Israeli chess master’s tenth match in bid for world championship ends in draw

Championship will be decided in rapid games said to be Anand’s strength.

MOSCOW – Defending champion Viswanathan Anand forced challenger Boris Gelfand to think more deeply on Monday than during the previous 11 games, but the Israeli came up with a brilliant move that forced a 10th draw and sent the match into a tiebreaker.

The two grandmasters will now play four rounds of rapid chess, in which each player gets 25 minutes to make his moves, plus 10 extra seconds for every move. If that round doesn’t decide a winner, the pair will face off in several rounds of blitz chess – five minutes plus three extra seconds per move.

Gelfand, left, pondering his next move against Anand on Monday.
Gelfand, left, pondering his next move against Anand on Monday. It took him 40 minutes to make what became the move of the game. Photo by Reuters

 

The final tiebreak – known as Armageddon chess – would give Anand playing white five minutes and Gelfand playing black four minutes. If Gelfand can hang on and not lose, he will be declared the champion.

The deciding moment on Monday came in the 10th move when Gelfand, who played black, had to think for 40 minutes about his response to Anand’s strategy. His brilliant, unexpected move of pawn to e4 saved him from defeat. He sacrificed his pawn but opened up his bishops, sharply cutting Anand’s chances of winning.

As befitting a match between two gentlemen, the two declared the game a draw after 22 moves, though some fans wanted the war of attrition to continue.

Gelfand said Anand had opened excellently; later Gelfand had to think about finding a way to survive. He said Anand’s plan was clear – to castle and advance his pawns on the king’s wing. Gelfand said that at that critical moment, he decided he had to act to free up his bishops. He added that if he had waited one more move it probably would have been too late.

Anand said he wasn’t thrilled to capture the pawn. Gelfand said he was happy to get rid of him. Anand added he didn’t continue the game even though Gelfand would be under pressure from the game clock after taking so much time because black’s game was simple at that point.

“If there were more pieces on the board, maybe I would have continued – but as such there was no point,” Anand said.

With the score tied 6-6, the tiebreaker will be held on Wednesday. According to a draw held on Monday, Gelfand will play white in the first and third rounds of rapid chess. There will be a 10-minute break between games for the players to consult with their assistants.

Former world champion Vladimir Kramnik said Anand is the favorite in rapid chess against anyone in the world. But Gelfand is outstanding at tiebreakers.

The extra round also changes the way the $2.55 million purse will be split up. Instead of 60-40, it will be split up 55-45.

After the game, Gelfand was asked why the two competitors weren’t enthusiastic enough to play longer games for the crowd’s enjoyment. Gelfand said the two were in a battle to win the championship, not to entertain the viewers.

A Dutch journalist got a chuckle out of the crowd when he asked the players if instead of rapid chess they couldn’t just go to penalty kicks.

 

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By Eli Shvidler

Eli Shvidler

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