St Petersburg (Russia): World Champion Viswanathan Anand got off to a good start in the second leg of Alekhine Memorial Chess Tournament by holding Vladimir Kramnik for an easy draw in the sixth round that concluded here.
Ending the Paris leg on a high with a victory against Ding Liren of China, Anand has every reason to cheer with the result against Kramnik as in the remaining three rounds the Indian ace will get two white games.
Much unlike the Paris half, there was not as much excitement and for the first time in the tournament all the five games ended in draws leaving the standings unchanged.
With three rounds to come, Maxime Vachier-Lagraev of France remained at the helm with four points, followed by Boris Gelfand of Israel, Levon Aronian of Armenia, Laurent Fressinet of France and Michael Adams of England, who all have 3.5 points apiece.
Anand is sole sixth with three points and can take heart from the fact that the distance between him and the players ahead of him is not too much.
Also with white games slated against Fressinet and Peter Svidler of Russia, the Indian ace has every reason to be optimistic about his chances in the tournament.
Ding Liren and the Russian duo of Kramnik and Nikita Vituigov share the seventh spot on 2.5 points each, a full point clear of Svidler who is languishing at the bottom of the standings.
In the sixth round Vachier-Lagraev could not break the defense of Gelfand and had to sign peace. Aronian too played out a draw against Adams, while Fressinet could not break the ice against Vituigov and Ding Liren could not show his magic against Svidler.
Anand was aggressive with black against Kramnik and went for the Semi Slav, Russian system. Kramnik got nothing out of the opening and his attempts at complications resulted in winning the queen for a rook and minor piece.
However, Anand`s position remained solid all through the game and it was clear that even with the queen it was almost impossible to look for a breakthrough. Kramnik could do nothing better than finding a perpetual check by sacrificing his last remaining minor piece and the game ended in a draw after 39 moves.
The highlight of the day was Aronian`s escape with white against Adams. The Armenian was in all sorts of troubles after sacrificing a piece but came up with a Houdini act by sacrificing his rook for a knight when his position was considered as lost by most of the pundits.
Adams had to give his extra rook back to force a pawn plus rook endgame that was insufficient for a win.
Results round 6: Vladimir Kramnik (RUS, 2.5) drew with V Anand (IND, 3); Maxime Vachier-Lagraev (FRA, 4) drew with Boris Gelfand (ISR, 3.5); Ding Liren (CCH, 2.5) drew with Peter Svidler (RUS, 1.5); Levon Aronian (ARM, 3.5) drew with Michael Adams (ENG, 3.5); Laurent Fressinet (FRA, 3.5) drew with Nikita Vituigov (RUS, 2.5).
I`ve always said the person who wins the world championship this year is the person who does the best job on the circuit, but that does not seem the way it is at the moment.