Categories: Russian

Vladimir Kramnik on the climax of the Anand-Gelfand match

Few know more about the tension of the final stages of a World Championship match than ex-World Champion Vladimir Kramnik, so his interview on the eve of Game 12 shouldn’t be missed. He gives his impressions of the match so far and talks about what we can expect from the final game and possible tiebreak.

Game 11 drew some impressive kibitzers: here Max Dlugy, Mark Glukhovsky, Vladimir Kramnik, Dmitry Jakovenko and Peter Svidler | photo: Anastasia Karlovich

Vladimir Kramnik was talking to Yury Vasiliev, the chess correspondent of Russia’s most popular sports paper, Sport Express.

Vladimir Kramnik: The 11th game was one of the few moments in this match when Anand won the opening duel. It was hard for Gelfand to squeeze anything realistic out of the position. In a situation where one person is playing at the board while the second is following his computer analysis it’s hard to come up with anything. Anand was playing according to his preparation for quite a long time. While commentating I predicted the way the game went: Bf4, Ne5 – and the tension was diffused. Firstly, objectively speaking White didn’t have many ways to play for a win, and secondly, Black had almost an hour to spare. In such a situation Gelfand’s decision to bring an end to play was the optimal one.

Yury Vasiliev: What’s your impression of the match as a whole?

Well, it’s not over yet and you need to watch until the end. Clearly Anand isn’t in top form and his preparation hasn’t been the best, but nevertheless – it’s Anand, and it’s extremely hard to beat him. Lately, in boxing terms, he’s lost his punch, but his defence remains at an extremely high level. As for Boris, he’s pursued his strategy very purposefully, and his approach has been more thought-out. It strikes me that Anand is a little disconcerted, but the match is coming to an end and whoever wins will turn out to have been right. Remember the recent Champions League final: Chelsea were defending all game, but won. And what can you say? Yes, Bayern played better. But so what?

It’s the same story with a World Championship match – what matters above all is who achieves a positive result. So let’s wait and see who wins, and then we can lay all the blame on the loser. (laughs)

Judging by the logic of how the match has gone there’s a great likelihood that it’ll end in a tie…

If the start of the final game is calm, slow-moving and equal then the likelihood of a draw will be pretty high. A great deal will depend on the opening: who manages to surprise or catch out his opponent. If one of the players gets pressure “for free” then the chances of a win will be dramatically increased. It’s one thing to defend in the middle of the match when failure doesn’t mean it’s all over but something else entirely to play in a situation when a single mistake can cost you the last two years of your life.

Which scenario for the last classical game strikes you as the most likely?

My prediction: no-one will take any particular risks. However, there are a lot of nuances. You can play very solidly, or you can give your opponent a chance to win in order to get chances yourself. There’s serious work ahead for Gelfand and Anand in choosing their opening strategy. Whoever outplays his opponent in that area will get real winning chances.

Even Gelfand, playing Black? It’s hard to imagine Anand will get carried away…

Yes, it’s hard to imagine, but after all you can play a little more sharply and provoke your opponent into getting carried away. There are a lot of nuances! It’s impossible to list them all: you can bluff a little, provoke a little, keep things tight. You can prepare for different scenarios: if he plays that then I’ll reply like this and make a draw. It’ll be possible to say more after the first 10-15 moves.

Nevertheless, if we hypothetically assume that the 12th “serious” game ends in a draw, who’s the favourite in rapid play?

Anand’s the favourite in that format against any opponent. It’s his thing. His game. On the other hand, Gelfand has in his favour the fact that he plays tiebreaks extremely well. If they were simply going to play a match in rapid chess then Anand would be the clear favourite, but Gelfand has a very good ability to concentrate at the essential moment, and he plays tiebreaks extremely strongly. So I’d say the question of who’ll win a tiebreak (if, of course, one takes place) remains an open one.

Source: Sport Express (in Russian)

The Russian commentary team during Game 11: GM Ilya Smirin, billionaire match sponsor Andrei Filatov and Kramnik. Smirin and Filatov both studied alongside Boris Gelfand at the Belorussian State Institute of Physical Culture in Minsk | photo: Anastasiya Karlovich

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