Top seed Levon Aronian cashed in on an over-optimistic Sergey Karjakin to join Viswanathan Anand in the lead at the halfway stage of the World Candidates chess tournament at Khanty Mansisyk, Russia, on Friday.

In the only drawn game of an eventful seventh round, Anand faced Russia’s Peter Svidler for 38 moves of a Ruy Lopez Berlin variation. It appeared promising for Anand until the Indian traded his queen for a rook and bishop. Eventually, Anand was happy to accept Svidler’s draw offer.

Aronian, too, was involved in a Ruy Lopez Berlin against Karjakin. The position hung in the balance until Aronian exchanged his rook for two minor pieces. Aronian gained a couple of pawns that eventually proved decisive. However, Karjakin was left to rue the missed chances of forcing a possible draw.

In the most dramatic game of the day, Vladimir Kramnik escaped to victory against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov who enjoyed the upper hand for the better part of their 54-move battle in Queen’s Gambit Declined.

Fortuitous win

Playing black, Mamedyarov looked good to inflict a second straight defeat of the week on Kramnik before faltering with his 48th turn, when he captured his rival’s rook and allowed the Russian to ‘queen’ a pawn. This fortuitous victory brought Kramnik within half a point of the leaders.

Topalov, the conqueror of Kramnik in the previous round, suffered his second loss in three rounds while running into Dmitry Andreikin. The 24-year-old Russian seized the opportunity in this Queen’s Gambit battle after the 15th move. A series of sub-optimal moves from Topalov hastened the end.

Andreikin threatened to cause irreparable damage with his active piece-play and Topalov gave up on the 27th move.

The results (seventh round): Peter Svidler (Rus, 3.5) drew with Viswanathan Anand (4.5); Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 2.5) lost to Levon Aronian (Arm, 4.5); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 4) bt Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 3); Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 3) bt Veselin Topalov (Bul, 3).

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

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