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Chess (#1003)

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Several world title matches have been drawn. drew against in 1950 and against Vassily Smyslov in 1954. Kasparov and Karpov tied one of the most thrilling matches ever played at Seville in 1987 by trading wins at the end. Kramnik drew against in a 2004 match that may or may not be considered part of the title canon.

In those cases, the champion was playing with draw odds in favour. In 2006, Kramnik and Topalov drew the infamous “Toiletgate” match though only because Kramnik forfeited a game. But by then, the tie-breaker had been introduced. Kramnik won the tie-breaker.

Since he won the title in 2007, Anand has played every title match with a tiebreaker looming. He won 3-1 (7 draws) against Kramnik and 3-2 (7 draws) against Topalov by taking the last game. fought him to a standstill (+1,-1,=10) and he only scraped through 2.5-1.5 in the tiebreaks.

Many critics will say that Anand is in a crisis of form, or over the hill at 42. It would probably be better to wait for more evidence. The rating differential between Gelfand and Anand suggested that the match would be very close and it was.

Fans are surprised by the close result because twice before, against Kramnik (where Anand was the slight favourite) and Topalov (where Topalov was the slight favourite), Anand outperformed the rating predictions substantially. In Moscow Anand underperformed a little (he’s losing 11 points) while Gelfand (gaining 11 points) outperformed.

Gelfand’s career record suggests he is a smarter match-player than most and he was brilliantly prepared. His strategy was to exchange pieces and queens early, and head for balanced positions that require technical manoeuvres rather than tactical nous. He had diagnosed correctly that Anand wouldn't be able to outplay him easily in such situations. In a 12-game sequence, Gelfand succeeded in getting the sort of positions he wanted on 9 or 10 occasions. Give him due credit for doing something that neither Kramnik nor Topalov managed.

The Diagram, (Gelfand Vs Anand, World Chps 2012, Tie break game 3), White to play shows how close it was. White is winning — the Bb8 is trapped. Anand embarked on an act of desperation — he has to find counterplay. 22.Rb2 g5 !? 23.Rdb1 gxf4 24.Bxf4 e5 !? 25.Bxe5 Nxe5 26.Rxb8?? The alternative 26.Nxe4! fxe4 27 dxe5 and Rxb8 wins immediately. 26...Ng6 27.Nxe4 fxe4 28.Qf2 Qg7 29.Kh2 Rcf7 30.Qg3 Nf4 31.R8b3 Qxg3+ 32.Rxg3+ Kh7 33.Rd1 Ne6 34.Be2 Rf2 35.Bg4 Nf4 36.Rb1 Rf7 37.Rb8 Rxa2 38.Rc8 e3 39.Rxe3 Rxg2+. Anand has by now worked up enough counterplay to draw (1/2-1/2, 63 moves) though there were further errors by both sides and Gelfand missed another win.


Devangshu Datta is an internationally rated chess and correspondence chess player

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