Gelfand on Anand's Heels

Article excerpt

Byline: David R. Sands, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Favorite Viswanathan Anand of India holds the lead, but dark-horse Israeli GM Boris Gelfand is putting on the heat as the FIDE world championship tournament hit the mid-point in Mexico City this week.

Defending champion Vladimir Kramnik is looking strong and is alone in third place, just a point behind Anand in the eight-grandmaster, double-round-robin event. The tournament concludes a week from tomorrow.

Anand defeated Russian Alexander Grischuk in Thursday's Round 7 to take a half-point lead on Gelfand, who drew a complicated game with Kramnik. Anand is an impressive plus-three with a 5-2 score, followed by Gelfand at 4 1/2-2 1/2. The rest of the leader board: Kramnik 4-3; Grischuk 3 1/2-3 1/2; Peter Leko (Hungary), Levon Aronian (Armenia) 3-4; Peter Svidler (Russia),Alexander Morozevich (Russia) 2 1/2-4 1/2.

Anand and Kramnik scored their first wins in Round 2, both employing some powerful home cooking with opening novelties that flustered their opponents.

Playing Black in a well-trodden Semi-Slav QGD line against Aronian, Anand gets the jump on his opponent with 16. Bg3 Nd7 17. f3 c5!? (Qb6 was the usual move here), an idea Anand's team hatched just a few days before. "Sometimes if you can surprise your opponent it is worth almost as much as making a lot of good moves because he has to deal with a lot of problems over the board," Anand later told an Indian journalist.

Already unhappy with his game after 18. dxc5 Qe7 19. Kh1 a6 20. a4, White tries 21. Nd5?!, a tactical idea that has worked in other games in this line. But Black counters with 21...exd5 22 exd5 Be5!, when 23. Bxe5? Qxh4+ 24. Kg1 Nxe5 25. dxc6 g3 leads to mate.

Aronian's 23. f4 isn't satisfactory either, as now Black exploits the hole in the White center with 23...Bg7 24 dxc6 Nxc5 25. Rd5 Ne4! 26. Be1 Qe6!, giving up the h-pawn but luring the White rook to a most unpleasant spot.

Black wins the exchange on 31. Re5 Qf7 32. Rg5 Nxg5 33. fxg5 Rxc6, and White's two bishops, hemmed in by the Black pawns, offer no compensation. Anand energetically wraps things up with 37...Re3 38 Qg2 Bxc3 39. bxc3 f4 40 Qa8+ Kg7 41. Qa6 fxg3+, and White resigns because the ending after 42. Kg1 Qf7 43. Qh6+ Kg8 44. Qf6 (to block the deadly check at f2) Qxf6 45. gxf6 Rxc3 is hopeless.

Kramnik's win over Morozevich packs a lot of drama into a relatively brief number of moves.

In a Catalan line he knows intimately, Kramnik tempts his opponent first with 7. Nc3 Nd5 8. 0-0!, when Black avoids the inky depths of 8...Nxc3 9 bxc3 Bxc3 10. Rb1 Qxd4 11. Qa4+ b5 12. Qa3 Qxe5 13. Bf4 Qf6 14. Bxa8, and then with 11. b3 c6 12. e4! (see diagram), preparing to offer a piece just a dozen moves into the contest.

This time Morozevich bites with 12...f6!? (a brave decision, but one for which the champ had prepared thoroughly; 12.dxe4 13. Bxe4 Qxd4 14. Bxh7+ Kh8 15. Bf4 also looks uncomfortable for Black) 13. exd5 fxe5 14. bxc4 exd4 (e4 15. Bxe4 Bh3 16. Rd1 Bg4 17. Be3 Bxd1 18. Rxd1 leaves Black with huge problems, despite his material edge) 15. …