Moscow: Creative opening play and an ‘original’ middlegame position could not break the deadlock at the World Chess Championship, here, on Thursday. Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand are tied at five points apiece, after the tenth game ended in a draw after 25 moves.
So far, the match has produced eight draws and just two decisive games.
With just two more classical games remaining to decide the title, a very tense finish is expected. In case of a tie after 12 games, the match will be decided in tiebreaks, played under faster time controls.
Anand continued switching his opening moves, resorting back to 1.e4, but surprised Gelfand by adopting the Roosolimo variation against the Sicilian Defence. In the fifth game, he could not make much headway against Gelfand’s Sicilian Sveshnikov, which may be the reason for choosing a rarer variation in the current game.
Gelfand’s bold opening choice and original play were the main features of the game. His eighth move was a theoretical novelty, after which the game entered a unique territory.
Once again, Gelfand exhibited his preparedness in the opening by playing out his moves rapidly. Just as in the eighth game, he once again managed to steer the game into an original position very early, which is remarkable for a world championship match.
Though his fifth move had already played before, it has not been adopted in any top class games.
He later remarked: “It is always pleasant to play an innovation on the fifth move, as it is not something that happens everyday. Usually, you apply innovations on moves 20 or 25”.
Anand appreciated his opponent’s 9.d4, which paradoxically further weakened Black’s pawn structure but gave him counter chances by not allowing the White knight to settle on e3.
In spite of that, white held a slight advantage due to Black’s doubled pawns on c5 and c6. But Grandmaster Sergei Karjakin opined that the activity of Black’s pieces was sufficient enough for a draw.
Uncharacteristically in this match, Anand played his moves relatively faster between moves 13 to 16, unlike most of the previous games. However, in the final analysis, this turned out to be the crucial period at which he could have improved his play.
Grandmaster Peter Svidler remarked that though Anand’s position seemed to have lots of promise, he seemed to misplay the position thus allowing Gelfand to hold.
Anand remarked after the game that he too felt White was slightly better in the queenless Middlegame, which arose on the board but couldn’t pinpoint any particular crucial improvement. “Maybe 17.Ba3 is a slightly wrong plan, but I am not sure what I could have done”, Anand confessed.
With a forced sequence of moves starting with 17.Nd5, Gelfand managed to trade off most of the pieces, after which an endgame with slightly better pawn structure for White arose. White’s knight seemed to be a little better than the Black bishop, as Black’s pawns were fixed on the same colour as the bishop.
However, Black didn’t have many weaknesses for White to exploit. Though Gelfand offered a draw after 21.cb4, Anand refused and carried on. “I thought I had something with Nd2 and Nb3, but decided to return the draw offer after a few moves”, he admitted.