Viswanathan Anand played out a comfortable, early draw against Sergey Karjakin to ensure he stays in the lead and watched on as the chasing pack played out significant round six games at the Candidates tournament in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia. Of the three players who were joint-second at the start of the round, it was only Levon Aronian who managed to stay in touch with a draw, while Vladimir Kramnik and Peter Svidler fell behind with losses.
Going into the second rest day, the race for candidature has narrowed Anand in the lead and Aronian half a point behind. A full point behind Anand are Kramnik, Topalov, Svidler and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov in third place. Eight rounds remain to be played, though, and with the players facing each other again in the reverse fixtures, there is enough time for the lead to change hands a few more times.
Anand’s game against Karjakin held interest only in the latter stages, with the first 21 moves, quite incredibly, staying true to theory in the notoriously drawish Berlin Defence variation of the Ruy Lopez. It was an interesting choice by Karjakin, who played black, for the Berlin was extensively used by Magnus Carlsen in the World Championship match a few months back and the Indian was bound to have come up with a few new ideas over the course of the final. In his favour, Karjakin has played the opening, and even the position that evolved out of it on Wednesday, with both white and black.
Anand finally surprised (mildly) Karjakin, deviating from games already played in this line on the 21st move. Still, Anand could not really formulate a plan to breakthrough, as Karjakin built a fortress on his king’s side, not allowing Anand’s rook, bishop or pawns much play. The draw was signed after 33 moves, by which time Anand had a pleasant position; it was just that the win proved elusive.
By the time the dust settled in round six, it was just Aronian who was hanging on, with a draw against bottom-placed Dmitry Andreikin. Aronian obtained an edge out of the Reti Opening and though Andreikin seemed to be coping reasonably well, complications in the middle game and poor time management saw Aronian breakthrough. By the time Andreikin scrambled past 40 moves to receive additional time on his clock, Aronian’s ‘b’ pawn had cantered down the board to give the Armenian a winning advantage. However, Aronian’s inaccuracies in the rook and pawn endgame saw Andreikin get away with a draw.
Kramnik had enjoyed a good tournament until Wednesday, finding a brilliant defence to hold out against Svidler after coming up with a convincing win against Karjakin in round two. Still, his round six game came at the back of a five-and-a-half hour draw against Aronian and Topalov kept the pressure continued…