(1968 - )
Jews in Sports: Table of Contents | Chessmasters | Sports in Israel
Boris Gelfand is a Jewish Belorussian-born Israeli chess grandmaster who placed second in the 2012 World Chess Championship.
Gelfand (born June 24, 1968) was born in the Belorussian capital of Minsk to Jewish parents who were both engineers. At the age of four, Boris remembers that his father presented him with a book about chess which piqued his interest in the sport which would define his life.
From 1980 to 1983, Gelfand attended the Arshak Petrosian School, where he met the former world champion in person and received advice that impacted on his life as a chess player: “I remember Petrosian saying to me that I shouldn’t make a single move without having an idea: ‘Even when you’re playing blitz, always think!’"
In 1985, Gelfand became the Junior Chess Champion of the Soviet Union and two years later he was the European Junior Champion. In 1988 he tied for first in the World Junior Championship, the title however went to his competitor Joël Lautier. The next year Gelfand earned the Chess Grandmaster title.
In 2005, Gelfand finished in the top 10 of the FIDE World Cup, qualifying to participate in the 2007 World Chess Championship. Though he was considered a large underdog at the tournament, he surprised most observers by finishing joint second with reigning world champion Vladimir Kramnik.
After winning the 2009 Chess World Cup, Gelfand qualified for the 2012 World Chess Championship Candidates tournamane twhich took place in May 2011 in Russia. At this tournament, which would determine who would play for the 2012 World Championship, Gelfand beat Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in the quarterfinals before taking down Gata Kamsky in the semifinals and Alexander Grischuk in the finals to earn a place against Viswanathan Anand to try and claim the world title.
The match with Anand was level at 6 points each after its conclusion, but Anand won the rapid playoff 2.5-1.5 to maintain the title. Despite Gelfand's second place finish, the country of Israel was extremely elated at his effort. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: "You have recorded a tremendous achievement ... You have by your personal example aroused a great deal of mass interest in the game of chess. I congratulate you on both your personal achievement and a national achievement."
He has won about 30 tournaments in his professional career, including tournaments at Wijk aan Zee (in 1992 and 1994) and first places in Biel (1993), Dos Hermanas (1994), Belgrade (1995), Tilburg (1996), Malmö (1999), and Pamplona (2004).