Seldom has an elite chess tournament seen the top three seeds lose in a single round. Though Sunday turned to be an off-day for the big names, the proceedings favoured Viswanathan Anand in more ways than one.
A meticulously-executed victory over Veselin Topalov came on a day when the favourite Levon Aronian and second seed Vladimir Kramnik lost in the ninth round of the World Candidates chess tournament at Khanty Mansisyk, Russia, on Sunday.
The dramatic sequence of results put Anand (six points) one point ahead of joint-overnight leader Aronian. With five rounds remaining, Anand has re-remerged as the lone leader. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov tamed Aronian and SergeyKarjakin outplayed Vladimir Kramnik to avenge the defeats suffered in the second round.
Anand overcame a slow start to punish Topalov for a faulty plan beginning from the 32nd move. Facing Sicilian Najdorf, Anand took time to settle down. Further simplification of the position did not brighten his Anand’s prospects and a draw looked the most likely result. But Topalov's decision to push a kingside pawn gave Anand an opportunity to seize control. Gradually, Anand consolidated his position, gained a crucial pawn and his active queen effectively ended Topalov's resistance in 52 moves.
“It was a good day, definitely,” said Anand.
In a very sharp game, Mamedyarov and Aronian avoided drawing possibilities. Aronian looked better off in this Nimzo-Indian battle but Mamedyarov slowly gained ground and won a couple of pawns that proved decisive in 44 moves.
Kramnik faltered on the seventh move and Karjakin collected queen-side pawns on the 11th and 15th move to gain decisive advantage. Karjakin eventually won the rook-pawn ending in 64 moves.
The results: Ninth round: Viswanathan Anand (6) bt Veselin Topalov (Bul, 3.5); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 4.5) bt Levon Aronian (Arm, 5); Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 4.5) bt Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 4.5); Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 4) drew with Peter Svidler (Rus, 4).