In dozen-game showdown,drawing first blood key

Anand is known for his creative play and intuitive reading of the game,while Gelfand’s theoretical gifts and levels of preparation are legendary.

Written by Raakesh Natraj | New Delhi | Published: May 11, 2012 1:15:26 am

The Anand-Gelfand match up at the World Chess Championship promises to be a treat for the chess purist,pitting as it does two of the most technically gifted players of their generation.

Anand is known for his creative play and intuitive reading of the game,while Gelfand’s theoretical gifts and levels of preparation are legendary. However,the recent trend of deciding the title over a series of 12 games,in order to sustain interest and keep the event manageable,has come in for criticism from some quarters.

The Anatoly Karpov-Viktor Korchnoi final of 1978 went on for 32 games while the 1984 Karpov-Garry Kasparov marathon was slugged out over 48 games. These matches were seen to give the players a greater canvas to express themselves in,while also giving them the breadth to put behind a few bad results,thus seen as eliminating the luck factor.

Psychological edge

Israel’s GM Ilya Smirin,who has played Gelfand since their junior days,says the player who draws first blood will have a significant advantage in this championship.

“In the short format with only 12 games,the first victory will prove very crucial. Not just in terms of points,but also psychologically,” he says.

Also,when a player finds himself trailing,Smirin believes,he will feel the pressure to make up ground soon,thereby taking risks,maybe even unreasonable ones. “Being +1 (leading by a point) will give a player a lot of confidence and because there are fewer games left,the other player will be forced to go for a win,which could be dangerous,” says Smirin.

The initial breakthrough,especially in the case of Anand and Gelfand — both stable and defensively strong players who eschew over aggressive or dubious lines as a matter of principle — might prove even more critical,given their ability to shut down attacks and hold on to advantages.

The last 13 games between the players,going back 14 years,have after all,yielded just one decisive result — an Anand win with white in 2006.

The battleground

The Championship,not for the first time,will be held at a rather interesting venue. The PCA final in 1995 between Anand and Kasparov was held at the World Trade Center,while the Kramnik-Topalov contest was hosted at Elista’s chess city. The 2012 championship though,will take place in Moscoe’s State Tretyakov Art Gallery,in a move that Ilya Levitov,FIDE Vice President,sees will bring together ‘chess and art.’ He went one step further,calling it “the future of chess,combining it with art,” in an email interview with The Indian Express. “Art galleries are ideal in terms of atmosphere and audience. Also,we do not sell tickets,the entrance is free.”

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