The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part II)

6/27/2011 – Israeli GM Boris Gelfand won the recent Candidates Matches in Kazan, making him the challenger of Vishy Anand in next year's World Championship match. Boris was given a hero's welcome on his return, and was interviewed by our colleague Shay Bushinsky, author of the Junior chess program. Here is part two on Gelfand's matches against Mamedyarov and Kamsky. Fascinating insights.

Boris Gelfand is back – Part II

By Shay Bushinsky / photos by Shulamit Bushinsky

This is the second part of my interview with Boris Gelfand, which contains some interesting professional insights made by the challenger and some comments about the prospective world championship match against Anand. Part one appeared here.

Q: It was interesting to observe your black opening strategy – you deserted your unbeatable Petroff Defense for the Sicilian Najdorf, which you used very effectively…

A: If you prepare well, you can play any opening. In this case I looked at the field and I decided that the Sicilian would fit me better. In general, I’m equally happy to play both openings with black.

Do you think game three against Mamedyarov was the best game of your career?

Probably one of the best. I had a few difficult moves to make, but the whole concept was clear – ...Rc8 was the only helpful move because otherwise I’m simply lost, as well as ...Bg6 instead of taking the rook.


Black played 19...Rfc8
 

Instead of 34...Bxh3 Gelfand played 34...Bg6

The final position is really unbelievable: seven pawns versus one – Alex Huzman [Gelfand’s long time second] told me about a game between Lutikov and Taimanov in which a similar concept emerged, although Taimanov had less pawns than I did – only five pawns versus one, and the game was not as beautiful.

Only in the final moves this element appeared, while we played with this material imbalance for quite a while. White lost the game on time, but I may offer a beautiful continuation: 40.Bc1 Rb2! (I’m not sure I would play this move, but it’s beautiful) 41.Bxb2 axb2 42.Bb1 Be5, to be followed by f5-f4, and White is a rook and an exchange up, but Black’s pawns f5-f4 are moving forward while White’s pieces are paralyzed!

20… Rxc3 is a thematic move – did you feel you were winning at this point?

I felt a big advantage – it’s hard to say that it’s winning, there are a lot of technical problems still to be solved, but I was really surprised Mamedyarov allowed it. He had two alternative moves: 20.Bg5, which I considered to be leading to a very complicated game, and 20.g4, which was shown by all of the engines. It looks odd but difficult to refute – surely it is better than 20.Kh1 as played – because after I took on c3 White’s attack was over. It is interesting to note the placing the bishop on b3, for the purpose of pressing e6 and joining the attack – that is Fischer’s Sozin Attack, a system I had a lot of experience with, played it maybe five times against Kasparov… The problem with this placement is that once the attack disappears the bishop becomes the weakest piece in White’s camp. So the Sozin is very risky strategically: White goes all-in, but if the attack doesn’t succeed then it’s over for him…

Didn’t you panic, seeing the heavy pieces mounting against your king and the bishop hitting your f6 protector knight? You found the right rook maneuver allowing a flight square for your king to slip away…

It’s true of course it’s scary, but when you have to make only moves it’s easier. In fact, if it had been a choice it would’ve been very hard to find…

This is an interesting element in chess, where one side forces the other to make only moves, which turn very effective against the forcing side...

Indeed, sometimes it is better not to force moves because many tend to find the right ones while when the same players have to take decisions, they are more likely to make mistakes…

Were you surprised with Kamsky’s openings play?

Yes, he has caught up with his openings, thanks to his seconds, grandmasters Sutovsky and Volokitin. He played very well. Sutovsky covered the Grünfeld Defense as a great specialist, and Volokitin was coming up with good ideas for White. So he was well prepared…

You were very lucky in game three against Kamsky. Weren’t you lost if he'd played 29.Bxc4? Later on you yourself missed a win…?

Yes it’s true, I was lost for a couple of moves. I saw it and it was very bad for me… Prior to that, I was playing only moves – luckily his position looked so good to him that he played 29.Qh1 instead… Later, having no time, I missed a win myself, overlooking 38…Qh5 walking out of the pin and winning. But it’s a kind of move you need time for to calculate. This was a very rocky game for both of us.

What happened in the playoffs? Extraordinarily in game three you lost your queen…

It was the worst tie-break I ever played in my entire career – and I have played dozens of them. I played the first two games awfully, I had a very bad "day in the office". It could have been extremely costly. Nobody is perfect, it was a long tournament. I didn’t take a full piece in the second rapid game, so probably it was also not a great day for my opponent either…


Boris Gelfand plays the fatal move 16.a3?? and immediately realizes...


... that he has blundered. Gata Kamsky, of course, finds the refutation

The loss put you in a must-win situation in the fourth. How did you manage to win this game?

Kamsky played an open game – some players would’ve tried to play the Mohrinio style, but he has respect for himself as a player, so he decided to play this game for a victory. He selected a double-edged complicated Open Sicilian and then, at a certain move, he was about to blunder, to make a move that loses in two, but didn’t do it, and then I tried to force matters and blundered with 25.Bxf7. I was looking for complications – I played a positionally good move which failed due to simple tactics… After he missed it, my position was better and I played the rest of the game without giving him a chance.

Kamsky went down in the blitz games…

I sympathize with him. It is very difficult to recover after being so close to qualifying and losing. The blitz started really a short time after that dramatic game four, which made it almost impossible for him…

And if it were you in his situation?

I don’t know… It happened to me in Khanty-Mansiysk a few times, for example against Dreev, who made a comeback, and yet I managed somehow to win. But you cannot compare situations. One tries to disassociate oneself and play every game as a new game. it’s not easy, you can never be perfectly focused…

Do you find yourself analyzing your previous games during games?

No, no! And my seconds never tell me anything about what came up from my previous games analysis during the tournament…

What do you usually do during the games – you are known to be pacing a lot – do you look at other games?

I go to the special side room for players – have a tea or a coffee, fruit or some snacks [Gelfand returned very slim despite this activity]. I watch my game through the big monitor and wait for my opponent to make a move. Sometimes I peek at interesting positions in other games, but it is always brief and I never form opinions about them for the public…

Even when the pace of your game is slow and the lines are well known – do you force yourself to analyze and “kill yourself” over your position?

You need to find a balance – sometimes you need be very precise, especially when a long line starts in your game, and try to foresee how the position will look in 5-7 moves. But sometimes the moves are natural, so you simply check if there is no move which is clearly better. Each position is different, so it’s hard to specify a rule here. In cases where there is a choice between two possibilities you have to hesitate and decide between them. During my opponents moves I tend to check the line I chose and try to verify that I didn’t miss anything. Nowadays I try more to work on my opponent’s time – in the past I was wasting this time…

– End of part two –

About the author

Shay Bushinsky is a computer scientist and the co-author of Deep Junior, 5 times world computer chess champion. He teaches Artificial Intelligence in Tel-Aviv and Haifa Universities Computer Science departments.

Until recently, Shay was the Chief Technology Officer of IST, a spin-off company of Logic LTD. developing AI applications in the field of Natural Language Processing. Shay is currently initiating a startup company based on new ideas in this field.

Interview and pictures:
copyright Bushinsky/ChessBase


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