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A Couch Potato’s Guide to the 2012 World Championship Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
May 8, 2012
Gelfand and Anand, Photo Cathy Rogers

On Friday in the Russian capital Moscow Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand will commence battle for the world title and a $2.5m prize fund. Not since Garry Kasparov took on Nigel Short in London in 1993 has a World Championship match started with one player an overwhelming favourite. (One betting site has been offering almost 5 to 1 against a Gelfand victory.)

Yet there is reason to believe that the upcoming world title match could be a classic and a treat for those watching at home on the internet. 

"Nowadays Moscow holds just about the best tournaments in the world," said Anand last year and with extensive video streaming and commentary in two languages, the organizers of the 2012 world title match hope to set new standards for internet coverage.

While Anand is a veteran of three - arguably four - previous world title matches, Gelfand also has plenty of match experience, having competed in the Candidates Matches twice in the 1990s, as well his successful Candidates run in 2011 which has brought him the challenger's mantle.

Gelfand knows what it is like to beat Anand - he has done so five times - as well as virtually every top player except Kasparov.

Although at 43 Gelfand might be thought to be over the hill, he is only a year older than Anand and has enjoyed some of his greatest successes in recent years, including the 2009 World Cup.

The choice of Moscow as the host city should favor Gelfand, who grew up in the USSR with Russian as his mother tongue. The match sponsor, Andrei Filatov, is also an old university friend of Gelfand - although Filatov has insisted that the match conditions will be scrupulously fair to both players.

Then there is the question of desire. This is likely to be Gelfand's one and only shot at the world title, while Anand has to try to psych himself up for his third world title match, one which he is expected to win comfortably. Gelfand has certainly not been lacking in self-confidence, saying "One on one, I don't see why I am weaker than anyone."

The ratings of the two players may be a long way apart - 2791 for Anand versus 2727 for Gelfand - but in the recent period during which Gelfand has scored his two biggest wins  - the World Cup and the Candidates matches - Anand has not won a single classical tournament and defeated Topalov only by the narrowest of margins.

Of course there are also quite a few reasons to expect Anand to retain his title with a minimum of fuss.

The score between the two players may only be 18-17 in Anand's favour but Gelfand has not beaten the Indian in a classical game since 1993(!).

Anand always seems to raise his game for world title contests and his demolition of Kramnik in 2008 was awesome. Two years later Anand also showed his ability to win clutch games when he defeated Topalov in the twelfth and final game with Black.

Anand has an established team of seconds supporting him, assistants with experience in analysing through sleepless nights through draining World Championship matches, while Gelfand's team are untested in such a contest.

Gelfand's stamina is also under a cloud. At his most recent outing, at Wijk aan Zee in January, Gelfand faded in the fourth and fifth hours of games, as well as falling to the tail of the field by losing his final two games.

And yet ... five to one against in a two horse race? Someone is seriously underestimating Gelfand.

Before the Match
You may not be able to attend the opening ceremony at the famed Tretyakov Gallery but you can certainly get into the mood of the match by browsing  through some of the Tretyakov's 160,000 paintings online. If something a little less demanding is preferred, the recent Russian comedy Here is Carlson can be downloaded and viewed. (Carlson is, of course, a person with superhuman powers, though unfortunately his amazing chess abilities do not feature heavily in the film.)If dance music is your scene, see some of the sights that Anand and Gelfand will call home for three weeks in April's Russian chart-topper Moskva.

Games begin at 7am New York time, so US fans will need to be dedicated to see all the action from Moscow. A healthy Russian breakfast will be a good start - potato pancakes. These can be prepared the previous night and may be used as snack food throughout the game.

For sufficient supplies to last until lunchtime, take 5 potatoes and grate them into a bowl. Add a grated onion and a mixture of two eggs beaten with half a cup of flour and a pinch of salt.If you are a Gelfand supporter, you will then add kefir, or a sour yoghurt, to give the pancakes a Belorussian flavour. Mold the mixture into flat pancake shapes and fry them at a high heat until golden brown. Serve with sour cream.

During the Games
The official web site, http://moscow2012.fide.com/en/, looks to be the place to go for both video and audio coverage, though both Internet Chess Club and ChessBase have their own teams of popular Grandmaster commentators who entertain as well as explain the games. (ICC features Spanish language commentators as well.)

However the line-up for the English language commentary on the official site will be hard to beat, including Kramnik, Svidler, Leko, Timman and Short. To have players who have fought for the world title themselves providing their thoughts should be a rare treat.

ChessGames.Com is trying something slightly different, with Natalia Pogonina (assisted by Jennifer Shahade on occasion) commentating as well as interacting with multiple kibitzers. The result could be chaos and/or great entertainment.

For text commentary, the master is Sergey Shipov and Chess Vibes is expecting to have Shipov's deep analysis and philosophical musings translated - move by move - into English by the man behind Chess in Translation , Colin McGourty. Chess Vibes will also be on the spot in Moscow producing the videos which have become one of the trademarks of their site.

Plenty of other sites will provide text commentary, as well as computer generated assessments. Chessdom have raised their game considerably since 2010, though nowadays their Grandmaster commentators seem to include a little too much product placement. Susan Polgar's blog will have the former Women's World Champion's commentary and plenty of other options are likely to spring up as the match gets underway.

After the Games

As soon as the games finish, the two players will be ushered into a press conference, which should be viewable on the official match site as it happens.

One site always worth a visit is The Week in Chess. Apart from having the   game available for an up-to-date download at any time, TWIC will also feature videos, usually an instant daily summary from the team at Europe Echecs. 

A few hours after the game is completed, Chess Vibes post-game videos will give you a feel for the atmosphere at the match and ICC's Game of the Day will explain the details of the contest you have just witnessed.

Wait a little longer and you should be able to find move-by-move video commentary on YouTube - it's not The MasterGame but these videos can be useful, especially for less experienced players.

Text annotations will soon start to spring up - ChessBase often finds young and entertaining annotators for big matches, while Denis Monokroussos generally provides a worthy symbiosis of man and machine.

One blog to watch is that by Eric van Reem, a member of the Anand delegation. Don't expect too many analytical comments on the games in Mate in Moscow but there will be plenty about the atmosphere of the match and its surroundings.

Of course Chess Life Online will also cover the match, with regular reports by this writer from Moscow.

So, once you have followed the games online, eaten the potato pancakes, viewed the press conferences, had lunch (the leftover potato pancakes), then watched the videos and read the pundits' opinions of each game, please go outside and do some exercise or you will end May with a vitamin D deficiency and seriously overweight!

2012 World Championship Match Schedule
(All games at 3pm Moscow time = 7am EST)
Game 1 Friday     May 11  
Game 2 Saturday   May 12
Game 3 Monday     May 14
Game 4 Tuesday    May 15
Game 5 Thursday  May 17
Game 6 Friday     May 18
Game 7 Sunday     May 20
Game 8 Monday     May 21
Game 9 Wednesday  May 23
Game 10 Thursday  May 24
Game 11 Saturday  May 26
Game 12 Monday    May 28
Playoffs (if needed) Wednesday May 30

May - Chess Life Online 2012

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