Kavaguti, Smirnov second after short program in Turin
They are two points behind Olympic silver medalists Pang Qing and Tong Jian of China, who took charge due to the absence of Olympic champions Shen Xue and Zhao Hongbao, turning in a result of 75.28 points.
Germany’s Alyona Savchenko and Robin Szolkowy are third, but will have to fight for the podium spot with another Russian pair, Maria Mukhortova and Maxim Trankov, in Wednesday’s free skate.
The gap between the pairs in the battle for bronze is just 0.04 of a point.
In ice dancing, Olympic champions Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir took the lead after the compulsory dance, delivering their best-ever total of 44.13 at the World Figure Skating Championships.
The Canadians are a little less than a point ahead of their Vancouver rivals Meryl Davis and Charlie White of the US, Italian pair Federica Faiella and Massimo Scali being third.
The best Russian pair of Jana Khokhlova and Sergei Novitsky sit in 5th.
Reigning world champions and Olympic bronze medalists Oksana Domnina and Maxim Shabalin of Russia decided not compete in Turin.