We're still waiting for one player or the other to draw first blood in the 2012 World Chess Championship, but we're getting closer! World Champion Viswanathan Anand certainly had the upper hand today against Boris Gelfand, and may have been winning - I'm still trying to determine this. What is clear is that he was close, and Gelfand had to sweat until very near the end.
Anand met Gelfand's Gruenfeld - or at least, the threat of a Gruenfeld - with 3.f3, and after 3...d5 4.cxd5 Nxd5 5.e4 Nb6 6.Nc3 Bg7 7.Be3 0-0 8.Qd2 Gelfand chose 8...e5. It's a major move, but it's less common than 8...Nc6 and might have come as a slight surprise to Anand. From there the players followed the main lines at every juncture through Black's 15th move, and then White played the rare 16.Ka1. White's score with the more usual 16.d6 was a 6-0 whitewash, but without any recent games featuring elite pairings.
Anand's move also kept the burden on Black. Gelfand sacrificed a pawn for play, but it wasn't clear that his activity was enough to make up for the dangerous, extra, passed pawn on d6. White's last chance to perhaps get (or more precisely, keep) something substantial came on move 34. 34.d7 looked dangerous, and while there are various improvements for both sides in the line Gelfand offered at the post-game presser, I'm not yet sure that Black can survive. At a minimum, it was a lot more dangerous for Black than the move in the game, which was 34.Rc7. After 34...Re8 Anand played 35.Rh1, allowing Gelfand to force perpetual, so the draw was agreed a couple of moves later.
For subscribers (non-subscribers can still sign up), the analysis and video will be sent later tonight. Stay tuned!