Defending champion Viswanathan Anand was on Monday stretched to the tie-breaker of the World Chess Championship by his Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand following a draw in the 12th and final game here.
The tenth draw in the 12-game match ensured that the Israeli stays in the match with honours even and now it will be a high-voltage drama in the rapid games to be played at the State Tretyakov Gallery on Wednesday.
Anand, with his reputation of being one of the best rapid players ever, still holds an advantage but things have not exactly materialised the way he might have wanted in this match.
Anand, who has inspired the younger generation in India to take to the game for the last 13 years as brand ambassador for IT company NIIT, started as an overwhelming favourite in the match. But the Indian Grandmaster could only force one victory in 12 games and lost one. This is indication enough that the first round has been won by the Israeli.
In the rapid chess, Anand will have to score 2.5 points in the four games scheduled on Wednesday. There will be 25 minutes to each player in this contest with a 10-second addition after every move is played. If the scores are still tied after these four games, there will be two more games with blitz chess rules. Should the tie persist, there are five such blitz matches to be played.
If the deadlock still continues, there will be an Armageddon game with five minutes to white and four to black and black wins the title in case of a draw also.
The 12th game had anxious moments at the start. Anand showed better preparation as white this time in the Rossolimo Sicilian that he had also employed in the 10 game of the match. Gelfand responded with a new move on his sixth turn but Anand had it worked out at home as he uncorked a pawn sacrifice early to lay the foundation for a strong attack.
Gelfand typically spent a lot of time after the pawn grab and found a brilliant idea almost immediately to come up with a double pawn sacrifice himself.
Anand won the pawn but the queens got traded in the process and white's initiative evaporated in quick time.
Gelfand had the Bishop pair to compensate for his material deficit and even as Anand tried to build on, there was little hope in the position. The world champion proposed the draw after his 22nd move and Gelfand had no reason to continue.
Anand agreed in the post match chat that this has been a very tough match. When asked about short draws, he said, "The match has been very tough and intense, there is a lot of background theoretical work which is invisible. Almost all the games have been hard fought, we only drew when at least it is obvious to us that we are going nowhere."
The match now enters the most crucial stage. Anand has never been stretched to the tie-break stage matches. The last time tie-breaker happened was in 2006 when Russian Vladimir Kramnik prevailed over Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.
Anand's last tie-breaker in a World Championship final was in 1998, when he lost to Anatoly Karpov of Russia.