Svidler Beats Gelfand 5-3 in Rapid Match

Svidler Beats Gelfand 5-3 in Rapid Match

| 5 | Chess Event Coverage

In the final two days of the rapid match between GM Peter Svidler and GM Boris Gelfand, the Russian (Svidler) won two and drew on to hold on to his early lead. The home-turf advantage didn't end up helping the top Israeli (Gelfand), as he only won one of the eight games.

The match is the marquee event of the Second Annual Gideon Japhet Memorial Open Chess Tournament, held in Jerusalem. The  event's namesake is Gideon Japhet, a longtime chess fan who passed away last year.

On day three, both men won a game as Black. Gelfand drew even momentarily at 2.5-2.5 when in round five he routed Svidler by using his favorite opening against him -- the Grunfeld.

Left to right: tournament organizer Gilad Japhet, GM Peter Svidler and GM Boris Gelfand analyze after a game (photos courtesy Gilad Japhet).

The energy of the attack and bravado in castling queenside do much to hide the fact that Gelfand, 46, is the oldest player in the world's top 50.

Only once did Black move a piece backward -- 6...Bd7 -- and even that move created a threat!

The tie didn't last, as Svidler immediately struck back later that day. He obtained two "pigs on the 7th," and Gelfand resigned in view of either losing his bishop or getting mated.

Going into the final day, Gelfand trailed 3.5-2.5 and needed at least 1.5/2 from the final two games. The goal ended when Svidler won in round seven to seal victory. It was the only win for White in the entire series.

A view from the stands. The GM match was inside the ropes in the middle of the gym.

The Israeli again tried the Grunfeld, but this time Svidler played a quieter response.

Like in his game three win, Svidler needed to show some technique in a queen and pawn ending, but this one was arguably easier since he started with a passed pawn. The final position is a famous pattern in endings like these -- White's queen stops all checks and therefore the pawn runs free.

As you might expect, nothing much happened in game eight since very little was at stake. Svidler played all the major openings except 1...d5 in the match. This was the closest he came, having played a Dutch, King's Indian, and a sort of Benoni system in his three previous turns with Black.

In the accompanying open tournament, fourth-seeded IM Alexandr Kaspi (a great surname for a chess player!) won in the ninth round over fifth-seeded IM Gabriel Battaglini to win with 7/9.

FM Mike Klein

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Mike Klein began playing chess at the age of four in Charlotte, NC. In 1986, he lost to Josh Waitzkin at the National Championship featured in the movie "Searching for Bobby Fischer." A year later, Mike became the youngest member of the very first All-America Chess Team, and was on the team a total of eight times. In 1988, he won the K-3 National Championship, and eventually became North Carolina's youngest-ever master. In 1996, he won clear first for under-2250 players in the top section of the World Open. Mike has taught chess full-time for a dozen years in New York City and Charlotte, with his students and teams winning many national championships. He now works at as a Senior Journalist and at as the Chief Chess Officer. In 2012, 2015, and 2018, he was awarded Chess Journalist of the Year by the Chess Journalists of America. He has also previously won other awards from the CJA such as Best Tournament Report, and also several writing awards for mainstream newspapers. His chess writing and personal travels have now brought him to more than 85 countries.

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