In Epic Finale, Israel Falls Short of Glory
Wow. It’s not a word used too often to describe chess tournaments, but there’s no denying that the battle between world chess champion Viswanathan Anand and challenger Boris Gelfand couldn’t have ended any better. With the best-of-twelve series starting on May 11, this was a marathon to decide whether Anand would continue to be the undisputed world champ or if the Israeli would pull the upset. By the end of the twelfth game on Monday, both Grand Masters were tied, setting us up for an epic tiebreak. Unfortunately for Boris Gelfand, he would lose the sudden death tiebreak, cementing Anand in the history books yet again. the champion took home an impressive prize of US$1.4 million.
Despite the loss, it’s not all gloom and doom. Gelfand’s amazing 3 week battle captivated all Israelis, and was the talk of the entire country, as never before had an Israeli chess player dominated on the world stage. Prime Minister Netanyahu even had a special TV installed in his office to live-stream the finale. The overwhelming interest in this match even caused the Israel Chess Federation’s website to crash.
Gelfand received congratulatory calls from Prime Minister Netanyahu following the tiebreak. “I followed your moves and I was impressed. When you were thinking, I thought about what you were thinking,” said the Prime Minister, who is himself an avid chess player. “You created great interest among many people about chess thanks to your example.”
Said the champion, Anand in an interview with The New York Times, “He did many things that he had never done in his life…I found it difficult to get the kind of positions I wanted to play.”
The rapid-fire tiebreak, in which players were heavily constrained by time limits in between moves, appeared to be too much for Gelfand, who admitted a series of “blunders” in the 4-game tiebreak cost him the title.
Said Anand, “I would say that my nerves held out better. I simply held on for dear life.”
‘Holding on for dear life’ are not words you normally hear regarding a chess match. But this was no ordinary matchup.
Said Almog Burstein, the executive director of the Israel Chess Federation, “Gelfand may have lost, but chess in Israel won.”