A Grab Bag: Game 11, Time Management, and Game 12

Game 11 was a draw, so that leaves one regular game for all the marbles tomorrow. If that one is a draw as well, they go to tiebreaks (4 games of G/25 + 10 sec/move, I believe). And if it’s still tied, they’ll end all the fun with an Armageddon game.

From my perspective, Game 11 featured a couple interesting moments:

  1. It was no surprise that they repeated a Rubinstein Nimzo, but Anand dusted off the ancient 8…Bd7 (it’s given in Gligoric’s book on the Nimzo as Bronstein’s Variation – amazingly, he spends 20 of 27 chapters on 4.e3 variations). I played the same 4.e3 Nimzo about 20 times (only switching to 4.Qc2 once) and I couldn’t remember seeing this move at all. Gelfand obviously couldn’t either, as he spent about 35 minutes trying to figure out what to do.
  2. Gelfand’s decision, down an hour on the clock, to play 17.Ne5. It’s not a bad move, but he could have left more tension with either 17.Nd2 or 17.a4. It’s hard to say 17.Ne5 was the wrong choice though – I don’t believe White could hope for a huge plus with either of the two alternatives, but the game choice petered out after some precise play from both sides.

There were three other interesting things that came out of various commentary booths:

  1. There was a lot of talk about Gelfand’s long think after 8…Bd7. That kind of incredibly long think is the kind of thing I had a bad habit of doing. Svidler said something along the lines of: “Ok, you’re leaning towards 9.a3 and you see Black has three responses – …Ba5 (the move played), …Bxc3 (the move played a couple moves later), and …cxd4 (the move Kramnik predicted). Rather than spend time trying to work all three choices out, just play 9.a3 and let your opponent narrow it down for you.” I think for me, I had trouble admitting that I was either not going to be able to calculate my way through or figure out all the nuances of the new move before making my decision. Gelfand knows better I’m sure, but in the crucible of a World Championship, it’s tougher to admit that. As Kramnik put it, it’s the place where “a single mistake can cost you the last two years of your life” so it’s easy to run through everything multiple times.
  2. Both Svidler and Kramnik struck out early on in predicting Black’s moves (which were part of Anand’s preparation). Actually one of their ideas, playing 12…Ba4 and 13…Nc6 leads to a rather complicated middlegame. It’s possible that one reason Gelfand spent so much time on 9.a3 was that he wasn’t sure what the b3-weakness meant in the grand scheme of things. After all, he could have had a very, very similar position after 9.Qe2 Bc6 10.Rd1 instead.
  3. Shipov’s surprise that Anand played …Rd7 and offered a draw to end the game, when he thought Black was the only one with any chances after …Nc5. Svidler was looking at the same endgame and considered it to be pretty equal and it’s hard to see what exactly White should be worried about. Still, Black’s not risking anything by continuing either.

So what about game 12? My own feeling is that Anand will want to get in his surprises first, even if it’s a relatively harmless sideline. It’s pretty clear that Gelfand did a better job of preparing for the match than Anand and that could come back to hurt Anand if it goes to rapids. He’s already been chased off his main openings (1.d4 and the 5…a6 Semi-Slav) while Gelfand has apparently dug in with his openings (although who knows if he’d turn to the Grunfeld again after losing with it in game 8). Given his mental fortitude, I’m inclined to say he’d stick with it. 

The Rossolimo in game 10 could also indicate all sorts of things about Anand’s preparation against the Grunfeld and the Sveshnikov. I could go on forever like this, but instead of continuing to equivocate, I’ll predict 1.d4 and a draw. 

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