Gelfand beats Grischuk, wins Candidates

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Gelfand beats Grischuk, wins CandidatesBoris Gelfand (Israel) defeated Alexander Grischuk (Russia) in the 6th and final game of the Candidates final in Kazan, Russia. The grandmaster from Israel won a superb strategical game on move 35 and thus became the opponent for World Champion Vishy Anand in a title match that is scheduled for next year. "I think statistically my chances were very good because I think it was the first victory by White in these matches, so it was very unlikely that there would be no victories for White in such a cycle," the winner said.

General info

The Candidates Matches took place May 3-27 in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. Levon Aronian (Armenia), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) and Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) were knocked out in the quarter-finals. In the semis, Alexander Grischuk (Russia) won against Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Boris Gelfand beat Gata Kamsky (USA). The quarter-finals and semi-finals consisted of four classical games and tie-breaks; there were six classical games in the final. The winner, Boris Gelfand, qualified for a World Title match against Vishy Anand next year. More info here; tie-break rules here.

Final, game 6

Most of the chess fans expected, and maybe even hoped for, another draw today. And indeed, following another thrilling tie-break wouldn't be a bad way to spend your Thursday, now would it? But the chess world said goodbye to the Candidates Matches today, as Boris Gelfand beat Alexander Grischuk with the white pieces. The Israeli played a superb strategical battle that earned him lots of praise from many of his grandmasters colleagues, including his opponent.

The start of what turned out to be the last game in Kazan

The start of what turned out to be the last game in Kazan



Credits should also go to Grischuk, who made it a real battle by not playing the Queen's Gambit Declined (but a Grünfeld instead), and not the boring 4...c6 line (but the dynamic 4...d5 instead). However, here Gelfand turned out to be very well prepared. He had anticipated the rare 11...Bg4 12.h3 Be6 manoeuvre, and played a novelty on move 13 that left Black with little play. Grischuk said he got into a cramped position, and his rook switch a8-a5-h5 was more necessary than strong.

The way Gelfand reacted to this manoeuvre, which actually looked quite dangerous, earned him a spot in the next World Championship match. 18.Nh4! and 19.f4! was a great concept. White sacrifices a pawn, allows his kingside to be weakened and is left with a worse structure.

The video broadcast of the game

The video broadcast of the game



However, with a big pawn centre, strong pressure on the queenside and potential threats against the opponent's king it soon it became clear that White was just clearly better. On top of that, Grischuk got into serious time trouble - he had to make his last thirteen moves in about five minutes. The Russian GM is known for keeping his cool in such situations, but this time his position was just too bad to hold. Gelfand kept on playing strongly, and won deservedly.

At the press conference, Gelfand said:
Today it I was lucky I got a position which I knew and I liked in the opening. Black was slightly squeezed and that's the main problem. Alexander tried to find counterplay by putting the rook on h5 as a threat but I think I played pretty well. After the mistake 23...Rb5, when he let me play 24.Qe2 and 24.e4, I think the position is lost. 23...f5 was necessary; maybe I'm better after 24.h5, hard to say. But I think statistically my chances were very good because I think it was the first victory by White in these matches so it was very unlikely that there would be no victories for White in such a cycle.
Grischuk and Gelfand at the final press conference

Grischuk and Gelfand at the final press conference



Grischuk proved he was a good sport, shaking hands with Gelfand one more time during the press conference and saying that his opponent had played an 'absolutely great game'.

It started with the novelty 13.b3 which made my position cramped. I had to find this manoeuvre with Ra5-h5 to find counter play, but then Boris found an amazing concept with 19.f4, just giving up the pawn. It didn't even cross my mind, this idea. Then I thought, like, I have an extra pawn, a better pawn structure, the white squares are weak but then I realized I was just completely lost. Yes, I think it was much better to play 23...f5, to not allow White this pawn avalanche in the centre, but still after 24.h5 I don't really trust Black's position. I think White will attack, attack, attack, after 24.h5, like 25.Rg1 or something, then exchange queens and then Bd5 and he will just get an ending with an extra exchange.


And so, interestingly, the oldest participant in Kazan won. Boris Gelfand will turn 43 next month and, if everything goes according to plan, he will play a title match against World Champion Vishy Anand, who turns 42 in December. Anand will be the favourite, but it certainly won't be easy. Gelfand is known to be one of the most complete players in the field, and is famous for his sheer chess knowledge. And both in the 2009 World Cup and the 2011 Candidates, he has shown that he has strong nerves too.

Update 21:04 Here's a nice and quite relevant quote from Gelfand, taken from last year's Crestbook interview:

I already mentioned the first time I lost a Candidates Match to Short, in 1991… [he described it as the most painful defeat of his career] At that time, by the way, among the match losers were Ivanchuk, Anand, myself and Korchnoi… I remember as if it were today the closing ceremony at which Korchnoi sat between me and Ivanchuk. And he said: “guys, don’t get upset, you’ve got every chance of becoming World Champion. I reached my peak playing in Bagio, aged 47… Then I played another match for the World Championship when I was 50. In this hall here there are lots of guys who shout that they’re going to be world champion, or promise they will be. They haven’t got a hope, while you’ve got every chance. So work on it and everything will be OK”. I remembered Victor’s words and continue to work, not thinking about results, but about the process of improvement itself.


Gelfand-Grischuk Candidates final, g6 (Kazan) 2011

Game viewer by ChessTempo


Images FIDE | Russian Chess Federation



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