The Second Annual Gideon Japhet Memorial Open Chess Tournament in Jerusalem, Israel also features an 8-game rapid match between Super GMs Boris Gelfand and Peter Svidler.
The grandmasters play two rapid games per day, and at the halfway point, Svidler leads the top Israeli by a score of 2.5-1.5.
The two players are right next to each other on the classical rating list (Gelfand 13, Svidler 14), but in the rapid ratings, Svidler holds a clear advantage. In June's FIDE World Rapid Championship, Svidler finished tied for a respectable 6th; Gelfand did not play.
GM Boris Gelfand vs. GM Peter Svidler, with rapid ratings shown (all photos courtesy Gilad Japhet)
Svidler's most prominent memory of past trips to Israel was the time he nearly won it all (in blitz!):
"...perhaps the closest to a world championship title. I was basically one move away from being world blitz champion. I decided to do something very pretty instead of doing something very simple and lost the Armageddon game to Alexander Grischuk in 2006."
The players recalled meeting each other in 1989 -- Gelfand was playing an event while Svidler was attending a training session. Since then, they estimate playing each other about 60 times in all time controls.
Both games were drawn on Sunday. Game one was quite entertaining, even by rapid chess standards. "If only I could remember my preparation, then my preparation would be better than Boris's!" Svidler said of this sharp line.
"The obvious conclusion is that I got very, very lucky," Svidler said. "I should try and do something with my memory capabilities."
The two players walk around Jerusalem. Svidler said it was his first time competing there.
Game two also could not produce a winner.
When asked after these two games who is now the favorite, Svidler said, "judging by today, it's going to be a complete crapshoot. All bets are off if we continue playing like this."
Yesterday games three and four were played. Svidler broke through by winning with Black. Though he is best known for being an aficionado of the Grunfeld, he scrapped both that and the Dutch in favor of the King's Indian Defense. "The Dutch is a very fascinating opening, but playing it against people that know what they are doing is less fun than most people think," Svidler said.
Gelfand admitted that his time management has not been great in the match. He said he has not played competitive chess since February.
We also learned after the game that Svidler is tired of answering questions about his weight loss, and Gelfand has taken up ping-pong to replace his love of tennis (although he can still play on clay courts).
"I prefer almost anything to (chess) training, that's my major problem as a chess player," Svidler said. "I'm a huge specialist on the subject of proper TV to watch."
The audience, taking its training more seriously than Svidler?
Game four ended drawn, thus preserving Svidler's lead into today's rest day.
Games five and six will be Wednesday, while games seven and eight will conclude the match Thursday.
The tournament is being held in honor of chess fan Gideon Japhet, who died last year. His son, Gilad, is the main organizer.