The sponsor of the title match, Andrei Filatov, CEO of the N-Trans group, went to college with challenger, Boris Gelfand. Like many Russians, Filatov plays at near-professional levels. He’s made previous headlines financing restorations to the grave of Alexander Alekhine in Paris and also by supporting smaller chess events and school chess programmes. Apart from that, he’s funded maintenance of World War II era military graveyards in the Baltic republics.
If Filatov hadn’t stepped in, there would have been problems. India had the money but Gelfand didn’t want to play in Anand’s homebase. Finding sponsors in the West was difficult, not only due to the recession but because Fide president Ilyumzhinov has spent time with the late Gaddafi and Assad since the Arab Spring. The connections with Arab dictators spooked potential sponsors.
Filatov’s connections with the art world led to the arrangement to host at the Tretyakov Gallery. Moscow is a reasonable compromise. Gelfand hails from Minsk, Belarus so, it’s not his home-town. Anand is also comfortable playing there. The prize fund, which will be split $.153 million to $1.02 million, is generous and the venue is gorgeous. Both players are total gentlemen. They will shake hands. There will be no cheating accusations and they will not demand cameras in the loo.
The colour toss offers Anand white in Game 1. A switchover at game 7 also gives him white in the last game. While this could be a distinct advantage if it’s a close match, Gelfand receives two whites in succession in game 6, 7. White tends to score around 55 per cent at the highest level. Both Anand and Gelfand win more games with white and more importantly in a title match, they lose far less often when playing with white.
A 12-gamer is difficult to plan for, in terms of overall strategy. It’s long enough to allow some switches but too short to comeback from major early lapses. Kramnik seems to believe Anand will play highly tactical stuff. Gelfand has simply said that he thinks Anand has a few weaknesses and he hopes to exploit them.
Gelfand’s last classical win against Anand came as long as 1993 (!) but Anand has only one win in their last eight classical encounters. So it could be a war of attrition with score +6,-5, =25 in Anand’s favour.
The diagram WHITE TO PLAY, (Gelfand Vs Anand, Interzonal 1993) demonstrates Gelfand’s alertness. 18.0-0 0-0 19.Qxd7 Rfd8 20.Bxh7+! Kxh7 21.Qxf7 Rxd2? Black could limit damage by 21...Bxg2! 22.Kxg2 Rxd2 23.Ra4 Rb4 with chances of a perpetual but 23 Ra4 Qc6+? 24.Kh3! Qxa4 25.Rg1 wins for white. 22.Ra4 Qg5 23.g3 e5 24.Rh4+ Qxh4 25.gxh4 Rd6 26.h5 Be4 27.Qe7 Rbb6 28.Qxe5 Re6 29.Qf4 (1-0). The e-passer will win.
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player