MOSCOW - After six straight draws, Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand finally won a match against defending champion Viswanathan Anand in their world chess championship showdown. Gelfand now leads 4-3, with five games remaining.
It was the Israeli's first victory over Anand in 19 years; the six draws had won each player half a point per match. Gelfand is now in the driver's seat, needing only 2.5 points to be crowned world champion.
From the start Sunday, it was clear the match wouldn't turn out a draw. Gelfand, playing white, waited only six moves before switching from the Slav defense he used in the opening six games. Anand couldn't defend one of his bishops, causing the Indian to lose the game after 38 moves.
Former world champion Anatoly Karpov, one of the greatest chess players of all time, said he still considers Anand the favorite.
"It's hard to defend the title; much harder than winning it," he said. "But Anand has the mentality to do it." Karpov added he thinks the competition should be a 16-game format, not 12.
"Obviously Gelfand is enjoying rich form," Hungarian grandmaster Peter Leko told Haaretz. "Now the duel really kicks off. Anand is a brilliant chess player, and he'll do anything to use his advantage when playing white."
According to Gelfand, speaking at a press conference after his victory, "I don't think this is the right time to discuss emotions. I think my strategic plan worked. [Anand] faced problems with his bishop and couldn't solve them. The position was created to enable an advantage of the two white knights, who eventually won the match."
On Sunday, was another match that was relatively short but aesthetically pleasing. Gelfand allowed Anand to promote a queen that couldn't do him any good because of recurrent checkmate threats.
"I still don't know where I went wrong, but I felt I was swimming in my position," Anand said. "I was certainly imprecise in the opening moves, and Boris found the most efficient way to exploit that."
According to Gelfand, "After one of my moves in the opening stages, the black's situation became very uncomfortable." Anand agreed. "That's true, at that stage I felt strategically uncomfortable," he said.
Gelfand added: "I preferred a quiet, secure position with a small advantage, small - but without risks." Asked why he stopped drinking from his secret bottle during the match's final two hours, Gelfand grinned: "That's a secret." The eighth game will begin tomorrow at 2 P.M. Israel time.