Friday, June 1, 2012

World Chess Championship Update

The World Champion, Viswanathan Anand of India, retained his championship on Wednesday by prevailing in the tie-breaker over the challenger, Boris Gelfand of Israel.

The first tie-breaker was a series of four rapid-play games. The first game, with Gelfand playing white, ended in a draw after 32 moves.

The second game, with Anand playing white, was the decider. This game started with the same sequence of moves as Game 10 of this match:

1. P-K4 P-QB4
2. N-KB3 N-QB3
3. B-N5 P-K3
4. B x N NP x P
5. P-QN3 P-K4
6. N x P Q-K2

But at this point, Anand played P-Q4, and the ensuing line of attack started to give Gelfand trouble.

7. P-Q4 P-Q3
8. N x P Q x KP (ch)
9. Q-K2 Q x Q
10. K x Q B-N2
11. N-R5 B x P (threatening white's rook)
12. R-N1 B-R6
13. P x P P x P
14. N-B3 O-O-O
15. B-B4 B-Q3

At this point, Anand had two rooks, two knights, and a bishop. Gelfand had two rooks, two bishops, and a knight. But the computer from the official broadcast showed Anand as being up half a pawn, presumably because his pieces were developed better. For example, black's king's rook was still blocked in by the black knight.

16. B x B R x B
17. R-N5 N-B3

The commentary at this web page says that R-N5 is a very strong move. And, in fact, white quickly goes up a pawn.

18. R x P K-N2

Now the question is whether that pawn advantage will pay off. But Gelfand continues to fight.

19. N-B4 R-K1 (ch)
20. N-K3 N-N5 (threatening the knight that is protecting the white king)
21. N(B3)-Q5 N x N
22. N x N B-N5 (ch)

At this point, white has a knight, two rooks, and five pawns. Black has a bishop, two rooks, and four pawns. The computer on the official broadcast shows the match as almost even, despite white's pawn advantage. Good defense from Gelfand. The challenger then tried to press Anand with his rooks.

23. P-KB3 B-B1
24. R-K1 R-R3 (threatening white's king's rook pawn)
25. R-KR1 R(3)-K3 (black's two rooks are now lined up on the knight in front of white's king)
26. R-B3 P-B4
27. K-Q2 P-B5 (threatening white's knight)
28. N-Q5 P-N4
29. R-Q3 R-K7 (ch)
30. K-B1 R-B7
31. P-KR4 R(1)-K7

The computer did not like this aggressive move from black. It preferred P-N5.

32. R-B3 B-N2
33. R-Q1 P x P
34. N x P R-K1 (going home to play defense)
35. R-R1 R-QB1
36. R x R (ch) B x R (white, up a pawn, is clearing the board)
37. R x P B-B4
38. R-R5 B x P
39. R-QN5 (ch) K-R1
40. N-Q5 P-QR3
41. R-R5 K-N2
42. N-N4 B-N3 (black's bishop was threatened by white's knight)
43. N x P R x P

At this point, white had a knight, a rook, and two pawns. Black had a bishop, a rook, and a pawn. Anand then entered into a long sequence trying to take advantage of his extra pawn, with Gelfand forced to play defense.

44. N-B5 (ch) K-N3
45. P-N4 R-B5
46. P-R3 R-N5
47. K-Q2 P-R4
48. N-Q7 (ch) K-N2
49. N-K5 R-N7 (ch) (white's knight threatens black's bishop)
50. K-B3 B-K1
51. N-Q3 P-R5
52. R-K5 B-N3
53. N-B4 R-N6
54. K-Q4 B-B7

At this point, the computer still shows the game as even. But Gelfand had major time problems. Each player only had 25 minutes for the whole match, plus 10 seconds for each move. Gelfand fell behind on time early in the match, and by this point he was basically limited to 10 seconds per move. Anand kept up the pressure, hoping for a mistake by Gelfand. You have to picture the pieces flying around at great speed.

55. R-KR5 R x P
56. R x P R-N6
57. N-Q5 R-N4
58. P-N5 B-B4 (white now has the only pawn left)
59. R-R6 B-N5
60. R-KB6 R-B5
61. R-QN6 (ch) K-R2
62. R-KN6 B-B6
63. R-N7 (ch) K-N1

The computer still shows the game very even. The pieces keep flying. Anand, who has agreed to so many draws, is not looking for a draw now.

64. N-B3 B-N2
65. K-B4 B-B6
66. K-N4 B-Q4
67. N-R4 R-B2
68. R-N5 B-B6

The computer now gives white a slight advantage. The pressure continues.

69. N-B5 K-B2
70. R-N6 K-Q1
71. K-R5 R-B4

According to the computer, black's 71st move (an attempt to threaten the white knight) is a mistake. Anand had been waiting for a mistake, and he quickly pounced.

72. N-K6 (ch) K-B1
73. N-Q4 R-B1

By putting his rook on KB4, Gelfand created a situation where it was possible for Anand's knight to threaten both the rook on KB4 and the bishop on KB6. Gelfand was forced to exchange his bishop for white's knight.

74. N x B R x N

So now white has a rook and a pawn, while black has a rook. Now in this situation chess theory shows that there are two possible outcome. If the player with the rook and pawn can reach what is known as the Lucena position, he will win. If the player with the rook alone can reach what is known as the Philador position, he can force a draw.

To achieve the Lucena position, the following requirements must be met: (1) the pawn cannot be a rook pawn, (2) the pawn must advance to the seventh rank, (3) the pawn's king should be on the queening square, (4) the pawn's rook must cut off the opposing king from the pawn by at least one file, and (5) the defending rook should be on the file on the other side of the pawn from the defending king. Anand immediately pushed for the Lucena position:

75. K-N6 R-N3
76. R-N8 (ch) K-Q2
77. R-QN8 resigns

Unable to avoid ultimately being forced into the Lucena position, Gelfand resigned.

Gelfand still had two chances to get back the point he had lost. In the third game, where he was playing white, he had a really good opportunity. But Gelfand again fell far behind on time, and blew several chances for victory. Anand was able to pull out yet another draw.

In the fourth game, Gelfand was forced to attack even though he had the black pieces. But Anand quickly exchanged queens, and he held off Gelfand's desperate efforts. After 56 moves, the result was a final draw.

So Anand retains the title he has held since 2007. On the one hand, this will be remembered as a fairly boring match. But it should be noted that there were really only two times where Anand was under pressure to win: (1) Game 8, which was played immediately after his defeat in Game 7, and (2) Rapid Game 2, which was his first chance with white in the rapid games. Both times, he won. My guess is that if he had played more aggressively throughout, the margin of victory here would have been more impressive. But UK slowed the ball down in the second half against Kansas, and I think Anand followed a similar strategy in this match.

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