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War of Attrition at Moscow World Title Match Print E-mail
By GM Ian Rogers   
May 19, 2012
Photo Cathy Rogers

Six games, six draws. All games under 40 moves, four in less than 30 moves.

“I think the games played will be on the same level as the the masterpieces of Russian culture seen here at the Tretyakov Gallery,” said Gelfand at the start of the World Championship match. 

So far, Gelfand's prediction has proven sadly misguided.

All but one game has followed Black's home preparation for many moves, the player with the White pieces has been unable to find a suitable counter, and the game ends as an incident-free draw.

If the ongoing match in Moscow sounds as flat as a Russian potato pancake, it has at least had its tasty morsels. Well, one tasty morsel, in game three.

Moscow World Ch.  Game 3
White: V.Anand
Black: B.Gelfand
Position after Black's 33rd move

Played with just under six minutes left on the clock to reach move 40. After the game Anand was kicking himself for not playing [34.d7! Rcc2 35.Rc4!! when, amazingly, White can avoid checkmate and prevail e.g. 35...Rb2+ 36.Kc1 Rxa2 37.Rc8 Rf2 and now Anand at first thought he could win with the spectacular 38.Rg8+ Kf6 39.Re2!???, forgetting about 39...Rf1+! and checkmate next move. Later Anand realised that the right path to victory was  38.Re6+! Kg7 (38...Kh5 39.g4+ fxg4 40.Rc5+ is similar.) 39.Rg8+ Kf7 40.Rf6+! and the pawn queens with check.
Neither player seriously considered  35...Rxc4 which looks like a slow death but it turns out that Black's best defence was 34...Rd1+ 35.Kb2 Rd2+ 36.Ka3 Rcc2 when after 37.Ka4 Rxa2+ 38.Kb5 Rab2 39.Kb6!, the White king can wander to e8 and, with the aid of some mating net tricks, win.]
34...Re8! 35.Rh1?! 
Two more minutes gone, and Anand woke up to the strength of 34.d7 and 35.Rc4 as soon as his hand left the rook on h1 - otherwise he could have attempted to repeat moves via 35.Re7! Black can still fight on in a bad rook ending after 35...Rd8 but more likely Gelfand would have replied 35...Rc8 since he had not seen White's winning idea, while 35...Rxe7 is impossible because of the trick 36.dxe7 Re2 37.Re4!!.
35...Ree2! 36.d7 Rb2+ 37.Kc1 Rxa2 Draw Agreed

Garry Kasparov, dropping into Moscow's Tretyakov Gallery for the sixth game, explained Anand's miss as follows; “It was a unique chance of winning but the endgame required a precision that Vishy hasn't shown in recent years. You had to concentrate [not rely on technique]. The form of a great player can be defined by an ability to spot the [moment of] crisis.” 
Garry Kasparov at the press conference, Photo Cathy Rogers

Kasparov's diagnosis of the World Champion went further. “Vishy has lost motivation," said the man who dominated world chess for two decades and is now a prominent spokesman for the opposition to President Vladimir Putin.

"It is not the number of tournament wins- I can't remember when Vishy last won a tournament- but the sparkle in his eyes. Even in 2010 [in his title defense against Veselin Topalov] in some games you could see the spark of genius but in most games he was struggling." 

Six draws in a row is far from a World Championship record – Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov managed 17 in their unlimited length match in 1984/5 – but Kasparov believes that the 2012 games are uniquely contentless. Even if you look only at the three Anand-Kramnik-Topalov matches [in 2006-2010], in previous matches there was so much fighting spirit on both sides – no one was afraid to take risks. Anand's tactics here are cautious, but partly because his opponent has let him be.

As Kasparov was speaking, the sixth game was unfolding in exactly the way that Kasparov had complained about- a potentially interesting position descending to a draw in rapid time.  

Moscow World Ch. (6), 18.05.2012


1.d4 d5 2.c4 c6 3.Nc3 Nf6 4.e3 e6 5.Nf3 a6 6.Qc2 c5 7.cxd5 exd5 8.Be2 Be6 9.0–0 Nc6 10.Rd1 cxd4 11.Nxd4 Nxd4 12.Rxd4 Bc5 13.Rd1 Qe7 14.Bf3 

Up to here the game has followed well-trodden paths but now instead of the passive 14...Rd8, Anand decided to sacrifice a pawn. 
14..0–0!? 15.Nxd5 Bxd5 16.Bxd5 Nxd5 17.Rxd5 Rac8
Here Gelfand thought for less than 15 minutes before returning the pawn with
Gelfand explained that had he not returned the pawn he could not find a good way to develop his c1 bishop. Yet drawing that conclusion so quickly can only indicate that Gelfand is being very risk averse, even when a pawn ahead.
In any case after
18...Bxe3 19.Bc3 Bb6 20.Qf5 Qe6 21.Qf3 f6!
Anand had few difficulties in drawing the game after
22.h4 Qc6  23.h5 Rfd8 24.Rxd8+ Rxd8 25.Qxc6 bxc6 26.Re1 Kf7 27.g4 Bd4  28.Rc1 Bxc3 29.Rxc3 Rd4 ½–½

Kasparov conceded that both players were under huge pressure but that “Gelfand's chances are improving with each draw. Boris is trying to raise the stakes. Vishy knows he is a better player, but that is not enough. If the chess becomes subordinate to psychology then Gelfand's chances are better; both can stumble but the chances of Vishy stumbling are higher. Hopefully we can still see some signs of Vishy's greatness of the past”.

After their game concluded, Anand and Gelfand were spared most of Kasparov's comments, but asked about his claim, repeated on Friday, that this was the first world title match for a long time where neither player could lay claim to being the best player in the world.

“I don't really have time to think about Garry's comments,” responded Anand - “I just have to get on with the match.

“Perhaps Garry just wanted to remind everyone that he used to be the best player in the world, in case anyone has forgotten,” added Gelfand. “And ratings? We have ratings for television programmes, but the highest rated programme is not always the best quality.”

The difficult progress of the match has led the many pundits at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, including some of the world's strongest players and best trainers, to wonder whether the traditional World Championship match needs updating.

Yuri Averbakh, Photo Cathy Rogers
Grandtrainer Mark Dvoretsky spoke openly in favour of a tournament to decide the world title, while others cautioned that hard cases do not make good policy – abandoning the match system because of one disappointing contest was unwise.

Yuri Averbakh, the world's oldest Grandmaster and a daily visitor to the 2012 match (as well as the 1951 Botvinnik-Bronstein contest!) kept his counsel on this topic but did many interviews talking about the good old days, as well as a press conference.

During the press conference Averbakh talked about how he had invented his famous system against the King's Indian Defence. Averbakh explained that he, Petrosian and Geller worked together and the result was very productive; the team devising both the Averbakh system and the related Petrosian system.

As an antidote to the World Championship draws, here is one of Averbakh's slashing victories with his own opening. 20th century chess, it must be admitted, but if Anand or Gelfand could attack with such verve in just one of the remaining six World Championship games, chess fans will feel a lot happier.


1.c4 Nf6 2.Nc3 g6 3.e4 d6 4.d4 Bg7 5.Be2 0–0 6.Bg5 
Averbach's favourite system, aiming to meet the immediate 6...h6 with 7.Be3, when 7...Ng4 is impossible and 8.Qd2 will soon win a tempo.

6...c5 7.d5 h6 8.Bf4 Nbd7 
Now known to be a dubious plan. 
9.Nf3 Ng4 10.Qd2 Kh7 11.Bg3 Nge5 12.Nxe5 Bxe5 13.f4 Bd4 14.Nb5 Bf6 15.0–0 g5
Prefrering to die with his boots on rather than be squashed like a bug.  
16.e5! dxe5 17.fxg5 Bxg5 18.Bd3+ Kg7 19.Qe2 Rh8 20.d6 e6 

21.Nc7 Rb8 22.Rxf7+! 1–0


September - Chess Life Online 2012

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