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Candidates Matches


I play for the spectators. Without them who would chess be of any interest to?


How Gelfand Won At the conclusion of the elite Linares


tournament last April, a discussion com- menced concerning the age at which top level chess players were over the hill. Boris Gelfand, then 41 and having just


completed a disastrous tournament, at first had little time for the ‘Elite chess life ends at 40’ theory which was being endorsed by some of the younger competi- tors and myself. No one was arguing that players over 40


could not play well—Viktor Korchnoi, still winning at 80, disproves that idea—but it seemed to the majority that by 40 improvement was unlikely and most began suffering steep declines in strength. Gelfand pointed out that he was higher


rated than he had ever been but I sug- gested that the Gelfand of 2010, was not the same Gelfand who won the 1993 Interzonal and was ranked as world num- ber three behind legends Karpov and Kasparov. No doubt, I said, Gelfand understood more about chess now but he didn’t play better, and few of his recent games would be worthy of his acclaimed book My Most Memorable Games. Gelfand, one of the most likeable grand-


masters on the elite circuit, reluctantly conceded that on this measure he might be past his peak, and that inflation might have pushed up his rating. However pri- vately he must have decided that it was in his power to prove the theory wrong— and over three weeks in Kazan he has done just that, hitting a career high. In the 1990s Gelfand had qualified for


Candidates matches but never made it past the semifinals. Now the Israeli is to play for the world title. Gelfand certainly benefited from the fall


of the cards during these Candidates matches. He outplayed inexperienced Azeri GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the quar- terfinals, edged out Gata Kamsky—the man who had eliminated Veselin Topalov— in a tight semifinal where Kamsky was just one good move away from victory. Gelfand then beat Russia’s Grischuk—


conqueror of favorites Levon Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik—in the final. Almost equally important, many of


Gelfand’s games had a new energy, with more ambition, more risks and, inevitably, more mistakes from both sides. In three of


20 Chess Life — August 2011


the first five games against Grischuk he was in serious trouble but hung on to draw. However with the final tied at 21


⁄2 -21 ⁄2


with one game to play, and seemingly inevitably headed for rapid tiebreakers, Gelfand picked his moment to play, as Grischuk said, “a masterpiece”.


Fianchetto Gruenfeld (D76) GM Boris Gelfand (FIDE 2733) GM Alexander Grischuk (FIDE 2747) Kazan Candidates Matches, 05.25.2011


1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 g6 3. Nf3 Bg7 4. g3 d5 5. cxd5 Nxd5 6. Bg2 Nb6 7. Nc3 Nc6 8. e3 0-0


Here and on the next two moves Black


can play ... e5 but the modern preference in the Neo-Grunfeld is to delay this nat- ural advance for as long as possible.


9. 0-0 Re8 10. Re1 a5!? The latest trend in this line, though hardly


fearsome for White. In years past 10. ... e5 would be chosen, with typical Neo-Grunfeld positions after 11. d5 Na5 12. e4 c6.


11. Qe2


r+lwqr+k+ +pzp-zppvlp -snn+-+p+


pz -+-+-+- -+-zP-+-+ +-sN-zPNzP- PzP-+QzPLzP Rt -vL-tR-mK-


After 11. Qe2


11. ... Bg4!? “A cunning idea to tempt the pawn to


h3,” explained Gelfand. “It seems absurd, but in some lines you win a tempo with ... Qc8.” 11 ... Be6 is the most common move, after which 12. Nd2 Nb4 13. Rd1 leads to well-analyzed complications.


12. h3 Be6 13. b3! The first new move. White seems to be


justifying Black’s pawn advance but in reality is restraining many pieces. “My


seconds Alexander Huzman and Maxim Rodshtein managed to dig up ideas that it seemed very unlikely we’d be able to use,” said Gelfand, “but today one of them came in handy.”


13. ... a4 14. Rb1 axb3 15. axb3 Qc8 16. Kh2 Ra5!?


An hour behind on the clock, Grischuk


speculates on a lightning kingside assault. “If you play passively then Black will sim- ply run out of moves,” said Gelfand.


17. Rd1 Rh5 18. Nh4! Bf6


-+q+r+k+ +pzp-zpp+p -snn+lvlp+ +-+-+-+r -+-zP-+-sN +PsN-zP-zPP -+-+QzPLmK +RvLR+-+-


After 18. ... Bf6


19. f4!! “This idea didn’t even cross my mind,”


admitted Grischuk. “I [can] have an extra pawn, a better pawn structure, [and his] white squares are weak but then I real- ized [because of the coming pawn avalanche] I was just completely lost!”


19. ... Rd8 19. ... Bxh4 20. gxh4 Rxh4 21. Kg3!


Rh5 22. d5 is terrible for Black, because 22. ... Bxh3 can be met by 23. Bf3!


20. Qf2 “Now Black has no play and the rook is


stuck,” said Gelfand. 20. ... Bxh4?!


“In principle I made only one mistake,


20. ... Bxh4,” said Grischuk the day after the game. “But even the computer does- n’t immediately grasp that it’s a mistake.” Black’s best chance lay in 20. ... Nd5! 21. Nxd5 Rdxd5!, with a similar Exchange sacrifice to the game but under better circumstances, because 22. Bb2 Rb5 23. e4, in analogy with the game, allows Black plenty of counterplay after 23. ... Rxb3 24. d5 Bxh4 25. gxh4 Bxh3.


21. gxh4 Nd5 22. Nxd5 Rhxd5 23. Bb2! (see diagram top of next page)


23. ... Rb5?! The final error. 23. ... f5 was necessary,


although after 24. h5 White takes over the attack. Grischuk was pessimistic


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