Khanty Mansiysk (Russia): Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand today gave jitters to his fans before signing an early draw with top seed Levon Aronian of Armenia in the eighth round of Candidates chess tournament here.
The draw against Aronian was important for Anand as the Indian ace not only maintained his joint lead with the Armenian but now also has four white games to come in the last six rounds that gives him an edge over others.
Vladimir Kramnik of Russia could not get past the solid defences of a resurgent compatriot Dmitry Andreikin and had to settle for a draw and the game between Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan was also drawn after showing promise of an intense battle.
In the other game of the day, Peter Svidler was fighting hard to salvage a half point against Russian team-mate Sergey Karjakin.
With six rounds still to go, Anand and Aronian have five points apiece and they are followed by Kramnik on 4.5 points. Svidler on 3.5 has an extra ongoing game in hand compared to Topalov, Andreikin and Mamedyarov, who all inched themselves up to the same score.
Karjakin on 2.5 is on the last spot. The stakes are high in the candidates as the winner takes home 135000 Euros as prize money apart from the right to challenge Magnus Carlsen in the world championship match later this year.
It was a very unusual start to the game between Anand and Aronian. Playing white, Aronian came up with a less played manoeuvre on the third move by moving his queen while Anand threw caution to the winds with his next move that could not be found in any existing chess database.
If this was not enough, Anand sacrificed a pawn on his fourth move for sheer compensation and many in fact believed that the Indian had blundered. However, as Anand pointed out in the post-game conference, he had seen the pawn sacrifice and thought it gave sufficient compensation.
Aronian, though a pawn up, did not like his position. "I think I was worse," he conceded later.
As it happened after some routine manoeuvres, the players decided to repeat and the game was drawn in just 19 moves.
Kramnik showed aggression out of an irregular opening once again but Andreikin was up to the task in his defense. With some cold-water treatment, Andreikin even stood slightly better for a while when he captured a pawn and Kramnik had to liquidate to a level endgame at the first opportunity.
Mamedyarov played the Sicilian defense and the game took shape in a variation akin to the Dragon variation. Topalov did not get much and Mamedyarov came up with a piece sacrifice to complicate matters. Not wanting to take any undue risk, Topalov returned the material in time to reach a drawn endgame. The game lasted 32 moves.
Results round 8: Levon Aronian (Arm, 5) drew with V Anand (Ind, 5); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 4.5) drew with Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 3.5); Veselin Topalov (Bul, 3.5) drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 3.5); Peter Svidler (Rus, 3.5) playing Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 2.5).
I would like to wish Eoin Morgan and his squad all the very best against a strong Indian side.
James Whittaker, England national selector