Which seems bizarre at first blush, since the Candidates' tournament is going to be in Moscow. But the reason it's Levon Aronian and not the higher-rated Vladimir Kramnik is the sponsor, the Tashir Group. It is a Russian-Armenian real estate company headed by an Armenian-born billionaire, so there you go.
Aronian would normally be a great choice for a wildcard spot, and even now he's a very good choice. But for about a year and a half, almost two years, I think, he has had only one really top-class result - his recent win in the Sinquefield Cup. Even so, he's still #8 in the world and a worthy Candidate. As for big Vlad, he'll have to wait until the next cycle for a chance to regain the World Championship title - unless Giri loses a ton of points in the upcoming European Team Championship (starting in about a week).
So here's what the field looks like for the Candidates' (which will go from March 10-30 next year), barring Giri's total collapse:
- Viswanathan Anand (qualified by being in the last World Championship match)
- Veselin Topalov (by rating)
- Anish Giri (by rating)
- Hikaru Nakamura (Grand Prix)
- Fabiano Caruana (Grand Prix)
- Sergey Karjakin (World Cup)
- Peter Svidler (World Cup)
- Levon Aronian (sponsor's wildcard)
Is it too soon to make pointless predictions? Let's do it! I'll start by claiming that Hikaru Nakamura will win and face his nemesis for the championship.