The opening Boris Gelfand opted for in the first game of the World Chess Championship match against defending champion Viswanathan Anand of India at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow on Friday was interesting. It would have left the Indian grandmaster's fans in a tizzy.
Gelfand played a classical defence that was first played by an Indian, Moheschunder Bannerjee in 1855, more than 60 years before Ernst Grünfeld used it to stun future World Champion Alexander Alekhine at Vienna in 1922. The impact was so stunning that the opening was named after the Austrian grandmaster.
Though the Indian connect of that defence was missed by many, the choice of Grunfeld Defence was still interesting because Anand had lost the first game of the World Chess Championship match against Veselin Topalov at Sofia in 2010 after adopting the same system with black pieces.
However, soon it was Gelfand's turn to look surprised as Anand unleashed a quick pawn push on the sixth turn to shred the challenger's queen-side defence and the two players soon settled for a draw, happy to gained a few brownie points in the first skirmish.
Anand showed that he expected Gelfand to test him in systems in which he has suffered reverses and was well prepared for that. Gelfand showed he has prepared for battles in which the Indian is considered strong.
Gelfand did get a slight advantage but it was not much for him to press home for victory. Equality was restored soon after the players exchanged queens and there was no much to play for and both players settled for a draw in 24 moves.
Though many would consider it as a chance wasted, the Indian GM did not think so. In the post-match press conference, Anand said the game was more or less heading towards as draw after the queens were swapped. Gelfand agreed.