“I’m in shock, I don’t know what to say,” said grandmaster Elias Meron, a commentator at the Chess World Championship tournament, just minutes after the end of the eighth game between Israeli Boris Gelfand and Viswanathan Anand of India, which resulted in a loss for the Israeli.
An unbelievable mistake on the 17th move by Gelfand led to the loss, which set the score at an even 4-4 in the battle for the crown of World Chess Champion, with only four games left to be played in the competition. It was also the shortest game in the history of World Chess Championship title matches.
Gelfand’s loss was one of the fastest, and toughest ever seen in a championship match. Toughest not in terms of the defeat itself, but rather because of the magnitude of the mistake made by Gelfand – a terrible mistake that destroyed all possibility of a comeback.
“That’s the game of chess – in all of its force and cruelty,” said Peter Leko, a chess grandmaster from Hungary, who was among the startled crowd, startled more than Gelfand himself. “It was a horrible mistake, one of the worst ever made,” said Leko.
“I can imagine how Boris must feel, when he realized his opponent was about to make the game winning move. It’s not easy – you feel so close to your objective, and then get hit with such a tough blow. Boris is tough, though. I don’t think it will affect his game play, although it’s a tough blow for any player,” continued Leko.
In general, it was a strange game. Gelfand opened with a variant on “Kapengut,” an opening named for his former coach, who came from the U.S. to support him. Gelfand’s fifth move was innovative, from a theoretical standpoint, and experts say Anand might not have reacted appropriately. Elite chess players in attendance said that Gelfand’s position was reasonable – although his conceptualization of the game, as he told the press, was mistaken.
“I just didn’t see the trap being set set,” admitted Gelfand after the game.