V Krishnaswamy, a senior journalist has more than 30 years of experience of covering five Olympics, seven Asian Games, five Commonwealth, scores of World Championships and Majors in different sports, including chess and golf. He is also the author of the recently published “Sachin – Hundred hundreds Now”
One good move, an innovation or a novelty or even a rare move brought back from yore can make the game or the day. Boris Gelfand did that in the 10th game and Viswanathan Anand in the 11th. Both games were draws, but it showed how well both had prepared and indicated tremendous understand of the game.
In an era where computers and databases govern our lives, chess is no different. Games have been analysed and dissected real deep so it is not uncommon for players to go through the first five, ten or even 12 to 15 moves in a jiffy.
So if something new turns up in the opening and that, too, in a World Championship, it is all the more interesting.
First, lets take Game 11. Anand (Black) brought back a very rare move from the 1950s on the eighth in a Nimzo-Indian. Game 11 followed the ninth game till Anand played 8…Bd7, which, was played way back by David Bronstein against Semyon Furman in 1957 Russian championships.
So surprised was Gelfand that he took more than 35 minutes to reply to it. The feeling was he could play 9.Qe2 (suggested by Vladimir Kramnik in the commentary box). Bronstein had played 9.dxc5 against Petrosian and Furman in 1957 and both games had ended in draws.
Gelfand ultimately played 9.a3 but fell back hugely on the clock.
Both Qe2 and a3 offered White while not allowing Black to equalize quickly or create complications, which could force Gelfand into severe problems with time. Anand played a novelty to boot on the 11th Bxc3. At this juncture, commentator and World Cup champion Peter Svidler remarked, "So far the guess-the-move percentage of the super-GMs in this position is close to zero. The whole sequence that has appeared on the board has not been predicted by anybody.”
When Anand played 12.NBd7 both Svidler and Kramnik were again at a loss to explain what was happening. But they did realize that Anand was trying to create a complex Nimzo-India position to put Gelfand under further time pressure.
Even while White’s two bishops were still a concern for Anand, he seemed to know what he was doing. He was moving quickly and the next two moves were 13. Bd3 Qa5. At this Anand had spent barely 10 minutes on the whole sequence and Gelfand had spent more than 45-50 minutes, so clearly he was in his preparation but the creases on Gelfand’s forehead were increasing.
Here Gelfand was with White and being forced on the backfoot as it were by Black. Over the next few moves, Gelfand first ensured safety and that was what 17.Ne5 suggested. With his 20.a5 he attempted cramp queenside and then his 21.Rd3 was solid. Anand made one more attempt to create a tricky situation by playing 22…Be8. But Gelfand’s 23.Rb3 – which took him 10 minutes – ensured he would be able to get his draw when he wanted and he played 24. Be3.
That had Svidler saying, “(This) is a position where white is co-ordinated and fine" and will eventually be able to press. So Anand didn't have much chance to complicate here even though the clock situation might suggest it.”
Gelfand had just over 13 minutes and Anand 64. Gelfand took Anand’s offer for a draw and it ended in 24 moves, sending the match into the 12th and final game.
The tenth game
One of the key things about the 10th game, was Gelfand’s bounce back in the previous game. A horrible blunder cost him the eighth game, but in the very next game in ninth, he pressed for a win with white. He showed no ill-affects of the blunder.
The 10th game was important in the manner that it was Anand’s opportunity to take some risk for he had two White to Gelfand’s one in the last three games.
Anand went into 3.Bb5 (Rossolimo variation) and then his fifth move 5.b3 was a sideline, but Gelfand stunned everybody by playing a new idea 5…e5. That left Anand thinking quite a bit and ultimately did not allow him to squeeze anything out of White.
Alexander Morozevich in the commentary box said, “(Gelfand was) trying to play as direct as possible with black pieces.” His (Gelfand) position may have looked tricky for a bit his two bishops would allow him to hold and after trading one of them for Anand’s minor piece, a draw followed.
Gelfand played a novelty, too, with his eighth move 8…d5. This gave him space and tempo and also gave him time for his c5 pawn, which was vulnerable then. His light-coloured bishop was quite active and had mobility.
White made fortresses to ensure all was well. By 24th move Black was completely safe and White had gained nothing. Ultimately what the game showed was that Gelfand’s fifth move pre-empted any sharp play from White. So draw it was.
Gelfand actually offered a draw on 21st, but Anand continued. Four moves later he returned the offer. “Boris offered a draw after 21.. cxb4 but I thought I had something, so I continued. But after a few more moves, I decided to return the offer,” said Anand.
“It is always nice to play a innovation or a novelty early in the game, because they generally come later, so I was quite pleased,” said Gelfand.