LAS VEGAS (AP) – Alexander Khalifman overwhelmed Vladimir Hakopian in Thursday’s fourth game of the World Chess Championship at Caesars Palace. He regained a one-game lead in the best-of-six finals match.
The win for Khalifman–33–of Russia–helped him rebound from a tough loss in the previous game.
Needing only one point in the remaining two games–he is now a strong favorite to claim the title and $660,000. The loser will take home $396,000. Prizes for the 100 participants will total $3 million.
If the score is tied after six games–tie-breaker matches Sunday will determine the new champion.
Regardless of the outcome here–one tradition will endure: since World War II no one from outside the former Soviet Union has played a game as World Champion.
Each finalist scored six victories to qualify for this match.
Hakopian–27–of Armenia was undefeated while eliminating the highly seeded Michael Adams of England and Russia’s Evgeny Bareev.
Thursday’s game followed a known path through 16 moves–but Khalifman was able to gain what he called a "comfortable advantage" shortly thereafter.
By the time 40 moves and four hours were completed–the Russian had won a pawn. Most grandmasters believed he also had a winning position.
Hakopian defended well and managed to reach a complicated position where many experts thought he could manage the draw.
Khalifman–however–played confidently–countering all of the Armenians tricks to force the win after six hours and 61 moves.