Continuing with his fine return to form, Viswnathan Anand punished Azerbaijan’s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in 31 moves to stay ahead of the field after three rounds of the World Candidates chess tournament at Khanty Mansiysk, Russia, on Saturday.

Anand, with 2.5 points, enjoys a half-point lead over Russians Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler, the overnight leaders whose 51-move draw came after an intense battle that ended with repetition of moves. In fact, the other two boards, too, ended in a similar manner.

Playing black, Anand denied any advantage to Mamedyarov out of the opening phase of Slav Defence. Mamedyarov surprisingly allowed Anand to settle down quickly.

As part of the usual development of pieces, Anand planted a dark-squared bishop on the queen-side to control more space.

Mamedyarov underestimated the threat and the exchange of the other bishop left his king weak. Anand’s queen and knight swung into action from the king’s side to leave Mamedyarov’s position beyond redemption.

“I got my queen out, I was also surprised how unpleasant it became for white. I did not see any defence,” said Anand. This was Mamedyarov’s second straight loss.

After Sunday’s rest day, Anand plays Kramnik in the fourth round.

Kramnik, was in a spot of bother against Svidler around the first time control. But thereafter, Kranmik forced a draw by repeating the moves.

The other two games did not last until the first time-control. Levon Aronian repeated moves to hold ‘birthday-boy’ Veselin Topalov in 35 moves.

The battle between two 24-year-olds, Dmitry Andreikin and Sergey Karjakin ended following perpetual checks in 30 moves.

The results:

Third round: Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 0.5) lost to Viswanathan Anand (2.5); Peter Svidler (Rus, 2) drew with Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 2); Veselin Topalov (Bul, 1.5) drew with Levon Aronian (Arm, 1.5); Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 1) drew with Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 1).

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