Anand holds edge over Gelfand in tie-breaker

A lifetime career tag of ‘Speed King” will be truly tried and tested in the first ever tie-break (to be played in the faster time controls) of a Classical World Chess Championship.

On fast track: Viswanathan Anand’s reputation in Rapid chess will put Gelfand under pressure. Pic/Getty images

‘Speed’ has been the most lethal weapon in defending world champion Viswanathan Anand’s chess armoury and how effectively he uses it in the Rapid and Blitz tie-break is the more than $1.52 million question which would settle the World title today at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow.

The 12-game Match under Classical time control between Anand and Challenger Boris Gelfand had ended in a deadlock with a 6-6 score late on Monday night and the tie-breaks promise to be a thrilling affair with the pressure mounting with every clock tick. The players after 12 games would be mentally and physically exhausted and would need that extra spurt of energy and motivation to go all out in the Rapids and if necessary in the Blitz.

Anand’s Rapid prowess is legendary and he has stamped his authority in the most emphatic manner in the Rapid World Championships and other Rapid events, but has lost to Anatoly Karpov in the 1997-98 World Championship, played in knockout format. A 6-6 tie in Classical had forced the tie-break where there was a further 3-3 tie in the Rapid and then Anand had lost 2-0 in the Blitz.

But then, Anand had gone through the gruelling knock-out format for around 20 days and was pitted against a fresh Karpov in the finals barely three days later. Earlier in 1994, Anand lost on tie-break to Gata Kamsky in the quarter-finals of the World Championship.

Anand will be eyeing his fifth title while Gelfand his maiden one! The tie-breaks apart from chess skills is a tough battle of nerves and intelligent handling of the clock. With the clock ticking and pressure building, errors do creep in and though the games might not be technically correct, the excitement is at fever pitch.

Krishnan Sasikiran, the only Indian other than Anand above the Elo 2700, expects the tie-break to be tough and tense. “I expect the match to go into Blitz and would give around 55 per cent winning chance to Anand. Gelfand may not have a terrific reputation in Rapids, but his recent performance in the Candidates cannot be ignored,” Sasikiran said.

Reigning National Champion Parimarjan Negi, who won the Asian Continental title this month has earned a World Cup berth, said: “The Classical games from a spectator’s view point were not exciting, but Gelfand clearly dominated though not decisively for the title. I would place Anand as an overwhelming favourite when it comes to Rapid and Blitz and would give him a 60 per cent chance.

Firm favourite
Pentala Harikrishna, the third highest rated player after Anand and Sasikiran has no doubt whatsoever that Anand is a firm favourite in the tie-break, but expects a tie in the Rapids and the title to be decided in the Blitz. “I would have given a 75 per cent chance for Anand to win under Classical time control, but would give him a 60 per cent chance in the faster time controls. It is a tense situation and there are bound to be mistakes,” said Harikrishna.

Harikrishna was also quick to dismiss the loss to Karpov and Kamsky. citing. “It was a different Anand then and since then he has improved tremendously in the psychological aspect and is more mentally tough now. He might be a thorough gentleman, but don’t underestimate his killer instinct.” 

Anand vs Gelfand
>> Anand and Gelfand have played 28 times in Rapid chess with Anand winning eight, losing one and drawing 19.
>>  In Blitz, they have played seven games with three wins for Anand and four have been drawn.

Tie-break format in the World Chess Championship
>>  Four Rapid games where the players get 25 minutes each on the clock with 10 seconds increment per move. The player reaching 2.5 wins the title. There has already been drawing of colours and Gelfand will start with the White pieces in the first game.
>>  In case of a 2-2 tie in Rapid, a Match of two Blitz games will be played with five minutes for each player with an increment of three seconds per move. In case there is a further tie, another two-game match will be played. If still there is no winner after five such matches (a total of 10 games), a sudden-death game will be played.
>>  The player who wins the drawing of lots may choose the colour. The player with the white pieces receives five minutes, the player with the black pieces four minutes with an increment of three seconds per move, from move 61.
>>  In case of a draw, the player with the black pieces will be declared the winner. 

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