Anand Retains World Title After Exciting Playoff
By GM Ian Rogers   
May 30, 2012
Photo Cathy Rogers

“The only feeling I have is relief,” said Viswanathan Anand after the final World Championship tie-break game in Moscow had ended in a hard-fought draw, leaving the Indian with an 8.5-7.5 final margin over challenger Boris Gelfand, the world title and $1.53m.

“What can I say?,” an exhausted Anand sighed at the post-match press conference attended by 200+ journalists, some standing on chairs to see the players. “It was incredibly tense and the match could have gone either way. After the first 12 games the only thing that could separate us was the rapid games and things really went my way today. My nerves held out better and I hung on for dear life.”

After tying the regulation match 6-6, the two Grandmasters were required to play four rapid tiebreakers follwed, if necessary by blitz games. The match was decided by the four rapid games but Anand's 2.5-1.5 margin in the tiebreakers hung on two critical endgame errors by Gelfand both under severe time pressure. Anand could thank sheer persistence and his renowned speed of thought for carrying him through all four games undefeated, since all at one or more points had threatened to turn in Gelfand's favor. “I started playing fast again [like the old days],” said Anand with a grin.

Gelfand was clearly disappointed to have come so close but was proud of his play; “Some people had me pensioned off in 1998 but I can still play. I think it was a solid performance on my part here; I found many ideas and good solutions. It was an equal match and I had the edge in most of the rapid games. My problem was lacking time.”
Photo Cathy Rogers
In a match he described as the toughest of his life, Anand  admitted that he thought he might have thrown away his title after losing the seventh game to fall behind Gelfand in regulation time with just five games to play. “It was a heavy blow to lose game seven. I can't remember such a dark day. I couldn't sleep and I thought I had blown the match. Against Topalov [in 2010] I was always confident that I could come back after a loss but here we were both getting so few chances that I thought that might be it. I was very fortunate to come back and win the next day – even though I know it was not Boris' best day.”

Anand said that he had never been sure of victory; “I never felt like a favorite - I know Boris too well for that. I am just relieved.”

Anand went so far as to say that he and Gelfand had been freinds for so long that, if he had to lose his world title, losing it to Gelfand would have been OK - a person to whom he would have been happy to pass the crown.

Anand's seconds also expressed their admiration for what Gelfand had achieved in recent years, showing that class is more important than ratings or recent results. Special admiration was reserved for Gelfand's move 10...c4!! in game 12 – a position in which the Anand team were ready for all 'normal' moves and were expecting their player to hold an advantage.

Anand is scheduled to defend his world title again at the end of 2013, though early 2014 seems more likely. Gelfand will gain an automatic place in the Candidates tournament, to be played in London next March, where the favorites will be Magnus Carlsen and one of Gelfand's pre-match assistants – world number two Levon Aronian.
Queen's Gambit Declined

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 Nbd7

Finally varying from 5...a6, with which Anand drew three and lost one during the match.
6.Qc2 Bd6 7.Bd3 0-0 8.0-0 e5 9.cxd5 cxd5 10.e4 exd4 11.Nxd5 Nxd5 12.exd5 h6 13.b3

A new idea, but hardly scary for Black.
13...Ne5 14.Nxe5 Bxe5 15.Re1 Re8 16.Bb2 Bd7 17.Qd2 Qf6 18.g3 Rac8 19.a4?!

Unhappy with 19.f4 Bc7 followed by 20...Bb6, Gelfand tries to mark time but in doing so allows a sharp-eyed Anand a tactical opportunity.
19...Qf3! 20.Be4! Qxb3 21.Reb1! Bxg3! 22.Ra3!

Diamond cut diamond.
If 22...Qc4 23.Rc1! - and not 23.Bd3 Bxh2+! followed by 24...Qxd5 - is also a complete mess.
23.Bxd4 Bxh2+! 24.Kxh2 Qd6+ 25.Rg3 Rxe4 26.Bxg7 Kh7 27.Rxb7!
“I saw this but I couldn't believe it,” admitted Anand.
27...Rg8!? 28.Qxh6+
Avoiding 28.Rxd7 Rh4+! but 28.Qd3! f5 29.Bb2 would have set Anand some tricky problems with both players down to their last three minutes.
28...Qxh6+ 29.Bxh6 Rxg3 30.Kxg3 Bc8 31.Rc7 Kxh6 32.Rxc8 Rxa4 Draw Agreed

“We both played pretty well,” said Anand.
Opening: Sicilian Defence

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 Nc6 3.Bb5 e6 4.Bxc6 bxc6 5.b3 e5 6.Nxe5 Qe7 7.d4!

Varying from game 10's 7.Bb2 d6 8.Nc4 d5! when Black equalised easily.
7...d6 8.Nxc6! Qxe4+ 9.Qe2 Qxe2+ 10.Kxe2 Bb7 11.Na5!
“I think we out-prepared him here,” said Anand's second Rustam Kasimdzhanov. “The pawn sacrifice on g2 is very dangerous for Black, as I think Boris realised very quickly.”
11...Bxg2 12.Rg1 Bh3
12...Be4, headed for g6 in some lines, was safer.
13.dxc5 dxc5 14.Nc3 0-0-0 15.Bf4 Bd6!?
An inspired pawn sacrifice; objectively incorrect but with only 10 minutes left on the clock Gelfand needed to find a way to generate active play.
16.Bxd6 Rxd6 17.Rg5
17.Rxg7 Nh6 also offers Black some activity
17...Nf6 18.Rxc5+ Kb8 19.Nc4 Re8+ 20.Ne3?!

20.Kf3 was simpler.
20...Ng4 21.Ncd5 Nxe3! 22.Nxe3 Bg4+ 23.f3 Bc8!

“I had overlooked this,” admitted Anand, though with a ten minute  advantage on the clock he had time to recover his composure.
24.Re1 Rh6 25.Rh1 Rhe6 26.Rc3 f5!

By now Gelfand was sniffing a possible win – his pawn majority is much more dangerous than White's.
27.Kd2 f4 28.Nd5 g5 29.Rd3 Re2+ 30.Kc1 Rf2 31.h4 Ree2?!

With just over half a minute remaining on the clock (plus 10 second increment)to his opponent's 10 minutes, Gelfand starts to go astray. After 31...Bb7! 32.hxg5 Ree2, White should survive, but barely.
32.Rc3 Bb7 33.Rd1! gxh4

Now 33...h6 fails to 34.Nxf4!
34.Nxf4 Re8 35.Rh1 Rc8 36.Rxc8+ Bxc8 37.Rxh4 Bf5 38.Rh5 Bxc2

Again coping well with Anand's trick; if 38...Rxc2+? 39.Kd1 Rc5 40.Nd3! Rd5 41.Ke1! Black will struggle to hold.
39.Rb5+ Ka8 40.Nd5 a6 41.Ra5 Kb7 42.Nb4 Bg6 43.Nxa6 Rxf3

This should be holdable for Black, but Anand still had four and a half minutes to a half minute for Gelfand.
44.Nc5+ Kb6 45.b4 Rf4 46.a3 Rg4 47.Kd2 h5 48.Nd7+ Kb7 49.Ne5 Rg2+ 50.Kc3 Be8 51.Nd3 h4 52.Re5 Bg6 53.Nf4 Rg3+ 54.Kd4 Bc2 55.Rh5 Rxa3 56.Rxh4 Rg3 57.Nd5 Rg5 58.b5 Bf5 59.Rh6 Bg4 60.Rf6 Rf5 61.Rb6+ Ka7 62.Rg6 Bf3 63.Rg7+ Kb8 64.Nc3 Bb7 65.Kc4 Bf3 66.Kb4 Bd5 67.Na4 Rf7 68.Rg5 Bf3 69.Nc5 Kc7 70.Rg6 Kd8
Played with 2 seconds to spare – panic was setting in for Gelfand.
Allowing a winning liquidation. “I think his position was going to be very difficult to hold anyway,” said Anand. “I can try to manoeuvre my king to b6 and my knight to c6 and if he takes on c6, my c pawn will be winning.”
72.Ne6+ Kc8 73.Nd4 Rf8 74.Nxf3! Rxf3 75.Kb6 Rb3

75...Rf8 76.Ka7! Rf7+ 77.Ka8! is also winning for White.
76.Rg8+ Kd7 77.Rb8! 1-0
The doyen of endgames, Averbach, watching on, would have approved Anand's finishing technique. White is ready to play 78.Ka7 and push the b pawn.
Opening: Queen's Gambit Declined, Semi-Slav

1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nf3 Nf6 4.e3 Bf5 5.Nc3 e6 6.Nh4 Bg6 7.Nxg6 hxg6 8.Bd3 Nbd7 9.0-0 Bd6 10.h3 0-0 11.Qc2 Qe7 12.Rd1 Rac8?
“I just had a black-out,” said Anand. “Of course I should take on c4.”
13.c5! Bb8 14.f4! Ne8
Playing fast as if to show that nothing untoward has happened, but  matters soon go from bad to worse.
15.b4 g5  16.Rb1 f5 17.b5 gxf4 18.exf4 Nef6 19.bxc6 bxc6 20.Ba6

White's play is easy, but over the next few moves Gelfand uses up precious minutes.
20...Rc7 21.Be3 Ne4 22.Rb2 g5!?
Desperation, but it succeeds in confusing the situation.
23.Rdb1 gxf4 24.Bxf4 e5 25.Bxe5 Nxe5 26.Rxb8?
Played instantly, but 26.Nxe4! fxe4 27.dxe5 would win the unfortunate bishop on b8.
26...Ng6 27.Nxe4 fxe4  
“I was just lost,” said Anand, “but I was lucky that I was lost in a way that I would always have some counterplay.”
28.Qf2 Qg7 29.Kh2 Rcf7 30.Qg3 Nf4! 31.R8b3

With one and a half minutes left to Anand's 17, Gelfand does well to make anything out of this position.
31...Qxg3+ 32.Rxg3+ Kh7 33.Rd1 Ne6 34.Be2 Rf2 35.Bg4 Nf4 36.Rb1!

As usual, Gelfand finds counterplay just at the right time.
36...Rf7 37.Rb8 Rxa2 38.Rc8 e3?!

38...Rf6 was safer, but likely Anand, still with a ten minute advantage, was looking to end the match with a win.
39.Rxe3! Rxg2+ 40.Kh1 Rd2 41.Rxc6 Ne6 42.Rf3 Rxf3 43.Bxf3 Nxd4 44.Rc7+ Kh6 45.Bxd5 Rc2 46.Be4 Rc3 47.Kh2 Kg5 48.Rd7 Nf3+

Now it is Anand's turn to panic – 48...Ne6 should hold comfortably.
49.Bxf3 Rxf3 50.Rxa7
Played with 5 seconds to spare.
50...Rc3 51.Rc7 Kf5?
“Originally I thought I could just draw with 51...Kh4 but then I saw his king coming over to help the c pawn,” explained Anand. He was seeing ghosts – 51...Kh4 does draw after 52.Kg1 Kxh3.
52.c6?! Ke6 53.h4! Kd6 54.Rc8 Ra3 55.Kg2 Re3 56.Kh2 Ra3 57.Kg2 Re3 58.h5! Re5 59.h6 Rh5 60.Rh8 Kxc6 61.Rh7?
Despite having built up almost a minute on the clock through four quick moves, Gelfand returns the favour. The obvious 61.Kg3-g4 wins, whereas the text move is too slow by one tempo. “I thought I would get a Vancura position,” said Anand, “but I don't.” (Look it up in your Dvoretsky's Endgame Manual!)
61...Kd6 62.Kg3 Ke6 63.Kg4 Rh1 Draw Agreed

Opening: Sicilian Defence

1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.Bb5+ Nd7 4.d4 Ngf6 5.e5

An old line which offers little for White.
5...Qa5+ 6.Nc3 Ne4 7.Bd2 Nxc3 8.Bxd7+ Bxd7 9.Bxc3 Qa6  10.exd6 exd6 11.Qe2+

“I know you are not supposed to play too hard for a draw,” said Anand, “but I did exactly that. I soon realised that his bishops were rather strong!”
11...Qxe2+ 12.Kxe2 f6 13.b3 Bb5+ 14.Kd2 Bc6 15.Rad1 Kf7 16.Kc1 Be7 17.d5

“Sometimes when your position is bad, it is better not to think about it too much,” said Anand. “I knew what I had to do – c4 and doubling on the e file, so I just did it.”
17...Bd7 18.Bb2 b5 19.Nd2 a5 20.Rhe1 Rhe8 21.Re3 f5
“Now I began to have some hopes,” said Anand. “I can play f4 or even an exchange sacrifice on e6 in some positions.”
22.Rde1 g5 23.c4 b4

As usual in this play-off, Gelfand's clock was a worry; here he had 8 minutes left to 16 for Anand.
24.g3 Bf8
“I thought he would have had better chances had he kept all the rooks on,” said Anand.
25.Rxe8 Bxe8 26.Nf3! Kg6 27.Re6+ Kh5

Suddenly Anand's problems are over.
28...Bf7 29.Rf6 Bg6 30.Re6 Re8 31.Bf6 g4 32.hxg4+ Kxg4 33.Nh2+! Kh3 34.Nf3 f4

One last throw of the dice, with 1 minute 30 left. Unfortunately for Gelfand, 34...Kg2 loses to 35.Nh4+ Kxf2 36.Nxg6.
35.gxf4 Kg4 36.Ng5 Ra8 37.Re3 Kf5 38.Bb2 a4 39.Ne6 Bh6 40.Rh3 Bxf4+ 41.Nxf4 Kxf4 42.Bf6 Ra7 43.Re3 Be4 44.Bh4 axb3 45.Bg3+ Kf5 46.axb3 Ra1+ 47.Kd2 Ra2+ 48.Ke1 Ra6

Still hoping for a miracle...
49.f3 Bb1 50.Kd2 h5 51.Kc1 h4 52.Bxh4! Kf4 53.Bg5+!

“Only now was I completely sure that I had the draw in hand,” said Anand.
53...Kxg5 54.Kxb1 Kf4 55.Re6 Kxf3 56.Kb2 Draw Agreed

Also look for GM Rogers' coverage of the World Championship for Chess Life Magazine.