FIDE Candidates Finals: First game drawn after fight

by ChessBase
5/19/2011 – The last match of the Candidates is upon us, this time a six-game match to decide Anand's challenger. Grischuk and Gelfand played a Queen's Gambit Declined, though contrary to his treatment of Kramnik, Grischuk was not amenable to a fightless draw. The game simplified to a tough rook endgame in which Grischuk pressed hard but never broke the balance. GM Alejandro Ramirez annotates.

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May 2011
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From 3 to 27 May 2011 the FIDE Candidates matches are being held in Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan, with eight strong GMs competing to qualify as Challenger for the 2012 World Champion match. Time controls in the four regular games are 120 minutes for the first 40 moves, 60 minutes for the next 20 moves and then 15 minutes for the rest of the game, plus an additional 30 seconds per move starting from move 61. In case of a tie there will be four rapid chess games, and if the tie is still not broken then up to five two-game blitz matches 5'+3". Finally there may be a sudden-death final decider. The prize fund of the candidates is 500,000 Euros.


Boris Gelfand
Alexander Grischuk

Finals - Game one

The press take their pictures and shots before the game starts

The final match to decide Anand’s challenger in 2012 started and already revealed a few things about the previous match even. In the previous match against Kramnik, Grischuk had also played 1.d4 and never pushed the ticket, always ready to accept a quick draw much to the consternation of experts and fans. With the first game, yet another Queen’s Gambit Declined appeared, however this time, there were no quick handshakes on the horizon, it was push, press, rinse and repeat. The players went for a known line with solid credentials, but as they reached the limits of common theory, following a game between Nielsen and Beliavsky, both took increasing amounts of time on the clock, suggesting they were already on their own in the position.

Grischuk,Alexander (2747) - Gelfand,Boris (2733) [D37]
WCh Candidates 2011 - Finals Kazan, Russia (3.1), 19.05.2011 [Ramirez,Alejandro]

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bf4 0-0 6.Rc1 Not the most common continuation... 6...c5 7.dxc5 Bxc5 8.e3 Nc6 9.a3 d4 10.exd4 Nxd4 11.b4 Nxf3+ 12.Qxf3 Bd4 13.Nb5 e5 14.Bg5

Gelfand didn't seem to have this precise line prepared and began a deep think

As he labored on his decision, Grischuk paced around

Decisions, decisions...

14...Re8. This is the first independent move of the game. Gelfand spent half an hour on it, but it may not be the most precise. 14...e4 15.Qg3 h6? (15...Nh5! 16.Qh4 Bf6= is roughly equal, with plenty of play left) 16.Rd1 hxg5 17.Rxd4+/- was Nielsen - Beliavsky (2004). White won this game. 15.Bxf6 e4. This is the point behind Re8. Of course, Gelfand does not want to be saddled with weak pawns. However, after lengthy exchanges, White seems to retain a small but annoying edge. 16.Bxd8 exf3+ 17.Kd2 Rxd8 18.Nxd4 Rxd4+ White has two interesting alternatives. Grischuk spent a good half an hour thinking about them, and they are of approximately the same value. Although his choice in the game was more natural, it is possible that the other option was stronger. 19.Kc3. 19.Ke3 fxg2 20.Bxg2 Rh4 21.Rhd1 Be6 22.Bxb7 Re8 23.Kf3! and Black seems to lack coordination. However, it is only marginally different than the other line. 19...fxg2 20.Bxg2

The smoke has cleared, and after many exchanges it is obvious that only White can be better. His pawn majority on the queenside has a much greater chance of creating a passed pawn than Black's on the kingside. Also, his powerful bishop on g2 is exerting strong pressure on the b7 pawn, which is currently locking up Black's pieces. Gelfand must be very precise in the next couple of moves to not fall into a hopeless position. 20...Rg4! Black hurries to bring his bishop out. 21.Rhd1 Be6 22.Bxb7 Rxc4+ 23.Kb2 Rxc1 24.Rxc1 Rd8. Black has played as precisely as possible, but he is still far from being safe. Grischuk will quickly create a powerful passed pawn on the queenside. The plan is simple: push both pawns to a5 and b5, then sacrifice with b6 to clear the path of the a-pawn. 25.Kc3 Kf8 26.b5 Ke7 27.a4 Rd6 28.a5 Kd8 29.b6

29...Bc8! Right on time. Any other move would have resulted in a hopeless situation. 29...axb6? 30.a6 Kc7 31.Ra1 Rd8 32.Bg2 and the a-pawn costs Black at least a piece. 30.Bxc8. 30.Bg2? doesn't work because the c8 bishop is now controlling a6 30...axb6 and Black is just up a pawn.] 30...Kxc8 31.Kb4+ Kb8 32.bxa7+ Ka8 33.Rc8+ Kxa7 34.Rc7+ Ka6 35.Rxf7. White has managed to win a pawn, and has a passer on the queenside. However, this has come at a price: Mainly, White's problem is that too many pawns have been exchanged, and his remaining ones are either weak (f2, h2) or blocked (a5). White's only hope is to create a passed pawn on the kingside with a timely transfer of his king to that side, but Gelfand shows perfect defensive technique. 35...Rg6 36.h3 Rg2 37.f4 Rg3 38.f5

38...h5! The easiest. Black pushes the h-pawn as a distraction. 39.h4 Rg4+ 40.Kc5 Rxh4 41.Rxg7 Rf4

42.Rg6+ 42.Rg5 h4 43.Rh5 h3 44.Kd5 Rf2 45.Ke6 h2 46.f6 is similar to the game, except that White still has his a5 pawn. This actually serves no purpose, the game is still drawn. 42...Kxa5 43.Rg5 h4 44.Rh5 h3 45.Kd6 h2 46.f6+ Kb6 47.Ke6 Rf2. In this position, the rook is just powerful enough to prevent White from making any progress. 48.f7 Re2+ 49.Kf6 And the draw was agreed since Black will keep on checking the white king, whose only safe place is f8, blocking his own pawn and preventing progress. 1/2-1/2

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About the author

Alejandro Ramirez is originally from Costa Rica, where, at the age of 14, he became the top player in the country. He is now pursuing a career in video game design and is currently on the verge of graduating with his Master's degree in Arts and Technology from the University of Texas at Dallas. He is also involved with the US Chess Federation.

Alejandro has been a grandmaster since the age of 15 and has played many Olympiads and a FIDE World Championship in 2004. He now mainly stays active by playing in the US Open Circuit.

Remaining schedule

All games start at 15:00h local time – 13:00h Berlin/Paris, 07:00 New York (check your local time here)

Day Date Game
Commentary on Playchess
Thursday May 19 Round 3 Game 1 van Wely/Gustafsson   live
Friday May 20 Round 3 Game 2 Dejan Bojkov live
Saturday May 21 Round 3 Game 3 Sam Collins live
Sunday May 22 Free day    


May 23 Round 3 Game 4 Loek van Wely live
Tuesday May 24 Round 3 Game 5 Daniel King live
Wednesday May 25 Round 3 Game 6 Daniel King live
Thursday May 26 Tiebreaks, closing    
Friday May 27 Departure    

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