Israeli grandmaster Boris Gelfand will be playing for the chess world’s top prize next year in the World Chess Championship, after winning the six-game Candidates Final in Kazan, Russia, on Wednesday.

The Belarus-born Gelfand previously won the World Chess Cup in 2009 and will face 41-year-old Viswanathan Anand, the world’s top-ranked chess player and the winner of the 2010 World Chess Championship.

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Gelfand, who moved to Israel in 1998 from his hometown of Minsk, will face Anand in the 2012 competition, which will be held in April and May at an as of yet determined location. Gelfand won the opportunity after vanquishing Russian challenger Alexander Grischuk in the Candidates Final.

In his younger days, Gelfand was the junior champion of the USSR at the age of 17. The Minsk maven of chess later appeared in nine Chess Olympiads, in which he represented the Soviet Union once, Belarus twice and six Olympiads representing the blue and white. In 2010, he brought the bronze medal home to Israel.

Over the course of his career, he has won over 30 major chess tournaments.

Gelfand is part of a pool of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have made Israel a chess powerhouse following the wave of aliya from Russia and the former Soviet republics after the fall of the Eastern Bloc. The ranks of Israel’s top chess players are almost entirely made up of such immigrants, who came from countries where chess was a well-respected sport to Israel, where, in spite of their international success, they are given scant funding or recognition.


Gelfand will face a tough opponent in Anand, the former FIDE World Chess Champion from 2000 to 2002.

Anand is something of a national hero in India, where he won the Padma Vibhushan award, one of India’s most prestigious civilian awards. In 1991-92, Anand was the first recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, India’s top sporting honor, and the only one to win it for chess.

Anand was also a chess phenom in his own right in his salad days, becoming the national chess champion of India at the age of 16.

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