Reports | May 21, 2012 15:26

World Championship: Anand levels the score as Gelfand blunders his queen (VIDEO)

World Championship: Anand levels the score as Gelfand blunders his queen

Due to a tactical oversight by Boris Gelfand, Vishy Anand needed only 17 moves to level the score in the World Championship match in Moscow, Russia. On Monday the World Champion played 3.f3, just like in game 3, after which the challenger went for a Benoni-like structure with 3...c5 instead of the Grünfeld. The game quickly got quite sharp, but suddenly the Israeli chose the wrong path and completely missed that his queen would be trapped. The score is 4-4 with four games to go.

Event World Championship MatchPGN via TWIC
Dates May 11th-30th, 2012
Location Moscow, Russia
System Match

Viswanathan Anand & Boris Gelfand

Rate of play 120 minutes for 40 moves, then 60 minutes for 20 moves and then 15 minutes to finish the game with 30 seconds increment from move 61
Prize fund 2.55 million US $ (60% for the winner)
More information Read all info here
Videos ChessVibes on YouTube

Anand returns to 1.d4, but Gelfand won't play the Grünfeld

If we don't take into account the second match game Fischer-Spassky, Reykjavik 1972 it was the shortest decisive game ever played in a World Championship match. Right after the opening Boris Gelfand miscalculated, and got his queen trapped on h1. He could have saved her majesty by developing his queen's knight, but his position would have been lost anyway and so he duly resigned.

For a moment the State Tretyakov Gallery was in total shock, and the journalists in the press room couldn't believe their eyes. Vishy Anand had only needed 17 moves to level the score, breaking the previous record of 19 moves in Steinitz-Zukertort (20), 1886.

At the press conference, which started a bit later than usual because the players were taken away for drug testing, Gelfand admitted that he had simply missed Anand's last move 17.Qf2.

I had to calculate a lot of lines, and I miscalculated.

Anand had seen the idea quite early.

I had seen sometime before that it was a blunder. I think I even saw this when I played exf5.

We've alreay looked at some of the online commentaries and it's striking to see how everyone, blinded by the engine's evaluations, fails to explain the blunder from a human perspective. Hungarian grandmaster Peter Leko, who was giving commentary on games 7 and 8 for the official website, told us:

First of all I don't think it's a tactical idea. It's just an accident which suddenly happens because it's completely unexpected, nobody thinks of this. For sure the computer points it out long in advance and that's why everybody thinks it's simple, but no. Black's problem was that after White's g4 he had an incredible wide range of moves. For example he could take on b1 and move his knight, and Black is fine. However, by that point Gelfand was probably very motivated, he was looking for more. Then he saw ...Re8+ and the motif with Qf6 attacking f3, and after Black takes on h1 White's attack on the kingside is not winning. Then, there is also Kc2 for White but I think Gelfand was planning to sacrifice an exchange there. So he was calculating all these complicated lines... I was explaining this to the audience already half an hour before it happened, and it all had a very logical consequence. It was very human to think like this.

The continuation of Leko's explanation is included in our video:

As the video also shows, Gelfand was amazingly professional during the press conference, answering questions the same as always, and even joking a bit here and there.

The match has really come to life now, with two decisive games after six draws. Anand was asked whether he had a different mindset.

I would like to think I play each game hard. It is true, sometimes it happens like that. The last two games were not same as before; they were emotionally tough. I don't know if I (knowingly) played aggressively today. It was a consequence of this position and I knew I had to fight hard. If I played well, I'm happy.


On Wednesday the match resumes with game 9, in which Gelfand will play with the white pieces again.

PGN string

Match score



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.


Burnett's picture

Well spoken, this can not be said of Anand, he behaved sulky like a spoiled child in the press conference after his loss.

Martin's picture

Totally agreed!

Martin Matthiesen's picture

I just checked, if this was the shortest decisive game between +2700 players in classical chess. It turns out , Gelfand himself lost in 16 moves against Gashimov in the spanish team tournament in 2009! With the white pieces, the shortest loss seems to be Kramnik - Topalov, Wijk aan Zee 2005, in which Kramnik resigned after 20 moves.

mishanp's picture

Although Leko's of course right to an extent he's surely underestimating the difference between being a player and a commentator. It's absolutely normal for computer-less commentators to miss relatively straightforward tactics (although Svidler saw the tactic on the Russian commentary), as they're not concentrating that intensely and are busy thinking about how to explain things to the public and so on. It's vastly different to be sitting at the board knowing your decisions could decide the World Championship. Gelfand had plenty of time and knew the position was razor sharp, so although of course such things happen it was still a bad, bad blunder - and might well have had a psychological explanation along the lines of slightly underestimating Anand, losing his normal sense of danger or rushing due to nerves.

rajeshv's picture

Agreed. This was probably less likely to to have happened in game 3, for example.

btw, thanks for the great translations, mishanp!

Marc's picture

What a pleasure to listen to GM Leko's comments. Spontaneous, refreshish and with insight. Great!

Harish Sinivasan's picture

Now I am curious, did Svidler see the tactic before Qf6 was played?

Bronkenstein's picture

Yes , and quite some time prior to it. And he fully emphasized with Boris after the blunder , remembering similar unpleasant situations from his own career , ie having to attend the press conference after an embarrassing loss when all you want to do is disappear ( the virtual translation from Russian would be something like ´drop under the ground´).

sundararajan ganesan's picture

great win by vishy! one wants him to play more sparkling games like this in this ch!

Javier Sanchez de la Barquera's picture

All of us that were following the ICC broadcasting in spanish version saw that the Q was in a big danger on h1. Commentarist Angel Martin saw all the line and showed us, even the "computer" Nc6 move that "saves" the Q. It was a shock seeing Gelfand walking to the abyss

nathan's picture

Even Csaba Balogh, who was commenting on Chessbomb, saw the blunder Qf6 as early as when g4 was played.
No 2700 player should have missed that in their normal mind, guess Gelfand had a rush of blood thinking he could be +2 in the match.

Aditya's picture

Two other 2700+ players missed it too. Even after Qxh1 was played, they kept looking at Bd3 and only Bd3. It was like the white queen was'nt there on the board.

dev anand's picture

IMO this is a classic case of group think - Leko and Nepo influenced each other into trends of analysis - not consciously. Sometimes group decisions are worse than individual decisions on account of group think and the security from the fact that if two people are thinking the same thing it must be right and there is no need for individual members of the group to question this. I believe this is why Nepo and Leko missed it.

nis's picture

csaba balogh must have had a pocket chess engine or else he is inline to become the next challenger,
he sure out caculated leko, neponyatchi, gelfand

Thomas's picture

Indeed (cf. also mishanp's comment above) relatively weak commentators using an engine can see such things easily [on the monitor!?] while stronger ones can miss it. We do not always know which commentators partly rely on engines, in the given case we know for sure who didn't!

Leko and/or Nepomniachtchi literally said that Anand was lucky to have 15.Kc2 Nf4 16.Ne4 - but actually Gelfand was unlucky(!?) that white had this other option?

SetNoEscapeOn's picture

You definitely don't have to be 2700, or even a GM- or even a master- to see that Qf6 is bad.

Harish Srinivasan's picture

Sorry, but chessbomb commentators have engines running in parallel.

hansie's picture

Very true.

Szoker's picture

17 moves ?


Finally some action tho ;)

go go Anand, keep on pushing !

nis's picture

no 2700 player should miss it?
leko who is world championship challenger (almost won and became world champ) missed,
neponyatchi could not see it till last moment, all the fools with silicon tools think it is easy

chessian's picture

draws were better. atleast they went till 30 moves..

Lee's picture

And there we have it folks. There's just no pleasing chess fans.

Roberto's picture

Very fine game by Anand!

Although in the end position Gelfand could have played:
17... Nc6!! 18. Bg2 Qc8 19. Nd5 Re5! and it's still a game....

columbo's picture

he could have played NC6 but the game is lost anyway

Frits Fritschy's picture

I don't blame him, because it isn't easy to explain a game before an audience, but I'm not very impressed by Leko's explanation. It looks a bit too much that he is trying to vindicate himself.
Whát 'incredible range of moves'? You'll have to take on b1 right away or first give a check. Okay, 12... Qh4+ 13 Qf2 Qg5 may be complicated (Qxf2+ is rather unappealing), but I don't think Gelfand spent much time on it. With or without Re8+, after Bxb1 you can move the knight to either g7 or f6. Tactics after that are still some time off, so you have to make a positional decision: where do I want the white king and in conjunction with that: where should my knight go. Not altogether easy, but I would call this a nicely limited array of choices, not an incredible range of moves.
Furthermore, in the line 13... Qf6 14 Kc2 Nf4 15 Ne4 the sacrifice Rxe4 may be the strongest, but is it necessary? 15... Qe5 looks pleasant enough (16 g5 Nd7 and an eventual f5). One reason more not to 'believe' Anand.

Frits Fritschy's picture

Soory, of course I meant 12... Qh4+ 13 Qf2 Re8+ 14 Be2 Qg5.

Soviet School's picture

Gelfand should have played Nc6 Anand would still have to display some accuracy and since the position is lost for black it would take more energy to play as white.

Congratulations to Anand for seeing that trap, it shows what tremendous calculating talent he still has.but if Gelfand had played the obvious continuation he would have been pretty close to level, he only lost as he was playing for more so it was hardly a great game by Anand.

Though I think it shows Vishy's opening choice was correct in unorthodox positions their different level of calculating ability shows, look how Nakamura played 2 f4 vs Yasser's French in the last round of the US championship .

lefier's picture

Gelfand is just not up to the wc-level.
Unfortunately Anand has slipped from that level as well during last 2 years.

S3's picture

Nice jab at Kasparov in Gelfand's comment about the 1984-5 match. I'm glad we have these two playing for the crown and not some rule breaking ogre from Baku.

Septimus's picture

I'd say this was more of a fluke than anything. Gelfand is not a total noob as you guys make him out to be. It could very well be a case of nerves and inexperience at this high of a stage. Anand has been there done that. I don't think anything can match his comeback against Topalov.

Hell, even top players blunder once in a while. (Hello Mr.Kramnik, mate in 1.)

RealityCheck's picture

That missed mate in one was against Ponomariov right?

Septimus's picture

I was referring to his disaster against deep Fritz.

chessbums's picture

I am unable to understand why the free eval Houdini eval engine at the Chessbomb site was showing 16. ..Qxh1 as the best move for black after white has played Kc2? Is if because it is a free version??

Or for that matter it shows 14. ..Qf6 as the second best move for black??

redivivo's picture

16. ... Qxh1 is the clearly best move, it's just that black already is lost by then. As for the 14th move being ranked as the second best, it was in fact the third best behind Ng7 and Nf6 but the Chessbomb evaluation was very shallow (3 seconds) compared to the official site:

Anonymous's picture

chessbums, "best" is relative in a lost position. After Black gave up his knight on h5, he is sort of 'forced' to take the rook since that leaves him with a rook plus two extra pawns vs. two minor pieces for White once all the forcing moves are played out. However Black's position is hopeless after that as this quote from the above article shows:

"Strictly speaking Black's queen isn't trapped, because after 17. Qf2 Nc6 White cannot move his bishop from f1 because of 18. ..Nd4+ (or first 18...Qf3). However, after 18. dxc6 Qxc6 19. Bg2 Qd7 20. Nd5 White is winning anyway. 1-0"

dev anand's picture

my prediction for tomorrow - anand will play qgd and win!

Anonymous's picture

I thought Black only plays QGD to draw.

dev anand's picture

anand has got good victories against topa with qgd - since gelfand has strted playing aggressivley like topa.. maybe qgd is the antidote

Soviet School's picture

The fact that Gelfand took his defeat so well shows that he could not take the pressure of leading and was relieved to get back level.

Top players Leko, Schlecter, Bronstein have all had the same experience he can still be proud of his performance. 4 games to go.

Dennis B.'s picture

Why oh why, did Gelfand play the Benoni? What a risky opening. The moment I saw the Benoni appear on the board I thought Gelfand was just asking for trouble. It seems to me you play the Benoni when you have to win as Black. With a one point lead, five games to play and Anand in bad form, why didn't he play a Nimzo-Indian or Queen's Gambit Declined? Most likely Gelfand can draw and if Anand overpresses, perhaps Gelfand can win a second game.

Chris's picture

It is Gelfand strategy.


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