exceptions, the opposition may prefer to deploy the KID.

Repertoire black

Line
score
Perf.
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 cxd4 4.Nxd4 Nf6
51%
2699
1.e4 e5 2.Nf3 Nf6 3.Nxe5 d6 4.Nf3 Nxe4
55%
2756
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3
53%
2711
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 g6
41%
2595
1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6
52%
2733
1.Nf3
46%
2667

Gelfand is equally capable on the black side of the Slav, as he is on the white side. In a handful of cases, his fellow candidates may spring the English on him.


The Candidates Tournament in London

The London Candidates 2013 will be the strongest tournament of its kind in history. The Prize Fund to be shared by the players totals €510,000. The winner of the Candidates will become the Challenger to Viswanathan Anand who has reigned as World Champion since 2007.

Full information on the Candidates – pairings and commentary schedule

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