Nepo vs. Ding
It starts in less than two weeks, in Astana. But unlike those Karpov-Korchnoi matches in the 1970s, the soon to be former world chess champion, Magnus Carlsen, is still very much on the scene and still is widely regarded as the #1 player, as his various ratings confirm.
How will that change the incentives of the two combatants in Astana? Will that induce the two players to try harder and to take more risks? If you squeak by with a bunch of draws in the Petroff, and win the rapid tiebreak on your opponent’s single blunder in time trouble, will anyone think of you as the real world champion? Alternatively, if you trounce your opponent by a three-point margin, people might begin to wonder if Carlsen was the automatic favorite. Furthermore, there will be no “endowment effect” from either player already holding the title. It will feel as if there is little to lose from taking chances over the board.
So I predict a hard-fought match with a lot of excitement. Losing the match is not that much worse than winning it, for a change. And winning on tiebreaks will count for less than it would under normal circumstances.
I am predicting Nepo to win, odds 65-35. Ding hasn’t actually won anything, but Nepo has taken the Candidates twice in a row, no mean feat. He has the experience advantage of having already played on the big stage, against MC at that, and been through all the prep. (GPT-4 by the way predicts Nepo 55-45.)
Furthermore, for Ding I believe it is not easy to represent all of China, with the national pressures that implies.