The Telegraph
Thursday , May 31 , 2012
Since 1st March, 1999

Anand’s rapid skills make the difference

Moscow: “I won because I won,” was how Viswanathan Anand summarised his tie-break victory over Boris Gelfand in the World Chess Championship on Wednesday.

Describing the rapid games as very tense affairs with relatively steady play from Gelfand, he attributed his victory to holding his nerves in the tense rapid encounters.

Anand’s superiority in handling the clock was the crucial factor where Gelfand faltered repeatedly in the four games. Most of the time, Gelfand was seen playing with less than a minute in his clock, whereas Anand always kept more than three minutes in his clock, thus showing his experience in playing rapid games.

Anand’s victory was achieved with a lot more difficulty than the scoreline (2.5-1.5) suggests. Anand won the second game with white pieces, and after his successful draw in the first game with black pieces. Once he saved himself from a certain defeat in the third game, Anand played stoically in the fourth game not allowing any counter-play from Gelfand, to force the draw.

In the first and third games, Anand went back to the Slav defence which he seemed to have shelved in the match after his loss in the eighth game. However, he did not repeat the system with the a6 set-ups, opting for more orthodox formations in general.

In the second and fourth games, he employed 1.e4 again, and repeated the Roosolimo variation against the Sicilian Defence, which seemed to serve him well in the tenth and 12th games of the regular match.

In the first game playing Black pieces, Anand even appeared to be heading for a victory at one point, as he held an extra pawn and had created threats on the opponent’s kingside. However, uneven play by both sides saw both holding advantageous positions at some point, the game finally ending in a draw after 32 moves in a Rook Ending.

The second game was the crunch point of the match, where Anand held the advantage from the beginning. In a poor match strategy, Gelfand repeated his adventurous play from the tenth regular game, only to fall straight into Anand’s home preparation.

Anand played out the first 15 moves quickly, making it obvious that he was following home preparation, and kept glancing at his opponent on the board. After 18 moves, it was a clearly better position for Anand, but Gelfand fought back well to force an equal position by the 24 th move.

However, Anand’s superiority in rapid play clearly came out in this game when in a drawn ending, Gelfand kept less than a minute in his clock towards the final phase of the game. Thinking that the position was objectively drawn, Anand kept creating threats with his jumping knight, and finally Gelfand cracked after 71 moves. The game ended in Anand’s favour on 77th move.

Anand escaped himself from a certain defeat in the third game, when Gelfand’s control over the b-file created a near winning advantage. Gelfand missed his chances in the tense middle game as Anand created desperate counter-play on the kingside.

Anand seemed coasting for a draw when he again faltered in the endgame and allowed Gelfand a winning position. However, extreme time pressure once again saw Gelfand allowing a draw in 63 moves.

The fourth game was straightforward where Anand clearly played for a draw. In yet another Roosolimo game, he achieved it after 55 moves.