False start on Day One

Anand and Gelfand miss opportunities to press advantage as first game ends in a draw

Written by Agencies | Moscow | Published:May 12, 2012 3:16 am

Defending champion Viswanathan Anand’s push for a possible advantage playing white was scuppered by Boris Gelfand’s solid defensive play as the first game of the World Chess Championship ended in a draw on Saturday.

Anand had drawn the favourable colour in the first game but could not call the shots as both players missed chances to push their case in a game that saw the champion and the contender steer clear of the main lines,possibly out of fear of a prepared innovation from either party.

However,it is Gelfand who is likely to walk away from the result smiling,as in the eleven matches remaining,he has more games to play with white. The players opted for the Grungeld defense,an opening that Anand had employed twice during the championship match against Topalov in 2010.

By around the eighth move,Anand had demonstrated that he wanted to take Gelfand off the beaten track and when Gelfand went with Qa5 on the ninth,a less than common move,it was clear that both players did not want to concede the advantage so early in the match.

Tense opening

By then,Anand had extra time but Gelfand had worked out the best moves with black pieces,giving the impression that,perhaps,he had prepared the particular line with his team of seconds previously. “Anand looked very tense at the inauguration,” summed up Nigel Short who commented on the first game of the match.

Short said that Gelfand had the edge through the course of the game,especially after the fifteenth move (Bg5). The computers suggested Anand should have played Bf4 instead,which would have kept the game on tenterhooks for a while longer,with the bishop maintaining some pressure on the vulnerable h2-b8 diagonal than going for the inevitable exchange of pieces and the draw.

That move gave black the initiative,and Gelfand was sitting pretty with no obvious threats from white there on in. In fact,by the time the encounter got to the middle game,it was Gelfand who could have pushed for more,with the Houdini engine suggesting he had something to play for.

Lost chance

The Israeli,however,lost the advantage by move 22,when he moved f5,which chess commentator and Grandmaster Susan Polgar on her blog called a ‘serious blunder.’ After that,it was just a matter of finding the right combination for Anand,which the defending champion managed to pull off. After the pair traded Queens,the outcome was more or less set in stone,and the players agreed on a draw after 24 moves.

The inability to push for win would not have cost Gelfand as much as Anand,as it was expected that the four-time champion would run away with the contest,given that he was a clear favourite among both bookmakers and former players.

Game One: the moves (Anand starts with white)

1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nc3 d5 4. Nf3 Bg7 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. e4 Nxc3 7. bxc3 c5 8. Bb5+ Nc6 9. d5 Qa5 10. Rb1 a6 11. Bxc6+ bxc6 12. O-O Qxa2 13. Rb2 Qa5 14. d6 Ra7 15. Bg5 exd6 16. Qxd6 Rd7 17. Qxc6 Qc7 18. Qxc7 Rxc7 19. Bf4 Rb7 20. Rc2 O-O 21. Bd6 Re8 22. Nd2 f5 23. f3 fxe4 24. Nxe4 Bf5 draw agreed.

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