MOSCOW (AP) – World chess champion Viswanathan Anand of India retained his title on Wednesday, defeating Israeli challenger Boris Gelfand 2.5-1.5 in a rapid tiebreaker round.
Tied at 6-6 after 12 regular games, the two played four rapid games with a shortened time limit of 25 minutes per player.
After drawing in the first one, Anand won game two and kept the lead by drawing in the final two games.
The victory won Anand $1.5 million, and Gelfand took home $1 million.
Anand had last successfully defended his title in 2010 against Bulgarian challenger Veselin Topalov.
Anand praised Gelfand for a tense match and said he felt more “relieved” than happy because he wasn’t sure of his win until the very end. “In all fairness, this match simply could have gone either way,” said the Indian.
The match was played in a room filled with about 100 people at the State Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, one of Russia’s finest museums.
Hundreds of other chess fans of all ages watched it on a large TV screen in a hall outside.
“We’re seeing so many attacks and counterattacks in the games that they give me goose bumps,” said Lev Khristoforov, 80, a long-time chess fan from Moscow. “This is very exciting.”
Gelfand, who emigrated from the former Soviet republic of Belarus to Israel in 1998, was supported throughout the match as if he were a local player.
In his post-match interview, Gelfand also thanked his Israeli supporters and said he hopes his performance will boost interest to chess in Israel, where it’s relatively unpopular compared to the former Soviet Union.
Russian tycoon and former chess player Andrei Filatov, estimated to be worth $1.3 billion by the Forbes magazine, is believed to have paid for renting the unusually lavish location for Wednesday’s championship match.
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