Gelfand Anand Game 8 Analysis Essay

Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand’s bid to claim the World Chess Championship title suffered a major blow on Monday, as reigning champion Viswanathan Anand won the eighth game of the tournament to even the score between the two at 4-4 on Monday.

Gelfand, playing the black pieces, lost Monday’s match in just 17 moves. The defeat undid Gelfand’s surprise triumph in Sunday’s seventh game. The previous six games had ended in draws.

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The World Chess Championships, a three-week event, opened in Moscow a week ago Friday. The title will be decided over 12 matches, and the winner will take home $1.53 million while second place will win $1.02 million.

This is the fifth time Anand is defending his World Champion title, though he no longer holds the top world ranking, falling to No. 4 recently.

Gelfand, ranked 22, was born in Minsk and immigrated to Israel in 1998, quickly dominating the local chess scene and capturing a number of world chess tournaments, including the Chess World Cup in 2009.

He is regarded as a classical player who often has tricks up his sleeve. He defeated the world’s top players in the 2011 Candidates Cup round, which earned him a spot at the board opposite Anand.

When Shipov remarked in his introduction to Game 8 that there might be “negative side-effects” for Boris Gelfand after his win the day before it was hard to imagine things would go quite so spectacularly wrong. Instead of consolidating his lead he almost forced Viswanathan Anand to win perhaps the quickest miniature in World Championship match history.

Anand bounced straight back | photo: Anastasia Karlovich

The best way to read Sergey Shipov’s commentary (which first appeared in Russian at Crestbook) is in the game viewer at the bottom of the following page, where you can click on the moves and analysis to see the position on the board:

For those who would prefer simply to read the commentary, however, or for anyone having difficulty using the viewer, I’ve reposted the game below. One advantage is that you can see diagrams in the positions where Shipov included them. At the end of the text I’ve also embedded his video round-up of the game.

GM Sergey Shipov’s live commentary on:

World Chess Championship 2012, Game 8

VISWANATHAN ANAND 1 – 0 BORIS GELFAND

Hello, dear friends! This is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov, again at my post – in front of keyboards, mice, cats and monitors. The eighth game of the World Championship match is about to start, and the suspense has reached fever pitch. Anand finds himself in a tough situation – his play has been disjointed and his form is clearly far from ideal. However, there’s nowhere to hide as the title is slipping out of his grasp. He has to gather himself together and use his will power to become a dozen years younger and give all he’s got. After all, Vishy is immensely talented and for him there’s nothing impossible in chess. And his opponent seems to be beatable… Or at least he was! What Boris will be like now after his long-awaited victory is hard to say. Of course, success breeds self-confidence, it inspires you, but negative side-effects are also possible. For example dizziness, a loss of vigilance, underestimating your opponent, and so on. On the other hand, Gelfand isn’t a young man but one who’s upright and very serious. It’s unlikely he’ll commit serious errors… As for today’s encounter, then personally I expect the Gruenfeld Defence. I think the Champion’s team will have had sufficient time to prepare an antidote. There’s no shortage of sharp variations in that opening, so there’s scope for displaying your analytical talent and also creativity at the board. Finding himself if not on the brink of the precipice, then close to it, it’s unlikely Anand will start to be cautious and impose limits on himself. In any case, as White he needs to be ready for an all-out fight, sparing neither his opponent nor himself.

1.d4 No surprise.

1…Nf6 2.c4 g6 My premonitions didn’t fail me. We’re heading for the Gruenfeld Defence.

3.f3 Again that same Flohr-Alekhine variation.

3…c5 Boris is the first to leave the path marked out in the third game of the match.

[Back then we saw 3…d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 and so on.]

4.d5

White seizes the centre. Here it’s possible to switch to either the Benko (Volga) Gambit or the Modern Benoni system.

4…d6

[The lively gambit 4…b5 has certain drawbacks in the given situation: 5.cxb5 a6 6.e4 d6 (6…Bg7 7.e5) 7.Na3 Bg7 8.Ne2 O-O 9.Nc3 e6 10.Bc4 axb5 11.Naxb5 exd5 12.Nxd5 Nxd5 13.Bxd5 Ra6 14.O-O and in the encounter I. Kovalenko – V. Zvyagintsev, Magnitogorsk 2011, Black didn’t get the necessary compensation for the pawn.]

5.e4 Bg7 6.Ne2 A well-known trick that I used to like in my distant childhood. The king’s knight rather than the queen’s knight heads for c3.

[More common is the straightforward 6.Nc3, which leads to normal theoretical continuations: 6…O-O 7.Bg5 e6 and so on.]

6…O-O Gelfand hasn’t yet determined the direction of his counterattack. The b7 and e6 pawns are lying in wait.

7.Nec3 Anand has carried out the manoeuvre mentioned, completely ruling out any Benko ideas for Black. Now all that’s left is the undermining e7-e6. Or… The long pause in the Challenger’s play has forced me to fantasise a little, but so far I haven’t been able to come up with anything worthwhile. Surely Gelfand’s team didn’t only look at the banal Nb1-c3? That would be an obvious hole in their preparation…

7…Nh5

Nevertheless! I must admit I wanted to write about this alternative for Black, but I thought it was insufficiently solid – not something for a World Championship match. Black’s provoking a white pawn avalanche i.e. the obvious move now is the g2-g4 advance, after which it’s hard to come up with anything other than retreating to f6. And what do you get? Black will have lost one and a half tempos and given White the basis for an attack. An extremely risky strategy from the Challenger! As it’s not hard to guess, this is a novelty. Previously people played more simply and solidly.

[Of course the most popular move is 7…e6, for example, 8.Be3 (8.Bg5!?) 8…Na6 9.Be2 Nc7 10.a4 Nfe8 11.Qd2 f5 12.O-O Nf6 13.e5 dxe5 14.Bxc5 with an incredibly complex struggle in which Black came out on top, M. Sadler – V. Tkachiev, Enghien-les-Bains 1999.]

[Not so ambitious, but still within the bounds of our normal understanding of chess, is the continuation 7…e5, after which White generally applied pressure: 8.Bg5 h6 9.Bh4 Qe8 10.g4 Nh7 11.Bd3 f5 12.Nb5 fxg4 13.Nxd6 Qd7 14.Nxc8 g5 15.Bf2 Rxf3 16.Be2 Rf4 17.Nxa7 Rxa7 18.Bxc5 Ra5 19.Be3 – it’s hard to describe such play as dull, S. Slipak – A. Rodriguez Vila, Pinamar 2002.]

8.Bg5 Vishy didn’t go for it, but he made a perfectly sensible move. White doesn’t allow e7-e6 and in turn provokes Black into pawn jabs i.e. the f7, g6 and h7 pawns might soon abandon their familiar places. Boris is again having a long and hard think. It’s absolutely clear that already, on the eighth move, the grandmasters are playing on their own, without home analytical support. A rare occurrence for World Championship matches nowadays!

[If Anand had been his previous self he’d have quickly and confidently played 8.g4! And then, it seems, he’d have stopped to think about what to do after 8…Nf6. Perhaps he didn’t like the undermining h7-h5? Although it’s not entirely clear what would be wrong with the reply g4-g5. Another possibility: the Champion didn’t like Black’s plan of e7-e6, Nf6-e8 and f7-f5. But still, it’s hard for me to believe that Black is playing on an equal footing here. For example, you could continue 9.Be3 with the idea of placing the pieces according to a well-known system: 9…e6 10.Nd2.]

8…Bf6 Every move is a cause for amazement.

[I looked at the more natural 8…h6, after which it looks logical to play 9.Be3 e6 10.Qd2, although it’s true that for now the h6-pawn is safe – 10…Re8 and if 11. Bxh6?! there’s the strong 11…Qh4+ 12.Kd1 Ng3 13.Bxg7 Kxg7 14.Qe1 Rh8!]

[However, after 8…h6 9.Be3 e6 10.Qd2 Re8 White isn’t obliged to rush into sharp operations. It’s much stronger to develop gradually, for example with Bf1-e2 and 0-0. There’s also the interesting idea of bringing the b1-knight to a3 and castling long…]

9.Bxf6

[Black had comfortable play after 9.Qd2 Bxg5 10.Qxg5 Qb6 11.Qd2 e5! – in the absence of dark-squared bishops it makes sense to put the pawns on dark squares.]

9…exf6

I’ve never seen something like this in all my life. Black’s pawns are doubled on the f-file, but his king’s knight is alive. Alive and still provoking the fire of the g2-pawn.

[There’s one simple reason Boris didn’t want to play 9…Nxf6 – he’d soon have to move his knight from f6 again, and perhaps back to h5. For example, if 10.Nd2 e5 11.Bd3 then it’s hard to find something more natural than 11…Nh5! with the idea of f7-f5 and Qd8-g5. Here Black isn’t doing badly, but psychological barriers are hard for people to overcome. You want to play logically and consistently…]

10.Qd2 The psychology of the Indian grandmaster is as transparent as glass. At the moment he doesn’t trust himself, so he’s striving to avoid sharp movements, preferring the methodical implacability of a steam roller to the deft thrusts of a fencer. The pawn remains on g2. White is completing his development according to plan. By the way, here as well it was possible to think about the system with Nb1-a3 and 0-0-0, after which it would be possible to attack without the slightest doubt about the rightness of your cause.

[It seems it was much stronger to play 10.g4 and then, for instance, after 10…Nf4 11.Qd2 g5 (11…Qb6 12.Na3) 12.h4! White has a strong attack.]

[Therefore after 10.g4 Black would have to play 10…Ng7 with f6-f5 to follow. And you know… I understand why Vishy didn’t like that – he’s not in the right condition to devise White’s attack here. The play is very unconventional, although in actual fact White has a clear advantage. It looks good to play 11.Qe2 with the idea of Nb1-d2 and 0-0-0, while the complications with 11…f5 12.gxf5 gxf5?! 13.Rg1! are extremely dangerous for Black.]

10…f5 But the Israeli grandmaster is, on the contrary, feeling bold! Move by move he’s sharpening play, dragging his opponent into complications. Gelfand is striking while the iron’s hot – before optimism returns to Anand’s play. And he’s opening the centre before his opponent has evacuated his king.

11.exf5 White’s clearing out the centre.

[After 11.Bd3 you had to take into account 11…f4 and Nb8-d7-e5.]

11…Bxf5

[The check 11…Qh4+ doesn’t look good, as after 12.Qf2 the exchange of queens is bad for Black, as afterwards he won’t manage to take on f5 with the bishop due to g2-g4 (you also need to look at the bold 12.Kd1). And if 12…Qg5, with the threat of invading on c1, there’s simply 13.Nd2.]

[I also looked at 11…Qh4+ 12.Qf2 Qe7+ and White won’t repeat moves with Qf2-e2, Qe7-h4+, but simply develop without fearing any raids: 13.Be2 Nf4 14.O-O and so on. With an edge.]

[I also checked 11…Re8+!? 12.Kf2 Bxf5, and here it’s extremely difficult to bring the calculation to a clear outcome. Here’s my first attempt: 13.g4 Qh4+ 14.Kg1 Re1! 15.Qf2 Qe7 16.gxf5 (16. Ne4!?) 16…Qg5+ 17.Qg2 Qc1 and… White’s in trouble! That means I was wrong and he needs to play more cautiously. But we’ve left that behind now.]

12.g4

Well done, Vishy! He’s nevertheless dared to start a war. He’s picked up the gauntlet, and his pistol… The move in the game is unlikely to win White a piece given Black has the exchange on b1 in reserve. What’s more important, though, is that White is squeezing out Black’s active minor pieces. The clocks show: 1.28 – 1.18. Boris just can’t pick a path. There really is something to think about here. The whole trick is that after Qd8-h4+ White won’t shield with his queen but will instead play Ke1-d1, and in case of Nh5-g3 the cunning pin Qd2-e1! would follow, winning a piece. It seems Gelfand has sown the wind and reaped the whirlwind…

12…Re8+ Also a check.

[So then, I considered the main line here to be 12…Qh4+ 13.Kd1! (much worse is 13.Qf2 Re8+ 14.Be2 Qg5!) 13…Bxb1 14.Rxb1 Ng7 15.Kc2 Nd7 16.Qe1 Qxe1 (less successful is 16…Qd8 17. Qg3!) 17.Rxe1 f5 – this ending doesn’t look bad for Black. Of course he doesn’t have complete equality, as the g7-knight is limited and the d6-pawn is weak, but life goes on.]

13.Kd1 And the same reaction from White! After the black bishop is exchanged on b1 the white king will comfortably locate itself on c2.

[After 13.Be2 Black would play 13…Qh4+ 14.Kd1 Bxb1 15.Rxb1 Nf6!, leaving the queen in an active position.]

13…Bxb1 There was no other way of saving the piece.

14.Rxb1 Well then, Black’s bold knight will have to return home empty-handed. The Challenger is sitting, thinking, grieving… Black’s activity in the centre didn’t bring success and now he’s worse. The Champion, on the other hand, is probably in a good mood. In principle Anand has always been more restrained at the board than Gelfand – he’s less temperamental and the mask of indifference on his face is more convincing. However, yesterday Vishy’s feelings were very clear. It was too bitter and painful a defeat…

14…Qf6

Wha-a-a-t? Boris is continuing to play riskily with the motto “Not a step backwards!”. It’s as if he has to win at all costs and won’t get another chance. Such sharp, provocative and here hazardous play is something I really didn’t expect to see from him. Black’s queen is heading to take the h1-rook and White is almost obliged to sacrifice it, as defending the f3-pawn with the bishop would allow the h5-knight to come to f4.

[The peaceful continuations 14…Nf6 15.Kc2 Na6 16.Rd1 or 14…Ng7 15.h4 gave White perhaps not a big, but a persistent edge.]

15.gxh5 Absolutely the only move.

15…Qxf3+ 16.Kc2 Qxh1 But will the glutton return from its raid?

17. Qf2 Exactly. Black’s queen is hobbled. Bf1-d3 threatens to catch it. There can’t be any doubt that Anand saw this possibility back when he played g2-g4. Gelfand, meanwhile, seems obliged to play 17…Nc6 now, saving the queen at the cost of a piece. Of course that won’t be a pleasant position, but at least he’ll manage to play on a little longer… BLACK RESIGNED! That was a catastrophe for Gelfand. I can only imagine the shock his supporters are in now…

Having had a closer look I realised that the resignation wasn’t premature. The variation 17.Qf2 Nc6 18.dxc6 Qxc6 19.Bg2

19…Qc8 (19…Qd7 20.Nd5!) 20.Rf1 Qf5+ 21.Qxf5 gxf5 22.Rxf5 is absolutely hopeless for Black. Well, Anand managed to level the scores incredibly quickly and easily. By the way, at the press conference just now Vishy confirmed that he’d seen the finale of the game in advance. Of course he got considerable help from Boris, who played the game too sharply, nervously and impulsively. You can’t operate like that in a World Championship match! It’s not the level for it… It seems my tentative suggestions in the introduction to this game turned out to be correct – Gelfand simply couldn’t mentally adapt to the role of being ahead in the match. The proximity of the desired summit sometimes puts much more pressure on a person than seeing it grow more distant. Now the situation has been dramatically altered. The score is level and a certain psychological edge has passed to the Champion… Thank you for your attention, dear spectators. You’ll agree that the match has ceased to be dull and measured. From here on it’s only going to get more interesting! Working for you has been Grandmaster Sergey Shipov. Tomorrow we’ll all have a rest before we meet on Wednesday for the ninth game. All the best! 1-0

After each game Shipov produces a video where he reflects on the day’s events and goes into more detail, sometimes overturning verdicts he reached in his live commentary. Although knowing Russian would be a great help it’s still possible to follow much of the analysis without a knowledge of the language:

A few points:

  1. Shipov came to the conclusion that 8.Bg5 was a perfectly good move and 8.g4 was far from clear (the Russian analysis of that line which he entered into ChessBase ends in the single word “a battle”).
  2. After 10.Qd2?! (now it was time for 10.g4!) 10…f5! 11.exf5 Black was still fine, but 11…Re8+ would have been the best move in what Shipov described as “a sea of variations”. All the lines end in equality, though by no means lifeless equality.
  3. After 12.g4! Black’s best reply was 12…Qh4+! when White is only slightly better. After 12…Re8+? Black’s hanging on.
  4. 14…Qf6 was of course suicide, while 14…Nf6! would still have forced Anand to demonstrate a win. In general Shipov was bewildered by the way Gelfand played the game, and noted that Anand hadn’t been required to do anything out of the ordinary.

The next game, and indeed the last game, to be covered live here at Chess in Translation will be Game 11 on Saturday 26 May (we now know at least 11 games will be played!). You’ll be able to find it here:

Games 9, 10 and 12 will be translated by Dana Mackenzie at his blog:

As he lives in California, where the games start at 4 am, he’s not planning on translating the commentary live, but it should be available around a couple of hours after each game ends.

Posted in Russian| Tagged Anand, Crestbook, Gelfand, live commentary, Shipov, World Championship 2012 | 13 Responses

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