Moscow: Defending champion Viswanathan Anand will have to withstand pressure from challenger Boris Gelfand in the penultimate game if the Indian ace has to remain within striking range of winning his fourth straight world championship title.
After the seventh round won by Gelfand and a great performance by Anand in the eighth game, everyone had believed that the championship is now tantalizingly poised in favour of the reigning champion.
Gelfand, however, with his copy-book accuracy has falsified such claims and if anything, the match is evenly poised with just two games to go under normal time control.
Should the trend continue, the match will be eventually decided in tiebreak games of shorter duration, something that last happened in 2006 when Russian Vladimir Kramnik proved superior to Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria.
With the scores tied 5-5 after game ten, not many are giving Anand preference to win in the stipulated 12 games. At the same time, there are not many in any doubt about the possibility of an Indian win should the game stretch to the tiebreak stage.
This is of course borne out of Anand`s immaculate performance in the faster version of the game over past two decades.
The Israeli should know better as his last victory over Anand before this match came in a rapid game a few years back while in normal games Gelfand was able to end a 19-year itch after winning the seventh game here.
That said, Anand remains favourite but the 11th game will be crucial when the Indian will play his last black.
Gelfand was seen pressing for a win in the ninth game and Anand salvaged only thanks to a remarkably constructed fortress.
In his own words, Anand stood worse but the sparkle in his eyes suggested that he was happy to find the fortress that kept Gelfand at bay.
The thing in Anand's favour is that he has been in this position before. In the last world championship, the Indian had won against Topalov in the last game and that too with black pieces.
For Gelfand it's a completely new situation but he has put up a brave front thus far.
The match is now down to the wire and the nerves will play a major role.
According to Russian champion Peter Svidler 'the match is now in a seriously nervous territory', one bad move can lose the world title from here.
Gelfand will be hoping to push Anand in the next game and will hope to save the last game. Anand won't mind a tiebreaker if it comes to that but he is not thinking about that currently.
"Let's not forget we have two more games to play," said Anand after the eighth game. "I am just playing every day and seeing what turns up, deciding strategy according to the position on the board."