Full name: Boris Abramovich Gelfand
Title: Grandmaster (1989), International Master (1987)
Born: June 24, 1958
Place of birth: Minsk, Byelorussian SSR, Soviet Union
World Ranking: 69
Classical (Std): 2670
Boris Gelfand is a Soviet-born Israeli Chess Grandmaster who famously coveted second place in the 2012 World Chess Championship and was the winner of the Candidates Tournament in 2011. He is also a six-time candidate for the World Championship in 1991, 1994-1995, 2002, 2007, 2011, and 2013. His victory in the Candidates Tournament and the 2009 Chess World Cup had made him a worthy challenger for the World Chess Championship, although Gelfand lost the deciding rapid chess tiebreak.
Gelfand is well-known for winning major tournaments in Dos hermanas, Wijkaan Zee, Moscow, Linares, and Tilburg. He also competed in eleven separate Chess Olympiads and cemented his place among the top 30 FIDE players from January 1990 up to October 2017.
Due to his constant victories in international tournaments in the 90s, Boris possesses a modest reputation for his chess career, which may be why he’s often excluded from the Top 10 list. But even so, what makes Boris distinct from other players is his total focus and dedication to the sport, especially to his much-desired goal of being the World Champion.
Since he won the Interzonal qualifying tournament in 1990 ahead of the likes of Korchnoi, Anand, or Ivanchuk, he has constantly found himself nosing his way near his goal. One memorable instance was when he defeated Vladimir Kramnik in a quarter-final match, only to lose in the semi-finals against Anatoly Karpov.
Boris reached a career-high rating of 2777 later in 2013, returning to the ranks of the top 10 simultaneously. He’s also become more active as a mentor of youngsters like Daniil Dubov. He is also a writer and draws on his extensive experiences to pen down modern classics such as, Dynamic Decision Making in Chess and Positional Decision Making in Chess.
Boris Gelfand was born to Jewish parents Abram and Nella in Minsk, Belarussian SSR, on June 24, 1968. Both his parents were engineers. Gelfand learned how to play chess when his father bought him a book called, Journey to the Chess Kingdom by Beilin and Averbakh when he was five years of age.
Gelfand’s natural talent in the sport had earned him recognition from Eduard Zelkind, who became his coach from 1974 to 1979 when he was six years old. Later, he studied for two years under Tamara Golovey and for twelve years under the mentorship of International Master Albert Kapengut.
His early successes as a child consisted of him winning the 1983 Sokolsky Memorial and back-to-back Belarusian Chess Championships from 1984 to 1985. He also won the USS Championship in the Junior division, where he scored 9/11 points, coming only second to Grandmaster Yury Malashov during the Minsk International tournament in 1986.
He eventually made his first-ever appearance in FIDE’s 1987 top 100 player list, where he ranked 80th. For more information on ratings, see the step-by-step guide on how to get a FIDE rating. His string of achievements in the sport has only increased since then. After becoming the 1987 European Junior Champion and placing sixth at a Championship qualifier tournament in Sverdlovsk, his successes gave him a well-deserved spot in the top 40 chess players in the world.
After his first appearance in the 1989 USSR Championship in Odesa, Gelfand shared second place with the likes of Verslav Eingorn. Alexander Beliavsky and Dolmatov. Immediately after this, he also reigned victorious from the Palma de Mallorca Open with 7/9 points, eventually earning the Grandmaster title in the same year.
Since then, he received invitations to prestigious tournaments in 1990, placing behind Garry Kasparov and sharing third and first place with Vassily Ivanchuk in the Tilburg and Manila Interzonal tournaments. He also managed to beat Predrag Nikolic at the 1991 Candidates Matches but was, however, beaten in the subsequent round at 3-5 by Nigel Short. Despite this, Gelfand still coveted victory as he placed first at Belgrade and also shared the second spot with Kasparov at Reggio Emilia with only a half-point behind Viswanathan Anand.
His solid win at second place in 1993 at Munich preceded his most memorable tournament win, dominating the Biel Interzonal tournament with a 9/13 score. This earned him a spot in the 1994 Candidates Matches. Gelfand proceeded to beat Adams with a score of 5-3 during the quarter-finals, and then Vladimir Kramnik in the semi-finals. Unfortunately, he eventually lost to Anatoly Karpov in the final round, 6-3.
Despite initially struggling amid his career due to the lack of a functional World Championship system with few opportunities, Gelfand still went on to make a name for himself as he obtained an incredible feat of heroic proportions. From winning the 2009 World Cup, he also made respectable performances during the 2013 London Candidates Tournament, finishing second at the Alekhine Memorial. He also followed this up by scoring probably one of the best game results of his entire career at the Tal Memorial, only half a point ahead of Magnus Carlsen in a field of equally strong opponents.
Did you enjoy reading about Boris Gelfand? If you did, you might be interesting in reading other player profiles such as Hikaru Nakamura, Emanuel Lasker, and Paul Morphy.