Boris Gelfand
(June 24, 1968)
Rating Elo –
Boris was born in Minsk in a family with a background typical for Soviet intelligentsia. He learnt to play chess at the age of four and at six he began to attend chess classes for children. His first tutor was his father who spent time together with his son solving the puzzles from the book about chess, Journey to the Chess Kingdom. Boris very soon distinguished himself from among his peers by his brilliant tactical talent and his interest for endgames.

Boris Gelfand received classical chess training under the tuition of the prominent Belarusian teacher and theoretician Albert Kapengut. Between 1980 and 1983 Boris attended the school led by Tigran Petrosian, the nine-time Olympic chess gold medalist.

Gelfand’s first big victory was the winning of the Sokolsky Memorial in 1983 when he was only 15 (5 years earlier that same tournament marked the beginning of Garry Kasparov’s rise to prominence as well). He became the Champion of Belarus in 1984 and 1985, the USSR Junior Champion in 1985, the European Junior Champion in U20 in 1987. In 1989 Boris made his first appearance at the USSR Championship where he won a bronze medal. This achievement made him part of the Soviet team, in which capacity he won the European Team Championships.

The Palma de Mallorca Open – the qualifying tournament of the World Grandmasters’ Association – proved to be a real milestone in Gelfand’s career: the victory earned Boris international acclaim. Boris was awarded the title of grandmaster having skipped the title of international master! In 1990 Boris became a Candidate – after winning the Manila Interzonal, he was second behind Garry Kasparov in the first championship in Linares. In the first Candidates Gelfand prevailed over Predrag Nikolic, but his claims to the chess crown were barred by Nigel Short who beat the Belarusian grandmaster in 1991 5:3.

In 1993 Gelfand again qualified for the FIDE Candidates event by winning an Interzonal in Biel. He then defeated Adams 5-3 and Vladimir Kramnik 4.5-3.5, losing, however, to Anatoly Karpov in the Candidates Final 6-3.

Throughout the 90s, Gelfand retained his position among the top 10 chess players of the world. In 1998 Boris emigrated from Belarus to Israel and became naturalized. He pursued his career with a fairly successful participation in FIDE world championship tournaments and knockout world championships, nevertheless, still remaining somewhat on the sidelines, failing for the time being to rise to the top of the rankings. But losing heart is not at all like Boris; he continued to work hard on improving his game, and as soon as 2007 a new major success came his way. He first defeated Rustam Kasimdzhanov and Gata Kamsky in Candidates matches, qualifying as practically the only challenger to Anand at the Championship tournament held in Mexico City. The result was, however, rather upsetting: in the end Gelfand tied for second with Kramnik, a point behind the world champion.

In 2009, the Israeli grandmaster won the FIDE World Cup in Khanty-Mansiysk, despite (or perhaps thanks to) being the oldest participant. The win in the World Cup enabled Gelfand to reach the final qualifying for yet another World Championship. The Candidates matches were held in Kazan in May 2011. In the quarter final Boris defeated Shakhriyar Mamedyarov by 2.5-1.5, and then in the semi final he defeated Gata Kamsky in the tiebreaker by 6:4, facing Alexander Grischuk in the final match, winning 3.5:2.5, and thus gaining the right to challenge Viswanathan Anand for the world crown, which the latter had held since 2007. The Anand - Gelfand World Chess Championship was played in Moscow in May 2012 at the Tretyakov Gallery and could be described as an extremely close competition: Boris drew the 12 games played under classical time controls, and in the rapid game tiebreaker Dame Fortune favored the world champion.

2013 was the year that brought Boris Gelfand new big wins: in the Alekhine Memorial he shared first with Aronian, and on the day before his 45th birthday he achieved an extraordinary outright win at the category 22 Tal Memorial, which placed him ahead of the reigning world champion Viswanathan Anand and the then champion-to-be Magnus Carlsen, who was a candidate at the time.

Boris is distinguished for his great love and devotion to chess, these qualities apparently not waning with years passing. He is also an extremely learned person, a conversation with whom on almost any subject would invariably be deep and enjoyable. As one of his younger seconds Maxim Rodstein puts it, Boris has been able to teach him a lot both in terms of chess and in terms of worldly wisdom. Boris likes reading, with quality Russian prose being his choice of literature. However he never watches movies; moreover, he believes this to be an unhealthy waste of time. The same goes for social networks. Boris is an avid football fan, with FC Barcelona being his favorite team. For example, right after he scored a victory in Kazan, he set off for London to attend the Barcelona v Manchester United match.