It’s nice to be able to say “I told you so” once in a while. The title match has been very close and remains tied going into the last two games. Match play can make a mockery of rating differences which in any event, suggested that the match would be closer than the fans expected.
Each player has won one game. An overview would show Anand had some winning chances in game three, and Gelfand had some winning chances in Game nine. In both cases, the defender proved stubborn enough and ingenious enough to hold on.
Gelfand has excellent nerves and he’s displayed outstanding preparation. The key to this match so far has been the challenger’s ability to predict the lines Anand would choose and to pick surprising sub-variations, which Gelfand had obviously studied in depth.
Matchplay is about identifying the opponent’s weaknesses and heading into those areas. When it comes to world championship class players, “weakness” is obviously a rather relative judgement. However, Anand is generally less dominant in static positional grinds, than in positions where structures and piece formations are dynamic.
Thus far, Gelfand has generally succeeded in avoiding the sort of free-flowing tactical situations where Anand could either out-calculate him, or find better lines via superior intuition. The only time Gelfand did get into that sort of dynamic situation, he lost a dramatic miniature in Game eight. When he did get Anand trapped in an inferior position in Game seven, Gelfand put it away with accurate play.
One hesitates to make predictions in such a tense situation. But if Game 11 and 12 are split as well, Anand probably has an edge in the tie-breakers. He’s the better rapid player and the inevitable randomness of tactics due to short time controls should favour him.
Meanwhile Hikaru Nakamura won the US championships and the Indian teams are both in second spot at the Asian team championships behind the Chinese. While the teams has seen some excellent performance, Nakamura played fabulously creative chess to pip Kamsky to the US title.
The Diagram, WHITE TO PLAY (Nakamura Vs Ray Robson, US Chps 2012) sees the black king in a mating net but the e2 pawn is running home. The obvious line would be 1. Rb8+ Kd7 2. Nxg6+ Kc6 3. Re8 when white should win.
But there’s a neater way to do the job with 1.Nd5!! Rg3+. This is forced since 1.--Be5 2. Rbe7+ and 3. Rxe5 is easy. 2.Kf4! Bg5+ 3.Ke5!! Fantastic - heading for d6. 3...e1Q+ 4.Kd6 Bf4+. More trivial is 4...Be7+ 5.Rbxe7+ Qxe7+ 6.Rxe7+ Kf8 7.c6. 5.Nxf4 Rd3+ 6.Nxd3 Qg3+ 7.Ne5! No more checks and mate is forced on either h8 or b8. (1-0).
Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player