Wednesday, May 30, 2012

2012 Anand v Gelfand Tie breaks World Chess Championship

First four rapid games 25 minutes with 10 second increment each. I got up very early here (3:45 am) and caught the end of the first game. GM Peter Svidler is the expert commentor on the English language video coverage. (Kramnick on the Russian)

The first rapid game is an exciting semi-Slav with Gelfand as white managing to stave off Anands attack, and then Anand staving off Gelfand, by exchanging down to a drawn rook and pawn endgame.

Second Game:
The second rapid game follows the novelty in the Bb5 Sicilian, that Anand introducded in game 12, but becomes much sharper. Anand seems to be in his preparation till Gelfand's 15th move, with which Gelfand sacs a pawn. Anand declines the obvious pawn and snatches up another, which applies more pressure. By move 20, Gelfand finds a way to develop his pieces and achieve counterplay, but his time is short. As his time grows shorter Gelfand forces exchanges that lead to an endgame he should be able to draw. Gelfand plays very well, but makes a mistake when playing on the increment, and Anand gets a won rook and pawn position.

Third Game:
The third rapid game is critical for Gelfand. It is his last rapid game as white. If he does not win, it will be very difficult for him to win as black in the fourth rapid game. Anand choses a very solid Schallopp Slav, but allows conversion to an exciting double edged game, where white has an initiative on the queenside, and black has an initiative on the kingside. If this was not a rapid game, I would give the edge to Gelfand to achieve an endgame with an modest advantage. Houdini sees a combination for Gelfand on move 23 that all the Grandmasters miss.
(hidden text: 23.Nxe4 fxe4 24.fxg5 e5 25.Qd2 exd4 26.Qxd4 Qg7 27.Rdb1 Qh7 28.Rb3 Qf7 29.h4 and white holds the blockade and his kingside pawns give him a great advantage. Nxe4 continues to be a combination starter for the next few moves. The key is the continual threat of the skewer on the h2 b8 diagonal. Svidler comments that Nxe4 is such a move outside the ideas of the position, that it is very hard to see.)
Gelfand chooses a line that gives him an extra pawn and continual pressure, but loses the thread and lets Anand  get counterplay. Gelfand ends up playing on the increment again. Anand saves the game by entering a scary looking endgame (Gelfand R+2P vs Anand R), but he proceeds to demonstrates is a technical draw.

Fourth Game:
Surprising to me, Anand starts the fourth game with 1.e4. I was expecting 1.d4 and an exchange Slav or Gelfand having to use a King's Indian or other uncomfortable opening for Gelfand. They enter a slightly different 3.Bb5 Sicilian as Gelfand plays 2...d6 rather than 2...Nc6. Anand plays a line with an early e5 thrust that looks very exciting, but I expect leads to many exchanges, and by move 12 we have a queenless middle game, but by move 20 Anand has castled long by hand and Gelfand has begun a queenside pawn storm, with his king safely tucked away on f7. Gelfand does not find a breakthrough on the queenside, and begins kingside expansion. He is looking to find some way to open lines for his bishops.
If Gelfand can exchange the rooks, and get his bishops on b1-h7 and c1-h6 diagonals, Anand's king will be pinned to the queenside. Interesting play occurs with Gelfand getting aggressive with his king, while Anand gains control of the e-file. Gelfand slowly falls behind on time. Anand forces exchanges and eventually a draw.

Congratulations to Anand who retains his world championship title.

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