SANDS: World chess championship heads for rapid playoff

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The FIDE world championship match is headed into overtime as Indian champ Viswanathan Anand and Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand drew their final game Monday to finish knotted at 6-6. Aside from a brief dust-up that produced victories for each player in Games 7 and 8, the two players resembled a pair of soccer teams content to settle things with penalty kicks, unwilling to take any risks to try to score a goal.

Wednesday’s playoff begins with four Game/25 rapid games, up to 10 Game/5 blitz matches and, if needed, a final “armageddon” blitz game in which the player with Black gets one minute less but enjoys draw odds. We’ll have a full report next week.

Monday’s Game 12 was typical of much of the play in this often frustrating match, ending in a draw just when things might have gotten interesting. Many thought Anand as White would go for the kill, but he repeats the Sicilian Rossolimo line that produced a dreary 25-move draw in Game 10.

Gelfand varies with 6…d6, and White responds with a pawn sacrifice that leaves Black with a pair of doubled pawns. Gelfand in turn returns the sacrificed material with interest: 10…c4!? (a move praised by kibitzing former world champion Vladimir Kramnik, giving up a bad pawn to free Black’s bishops) 11. Nxc4 Bd6 12. Qf3 Qd5!? 13. Qxd5 cxd5 14. Nxe5, and Black’s two bishops and better center give him good compensation.

But Anand was still a pawn to the good (and way ahead on the clock) when he unexpectedly offered a draw after 21. Bc5 Rhd8 22. Bxe7, even though White can hardly lose and has some hopes of prospering after 22…Kxe7 23. Nd2 or 22…Kxe7 23. Rc7+ Rd7 24. Rac1; Gelfand accepted the offer immediately.

Krush-Ni after 38...Kh8.

Enlarge Photo

Krush-Ni after 38…Kh8. more >

Said Kramnik: “It’s a really strange end to this actually very interesting game, really quite a lot of entertainment before. But now all of a sudden, it’s like a typical story: You are watching some very interesting movie, and then all of a sudden, your TV collapses.”

As we mentioned here last week, the best rivalry in American chess right now is the one between the country’s two best female players, New York IMs Irina Krush and Anna Zatonskih, who have traded the women’s national crown back and forth for the past four years.

At this month’s women’s title tournament in St. Louis, it was Krush who reclaimed bragging rights, winning a two-game rapid playoff after the pair finished in a tie for first at 7-3 in the round-robin championship event. That the two are in a class by themselves in the women’s game can be seen in Krush’s impressive win over WIM Viktorija Ni in Round 3 in St. Louis.

The Symmetrical English almost always portends a close maneuvering game, requiring sound positional judgment. After surrendering bishop for knight on Move 10 to increase her hold on the key d5-square, Krush unexpectedly plugs the hole herself with 18. h4 Bxd5 19. cxd5!. Black gets a queen-side pawn majority, but the White pawn will play a key role in Krush’s subsequent attack.

Ni never gets her queen-side activated, unwisely trying to mix it up on the king-side. But Black gets overextended, leaving herself open to a nasty counterpunch after 25. Be4 (Qxh5?? Rh8, of course) g4? (better was battening down with 25…Rh8 26. Rh1 Nc8 27. Kg2 g4 28. Rh2 Nd6) 26. Kg2 h4 27. f3 Rh8 28. fxg4 hxg3 29. Kxg3 Bg5 30. Qe2 Rh4 31. Qf3!, threatening a decisive invasion along the f-file.

Even with the queens off the board, Black has too many exposed squares around her king: 32. Qf5 Qxf5 (Qe7 33. Qg6+ Kh8 34. Rf7 wins) 33. Rxf5 Be7 34. d6! (the pawn makes its presence felt, as 34…Bxd6?? hangs the rook on h4) Bd8 35. g5!, when retreating with 35…Rh8 loses to 36. Nd5 Rb7 37. Rfb1 Rh5 38. Nf6 Rh8 39. Ne8+ Kg6 (Kh7 40. Rxe5 mate) 40. Rxe5+ Kh5 41. Rh1 mate.

White’s pieces flood the zone, forcing Black’s surrender: 37. Rfb1 a6 38. Rf7+ Kh8 (see diagram) 39. R1f2! Rh6 (desperation - 39…Rxf2 40. Rh7 mate) 40. gxh6 Nxh6+ 41. Kh5 Nxf7 42. Rxf7 b5 43. Kg6, and Ni gave up facing lines such as 43…Kg8 44. Bd5 b4 45. Rh7+ Kf8 46. Rh8 mate.

Anand-Gelfand, Game 12, World Championship Match, May 2012

1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 e6 4. Bxc6 bxc6 5. d3 Ne7 6. b3 d6 7. e5 Ng6 8. h4 Nxe5 9. Nxe5 dxe5 10. Nd2 c4 11. Nxc4 Ba6 12. Qf3 Qd5 13. Qxd5 cxd5 14. Nxe5 f6 15. Nf3 e5 16. O-O Kf7 17. c4 Be7 18. Be3 Bb7 19. cxd5 Bxd5 20. Rfc1 a5 21. Bc5 Rhd8 22. Bxe7 Draw agreed.

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About the Author
David R. Sands

David R. Sands

Raised in Northern Virginia, David R. Sands received an undergraduate degree from the University of Virginia and a master’s degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He worked as a reporter for several Washington-area business publications before joining The Washington Times.

At The Times, Mr. Sands has covered numerous beats, including international trade, banking, politics ...

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