Reports | May 17, 2011 1:52

Gelfand and Grischuk reach Candidates final

Gelfand and Grischuk reach Candidates finalBoris Gelfand and Alexander Grischuk have qualified for the FIDE Candidates final in Kazan, Russia. In a thrilling tie-break on Monday they defeated their opponents, Gata Kamsky and Vladimir Kramnik respectively, in the blitz session. Full report with light annotations to all tie-break games.

General info

The Candidates matches take place May 3-27 in Kazan, Tatarstan, Russia. Levon Aronian (Armenia), Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Azerbaijan), Teimour Radjabov (Azerbaijan) and Veselin Topalov (Bulgaria) were knocked out in the quarter-finals. In the semis, Alexander Grischuk (Russia) won against Vladimir Kramnik (Russia) and Boris Gelfand beat Gata Kamsky (USA). The quarter-finals and semi-finals consisted of four classical games and tie-breaks; there are six classical games in the final. The winner qualifies for a World Title match against Vishy Anand next year. More info here; tie-break rules here.

Semi-finals, tie-breaks

Whether you like the system or not, today's tie-breaks with Boris Gelfand, Gata Kamsky, Alexander Grischuk and Vladimir Kramnik were as thrilling as those of the quarter-finals played exactly a week ago. The author of this report spent his day glued to his computer screen, with two separate browser windows from the live page of the official site, one browser window for the streaming video and the Chess.FM commentary coming from the speakers. This kind of chess entertainment came pretty close to what could be working on TV, one would want to believe!


Gelfand and Kamsky in what was not a top-level, but certainly a spectacular semi-final tie-break

Let's first repeat the rules for the the tie-breaks once more. They consist of four rapid games (25 minutes + 10 seconds increment) and if necessary up to five mini-matches of two blitz games (5 minutes plus 3 seconds increment). If necessary, everything would be decided by one sudden death game with 5 minutes for White and 4 for Black (3-second increment after move 60) with draw odds for Black.

Ironically, both winners were under heavy pressure in their very first White game. Kamsky played a strong game in an Anti-Grünfeld and was in total control at move 30, with a passed pawn that had reached a4. But somehow it was difficult to make progress, and the American decided to make some pawn moves on the kingside. Gelfand then used a nice tactic, sacrificing a rook to force a perpetual. In his first game, Kramnik held an ending with a pawn down to a draw.

Boris Gelfand under pressure in rapid game 1 against Gata Kamsky

Boris Gelfand under pressure in rapid game 1 against Gata Kamsky

On this second tie-break day, the two boards started simultaneously for every 'round'. (Last week Grischuk had complained to the arbiters because during his 4th rapid game against Aronian, Kramnik and Radjabov had already reached the blitz and were banging on the clock.)

To the surprise and disappointment of the thousands of chess fans who were following the games online, Grischuk and Kramnik didn't really play this second game. The two just repeated 14 moves of theory from the Queen's Gambit Declined, and then shook hands. In the 4th rapid game it was even worse: after just 8 (exactly the same) moves, they already called it a day.

Two quick draws in the rapid games Grischuk-Kramnik

Two quick draws in the rapid games Grischuk-Kramnik

Not trying to win with the white pieces is of course a remarkable strategy by Grischuk. However, it's not a complete enigma any more to anyone who has followed the matches in Kazan closely. This affair makes clear once more that Kramnik's repertoire these days is a impenetrable wall. The Grischuk team simply hasn't been able to find anything special against his Queen's Gambit Declined or Nimzo-Indian, and apparently not in the Catalan either (an opening of which Kramnik is arguably the biggest expert in the world). Grischuk must have decided that avoiding the main lines is too risky in rapid games, and playing on in equal positions would be a waste of energy.

Besides, psychologically it was logical too. Grischuk is a former World Blitz Champion and by 'sacrificing' his two white games, he basically made clear that he felt confident to face Kramnik in the blitz games. In a way you could say that Grischuk didn't make the same mistake as Garry Kasparov did in 2000. The Boss kept on trying to win against a certain opening, but Grischuk decided not to. Back then it was the Berlin Wall, today it was the QGD.

But despite all this, it was a still remarkable strategy of course. A strategy that worked out well in the end. Grischuk did play very strongly in the blitz and outplayed Kramnik twice. He won a pawn in the first and converted it to a full point. Then, in the second, he successfully played for a draw from the start, even missing a few easy wins along the way. The winner is always right!?

Grischuk again showed nerves of steel and eliminated Kramnik

Grischuk again showed nerves of steel and eliminated Kramnik

In their second game, Gelfand and Kamsky both missed a not too difficult tactic which could have decided the game immediately in favour of Gelfand. Not long after that, this game ended in a draw.

Then, in his second White game, things went wrong for Gelfand. There was another tactic he missed, and this time Kamsky grabbed his chance. The American won his opponent's queen, and not long thereafter the game, getting very close to reaching the final.

Gelfand was in a must-win situation in the last rapid game, and chose the 2...Nc6 and 4...Qb6 Sicilian (about which Greek GM Efstratios Grivas wrote a book a few years ago). The Israeli managed to create complications, and duly outplayed Kamsky in the middlegame to level the score.

Kamsky realizes that he'll have to start over again in the blitz

Kamsky realizes that he'll have to start over again in the blitz

This was just too much for Kamsky, who cracked under the pressure in the blitz. In the first game. he switched to his beloved London System (1.d4 and 2.Bf4) but this backfired completely. After 14 moves Black was already better and in a worse ending, Kamsky could not put up the stubborn defence he's famous for. 0-1. In the second game he tried to create complications with a Dutch Defence, but again was outplayed by Gelfand, who won again.

Kamsky resigns, Gelfandin the final

Kamsky resigns, Gelfand in the final

At the press conference the two Ks were absent, but of course the two 'G stars' gave their comments. Grischuk said in English:

It was a very tough match, very difficult. I had five games with Black and just one with White, which was pretty tough. In some games I was lucky, in some games I played well. In the blitz I played really well. I'm very happy.

Gelfand's comment in English:

The match was full of mistakes from both sides. Luck was on my side. I'm very glad it happened like this. Basically the quality was pretty low. Normally the quality of tie-breaks is higher, I don't know what happened today.

The final between Gelfand and Grischuk starts in three days, on Thursday, May 19th. Six games will be played, with a rest day on Sunday, 22. If the score is 3-3, a tie-break will be played on Thursday, May 26th.

Games semi-finals, tie-breaks

Game viewer by ChessTempo

Images FIDE | Russian Chess Federation


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Peter Doggers's picture
Author: Peter Doggers

Founder and editor-in-chief of, Peter is responsible for most of the chess news and tournament reports. Often visiting top events, he also provides photos and videos for the site. He's a 1.e4 player himself, likes Thai food and the Stones.


Nima's picture

No I do not. It is not like Grischuk is a novice in classical chess. He is one of the elite, and he is improving. This is in spite of his somewhat casual approach to the game compared to the other giants. For this particular cycle, he had a strategy to get past Aronian and Kramnik, and it worked.

If Grischuk get a shot at the title, he is going to rise to the occasion and the outcome will not be clear.

Chesser's picture

Nima, the outcome will be very clear. Grischuk has almost no chance to defeat Anand in a match and the same goes for Gelfand. Anand will be for at least 5 years WC.

Nima's picture

And what evidence you have that the value of chess to sponsors has gone down? In spite of the short draws, this has been an exciting cycle.

You are unhappy with the games, change the rules. Don't blame the players.

Bert de Bruut's picture

Sure I blame Grischuk for his lame play with the white pieces. Anyone who does not has no love for chess.

You think many sponsors will want to finance a match of someone who openly strives to draw all his games, with white preferably in under five minutes? They would want to pay their big bucks for Carlsen and Aronian versus Anand for sure, but certainly not for this Grischuk.

Nima's picture

Carlsen didn't play. Aronian played and lost.

RealityCheck's picture

Grischuk is the new G-Star for now. One must accept the fact that his overall match strategy, drawing his opponents in to the blitz tie-breaks (his domain), was a grand success. His strategy (if in fact it was his plan) was obviously influenced by the tournament rules.

Since the rules (time limts, formats, etc) change from day to day, from organizer to organizer the players either adapt or die. I find this rather disheartening. No other sportsman has to play under a new (very arbitrary) set of rules imposed on them by their federation, organizer, sponsor.

And, this makes comparing the players strengths a trivial persuit. He won because of the BLITZ TIE-BREAK and he lost because of the SOPHIA RULE and he/she won only because of the THREE POINT RULE and she lost because she had only 90 MIN's for forty moves and he won because he had 120 MIN'S for forty moves but his end game sucked because he had only 30 MIN's to finish the game, and he won because he had 150 MIN'S for forty moves plus one hour up to move sxty, and he won because of an ADJOURNMENT (he had the better team of experts help him solve the problems of the end game), he won because of the KNOCK-OUT format, he lost because of the DOUBLE or SINGLE ROUND ROBIN format, he won but lost to the second placed player in an ALL PLAY ALL format, she won because of the MINI MATCH, or MARATHON MATCH format, and this could go on forever because of 10 second increments...

It would be a big help to set a "classic standard" that all organizers, sponsors, and federations agreed to. A standard that is to be used in all serious events.

Jan's picture

Congratulations to FIDE! They have come awfully close to destroying chess completely with this ridiculous format! Well-done chaps! Your next reelection is guaranteed!

S3's picture

Actually Fide is doing a very good job compared to earlier years.
At least we have a decent cycle that makes sense, with not too many big chances along the way, and there seems to be great interest in this event.

ebutaljib's picture

No changes??? You got to be kidding me? No cyle has ever had as much changes than this one.

S3's picture

Not too many big chances is what i said.
But enlighten me..

ebutaljib's picture

I thought it was a typo, and you meant changes, not chances.

What exactly is supposed to mean that "there were no big chances along the way" in this cycle?

S3's picture

It's a typo, twice. I probably was drunk. I can't remember. Anyway, at least everyone, apart from Myamedarov, had to qualify in several tournaments that had been picked in advance. Grand prix was great. World cup was great.
Qualification of a few because of rating or previous wch-match participation is not unfair either. So there is a decent cycle now. Fide should be praised, hopefully they will understand they are on the right track and can even improve it the next time.

ebutaljib's picture


S3's picture

Too serious

ebutaljib's picture

I guess re-pairing the candidates isn't a big change for you either.

How many changes there have to be that it is a lot of changes for you?

I never learn and always do the same mistake - trying to reason with the unreasonable.

S3's picture

Dude, please learn to read. I said " not too many major changes" .
That doesn't exclude one major change-the devaluation of the cup and GP in order to accomodate previous wch-match losers.

Because of the Armenia-Azarbeijani situation Fide had to change venue. Players had a decent point there so Fide rightly showed flexibility. But once again- this has nothing to do with changes in the format.

In the end you just can't make true your words and have to go for these side-issues. Not too many major changes.

ebutaljib's picture

You are hopeless.

How is demoting World cup and Grand prix by one stage not a major change? And it was done while the cycle was already ongoing!

How is bringing players, who already stepped out of the cycle, back in not a major change?

First you say that FIDE can't force players to play and that it is their own decision not to play, but then you say that FIDE has to change the location when a player doesn't want to play somewhere.

I'm trying to give Carlsen a free pass???? Where did you read that? I am against free passes!!! And here Topalov, Kramnik, Carlsen (but he gave it away), Kamsky, Mamedyarov were given free passes. They all either refused to participate in this cycle (Kramnik, Topalov), withdrew from the cycle (Carlsen) or were eliminated in the cycle (Kamsky, Mamedyarov).
Yeah, give Carlsen a World Championship match against Anand. Hopefully he will withdraw for the 3rd time (in the same cycle)!

ebutaljib's picture

You obviously don't know what you are talking about. Originally Grand Prix winner (Aronian) and World cup winner (Gelfand) should play a challenger match, and the winner would challenge Anand. Even before the start of Grand Prix players like Anand (at that time it was not at all obvious that he is still going to be the Champion in 2012 - matches against Kramnik and Topalov weren't yet played), Kramnik, Topalov, Shirov, Morozevich, and Polgar declined to participate. Then there were problems with Grand Prix venues and 3 players (Al Modiahki, Pelletier, Navara) got kicked out and at the same time Ilyumzhinov demoted Grand prix by introducing the Candidates. Because of this Carlsen and Adams withdrew. then there were back and forth how this candidates will look like (Tournament and matches) and who qualifies for them. then they cooked up this "briliant" plan and brought back in most of those players that have earlier declined to participate in this cycle. Of course then it was a debate about the venue and Armenia-Azerbaijan issue. Then they moved it to Russia with Topalov-Russians(Kramnik) issue. Oh did I forgot to mention that by now everything has been pushed back for a year? Originally Candidates should be in 2010 and World Championship in 2011. But the story is still not over here. Tho organizers-to-be (London) withdrew from organizing the World Championship. Also Carlsen withdrew from the Candidates - a world record - Carlsen withdrew twice from the same cycle!!! This is possible only in chess and nowhere else.

So you are right, we have a perfect cycle with very few changes. FIDE is doing marvelous job!!!

S3's picture

Obviously you are getting emotional.
But you can't argue flaws in the format because of the withdrawal of players, even if you are in love with one of them ebutaljib. Fide can't force people to play. The withdrawal of Carlsen and Adams is at any rate no change in the format.

As for the 3 players getting "kicked out" of the GP, they were nominees of organizing countries that failed to get the funds for the tournament. Not the real contenders, not a change in format, so no problem there. And despite these problems in several countries Fide managed to hold the GP all the same. Great job there! And once again, no change in the format.

That London withdrew their wch-bid is not a change in the cycle-it's just a possible organizer that withdraws. I'd think that is very easy to understand, but unfortunately you fail to grasp such simple things. No change in the format once again, and not even a candidates issue to begin with.

I already stated that the winner of the world cup would originally be seeded directly in the candidates final against the winner of the GP. So I was aware of that, and you could have known that if you were able to read. This addition of the candidates-probably partially designed because of Magnus first withdrawal at the GP, is the only major change. A change that I think is not that bad and one that I already mentioned.

As a consequence the only news in your story is the year-delay and the shift in location. Well, both are unfortunate but I can't see that as a big problem either.
When countries can't bring up the necessary funds, or when players refuse to play, Fide is forced to switch locations. It's impressive they managed to organize it after all. And it doesn't change the format anyway.

Like I said, we finally have a cycle that makes some sense.
Were people actually have to qualify by tournaments, short matches, and rating.
You'd think everyone would be happy.
If Carlsen had participated you wouldn't have heard a negative sound about this format at all.
A candidates Kramnik/Magnus/Aronian-Gelfand would have been the result. Smiles everwhere. Ultimately there is only man responsible for this not happening, and people like you want to reward him for that by giving him a free match against Anand.
Funny people you are.

S3's picture

Do you really not comprehend that re-pairing the candidates is a necessity when one of the participants drops out in advance?

ebutaljib's picture

Re-pairing was done REGARDLESS whether Carlsen withdrew or not!

S3's picture

Topalov, Myamedarov, all the same. Overattacking l0sers!
Gelfand and Grischuk are true world championship material!

S3's picture

Kasparov-Karpov 1984...

Despicableme's picture

I like the dislike button , it turns out to be ideal when u cant refute someone...

Randy Hoch's picture

In the 50's, 60's, 70's & 80's, all candidates had to qualify by placing among the top six places in the Interzonal tournament. For a while, they had two Interzonal tournaments, with the top three places from each qualifying for the Candidates. This effort made it possible to include more players in the cycle.

Though not perfect, it was a far superior system IMHO, because ALL players that qualified from the Zonals had a shot to bubble up to the top. Taimanov was clearly a top-10 player when he qualified. Fischer wave had just crested in 1970 & 71 and he was able to overwhelm world class players like they were patzers.

The big plusses for the old qualification system here were that the format was CONSISTENT for each cycle; no mid-stream rule changes. Another plus was that all games were CLASSICAL; none of this bogus rapid-blitz tiebreak madness. Rule changes were made in the effort of fairness: Candidates Matches instead of Candidates Tournaments, Two Interzonals instead of one to include more players. But it is important to note that the rules were set at the beginning of each cycle and not changed during the cycle.

And, yes, the truly best Classical player of the cycle bubbled to the top to challenge the World Champ. You could be sure that the WC match would be between the two best players at the time.

gg's picture

Not just rolling dice, look at his results against Kramnik with shorter time controls, he has a very big plus in such games and once they reached blitz he must have been quite confident.

KingTal's picture

Hoping on getting to the blitz and rapid games tiebreaks is gambling. Kramnik and Aronian could have destroyed him with white in classical chess, but Grischuk was lucky this time. A rational person would take the chance to play for a win with white instead of throwing away the opportunity.

Antonin Scriabin's picture

If they "could have", then why didn't they? They knew the classical matches were four games long, it is not like they were tricked into playing rapids. Aronian blew his chance in the first game and let Grischuk wriggle out. Grischuk wasn't "hoping" to get to blitz because he couldn't handle the classical games. In fact, if he had played Rg7 instead of Bg7 in the last classical game against Kramnik, he very well may have beaten him in the classical games. Both sides had chances. Neither Kramnik nor Aronian got a single win against him in 8 classical games, and the only game that he was genuinely outplayed was the first game against Aronian. Aronian and Kramnik were both entirely responsible for what moves they made, or didn't make. "Luck", by which I assume you mean chance, had nothing to do with it.

christos (greece)'s picture

I disagree with your evaluation of yesterday's game.
Kramnik with white went on to take great risks in order to try to win it, perhaps because he knew this was the last classical game. The fact that Grischuk had winning chances at some point is simply due to Kramnik's choice to sharpen the position.
Kramnik also had a clear advantage in the second classical game.

KingTal's picture

"I they "could have", then why didn´t they?" This thing is called luck. One time you have it and the opponent missed his chance, another time he might not, especially when you have opponents like Aronian and Kramnik. So what does Grischuk do... instead of making use of their failures and playing with the white pieces(you have a little advantage with white) for a win... he throws away this chance to go for tiebreaks which are nothing more than Russian Roulette.

Martin's picture

What a nonsense. Grishuk defended stubbornly (and maybe flawlessly) in a lot of games, also when being a pawn down already. Defense is also a skill.'s picture

It's going to be ending of mine day, however before end I am reading this fantastic piece of writing to increase my knowledge.

Fireblade's picture

Grischuk ' the replacement killer ' !

dewil's picture

Gelfand(the teacher) will through easily .. .in next round .. :D

gali's picture

1.Is "The Teacher " his official nickname ? ( im sure that i want him in my school ... )
2.Is there other players except Carlsen ( The Kidd ) who have a nicknames ?

Thomas's picture

It doesn't really do justice to him, usually he is called "the professor" :)

Vital_Points's picture

Somehow I am liking the cool demeanor of Boris Gelfand. I fancy his chances with Grischuk.

xxxxxxxxx's picture

"grishchuk the replacement killer" that was my invention!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

columbo's picture

for once no ! it is FIDE invention :)

RealityCheck's picture

Who needs Carlsen. We like Grischuk!!!

columbo's picture

we like Grishuk yes ! but we like Carlsen TOO !!!

Aingle Pack's picture

Yeah you like Grischuk who plays 8-move draws with White.

Vital_Points's picture

On the right hand side of this webpage, I see niether Grischuk nor Gelfand in the list. Ofcourse both fully deserve to be in the finals, but wish at least one of them be top 10.

Siva's picture

Indeed!Sure the FIDE guys didn't expect to end up here as well as hey will have a hard time finding a sponsor for thw WC match. Possibly the Ambani or Mittal or NIIT (that sponsors Anand) might have interest. Overall a dud of an event.

Thomas's picture

Gelfand and Grischuk were both top10 in the fairly recent past - Grischuk as late as January this year before his disastrous Tata result.

And what should FIDE have told them? "OK you can play the candidates event, after all you qualified. But PLEASE don't win it, PLEASE don't beat top10 players!!!"

téléphone fixe's picture

I always used to study article in news papers but now as I am a user of internet thus from now I am using net for articles or reviews, thanks to web.

unknown's picture

Hope Gelfand will take it all.

guncha's picture

I am wondering if match against Anand will take place. Possibly nobody will sponsor Anand's match against unknown player.

ebutaljib's picture

Grischuk and Gelfand are unknown???

S3's picture

People know their names but not their careers. Especially Gelfand is unjustifiedly underestimated.

Here is what a chess authority said in januar 2010 on

Frogbert: "Gelfand has the same "problem" as morozevich, in my opinion. he's a super-serious elite gm, but when he came shared 2nd with kramnik in the 2007 wc tournament, it was a rather big upset - but it remains possibly his biggest success in my opinion (the 2009 wcc win ranks lower, imho.)
personally i have never considered gelfand a serious world champion contender; serious in approach, ok, but only rated top ten a handful times in his entire career. in fact, gelfand at 41 has never been (relatively) better than now - ever - with his 7th place officially in the november 2009 list, which will be topped by a 6th place officially in the january 2010 list. both are career highs for gelfand."

This is how most people think about Gelfand, I am afraid. People don't know he already was top 5 in the early 90's. They have forgotten how Gelfand already won a match against Kramnik in the early 90's. People also, for some reason, see his second place behind Anand (!) in 2007 wch-tournament (wouldn't this make him vice-world champion?) as some sort of a fluke. But without any real justification. Remember his world cup win-he played really really good chess there under high pressure- that originally would have qualified him for the candidate finals directly.

Gelfand is consistently doing well in title fights.
He will be a serious contender.
Maybe Grischuk as well. It's too early to complain.


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