World Chess Championship: Better Halves can see the Draws earlier

A tight fight was on, maybe even a bloody fight between V. Anand and Gelfand

V Krishnaswamy
Updated: May 24, 2012 06:00:30 PM UTC

They sparred for six games in the first half of the match. Occasionally the jab converted itself into a punch, that, while neither flooring nor knocking the other guy out, did shake him up a bit.

That was then and this is now. Into the second half, challenger Boris Gelfand punched harder in seventh and defending champion Viswanathan Anand was neither able to duck nor find a safe corner on the chequered board. He went down and was counted out. 1-0.

A day later, it would seem that Anand and Gelfand were no longer sparring but trading harder punches. A tight fight was on, maybe even a bloody fight. Then Gelfand tripped on his shoelaces – always a blunder! Down he went, didn’t even take the count – he just put up his hands. He had little option, for he was losing his queen and you don’t stay in the ring with one hand tied behind your back. So, 1-1 it was.

Into the ninth, Gelfand punched hard again. He even saw some light at the end of the tunnel and kept following it. But it did not lead where he thought it might. Anand kept swaying, not allowing the fatal punch to land.

Finally they agreed to retire back to their lairs, as it were, but for the first time a game in this match went beyond the first time control – two hours each for first 40 moves. They played 49 moves.

The ninth game was a Nimzo-Indian, Rubinstein variation. Some call it the Rubinestein System, too. Gelfand had a clear edge in the opening.

“Obviously I messed something up in the opening. Normally speaking my position is much worse, white just got the two bishops for my two knights and the only thing I did was to try and provoke this move 19. c5 because I thought that I would get rid of the bishop in almost all the lines and I could try and make a fortress. This is in fact what happened in the game, though in the game it was very tricky to decide which fortress to choose, ” said Anand. “I simply don’t know if white missed a win.” The fact remains, Anand held out for a draw.

Gelfand gave it a shot till the very last, but was clearly not pleased about having had to split the point. When asked about it, he kept his sense of wry humour and said, “I have never come across a player who is happy to draw (when in) a better position. “


Parting shot Over the past couple of weeks, Anand has been heaping praise on his amazing wife, Aruna. First, when talking about their son, Akhil, he said she should get a lot of credit for taking care of him. Then, asked if chess players slip after marriage, he refuted that by saying his rating and performance got better after marriage.

The latest was after the ninth game. A local scribe asked if Aruna knew he was about to offer a draw, because she walked into the media centre about 30 seconds or so before he actually did and the game was drawn. A surprised Anand smiled, paused and replied, “I don’t know how she does it.”

Anand can see the moves on the chess board but Aruna can see Anand’s moves! No wonder they call them better halves!


Of Grunfeld and his defense
In my opening blog, I mentioned about how a colleague asking me 30 years ago on why I wanted to report on chess.

Apart from the fact that it displays character, mental strength and much else, what also attracted me to chess was the names and places after whom the openings, variations and other aspects of the game are named. I am going to try and take up a name or two in each of my future blogs. The first will be Gruenfeld defense.

The Grunfeld (also spelt Gruenfeld) – the proper spelling has the Germanic umlaut – two dots over the ‘u’) defense is named after Ernst Franz Grunfeld, born in 1893,  who was reckoned to be one the strongest players soon after World War I. The War interrupted his playing career and he turned him to studying theory and openings.

Stuck in poverty, he lost a leg in childhood, though it is not clear how. He also built a superb chess library in his small apartment in Vienna, where he finally died of obesity.

He played alongside the likes of Saviely Tartakower, Sandor Takacs, Freidrich Samisch, Paul Keres and Alexander Alekhine among others. But his long-lasting contribution came from the Grunfeld defense.

Grunfeld played the now-famous defense that against Samisch in Bad Pistyan (now in Slovakia) in 1922 and drew the game. But it became famous, when in the same year he played it successfully against Alekhine in a tournament in Vienna.

The Grunfeld defense follows from 1.d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5… It is an opening based on the belief that a large pawn centre could also be a target for attack rather than just being an asset. Black’s d5 challenges white’s occupation of the centre.

More on names next time.

(You can also see our slideshow that captures the special moments of the game)

The thoughts and opinions shared here are of the author.

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