Exceeding pre-event expectations, Viswanathan Anand has made all the right moves so far in the World Candidates chess tournament at Khanty Mansisyk, Russia.

The oldest among eight players, the 44-year-old goes into Friday’s seventh round as the only unbeaten player in the competition. He has led the field all the way and looks ahead to maintaining his impressive head-to-head record against Peter Svidler. An unbeaten Anand has beaten Svilder thrice in seven games since October 2007.

So far, apart from Anand and Svidler, two other players — top seed Levon Aronian and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov — have won two games. However, they surrendered to Anand.

Another factor that has kept Anand’s lead intact is the defeats suffered by strong contenders, former World champions Vladimir Kramnik and Veselin Topalov.

With only a point separating six players, the next three rounds promise intense battles.

An inconsistent Svidler, with two wins and two losses, can be expected to come hard at Anand. Aronian will be wary of Sergey Karjakin’s ability with white.

Kramnik cannot afford to let Mamedyarov gain further momentum. Topalov, riding on a highly-satisfying victory over bitter-rival Kramnik, will be aggressive even with black against Andreikin.

Out of the 10 decisive results spread over 24 games, Anand is the only player to have won with black. As the man in form, he appears well prepared.

Anand has maintained that he was taking it one game at a time and not thinking too far ahead. Playing quite close to his best, the fourth seed has clearly emerged as a serious contender for the title as the competition heads to the halfway stage.

He plays black against Svidler and Aronian ahead of facing Topalov with white before the next rest day. Therefore, remaining unscathed will be Anand’s priority.

Seventh round pairings: Peter Svidler (Rus, 3) v Viswanathan Anand (4); Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 2.5) v Levon Aronian (Arm, 3.5); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 3) v Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 3); Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 2) v Veselin Topalov (Bul, 3).

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