As champion Viswanathan Anand and his Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand kept playing out one draw after another with the classical games producing just one win for either player, there were concerns whether India's four-time world champion was finally his razor-sharp game at the age of 42.
The amiable Indian Grandmaster showed why he was dubbed the “Lightning Kid” as a young chess genius, as he came into his own in the tie-break. The tension was palpabable, but Anand pulled off a crucial win in the second game of the rapid phase to underline his mastery racing against the clock, eventually sealing the grand victory with a draw in the fourth game of the series.
It was Anand’s fifth world title, spread over 12 years having had won his first way back in 2000, and fourth victory in a row. The first phase of 12 classical games finished 6-6 before the champion and the challenger entered the shootout phase, which ended 2.5-1.5 in Anand’s favour.
“It was the toughest match that I have played till now. I had no sense of what shape the tiebreak could take. I am too relieved after it got over. It is obviously the proudest moment of my life. I am too tense to be happy,” Anand said in the post-match press conference at the famous Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, the match venue.
The Indian Grandmaster pointed to the eighth game, which he won to level scores immediately after losing the previous game. “I understand it was not Boris’ best game but I was extremely happy with my reaction to the eighth game. In a close match like this it was obviously a big blow for me to lose the 7th game. I cannot remember such a black day (in my career). I thought it was all over. I could not sleep that night and my morale was very low. But I came out fighting and that is something I will always remember,” Anand said. The king and his conquestsIn the end, it was Anand’s famed calmness that shone through in the rapid games. "It is difficult to claim anything, in the end my nerves held on. There was so much back and forth in each game.
“Well, when I woke up this morning, I knew it would end one way or the other but didn't know how it will go. The match was so even I had no sense of what shape the tiebreak would take. I think that right now, the only feeling you have is relief,” Anand said in his comments soon after he had clinched victory.
On Wednesday, both players showed signs the tense battle was taking its toll on them. Gelfand, who was born in Minsk, Belarus but emigrated to Israel in 1998, is a year older to Anand. The Indian GM failed to capitalise on a casual move by Gelfand in the first tiebreak game, then got into a poor position himself but managed to steer it to a draw. In the second, Anand reeled off the first 10 moves at lightening speed.
He played a new move after that and used his time advantage to create pressure and force his opponent to resign. In the third game, Anand extricated himself from a poor position to force a draw as Gelfand committed mistakes. In the end, Anand got the half point he needed in the fourth rapid game when Gelfand accepted his draw offer, sealing victory.