About half a million viewers a day are tuning in to watch the World Chess Championship at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery on the official website, even though dozens of other sites around the world are rebroadcasting the moves.
The Russian organisers have managed to far outstrip their internet rivals by providing high-definition pictures of the games and the players, as well as signing up some of the best players in the world as commentators.
Four hours of watching two players sit at a table and move wooden pieces about every three minutes would probably be of interest only to those subscribing to Zen’s silent illumination. However, the directors of the Moscow world championship show have realised the importance of cutting between players and commentators and, most importantly, superimposing an analysis board, which allows the viewers at home to guess what might happen and the commentators to explain why it didn’t.
After the game, the press conference is broadcast, during which Viswanathan Anand and Boris Gelfand usually demonstrate that they were the only ones who really knew what was going on.
The stellar internet coverage has no doubt eaten up a substantial part of billionaire Andrei Filatov’s $7 million sponsorship of the match but it has not been without glitches.
The most embarrassing came during Monday’s eighth game, where Gelfand was beaten decisively by the world champion. The game also coincided with the final day of the England-West Indies cricket Test and the star commentator in the Russian language booth that day happened to be Peter Svidler.
Russian champion Svidler is a cricket addict and England supporter who probably knows as many modern cricket facts and figures as the entire Channel Nine commentary team put together.
With England chasing a tricky target on the fifth day, Svidler in the commentary box was furtively toggling between the Anand-Gelfand game and the Test match when the director unwisely decided to show the viewers the game position that Svidler was analysing.
For a brief time the chess viewers found themselves watching Ian Bell closing in on a match-winning half century before the director cut back to Gelfand and Anand deep in thought.
When Svidler next took a break, making way for one of the 10-minute guides to the Tretyakov Gallery (which seem to be scheduled whenever a critical position is reached), the director very politely hauled Svidler over the coals. “You do realise that our viewers were watching baseball today?” he said. “That cannot happen again.”
The Test having been completed, Svidler was trusted to conduct the English language commentary on Wednesday and, despite suffering from what he said were cricket withdrawal symptoms but that seemed more like a cold to the untrained eye, Svidler had the chance to describe the toughest battle of the match so far.
After his humiliation in the eighth game, Gelfand desperately needed to make an impression on the world champion and he did so, going within a whisker of winning. Gelfand dominated the first half of the game and only by giving up his queen and playing perfect defence thereafter could Anand hold the game and keep the score tied at 4.5-4.5 with just three games to play.
Despite the Israeli challenger’s heroic efforts on Wednesday, Anand has firmed as favourite to retain his title and take the $1.5 million winner’s purse, since he has the advantage of the white pieces, and therefore the first move, in two of the three remaining games.
World Championship 2012 Game 9
White: B. Gelfand
Black: V. Anand
1.d4 Nf6 2.c4 e6 3.Nc3 Bb4 4.e3 0-0 5.Bd3 d5 6.Nf3 c5 7.0-0 dxc4 8.Bxc4 cxd4 9.exd4 b6 10.Bg5 Bb7 11.Qe2 Nbd7 12.Rac1!
Here Anand thought long and hard, perhaps realising that he would have been better advised to play 11…Bxc3 before 12…Nbd7
12…Rc8 13.Bd3! Bxc3 14.bxc3 Qc7 15.c4 Bxf3?! 16.Qxf3 Rfe8
“I messed something up in the opening,” said Anand, who finds that he cannot make the typical break 16…e5 because of 17.Bf5!.
17.Rfd1 h6 18.Bh4 Qd6!
Attempting to provoke Gelfand’s next move.
… and Gelfand takes up the challenge after half an hour’s thought. After the game Gelfand thought that the patient 19.a3!? Kh8 20.Bf1 might be best but the direct 19.Bg3 Qb4 20.Qb7 looks even stronger.
19…bxc5 20.dxc5 Rxc5!
Anand’s long-planned queen sacrifice; it beats being pushed off the board.
21.Bh7+! Kxh7 22.Rxd6 Rxc1+ 23.Rd1 Rec8 24.h3 Ne5 25.Qe2 Ng6! 26.Bxf6
White would have preferred to hang on to this bishop but after 26.Bg3, Ne4! is annoying.
26…gxf6 27.Rxc1 Rxc1+ 28.Kh2 Rc7 29.Qb2 Kg7 30.a4 Ne7! 31.a5 Nd5
“I thought I could set up a fortress,” said Anand, “but it was very tricky to decide what sort of fortress.” The world champion then ran through a series of alternative set-ups with the knight and rook but eventually found the best way to try to set up an impenetrable barrier.
32.a6 Kh7 33.Qd4
Gelfand has tied down the Black pawn and “I thought I could now create a second weakness [on the other wing] and win,” said Gelfand. “Unfortunately Black has sufficient resources to hold the position.”
33…f5! 34.f4 Rd7 35.Kg3 Kg6 36.Qh8 Nf6 37.Qb8 h5! 38.Kh4 Kh6 39.Qb2 Kg6 40.Qc3 Ne4!
With the first time control reached, Gelfand has time to look around and see that his intended 41.Qf3 allows 41…Rd8! and if 42.Qxh5+? Kg7! White actually loses. “If White wanted to lose I am sure he can find a way,” commented Anand sardonically.
41.Qc8 Nf6 42.Qb8 Re7!
Gelfand was hoping for 42…Kh6 when 43.g4! hxg4 44.hxg4 Nxg4 45.Qg8! still gives Black some problems to solve.
43.g4!? hxg4 44.hxg4 fxg4 45.Qe5 Ng8!
The final point. All Black’s pieces are defended and White can make no progress.
46.Qg5+ Kh7 47.Qxg4 f6 48.Qg2 Kh8 49.Qe4 Kg7 Draw Agreed