There was a nice 2-part interview with Gelfand about the World Championship match over at ChessVibes: part 1 is here and part 2 is here.
Here are a few things that I found interesting:
- Kasparov offered to help Gelfand as his second! And Gelfand declined! Haha, there’s really nothing more to say about Kasparov at this point. He is what he is. As for Gelfand, he too is what he is and at least in that aspect, he commands more respect as a person in my view.
- Gelfand’s second coach told him that to help remember what he should be playing, he should repeat the moves at an actual chess board, not just review them in a book (or on the screen). At some point, I realized this helped me remember my opening lines better, and I began traveling with a regular chess set, in addition to the usual professional second (the laptop). A lot of players were surprised/amused by this habit of replaying moves on an actual board, but it’s nice to know at least one other person has found it useful!
The tiebreaks featured some very interesting chess and also some bad mistakes. After the smoke cleared, Anand emerged victorious 2.5 – 1.5, retaining the Champion title for a another year or two.
After an exciting Semi-Slav draw in game 1, Anand finally broke through with the Rossolimo in game 2. Anand didn’t maintain his opening advantage, and then instead of bailing out into a pretty easily drawn R + P endgame, Gelfand continued pressing thinking he was better. What appeared on the board was a theoretically drawn endgame, but with no time, I think R + N + P is likely won in such a situation.
Game 3 was the low-point in terms of quality, although there was lots of excitement. Anand went into a …Bf5 Slav (the same opening of his ONLY career loss to Gelfand in a rapid game!) and misplayed it and was quickly much worse. Gelfand’s nerves probably betrayed him at this point, as he missed a couple easy wins in the middlegame and let Anand back in. Then Anand, playing on Gelfand’s time disadvantage, re-complicated a drawn endgame and found himself defending instead. A somewhat bizarre R + P finish ended in a draw, with Gelfand blowing a final win when he miscounted moves leading up to a possible Vancura Position.
Finally, in game 4, Anand only needed a draw as white to retain his title. However, he played the opening in insipid fashion, trying to exchange pieces off without making sure the exchanges were favorable (or at least neutral). As he said afterwards, his brain told him not to play that way, but he couldn’t stop his hand. There is one example that remains stuck in my head for this “Don’t Play for a Draw” mentality: Gurevich – Short, Interzonal 1990 where Mikhail Gurevich (Anand’s second/trainer right around that time!) needed a draw as white to qualify for the Candidates Matches. Short meanwhile needed a win. Gurevich played an Exchange French, did nothing, and was slowly outplayed in fine fashion. However, Gelfand may have been a little unsure of himself, and instead of simplying into a 2B vs B + N endgame, he chose to keep a pair of rooks on with the minor pieces, maybe to give himself more material to work with. However, Anand’s rook became a thorn in his side and Anand avoided his former second’s fate and held a draw.