Bilbao: Defending champion Viswanathan Anand started his campaign with a draw against Dutchman Anish Giri in the first round of Bilbao Masters Final chess tournament here.
Anand enjoyed the better prospects for quite some time in a rather off-beat position resulting from a Ruy Lopez but Giri was up to the task in defending, although the Dutchman conceded in the post game chat that he was much worse.
In the other game of the four-player double round-robin tournament, American Wesley So defeated Liren Ding of China to emerge as the early leader in the six-round tournament.
The soccer-like scoring system gave Wesley three points for his first victory, while Anand and Giri got a point each for drawing their game. Ding is yet to open his account.
Anand's choice of opening surprised Giri a little and the latter felt the pressure in the early middle game itself.
Anand improved his position by timely blocking the centre and launching a king side offense which might have meant a full point on another day. Giri, to his credit, defended well in a position that looked menacingly better for the Indian ace. The middle game saw some minor pieces changing hands and although Anand remained better, Giri was able to build a fortress allowing nothing. The peace was signed after 39 moves.
Wesley So played a highly enterprising game to outwit Ding out of a King's Indian defense. The Classical setup by the Filipino-turned-American was met with a direct assault on the king but the attack never materialise.
With precise play, Wesley was able to penetrate through the queen side and parted with his queen for three minor pieces. While complications remained, Ding could never find a way out.
Slowly but surely, Wesley pushed his passed pawn on the king side to maintain the pressure and his three pieces aided the marching terminator in perfect fashion. The game lasted 60 moves.
Anand next plays with his second white in the tournament against Liren Ding.
The key to this tournament will definitely depend on the number of wins and Anand will be looking forward to opening his winning account in the next round. Giri will play with white against Wesley So, who looks in fine form given the first round effort. The Dutchman, seeded second here behind Anand, is likely to go all out for a win too.
Results round 1: V Anand (Ind) drew with Anish Giri (Ned); Wesley So (USA) beat Liren Ding (Chn).