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Anand wins shootout to keep world chess crown

MOSCOW: India’s Viswanathan Anand retained yesterday his world chess title by outgunning his Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand in a quick-fire shootout forced after their 12-game Moscow epic ended all square.
Dubbed the “Battle of the Armageddon” in chess circles, the tiebreak saw the two chess titans clash in four nail-biting speed chess games that lasted over four hours and left both players emotionally exhausted.
Three of the games ended in draws but a mistake by Gelfand in the endgame of game two as his allotted 25 minutes ran out proved decisive. Anand, known as the “Tiger of Madras,” won that game and then doughtily resisted attempts by the Israeli to break through.
“It was incredibly tense,” a drained Anand told reporters after the match. “I think that right now, the only feeling you have is relief. I am really too tense to be happy, but there is relief.”
“Today, it is difficult to claim anything. I would simply say that my nerves held on better. I simply hung on for dear life.”
With the players knowing one mistake could cost the championships, the match was marked by the almost unbearable tension of past great clashes like the epic world title match between Garry Kasparov and Anatoly Karpov in 1984-85.
The series had been staged at the Tretyakov art gallery in Moscow, the first time the Russian capital has hosted the world chess championships since the Kasparov-Karpov game that was called off due to fears for their health.
Anand will take $1.4 million and Gelfand $1.15 million from a $2.55 million total prize fund, under rules that saw an evening-out of the prize money if the match went to a tiebreak.
The thrilling tiebreak was worthy of a tournament whose history also includes the historic 1972 clash in Reykjavik at the height of the Cold War between Bobby Fischer of the US and Soviet great Boris Spassky.
The Minsk-born Israeli had chances in all four tiebreak games to put pressure on Anand and at times showed magnificently resourceful defense against the Indian’s attacks.
Anand, dressed in his usual blue shirt, sat rooted to his chair as the more expressive Gelfand ran his hands through his hair and took long walks away from the board to think out his positions.
As tension mounted, Gelfand indulged in his favorite stress-busting habit of repeatedly rotating one of the taken bishop pieces in his right hand.
But he did not find a way to break down the Anand defense and seeing no chance of the victory he needed in the final fourth game Gelfand offered the draw which gave Anand the tiebreak by 2.5 points-to-1.5 and the title.
After four-and-a-half hours of extreme tension, the two men shook hands and immediately left the stage.
“Boris had his chances in each of the four tie-break games,” commented Russian grandmaster Peter Svidler.
“Today has been a magnificent struggle, not without mistakes, but a lot of fight was shown by both players,” he added.
Gelfand used up most of his allotted time in each of the games, leaving him under huge pressure as he made the endgame moves with just seconds remaining.
“I think the decisive factor was that fact I did not use my time so wisely,” he said. “My strategy was simple — to take it one game at a time, create the most problems and make the best moves.”
The two masters displayed titanic control of the board in the regular 12-game series earlier this month but it ended level with just a win apiece and 10 draws.
Anand lost game seven but then levelled the scores by coming back to win game eight. He revealed yesterday that he could not “remember such a bad day as after game seven. I mean I could not sleep.”
Absent from the world championship process has been the world No. 1 , the 21-year-old Norwegian prodigy Magnus Carlsen who dropped out in the qualifying rounds as he did not agree with the format.