After Epic Battle, Gelfand Sees Title Slip Away

Tournament heightens interest in the game of chess, so much so that the Israeli Chess Association's servers couldn't handle the traffic.

Eli Shvidler
Eli Shvidler
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Eli Shvidler
Eli Shvidler

MOSCOW - The 12-game World Chess Championship ended on Wednesday with Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand losing to the reigning champion, the Indian Viswanathan Anand, in a rapid tiebreaker round of four games held to break the 6-6 tie.

Anand, FIDE champion since year 2000 and unified champion since 2007, faced off against Gelfand and successfully defended his crown for the fourth time in his career.

"Am I worthy of being here? They've been asking the same question for 15 years. Even after I won the Chess World Cup in 2009, even after I won the Candidates' Matches in 2011," Gelfand said, the bitterness in his voice undeniable.

In fact, Gelfand was better prepared for this match than Anand. He opened with white and quite frequently had the advantage, but was mostly unable to make it work for him. Playing with black in the seventh game, Gelfand almost completely neutralized the preparations of Anand's team and took a 4-3 lead. In the eighth Gelfand lost on the 17th move, making a major mistake and losing his queen at a point where he should have improved his position.

In the end, Gelfand can blame his failure to become the 16th world champion on both himself and his team, according to former world champion Vladimir Kramnik.

Kramnik said Gelfand overestimated his chances of vanquishing Anand in face-to-face play, in several instances moving quickly to positions that seemed to give him a tactical advantage while ignoring a fact that was obvious to everyone else: Even if Anand was not at his best (as indeed he was not ), he was still a great defender.

Gelfand barely escaped an almost certain loss with a brilliant move in the 12th game, the last in the "classic" format.

In that game, Gelfand's team simply missed a strong move that had been prepared in Anand's laboratory.

Unfortunately, more or less the same missed opportunity appeared in the second of the four rapid games. But short on time, despite an excellent defense Gelfand was unable to save half a point; that loss ultimately cost him the title.

It could be argued that in the third game of the rapid round Gelfand missed at least three winning positions. But there is no arguing the fact that the title that Israel came so close to in the seventh game went to India once again.

To gauge the interest in the game, suffice it to say that around 80 million Indians followed the three and a half weeks of matches on the small screen. The regional network of Anand's home state of Tamil Nadu alone drew a viewing audience of 30 million.

Russian websites following the championship nearly crashed on Wednesday after racking up more than 1.5 million simultaneous hits. That of the Israeli Chess Association did crash, with a smaller number of visitors in absolute terms but enough to overwhelm its servers.

Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand during Wednesday’s four-game tiebreaker against world champion Viswanathan Anand in Moscow.Credit: AP