The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part III)

by ChessBase
7/7/2011 – The Challenger for the World Championship match next year is Boris Gelfand. The Israeli GM won the Candidates' Matches – to the surprise of many – in May, defeating Mamedyarov, Kamsky and Grischuk in the process. The last battle and his chances now against reigning champion Vishy Anand are are the subject of discourse in this final installment of his interview with Shay Bushinsky.

ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024 ChessBase 17 - Mega package - Edition 2024

It is the program of choice for anyone who loves the game and wants to know more about it. Start your personal success story with ChessBase and enjoy the game even more.


Boris Gelfand is back – Part III

By Shay Bushinsky / photos by Shulamit Bushinsky

This is the third 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, part two here.

On May 25, 2011, Boris Gelfand faced Alexander Girschuk in the final of the Candidates Matches in Kazan, Russia. The first five games between the two had ended in draws. In the sixth Grischuk played a Gruenfeld, and ran into trouble with a novelty by Gelfand. The position teetered but held, until a mistake put Gelfand in command. He brought home the point, winning the right to challenge World Champion Viswanathan Anand in 2012.


Boris Gelfand
Alexander Grischuk


Were you surprised with Grischuk‘s clock management? Wasn’t he pushing himself to the extreme?

That’s his usual way. He thinks that whenever he’s pressed he can play his best – his concentration is at peak and he produces his best moves then. In one of the press conferences he explained that it is like in athletics – some athletes are better in running five km at a constant pace, others are good at the 100 metre dash…

Isn’t it the equivalent of handing your opponent a goal in soccer?

No, it’s not exactly a goal advantage. He has managed so many times to play the best move under time trouble that maybe this system works well for him – he cannot reach the peak of concentration when he has one hour to spare…

How did his long thinks affect you?

I tried to make sure that it didn’t affect me. Of course it’s good to know you are ahead on the clock, but I strictly refrained from making a move thinking he wouldn’t find the answer due to his time trouble. It’s a matter of self-control – to avoid being addicted to his clock. Regardless, in the first games of our match I was the player who had to be very accurate…

Were you lost in game two?

Many thought so and I felt so during the game. But strangely enough, no one until now has been able to show me a convincing win for Black. Maybe he should have been pushing his a-pawn – I didn’t check it, but no one showed me the winning line. I realized during the game that the only chances I had was to push my passed h-pawn, following the well-known obligation of pushing extreme passed pawns. Objectively I didn’t have any other chance. I will analyze this next week… [At the time the article was submitted I rechecked with Boris and he said that his analysis proved the game was justifiably drawn S.B].

In game three you produced the extraordinary strong b5 novelty, yet in a few moves you agreed to a draw – how come?

It came out in one of our training sessions and we looked at it the day we came to Kazan. I accepted the draw because the position we arrived at was dead-drawn, objectively. There are similar lines we saw in the Gruenfeld Defence. In some games played last year, White is a pawn up without weaknesses while Black’s bishop pair fully compensates for the missing pawn, but no side can make progress – we both place our rooks in b and c-files and neither side will be able to improve his position, even with all the time advantage I had on the clock. Grischuk played very accurately with his queen, otherwise it would have become very dangerous for White. This game balanced the match, after I had been suffering in the first two games.

Grischuk thought he would have the surprise factor, instead he was surprise by Gelfand

As he began to study it, it was clear Grischuk had not seen 9...b5! before

Grischuk,Alexander (2747) - Gelfand,Boris (2733) [D53]
WCh Candidates Kazan RUS (3.3), 21.05.2011
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nf3 d5 4.Nc3 Be7 5.Bg5 h6 6.Bxf6 Bxf6 7.Qb3 dxc4 8.Qxc4 0-0 9.g3 b5!N

9...Nd7 10.Bg2 e5 11.d5 Nb6 12.Qb3 Bf5 13.Nd2 Rb8 14.0-0 c6 15.e4 Bd7 16.Rfd1 Bg4 17.Bf3 Bh3 18.a4 Bg5 19.a5 Nd7 20.Nc4 1/2-1/2 (84) Uhlmann,W (2505)-Hjartarson,J (2415)/Leningrad 1984/MCL (84) 10.Qxb5 Nd7 11.Bg2 c5 12.0-0 Rb8 13.Qa4 a5 14.dxc5 1/2-1/2. [Click to replay]

Prior to the critical sixth game the Russian press was predicting it a draw, after which Grischuk becoming the clear favourite to win the rapid tie-breaks…

I was sure that he was not the clear favorite and I’m sure he understood it as well. Grischuk is one of the most objective players in the cycle, I know him pretty well. Regardless if he wins or loses, objectivity is always his main trait. Anyway, it’s futile to dwell on such stuff, I was busy looking for ideas with white that would work well for me, and that was not easy…

Were you sure he would use the Gruenfeld Defence again?

100% sure! Because he played it against both Aronian and Kramnik and he prepared it for me. Grischuk couldn’t afford changing his repertoire in the last game, especially one that served him so well so far. We decided to try the g-system against it. Of course he could have used all kinds of King’s Indians which he played before with c5 or c6 and d5 structures. When we analyzed the line he played, and noticed that engines prefer 11…Bg4 for Black, provoking h3, I was laughing. It simply looked as if it gives away a tempo to White. But then I realized that in this line it is actually useful for Black – at certain moments Black needs to play Qc8 to win a tempo himself.

You played 13.b3, provoking a4 for Black…

We were looking at this line some time ago, maybe in December. It’s a critical position. d5 was the most popular line so we came up with this b3 move against it, which looks pretty strange as it allows the a5-a4 idea. But then we noticed that the pawn on h3 limits the black bishop which is blocking the e pawn (which is blocking the rook). So if the bishop cannot move Black can never play e5, while if White manages to play e4 at some moment, White’s advantage would be serious. So I was happy to see this position appear in the game…

After a long think Grischuk played 16…Ra5. Were you aware of this move?

That’s a good question. During the game I had the illusion that we looked at it – that is what I told Grischuk immediately after the game. But then I spoke with Maxim Rodshtein, my second, and he couldn’t recall it, and later searched for it in my notes and couldn’t find any trace of it. Perhaps we analyzed such a move in a similar position. But for now I can tell you for sure that I didn’t analyze the exact position before the game.

So then you found Nh4 over the board…

I considered the position pretty equal, but then I found this Nh4 concept, which I’m proud of. Grischuk himself praised it – he was really shocked. Probably he could have played better, but he played natural moves.

I was following the game with Deep Junior and prior to 24.Qe2 the game looked complicated and double edged – there was also the idea of f5 for White…

Yes, a few moves later I saw 24.Qe2 immediately – but I thought that e4 is also strong, so I hesitated. I felt that after Qe2 Black’s position is busted. I was surprised by Grischuk’s Rb5 reply, because I was sure he would play f5, for which I was planning h5 with an attack. But I wasn’t sure how it will develop from there…

Towards the match versus Anand

Concerning your upcoming World Championship match against Anand. Many believe Anand was very happy with the Kazan outcome. What do you think?

Probably true, because it was his only chance to be the younger player in the match… Generally, I think that the result is a good message for chess. Of course the public may disagree, preferring a younger challenger like Carlsen or Nakamura. But the result means that you could be in your forties and still play for the world championships title! So my qualification sends a positive message to the younger players: even if they fail to qualify, there is always hope and they should never give up their ambitions.

How do you assess your chances against Anand?

Vishy and I played a lot in the 90’s. I must say that in the first half I had a big advantage, while in the second half he prevailed. If my memory doesn’t fail me it is +1 for him out of the 34 classical games we played, which is by no means a big advantage. During the last decade we played no more than six or seven games, so to be able to play twelve games in one month against such a player will be very interesting… I think that my chances are decent. This opponent is of course extraordinarily strong, but I showed that I can play matches well against the strongest opponents.

Is there any news about the venue for the match?

No news yet. I had a few calls, some people took interest already. I don’t believe there will be dozens of bids, but there is more than a month ahead to submit them (bids need to be in end of July) and we shall see….

Is there a chance that the match will take place in Israel?

I hope so – I really don’t know the situation…

Would you prefer to play in Israel?

I’m not sure. I will certainly get more support here but on the other hand it would add to the pressure.

Some voices characterized the match as uninteresting to sponsors – two old guys are going to play chess…

Okay we will all have to wait and see, but maybe it is the opposite. Both players have been well-known for years, so it might be appealing for an organizer to stage this match, while a match where the challenger is fairly unknown would be of less interest to such a sponsor. I’m referring to people who followed chess for years and have witnessed hundreds of games of Anand and Gelfand, but very few of say Nakamura’s. These guys have renewed their interest in chess, so our match might suite them better…

What are your plans for the time until the match begins?

In one year a lot of things can change in our field. I will play the Tal Memorial and hopefully another tournament. Also, I see this year as an opportunity to improve my chess. I plan to work intensively on my game. I always wanted to do it, and now it is certainly a very good opportunity to finally put the plan into action.

About the photographer

Shulamit Bushinsky was born in Tomsk Siberia. She immigrated with her family to Israel in 1972 from Riga, Latvia, and studied pharmacology at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.

Several of her photographs were selected for exhibits (see examples below). Today she often photographs chess events, following her husband's hobby.

Interview and pictures:
copyright Bushinsky/ChessBase

The Temple Mount in the old city of Jerusalem, reflected in sunglasses of a visitor

Good Friday at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher

Salt and sand formations in the Dead Sea (use scroll bar to view in full)

Previous reports

The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part II)
27.06.2011 – 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.
The homecoming: Boris Gelfand is back (Part I)
19.06.2011 – Winning the World Cup and now the Candidates Matches has made Gelfand a household name in Israel, and on his return from Kazan he was greeted at Ben-Gurion Airport by his family, fans and old friends – amongst them our colleague Shay Bushinsky, who later visited Boris at his home in Rishon Le-Zion. The two had a long discussion, which resulted in this must-read interview for ChessBase.

Reports about chess: tournaments, championships, portraits, interviews, World Championships, product launches and more.


Rules for reader comments


Not registered yet? Register