2012 World Chess Championship: Anand vs. Gelfand – Raising the Stakes

After four games, and four draws, in the 2012 Chess World Championship between champion Viswanathan Anand and challenger Boris Gelfand, the inevitable and predictable Internet complaining has already started. Have a look around the blogosphere and on chess message boards, and you’ll find lots of comments like, “Why are there sooooo many draws? Why aren’t there more decisive results? Maybe FIDE needs to raise the stakes.”

Raise the stakes? These guys are playing for a pile of cash and the title of World Champion. What the heck do you want – human lives to be at stake? Saaaayyyyyyyy, wait a minute…

Nope, never mind. It’s old hat. It’s been done before.

The movie classic The Black Cat (made in 1934) features Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi playing chess for the lives of a young couple who are trapped with them inside a World War I fortress which Karloff has converted into a mansion. If Lugosi wins, the couple goes free. If Karloff wins, the girl will be the sacrifice in a gruesome Satanic ritual.

The Black Cat (1934)

Lugosi challenges Karloff to a life and death chess game in The Black Cat (1934)

For those who’ve not seen it, The Black Cat is a great little movie which contains a few really sick subtexts – it’s one of those movies which doesn’t really bother you until you stop and think about it…

If playing chess with human lives at stake has been done before, how about playing a match for the fate of some superhumans? Nah — been there, done that, too, in the first issue of Justice League of America (Nov. 1960):

Justice League of America chess game

Despero vs. The Flash - Justice Leage of America #1, Nov. 1960 (and why is it so hard for some peope to remember which way to set the board?)

The alien villain Despero forces The Flash into a game of chess, with the ultimate fate of the other Justice League members hanging in the balance. The Flash loses (because Despero rigs the game – you’ll have to read the story to see how he does it), but the League turns the tables and comes out on top anyway. Of course, The Flash could have insisted that they play blitz chess, in which case Despero would have had no chance whatsoever – but that would have resulted in a very short comic book.

Besides, I’ve seen Despero play – that trope’s been repeated a couple of times – and I’m 100% sure Houdini 2 Pro could take him.

So since FIDE really can’t raise the stakes much higher for a world championship chess match, how about we all just sit back, take a deep breath, relax, and watch what happens? Two of the games were pretty exciting, despite the fact they were drawn. There are eight games to go, and I’m confident that Gelfand will at least try to crank the heat up a notch or two before the match is over.

Have fun! — Steve

Copyright 2012, Steven A. Lopez & Chess King. All rights reserved.

32 Responses to “2012 World Chess Championship: Anand vs. Gelfand – Raising the Stakes”

  • jason bourne says:

    Oh boy. I would say let’s say who wins six games first. no draws etc counted. we have a dash for the final line that’s it. plus the winner gets the prize money and the loser goes home with zero. that would be really cool.

    Great article by the way steve.

  • Chris, ny says:

    simple folks make a win as four points they will fight till the last trust me – great post steve at least someone spoke up

  • saira fernandes, madrid says:

    cancel dinner breakfast lunch for both as long as they keep drawing :)

  • alexis cochran, nz says:

    more points for winning with black or negative scoring for drawing with white should do the trick!!! One of these options could work. at least the white player must fight and attack so we see e4 and not d4 c4 slow stuff

  • anonymous says:

    Fischer Random is the answer

    • chess960cz says:

      Chess960, or Fischer Random Chess (also written Fischerrandom and Fischerandom) has creative potential. Play chess from the first move! Play chess960 !

  • Hasan Sayeed, UAE (Dubai) says:

    Don’t worry folks Gelfand is just tiring out Anand we could get a result in the sixth game or once the colors switch. right now Gelfand has to play black after a hard day’s work and Anand plays white after the rest day yet Gelfand has been holding up pretty well. I would say wait. the match is just warming up.

  • J,L. Vienna says:

    I really don’t know what to say but something should really be done. I have no answers though. Does Fide have any answers? We just need more attacking players like Chess Queen on the circuit. Just saying. I like those great references Stever. Very cool article.

  • symeonis, athens says:

    stop the airconditioning

  • Tim Brennan says:

    IM Greg Shahade has some interesting ideas about putting an end to all the draws in top level chess that he wrote about in a series of articles on the USCF website. He includes ideas like as soon as the game is drawn, the players switch colors, and play a new game with the time they had remaining. Another idea he had was keep playing faster and faster games until there is a decisive winner.

  • amrit puri, new delhi says:

    i go with tim brennan and greg shahade but then anand was always a draw specialist. we know that. he strikes if there is a weakness. the other day in the chatroom i found anand@draw.us as a comment. i think that’s correct. so his patience just might upset gelfand. who knows! that’s part of the strategy.

  • K.S. says:

    I don’t see any problem. chess is like wine. you sip it slowly. i think they are doing their best. what can one do if both opponents are so well prepared and for those who don’t have patience don’t watch chess. i enjoy myself. how does the result matter.

  • Jean Pierre, Paris says:

    Who is KS For god sake – do you live in a cave or something? you mean result doesn’t matter.

  • Rachel, Atlantic City says:

    Bughouse – get their seconds to play also

  • Ron says:

    Well, I suppose neither the rules nor the stakes can me tampered with once the games have begun, if at all. I wonder where I can get online commented reports on the games. I’ll have to look.

    • Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater says:

      You are at the right place for special analysis and commented games – check out rest of chess-king.com do you have chess king? its more fun playing quest mode than watching anand gelfand

  • S. Srinath, Colombo, SL says:

    the world chess championship should be a round robin tournament

  • Arihant Pradhan, Kathmandu, Nepal says:

    Classical chess holds no meaning once computers have arrived. It was all fine when we had no computers and everyone had lots of time. let’s just switch to blitz and rapid. What’s the point in wasting everyone’s time with draws. It’s like being caught in a time warp. I watched games 1 and 2 then just went to sleep in games 3 and 4. There should be a rule that you have to play e4 or at least different opening with e4 being must at least once.

  • Kinobe Amartsu, Kenya says:

    Draws would not have been a problem if there were fresh ideas new theory it has been very disappointing so far. its like anand is too cagey about losing his crown and the onus is on gelfand to win. So anand can just sit there and still retain the title. you cant blame him really for the attitude then. The rules need to be changed that is all the format needs to be overhauled. maybe chess experts should sit around and talk. I don’t know. but really the world championship becomes a farce with this kind of play. first you explain to others why the world no. 4 and no. 20 are fighting for the world championship then you tell them why there is no result. So kids and others lose interest.

  • Joe says:

    The answerto the problem is youth. Anand’s generation has gotten to the point where they play not to lose, rather than play to win. Younger players will play without fear.

  • Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater says:

    Yawn. Good Morning. Has the World Championship Match begun? Are the practice matches over.

  • chanukya says:

    Bilbao 3-1-0 scoring system need to be encouraged highly to play for win more often

  • Murrel says:

    To all of you who suggested changing the values of wins, draws etc – this is match play and none of those will have no effect on the winner or loser of a match. That idea, however, does have merit in a tournament where everyone plays separate schedules.

    Fischer had the right idea that works – play the match until x number of games are won and the match is then over. I like x at 6 as Fischer and many others have suggested. Of course, then the match can go on a while as Karpov and Kasparov demonstrated.

    Capablanca suggested a century ago that we needed to add another piece. Fischer also came up with Random Chess. I found the idea of playing another game with switched colors and time remaining. With a 30 second increment, I think that is quite feasible.

    • Steve says:

      The trouble with Capa’s idea is that the pawns take too long to come into contact on a 9×9 board. I think 9×9 games lead to more draws because there’s no central pawn tension unless the players desire it.

      — Steve

  • Stuartj says:

    make them play E4

    • Steve says:

      Didn’t work today, though. Make them play e4 and then deviate from known theory before move 10.

      — Steve

  • Andrey says:

    Anand will not retain the title automatically. We have a tie-break, but it seems to me it is about splitting the prize fund. Lasker once said that title alone is not a good thing, it does not give any dividends.

    However, the will to play actively is decreasing with every classical game due to the fact that risky play could be disastrous and it would be nearly impossible to come back. But Gelfand remembers, of course, that Anand is really better in rapid versions. so Anand will likely have an edge over him in tie-break. So champion may have this rather simple strategy in mind, knowing that every draw pushes his opponent to the edge.

    In terms of chess style they are more likely to be shields than swords. They are both try to provoke the first hit, survive, and return. So in competition of two shields neither win.

    Topic of no.7 vs no. 20 deciding the World Championship is debatable. First of all we should divide the variables. ‘No.1 in the world’ is a title by itself, as any ‘No. … ‘ would be. There’s some resemblance between chess and tennis and usually it is pointed out that there is no ‘World champion’ in tennis, but ‘No.1′ exists. So in chess it should be like that — logic is obvious.

    But look into it from another viewpoint. Basically World championship is kind of Wimbledon. There are many No.1 tennis players who had never won Wimbledon. Many of them will exchange the large amount of weeks of being on the top for this one Grand Slam.

  • “Chess with dice” is the answer !

    The two players throw a dice, in row.
    The first one, who will bring “six”, on the dice, plays a move (normal moves).
    The other one, just watch the moves of the other player.
    In this system, one player can play to the eternity, without the other player having play a move !
    After this system, no one draw will be appeared ever in chess matches !

    World copyright: Constantine Koutsoukos._

    • Steve says:

      Dice? Nice idea, but a bit like Chaturanga IMO. But while we’re on the subject of randomization, maybe a card system like Knightmare Chess? (Which I wholeheartedly recommend, if you’ve not played it)

      — Steve

  • shanmugavel says:

    We should capture the people in time.If you see the time difference between anand and gelfand its huge.If opponent has 30min down than the player,then he loses.This kind of rule required.

    We should make 45 moves as mandatory before saying it is a draw

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