Europe is the continent of chess in this still young 2018, with Berlin, the splendid Capital of Germany, hosting the Candidates' Tournament, from 10-28 March.
The victorious gladiator will challenge the reigning World Champion in London, from 11-30 November.
The Brexit would make England not a European country, but it's still a long way to go for the subjects of Her Majesty the Queen to actually be out of the European Union.
Well, alright, but what does this mean? The question raises spontaneously. It means that the American chess lovers will be forced to wake up at ungodly hours to follow their favorite players. Most likely the games for the Candidates' will start at around 9 AM EST (6 AM PST).
Oh well, the real chess lover is used to chronic lack of sleep, mostly because of hundreds of Bullet games played on ICC every night. "This is the last one, tomorrow morning I need to be up early!" is the chimeral sentence all of us poor addicted keep telling ourselves. To no avail, apparently.
Anyways, it's going to be a great March, with millions from all around the globe - more or less over-caffeinated - following the Candidates'.
Let's take a look at the line-up.
Sergey Karjakin (RUS)
The runner-up of the latest match (2016). Sergey has shown that he can beat anyone and everyone (excluding the Martian who was born in Norway), and he's for sure one of the favorites.
Levon Aronian (ARM)
Probably the most wanted and lovedchallenger. Levon has been the "number two" for years, in an era dominated by Carlsen, and in a way, many people think it's about time he gets his chance to play for the title. His chess can be thrilling and entertaining, and his classy attitude makes Aronian a public favorite.
Ding Liren (CHN)
China is an established chess-power, with six super-GMs in the first 35. So far, their fantastic nursery hasn't delivered a player able to place himself (or herself) in the first five spots of the FIDE list, but Time plays in China's favor, not to mention the virtually unlimited "human material" they can pick from.
Ding Liren is the most solid among the Chinese chess stars, and his "exploit" at the World Cup gave him access to the Berlin Arena.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (AZE)
It looks like this is Mamedyarov's year. Shak has been orbiting around the first places on the FIDE list for years and is considered one of the strongest players in the World. But these past months have seen his supernova explosion. He crossed the 2800 line and now sits in second place, with a massive 2814 rating. Impossible to avoid thinking of Mamedyarov as the numero uno favorite to fly to London in November.
Alexander Grischuk (RUS)
How many years is it that we see Alexander participating in almost every important chess event? Yet Sasha is only 34 and kicking strong. The King of "I love to play well in time trouble" is a worthy and respectable opponent in the field, and will play his cards to get in London.
Fabiano Caruana (USA)
The American with an Italian name is not having a good moment of his brilliant career. At a point, not long ago, Fabi was regarded as the only possible challenger who would be able to cast some clouds over the otherwise always pristine Norwegian skies. Then something broke, and Caruana found himself in a muddy swamp. At the recently concluded Tata Steel Tournament, Fabiano managed to collect 5 points over 13 rounds. Very unusual for him. We know that the Candidates' is a unique event, with so much at stake that everything can happen, and for sure all the fans hope to see this gentle young man get back to his standard of play.
Wesley So (USA)
At 24, Wesley is the youngest of the lot. The American GM sports a monster rating of around 2799 (4th in the list), which makes him one of the best favorites for the final victory. This witty young man would make a great challenger for sure.
Vladimir Kramnik (RUS)
Kramnik doesn't need any presentation. He's the only "old" (calling someone who's only 42 "old" makes me feel a Mathusalem) school guy of the group. Anand, Topalov, Svidler, and Ivanchuk are the other four over-40 with a rating higher than 2700, but none of them made it to Berlin. Chess, with few exceptions, has become a "No Country for Old Men," and Vladimir will somehow be the standard-bearer of a generation that is giving in to this horde of incredibly strong youngsters. Best of luck to the former World Champion!
Here are the pairings, as published by FIDE:
ICC Will follow the event with a series of LIVE recaps, to be broadcast on ICCTV! The calendar will be announced soon.