Categories: Live commentaryRussian

Sergey Shipov’s commentary on Anand-Gelfand, Game 11

Future generations are unlikely to marvel at the draw in the penultimate game of the 2012 World Championship match, but if they come across Sergey Shipov’s live commentary they’d at least grasp the psychological drama. The World Champion’s opening surprise plunged Boris Gelfand into a 35-minute think that had his supporters worrying he’d cracked under the pressure.

Boris Gelfand started the day in high spirits... | photo: Anastasia Karlovich

...but Anand's 8...Bd7 gave him a lot to think about | photo: Vladimir Barsky/Eteri Kublashvili

The best way to read Shipov’s commentary (which first appeared in Russian at Crestbook) is in the game viewer at the bottom of the following page, where you can click on the moves and analysis to see the position on the board:

For those who would prefer simply to read the commentary, however, or for anyone having difficulty using the viewer, I’ve reposted the game below. One advantage is that you can see diagrams in the positions where Shipov included them. At the end of the text I’ve also embedded his video round-up of the game.

GM Sergey Shipov’s live commentary on:

World Chess Championship 2012, Game 11


Hello, dear friends! This is Grandmaster Sergey Shipov commentating on the penultimate game of the World Championship match for you. The score’s still level and the stakes are incredibly high. The cost of each potential mistake is hundreds of thousands of euros and the title. Can you imagine what’s going on inside Boris Gelfand just now? Inside a man who’s never played such crucial games before and who’s never been so close to the chess Everest… I can, if only in miniature. Here what’s important is the contrast between the stakes that had existed before and those that are being played for now. I remember my first knockout World Championship in Las Vegas in 1999. At stake were sums which were an order of magnitude higher than those in my tournaments before then. Plus there was also the beckoning mirage of fame. So then, before the games I was literally a wreck [Shipov uses a colloquial Russian verb derived from “sausage”] – a culinary term, not a literary one, but it accurately reflects the essence of the phenomenon. I wasn’t myself. I couldn’t sleep calmly, or eat, or think about anything else. It was a real fever… And lots of the Russian players I encountered were in the same state when they found themselves in that new tournament for the first time. And now if you multiply all I’ve said by a factor of ten – you’ll get a vague idea of the whole weight that’s landed on Gelfand now. Of course, all of us dream of ending up in his position and fighting for the title, but on the other hand, the one described above, you wouldn’t envy him now. Will Boris withstand it without cracking? The games will show… There are only minutes left until the eleventh encounter begins. We expect the Nimzowitsch Defence and a fierce struggle.

1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 Yes, correct. The Nimzowitsch Defence.

4.e3 Again the Rubinstein System.

4…O-O 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5

The players are quickly repeating the moves from the ninth game. The pawns have entered a clinch in the centre. The rapid death of the rank-and-file soldiers is inevitable…

7.O-O dxc4 8.Bxc4 Bd7 But this is a local surprise! I’ve seen people bring out the queen’s knight to the d7-square, but the bishop… The move is, of course, a developing one, as the knight will later come to c6. Although other variations are also possible. Gelfand is, naturally, puzzled – he’s carefully studying the position that’s arisen. He’s remembering… In actual fact the move has been seen more than a hundred times, starting from the middle of the last century. Its instigator was David Bronstein, while in the new century it’s often been played by another outstanding offspring of the post-war Soviet Union – Viktor Korchnoi. You might say it’s the fashion of the 50s. The virtue of Black’s manoeuvre is that it’s only the sixth most popular. So for those who are playing White, including Gelfand, it’s not the first thing they prepare for… Vladimir Kramnik, who’s commentating on the official website, is using the long pause to talk about how chess players recover and maintain themselves during a game. He says you need to drink fruit juice and eat fruit and chocolate, supposedly to maintain the correct blood sugar level. Personally I preferred chocolate. Our Soviet chocolate. For example, “Vdokhnovenie” [“Inspiration”]. I recommend it! Meanwhile Anand has grown tired of waiting for his opponent’s reply – he’s left the stage. It’s a pity he’s unlikely to enter the commentary booth, as after all he might be able to add something of interest! The absence of Anand sitting opposite him isn’t helping Boris either. He’s behaving extremely nervously at the board, simply unable to take a decision. He’s clearly struggling with himself just now, almost without thinking seriously about the position… The burden is weighing on him more and more, while time is slipping away. Half an hour has already passed. Boris, pull yourself together! It’s time to play chess. White’s got a big choice: 9.a3, 9.Qe2, 9. Bd3, 9.Bd2, 9.h3 and lord knows what else. I suspect Gelfand is choosing between the first two options. When he’s not lost in introspection.

[In game 9 we saw 8…cxd4 9.exd4 b6 10.Bg5 Bb7 11.Qe2 Nbd7 and so on.]

9.a3 Probably the most logical and ambitious move. Black also has a choice, by the way.

[Against Bronstein people played 9.dxc5 here, but that’s so toothless you don’t even want to look at it.]

[For 9.Qe2 I’ve chosen the following example: 9…Bc6 10.Rd1 Bxc3 11.bxc3 Nbd7 12.Bb3 Qa5 13.c4 cxd4 14.exd4 Qh5 – an interesting manoeuver, don’t you think? – 15.Re1 Rfe8 16.Bf4 Qg4 17.Bg3 Bxf3 18.Qxf3 Qxd4 19.Rad1 Qb6 20.Ba4 Red8 21.Bh4 Nc5 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.Qxf6 Nxa4 and White soon organised perpetual check, Artur Yusupov – Sebastien Feller, Moscow 2008.]

9…Ba5 As I was saying.

[A little more common is 9…Bxc3 , for example, 10.bxc3 Bc6 11.Ne5 (11.Qe2 Nbd7) 11…Bd5 12.Be2 cxd4 13.cxd4 Nbd7 (in ancient times people also played 13…Nc6) 14.Nd3 Rc8 15.a4 Ne4 16.Bb2 Nb6 17.f3 Nc3 18.Bxc3 Rxc3 19.Qd2 Rc7 20.Nc5 Nd7 21.Nxd7 Qxd7 22.a5 Rfc8 23.Rfc1 Bc4 and Black got a comfortable position, Yaroslav Zherebukh – Sebastien Feller, Paris 2010.]

[After 9…cxd4 it’s hard to resist the tricky pawn sacrifice  10.axb4 dxc3 11.bxc3 Qc7 12.Bd3! – that occurred in the game Alexandre Lesiege – Viktor Korchnoi, Montreal 2004, and the grandfather of modern chess decided not to take the bait: 12…e5 13.Qc2 Re8 14.Nd2 Nc6 15.Ba3 Rad8 16.c4 Be6 17.Ne4 – but still couldn’t equalise.]

10.Qe2 The correct choice. White is developing according to a known pattern with the inclusion of the moves a2-a3 and Bb4-a5. Who will that favour? That’s the suspense in this line.

[For 10.dxc5 Black had prepared 10…Bxc3! 11.bxc3 and rounding up the weak white pawns on the queenside.]

10…Bc6 Yes, such a rearrangement of Black’s minor pieces is now considered almost obligatory here.

[In case of 10…Nc6 11.Rd1 the bishop on d7 would be left passive and vulnerable.]

11.Rd1 The pressure from the rook can’t be ignored. The d4-d5 break might also be an option in some cases.

11…Bxc3 A novelty in the given concrete situation, but the exchange itself is banal.

[The main line was previously considered to be 11…Qe7, but Black couldn’t be satisfied with the recent attempts. For example, 12.Bd2 Bb6 13.dxc5 Qxc5 14.b4 Bxf3 15.gxf3 Qh5 16.f4 Ng4 17.f3 Nf6 18.Kh1 Nc6 19.Rg1 and White had a strong initiative, Valentin Iotov – Nedelcho Cheparinov, Plovdiv 2004.]

[If 11…Nbd7 then it really was strong to play 12.d5! exd5 13.Nxd5, after which the a5-bishop feels betrayed. Here, in the encounter Rainer Knaak – Artur Yusupov, Hamburg 1991, Black took a risk: 13…Nb6, which was ultimately justified by White’s weak play – 14.Nf4 (White would have got powerful pressure for the pawn sacrifice 14.Nxb6 Qxb6 15.b4! cxb4 16.Ne5 and so on) 14…Qc7 15.Ba2 Rae8 16.Bd2 Bxd2 17.Rxd2 Ne4 18.Rc2 Qe7 and it developed into a roughly equal and complex struggle.]

12.bxc3 Nbd7

So then, we’ve got the position from the Yusupov – Feller game, but with a pawn on a3. A minor nuance? Who knows, who knows…

13.Bd3 Boris is preparing to advance pawns in the centre. His bishops [elephants in Russian!] are kicking their hooves, yearning for space! Following the example of Artur Mayakovich and putting the light-squared “hoofed one” on b3, in the absence of a pawn on a2, would make no sense – the unstable position of the white pieces would be fraught with danger.

[It was no doubt also possible to start with 13.Bb2 However, there might be other possible careers for the c1-bishop. For example, after e3-e4 it could head to the right, let’s say to g5.]

13…Qa5 Vishy is beginning to pester his opponent’s weaknesses on the queenside. In principle, it’s turned out that Black has completed his development first. He needs to extract some real fruits from that temporary advantage, as otherwise he won’t manage to equalise. The contrast in time spent is becoming ever more pronounced: 1:02 – 1:55. Anand’s got almost an hour to spare!

14.c4 Again keeping the bishop on c1. Cunningly played! I suspect the Champion will finally start to think.

[It would be interesting to find out what the Challenger didn’t like about 14.Bb2 I couldn’t immediately find anything clear and forced. Perhaps Black would go for simplifications with 14…cxd4 15.cxd4 (15.exd4 Qh5) 15…Be4! and then Black would start counterplay on the c-file… unless, of course, you could play the bold blow 16.Bxe4 Nxe4 17.d5! No, you shouldn’t play like that.]

[In that case after 14.Bb2 you should immediately play 14…Be4!, for example, 15.c4 Bxd3 16.Rxd3 Rfd8 17.Rad1 cxd4 18.exd4 Rac8 with mutual chances.]

14…cxd4 A critical decision. Play is opening up and the c1-bishop will become powerful.

[Here as well he probably looked at 14…Be4, but some drawbacks were found.]


We’ve ended up with hanging pawns – simultaneously a strength and a weakness. If they manage to advance they’ll ensure an edge, but if Black manages to limit White’s activity, simplify play and pounce on the pawns, then…

15…Qh5 There it is, the foreseen switch of the queen to the kingside. Does it seem as though Black’s threatening to double pawns on f3? Personally, I don’t think it’s a real threat. Two bishops against two knights… for the third time in a row in the match – that would be interesting! And dangerous for Black. In such an open and dynamic position the knights are clearly weaker.

16.Bf4 Correct! Gelfand calmly completes his development. The activity of his pieces compensates for the potential structural weaknesses.

16…Rac8 Anand is placing his pieces attractively, although it’s not yet clear what he should do next. The time gap isn’t narrowing: 0:42 – 1:40. Time trouble is close, but only for one of the match participants… It seems he’s now deciding where to move the f3-knight – to e5 or d2? From the point of view of simplifications and a draw the first would be more reliable. From the point of view of maintaining the suspense the second is better. A third path probably isn’t bad either – 17.a4 and then 18.a5. Having a wide choice isn’t always a good thing, my friends. You’re beset by constant doubts and a lot of time and effort goes nowhere.

[From the point of view of exchanging on f3 and playing the e6-e5 break it looked more logical to play 16…Rfe8 For example, some kind of routine manoeuvre like 17.Rac1?! would be met with 17…Bxf3 18.Qxf3 (18.gxf3 e5!) 18…Qxf3 19. gxf3 e5 with equal chances.]

[While 16…Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Qxf3 18.gxf3 led to a persistent edge for White in the ending. He’d next switch to the queen’s flank and advance the a3-pawn.]

17.Ne5 In practical terms Gelfand’s choice is understandable. With so much less time he decided not to take a risk.

[In case of 17.Nd2 e5! we’d get very interesting complications, which are hard to analyse to a clear conclusion even with a computer on hand. There might follow: 18.dxe5 Rfe8 19.Qxh5 Nxh5 20.Be3 Rxe5 (worse is 20…Nxe5?! 21.Be2! Nf6 22.Bxa7!) 21.Ne4! (it looks dubious to play 21.Bxa7 b6) 21…Ra8!? (very dangerous is 21…Bxe4 22.Bxe4 Rxe4 23.Rxd7) 22.Bc2 Bxe4 23.Bxe4 Rxe4 24.Rxd7 b6 – it seems Black can hold this endgame – 25.c5 Nf6 26.Rb7 bxc5 27.Bxc5 a5 and so on.]

[If  17.a4 then I suspect Black would have played 17…Bxf3 18.Qxf3 Qxf3 19.gxf3 Rfd8 and in concrete variations he manages to put pressure on the white pawns. For example, with Nd7-b8-c6.]

17…Qxe2 18.Bxe2 Nxe5 19.Bxe5 Rfd8

The position that’s arisen is a little better for White, but Black has a huge safety margin. For a real struggle for victory White lacks a pair of knights on the board – that pair which was just exchanged. Without the joker-knight it’s hard to pose his opponent practical difficulties. It’s not easy to create new weaknesses.

[The immediate knight raid 19…Ne4 could have led to a new round of complications – 20.d5! Ba4 21.Re1 – Black hardly needs such adventures.]

20.a4 The good thing about the position for Boris, apart from the advantage of the two bishops, is that it’s extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make a serious blunder. There are obvious useful manoeuvres and no problems at all. It looks obvious to play a4-a5, f2-f3, Kg1-f2 and then it’ll be clear what you should undertake next. However, Black isn’t obliged to stand and wait… For almost the first time in the game Vishy is having a serious think. It’s not hard to predict his move – I’d say it’s a 90% likelihood that his knight will be set in motion.

[Incidentally, I’d have started with 20.f3, so as not to think about the Nf6-e4 jump. However, there would then have followed 20…Nd7 21.Bg3 (worse is 21.Bf4 e5! 22.dxe5 Re8 with obvious equality) 21…Nb6 and Black blockades the a4-square.]

20…Ne4 There it is. A cultured chess player isn’t going to wait around to be completely squeezed. The knight’s threatening to come to c3, and if White plays Ra1-a3 he has to deal with a blow on a4 – either immediately, or after including the move f7-f6.

21.Rd3 This looks unattractive, but it’s functional.

[The variation 21.Ra3 f6 22.Bf4 Bxa4! really was good for Black – 23.Re1 (23.Rxa4? Nc3) 23…Bc6 24.f3 Nd6 25.Rxa7 Nf5 26.d5 exd5 27.Bd3 g6 – White has compensation for the pawn, but no more.]

[And 21.Bg4 would almost certainly have led to a repetition of moves – 21…Nf6, and you have to return the bishop to e2, as there’s no advantage after 22.Bh3 (or 22.Bxf6 gxf6 23.d5 Bd7 and so on) 22…Nd7 23.Bf4 Nb6 with a double attack, while after 24.d5 Black coolly plays 24…Bd7]

21…f6 By chasing away the enemy bishop Black is weakening the d4-point and, perhaps, preparing the cunning switch Bc6-e8-g6. Strangely enough, the struggle is still extremely concrete and fierce.

22.Bf4 The only move. If the dark-squared bishop was exchanged for the knight White would end up on the defensive.


As expected. This isn’t the only continuation, but it’s the most logical one. No-one is any longer interfering with the rooks putting pressure on the white pawns. A capture is threatened on c4, and so far I can’t come up with anything other than c4-c5. However, each pawn advance in the centre carries a strategic risk. Food for thought, but there’s no longer any time to have a serious think: 0:26 – 1:08.

[It was also necessary to look at the continuations 22…Nd6 and 22…b6, but one game isn’t enough.]

23.Rb3 It’s obvious the Challenger is striving to avoid complex, calculating play – which makes sense, given Boris really is in time trouble now. He’s nervous, and he doesn’t trust his calculations.

[Strictly speaking, White could have continued to fight for a win, but to do that you’d need to make N accurate moves: 23.c5 Bg6 (somewhat duller is 23…e5 24.dxe5 Rxd3 25.Bxd3 Nxc5 26.Bc4+ Bf7 27.Be2! with a persistent edge for White) 24.Rc1! Nxf2 25. Rb3! (White would be underweight after 25.Kxf2 Bxd3 26.Bxd3 Rxd4 27.Ke3 Rxa4) 25…Rxd4 26.Rc4 (26.Be3 Nd3 27.Rcc3 Nf4!) 26…Rxc4 27.Bxc4 Ne4 28.Bxe6+ Bf7 29.Bxf7+ Kxf7 30.Rxb7+ Kg6 31.Rxa7 Rxc5 and Black holds the balance on account of his active pieces, despite White’s outside passed pawn.]

23…Rxd4 24.Be3 The position is being unloaded. Exchanges bring us closer to a peaceful outcome.

[I doubt Gelfand even considered the capture 24.Rxb7, although it’s not that straightforward: 24…Nc3 25.Bg4! Bf7 26.g3 g5 and instead of resigning, White continues the struggle with 27.Re1! Re8 (27…gxf4 28.Rxf7! Kxf7 29.Bxe6+) 28.Rxf7 Kxf7 29.Bh5+ Ke7 30.Bxe8 gxf4! – true, from a position of weakness.]

24…Rd7 Of course you couldn’t give up the b7-pawn.

At this point the players AGREED A DRAW. There might have followed: 24…Rd7 25.Bxa7 Nc5 (it doesn’t do any good to play 25…Rd2 because of 26.Kf1! with the idea of f2-f3) 26.Rb2 Nd3 27.Bxd3 Rxd3 28.Rxb7 Bxa4 29.Rb4 (29.Rxa4? Rd1#) 29…Bc6 30.Be3, after which the peaceful outcome of the battle would be even more obvious.

Well then, Anand managed to neutralise Gelfand having the white pieces without the slightest difficulty. A huge role in that was played by his timely opening surprise. Everything new is, as we know, something old that’s been well-forgotten. And Boris had forgotten the variation with 8…Bd7. He impressed, however, conducting a solid game and even maintaining a slight edge, but he’d expended so much time and energy that he couldn’t really make a convincing attempt to play for a win. The draw was a fair outcome of the simplifications and cultured manoeuvres by both players. So then, the match score remains level: 5.5 – 5.5. All that’s left is a single, and perhaps deciding, game at the classical time control, in which the World Champion will have the white pieces. That will take place the day after tomorrow. This is me, Grandmaster Sergey Shipov, thanking all my viewers for your attention. On Monday, a tough day, I promise to work wonders! All the best! 1/2-1/2

After the game was over Sergey Shipov again recorded a video round-up of the day’s events (in Russian):

There was a clear message. Anand’s 8…Bd7! (Shipov’s exclamation mark) was a psychological blow that worked perfectly, but objectively it wasn’t a particularly good move. Shipov explained its effect:

Modern theory has grown so much that grandmasters are largely slaves to theory. They’re absolutely used to playing according to known methods and their own analysis in the opening, and if, god forbid, a grandmaster suddenly sees an unfamiliar move, especially at such a crucial moment, a chill goes down his spine. He imagines terrifying computer analysis by his opponent, and thinks he has to be on the alert, to restrain himself, and as a consequence the grandmaster starts to think, to doubt and to lose masses of time and energy – and usually in vain. That’s what happened today. In actual fact Boris Abramovich played extremely accurately, but terribly slowly. He lost a heap of time and energy and that was just what he lacked later to play normal chess on his own. If you could put a strong grandmaster from the mid-twentieth century in Gelfand’s place, say Petrosian, Keres, Smyslov, Polugaevsky or Spassky, there’d have been more chances of a win because those people wouldn’t have stopped to think for half an hour or forty minutes. They’d have calmly continued to play chess and they’d have had chances, because objectively Black doesn’t equalise here…

The lack of time came back to haunt Gelfand on move 17, when Shipov felt 17.Nd2! would have retained winning chances. By the end, however, it was Anand who had the more realistic prospects, and Shipov said than in the Champion’s place many would have tried to exploit Gelfand’s time trouble with 24…Nc5!?. He thought only Black could be on top in the ensuing positions.

The final classical game of the 2012 World Championship match takes place on Monday 28th May. Sergey Shipov’s commentary will be translated by Dana Mackenzie and appear at his blog within about two hours of the end of the game: http://www.danamackenzie.com/blog/

You might also want to follow the Chess in Translation Twitter account, where I hope to provide quick updates from various Russian sources (including Shipov’s commentary) during the game: http://twitter.com/ChessinT

mishanp :

View Comments (3)

  • "If you could put a strong grandmaster from the mid-twentieth century in Gelfand’s place, say Petrosian, Keres, Smyslov, Polugaevsky or Spassky, there’d have been more chances of a win because those people wouldn’t have stopped to think for half an hour or forty minutes. They’d have calmly continued to play chess and they’d have had chances, because objectively Black doesn’t equalise here…"

    Kramnik tried, lost twice with White and was done ...

  • Teh english transalation lost so much vigor and funny language used by Shipov, no fun reading the English commentary. Feel sorry for all those who couldn't hear Shipov's commentary.

    As to the game - clearly lost opportunity for Gelfand. Bd7 - dubious move that could have been exploited...

  • What more do we need now to spot the bias in Shipov?. But why should he be biased of all the people?

    I did not enjoy this sheer absence of neutral tone in every single game in Shipov narratives. Maybe others dont see it the way I do; Shipov's choice of text & tone is dissing the world champion way too much.
    I like both Boris and Anand as true gentlemen, worthy of being here by the sheer dint of what they continue to achieve in chess world. And will continue to read Shipov - Do still look forward to a more balanced analysis for 12th game.