Amid mounting tension, Viswanathan Anand’s defensive skills came to the fore and foiled 24-year-old Russian Sergey Karjakin’s desperate bid for victory. After six hours, the eventual draw gave Anand the title with a round to spare in the World Candidates chess tournament at Khanty Mansisyk, Russia, on Saturday.

The 91-move draw with black pieces took Anand’s tally to eight points from 13 rounds and put him 1.5 points clear of a five-man pack in the second spot.

After the longest game of the competition, a “too tired” but pleased Anand said: “I was pleasantly surprised how I played. Before the tournament, I did not know what to expect. But it went ridiculously well. To win this tournament is incredibly important. It’s a very, very strong field. Very happy with my results, obviously. Today was close, one day when I was shaky, and perhaps, under the circumstances, I should not whinge too much.”

The unbeatable lead confirmed Anand’s claim to be the challenger to Magnus Carlsen in the World title match in November. Last year, Carlsen had dethroned Anand in Chennai.

Major factor

A major factor that settled the title in the penultimate round was the shock defeat of second-placed top seed Levon Aronian. The pre-event favourite and World No. 2 lost to the lowest rated player in the field, Russia’s Dmitry Andreikin, and that helped Anand’s cause.

Taking the lead after winning the first round against Aronian, the 44-year-old Anand never trailed.

By becoming the challenger, Anand also becomes the first player to be in the world title matches eight times and winning in all three formats — knockout, double-round robin and match-play. His effort this month has also brought him €135,000! On a day when Vladimir Kramnik avenged the loss suffered to bitter-rival Veselin Topalov, Anand and Karjakin were involved in a Queen’s Gambit battle.

As the game approached the first time control, a tactical skirmish followed when Anand won back a pawn by trading rook for a bishop and knight.

The position that followed demanded precise play from Anand and he was equal to the task. On this day, Anand’s vast experience stood out and provided another example of why the chess world respects his endgame skills.

The results: 13th round: Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 6.5) drew with Viswanathan Anand (8); Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 6.5) bt Levon Aronian (Arm, 6.5); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 6.5) bt Veselin Topalov (Bul, 5.5); Peter Svidler (Rus, 6) drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 6.5).

Final round pairings: Anand-Svidler; Aronian-Karjakin; Mamedyarov-Kramnik; Topalov-Andreikin.

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