Boris Gelfand chess
Boris Gelfand in 2009. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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Israeli chess grandmaster Boris Gelfand set a new standard for local sports yesterday, qualifying to contend for the title of world chess champion by beating Russian grandmaster Alexander Grischuk in the Candidates Tournament final in Kazan, Russia.

After five draws - during which time Gelfand, 43, found himself in risky positions at least twice - he was in control of the sixth game from the beginning. Playing white, he maintained advantages in both position and in time. Grischuk, 15 years his junior, conceded on the 35th move.

Gelfand now will face the current world champion, Viswanathan Anand of India, in 2012.

"One could say that I had some luck, because in the sixth and decisive game, a position developed that I was very familiar with from the Khanty-Mansiysk Chess Olympiad," Gelfand said at a press conference after his victory.

"Even though, then, black was winning game after game, we succeeded in studying the position well for the match and I knew exactly how to proceed," he said. In addition to the impressive sporting accomplishment, Gelfand's victory in the Candidates Tournament earned him a prize of nearly 250,000 euro, a huge sum even for world-class chess players.

Gelfand, who before the Candidates Tournament was ranked 16th in the world, led the Israeli chess team to unprecedented accomplishments in recent chess Olympiads.

In the 2008 Olympiad in Dresden, Israel won a silver medal, coming ahead of chess superpower Russia. Two years later - in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia - Israel finished in third place after the two favorites, Ukraine and Russia.

Indian favorite

Anand, who will be the favorite when he faces Gelfand next year, was also the FIDE (World Chess Federation ) world champion between 2000 and 2002, a period when disputes on the world chess scene led to the awarding of two different world titles. Anand won the reunited and undisputed title in 2007 and succeeded in defending it twice: in 2008, by defeating Vladimir Kramnik of Russia; and in 2010, against Bulgarian Veselin Topalov.

The venue for the 2012 world championship has yet to be determined; cities looking to host the match must submit their bids by the end of June. Part of the bid involves promising substantial prizes to the contenders. Total prizes in the match are expected to reach between 1.5 million and 2 million euros.