Twenty Three Years Later

  • GM VMikhalevski
  • | May 5, 2012










"The uniqueness of the forthcoming match, as I see it, is in the fact that for the first time in the modern World Chess Championships history the match between the legitimate world champion and a legitimate candidate won’t be a fight for the title of the strongest chess player of the world."   Garry Kasparov


The date of the first game of the 12-game World Championship match Anand-Gelfand, which will take place in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow between May 10th and 31st, is fast approaching and so I would like to share with you some thoughts about it. Let's start with some statistics, even though you could find detailed ones on the official website of the upcoming match: Curiously enough the first game between the two players occured nowhere else, but in Moscow back in 1989. By that time both players were already extremely strong and had a number of impressive victories under their belts.


Thus, Gelfand had already won the very strong Sokolsky Memorial (one of the very few master tournaments in the former Soviet republic of Belarussia, current Belarus) in his native Minsk with 11.5 out of 16 at the age of 15, which is similar to Kasparov's achievement, who won the same tournament at the same age five years earlier. This success was followed by his win in the adult championship of Belarus in 1984 at the age of 16, tailing Fischer's win in the US Championship by just a bit. The next year he won the extremely strong USSR Championship under 18 where most of the world's future top players took part. In 1987 he tied for 2-3 in the extremely strong Young Masters tournament, in which only the best young Soviet players were invited to play. Later that year he qualified for the World Youth Chess Championship tying for first in the qualifier with the best young Soviet players under 18 and then won the European Championship under 21 with the impressive 11.5 out of 13. In 1988 he tied for first in the USSR under 20 Championship, then in the World Youth Championship, 1st League of the Soviet Championship( a qualifying tournament to the adult Soviet Championship, in which he played later that year) and finally in the European Championship under 21, which he won.


Meanwhile Anand, who is one year younger than Gelfand, won the World Under 20 Championship in 1987 and the adult Indian Championship in 1988. He also scored +5 in the 1988 Thessaloniki Chess Olympiad. However by the time of their first encounter Gelfand's results looked more impressive, maybe because he had more opportunities being a product of the Soviet Chess School.


 Indeed, in their first 10 games Gelfand clearly dominated with 5 wins and just one loss-- by the way this was the only loss of white pieces in all their games between each other with the classical time rate!  However, Gelfand's last win over Anand dates back to 1993. Here is the game with my short annotations: 

Earlier that same year Anand beat Gelfand, which became the turning point in their encounters not only because this was Anand's first win over Gelfand, but also in view of the way he did so. In most early games Gelfand managed to outprepare his opponent, but here exactly the opposite occured. White got in trouble right out of the opening. Now I have the pleasure of annotating this fascinating game for you: 

Since then Anand won no less than five more classical games (the last win occuring more than six years ago in Wijk aan Zee 2006) and lost none.


However their last seven games were drawn and none of them reached move 30! The classical score is now 6-5 in Anand's favor and he hasn't suffered a single defeat from Gelfand for as long as 19 years!


Vishy was also dominant in their rapid games (most of them were played in Monaco) winning no less than eight games, losing just once. Curiously, even here we see a high importance of the white pieces in their encounters. Surprisingly, they played very few official blitz games, though Anand's superiority here is also out of question (3 wins, 4 draws, no losses). In spite of these statistics, the match is not going to be a cake-walk for the World Champion. Gelfand showed high determination when play for the title was involved. He played rather successfully in many candidate matches in the 90s, Gelan_mexico.jpgtied for second in the FIDE World Championship tournament in Mexico in 2007, won the World Cup in 2009, which qualified him for the Candidates tournament in 2011, which he also won. The latter yielded him the right to play for the crown. On the other hand Anand has already played a few World Championship matches and thus is much more experienced in this respect, as the match in Moscow is Gelfand's first attempt to fight for the title. However it's obvious that Gelfand will be much more motivated to win the title for the first time than Anand to keep holding it. As many top players indicated Gelfand also has stronger nerves, which is a very important factor in such a match. Although Gelfand's score against Anand in rapid chess is disastrous I can't be sure that the Indian GM would be a favorite if they reached the tie-breaks, since then the nerves factor will come into play. However the Israeli grandmaster will try to finish the match in the classical games.

Gelfand is also likely to have more supporters being a former Soviet player. Furthermore the main sponsor of the match, filatov.jpgAndrei Filatov, is his old friend. All of this will play a role in the upcoming match. I'm also pretty sure that both players have good teams of seconds and helpers and know how to prepare for such an important event as the World Championship match. So I'm anticipating a fascinating struggle of these two extremely strong players and will follow the games closely. Enjoy the match!


  • 4 years ago


    Bravo Anand!! and well fought Gefland.

    This was a good fight neck to neck with only 1 point seperaitng them.

    GM Mik can u give us some input on the quality of games and also any good games of the tournament. 

  • 5 years ago


    Free Republic: "The ground rules of the candidates matches had the players moving to successively faster time limits until tie-breaks were determined in speed chess. I don't like that format. Should Gelfand lose badly, I think the idea of determining the Challenger through speed play will be rejected".

    Agreed! I think speed chess is uncivilized and not "real" chess anyway. Play speed chess if you want to and even have matches for those who like that sort of thing, but deciding a championship match with speed is gross.

  • 5 years ago


    Strange choice, I'd have thought there would be no greater achievement for a chess player. 

  • 5 years ago


    Kasparov was talking utter tosh with his strongest player dig, something he knew very well himself when he said it.  History actually shows the direct opposite!

  • 5 years ago


    As far as ratings go, Anand, at 2791, is ranked fourth in the world. Carlsen's rating is 2835. That rating difference is hardly noticeable. It could change in one tournament. More importantly, the world champion is determined by match play, which is not the same as tournament play. Anand is very experienced and strong in match play.

    Gelfand, rated 2727 and twentieth in the world, has to prove himself. He has the opportunity to do so! Should he be there? Sure. He earned it. The ground rules of the candidates matches had the players moving to successively faster time limits until tie-breaks were determined in speed chess. I don't like that format. Should Gelfand lose badly, I think the idea of determining the Challenger through speed play will be rejected.

  • 5 years ago


    Everybody knows Kasparov was (and maybe still is) the strongest chess player, because he held world tittle and played in many tournaments against strong chess GM's.

    Even so, Karparov reached and mantained ELO's highest riting ever, so it would be interesting to see a chess world champion mantaining his shape for a long time, participating in many tournaments against the top chess players in the world and winning many of them.

    Very interesting article, can't wait to see this match. Thanx for sharing...

  • 5 years ago


    If fischer is crazy then kasparov is a snob, so if there ever was fischer vs garry ( np now) i root for fischer.

    As for who wins the WC i dont care but hope for good chess and only that matters. If the contenders are SGMs then they are rightful so everyone "STFU" and enjoy!!


  • 5 years ago


    I think Gefland won a game against Anand more recently.

  • 5 years ago


    Is Kasparov astrologer?? On what basis he dismisses anand completely out of contention for best player that too even if anand wins championship?? Is it only because anand has lost last FEW games??

    I think its too early to give such statements..i remember watching kasparov's intrview on tv few years back where he told that anand might not be able to hold on to his title next time..but after few years what i found that anand again won the champnship by defeating topalov.......aronian couldnt beat kramnik recently so its highly unlikely that he or kramnik will thrash anand in classical matches...

  • 5 years ago


    What causes this is the long, drawn out process of getting a world championship contender, waiting a year to set the match up, and have it going. You don't need ~1 year to set up a world championship match, in no other sport are the two "best" teams or players picked then told to wait a year. You can have constant, yearly battles for the world championship. That would guarantee that the best chess player is the world champion year in and year out.

  • 5 years ago


    Sorry for the mistakes , but everythink is understandable....

  • 5 years ago


    The results are the best we have. Gelfand and Anand are going to play

    for WCC and that which metters. Of course, Bobby Fischer was and will be the Best player of all time. He was allone aginst the World without having close to him a Father. Just, imegine, you are living in USA , New Yourk without a father and money, and you are going to understand, wno is who.

    Kasparov , Karpov, Kramnik the three K are simply product of Botvinik chess academy !!!!! I can imegine where should have been three K living for example in Spain and playing chess against the Russian academy of chess. That is it !!!

  • 5 years ago


    I think Kasparov is not refering to Anand but to Gelfand. Kasparov has never lost to Gelfand. In fact their record is 13-0 for Kasparov in Classical Chess. I wouldn't be surprised either if Gelfand gets thrashed by Anand.

  • 5 years ago


    I dont know whether Kasperov made it public and I dont know whose opinion is that and i dont know whether its a fact or not.

    But people often tend to estimate others based on their most recent performance and I thought Anand was just misleading Gelfan (How else can his rating fall that much in the past 1 year) and I certainly dont know that.

    But I do know that everything can only be calrified after the match.

    And also as both players prepare extremely, i guess this tournament would be full of draws.

  • 5 years ago


    Kasparov would have difficulty convincing anyone that Short was the world No.2 during their match ... or that he was even close. As for the contention that Aronian & Carlsen are clearly stronger than Anand - the difference is barely 30 Elo. I seem to recall Kramnik winning matches against Kasparov & Topalov when outgraded by ~70 Elo. The ratings are about performance against a variety of players & matches are one-on-one.

  • 5 years ago


    Kasparov is just stating an objective fact:  Both Carlsen and Aronian are objectively stronger than Anand (or Gelfand), the ratings don't lie and it's not the same as a few points' difference at a lower level.  No one besides Kasparov has ever achieved the rating level Magnus and Lev now occupy.


    Fischer was almost certainly the best player in the world after resigning the FIDE title in 1975, although he forfeited his moral claim to it by not competing - even if his judgement of the FIDE rules was correct, he could have played matches outside FIDE and would have been the jewel of any tournament.  That was his voluntary choice not to play.

    He was also at least the second strongest at the time of the 1969 Petrosian-Spassky match, but again he forfeited his own right by withdrawing from the Interzonal at Sousse 1967.

    There were any number of contenders for "strongest" during the Alekhine-Euwe matches, but they were among them.  But Alekhine had played Bogoljubov twice while Capablanca was clearly in the top two.

    Lasker never pretended to play matches against the top contender.  He played whoever could raise the purse.  It was hard to convince backers to essentially put up a bet against Lasker for only a partial return of their stake IF their underdog won.

  • 5 years ago


    Kasparov really thinks he was the best player in the world just because he held the title for so long? I don't agree with the system the world championship is held. Why should the current World champion not participate in a turnament with at least 50 players which would be far more fair than this what is happening now. I don't know any other sport where the current Worl champion waits in the final for the other to fight each other off.....this is not fair.

    I read a interview of Carlsen and he has the same opinion....further Carlsen says that there is practically no big difference between 2500- 2800 players and that any of that players could be world champion...he means that titles are only for consumers who feed themselves from this kind of anachronistic competitions..........

  • 5 years ago


    kasparov or bobby fischer?watching donald byrne vs bobby fischer game showed me kasparov is not world chess champion.i think kasparov and bobby fischer are at same rate and they two r body can say other is more powerful because they didnt have match together

  • 5 years ago


    While Carlsen and Aronian are future world champions, Anand and Kramnik are still as strong. Those 4 players are in the same class - nobody has proven to be far better than the rest. Who knows, Kramnik may even become world chess champion again next year!

  • 5 years ago


    Kasparov didn't say that the match wouldn't determine the rightful world champion.  He's entirely correct; the winner won't be the strongest player in the world.

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