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Minor slip between cup and lip

Anand lets bottom-ranked Andreikin salvage draw in round 12, but is still in pole position to win Candidates.

Viswanathan Anand let his play slip for the first time in the tournament, but his error in the 12th round only spoiled things a little — though he missed a clear win against Dmitry Andreikin, Anand was so far ahead in the game that he could stumble and still come away with the draw. Elsewhere, second-placed Levon Aronian almost threw away what little chances he had of winning the tournament against Vladimir Kramnik, but clung on for a draw. The results of round 12 leave Anand with only a point to get from two rounds for the title, even assuming Aronian wins both his games.

Anand’s comments in the post-match conference and players’ reactions on twitter seemed to suggest that the Indian may not exactly have blundered into a draw from a won position. Anand had accumulated a commanding lead going into the last few games and anything but a defeat on Thursday would have seen him retain his tournament advantage. There is a good chance that he might actually have decided to give away the win for a draw in an advantageous, but double-edged and complex middle game on Thursday.

It is also significant that both players had as little as five-six minutes on their clocks approaching the 40-minute time control, a few moves before the draw was agreed. Perhaps Anand just wanted to neutralise the position and avoid a bad wobble, with the tournament win so close by, while the draw was surely a positive result.

Anand continues to stay in control of the Candidates tournament, where his nearest rival, Aronian, is effectively a point and a half away with just two games to spare. While a win playing white against Andreikin, the lowest ranked player in the fray, on Thursday would more or less have settled his candidature to face Magnus Carlsen, Anand nevertheless will not lose much sleep over the eventual result.\

Anand, the only undefeated player in the tournament so far, chose the king pawn opening with white and Andreikin replied with the Caro-Kann Defence. The Defence was tried by Magnus Carlsen as black against Anand in the Championship match last year so it is something the Indian would have looked into; Anand has also played both sides of the opening in the early part of his career. The objective with black in choosing the opening is to trade down to an endgame and try to press some advantage out of the better pawn structure.

Equal footing 

The game, however, was far more active than the opening’s reputation allowed for, with Anand and Andreikin castling on opposite sides. Out of the opening, the position was adjudjed by engines to be dynamically equal, but things tilted in Anand’s favour when Andreikin allowed white’s pawns to break through the center in return for black’s attack on his king. Anand’s d pawn was on the seventh rank while he also threatening to launch a mating attack on Andreikin’s king. It looked like Anand’s advantages were enough to either win a huge amount of material or even checkmate Andreikin but black had two pawns on a3 and b3 with the white king hemmed in dangerously at b1. With neither king really safe and time running out on both clocks, Anand was up a full piece but thought it prudent to cash out with the draw rather than misplay his way to a loss.

Anand’s closest competitor Aronian, who, at the start of the round, was a point away but worse off on tie-break against the Indian, needed to start rolling out the wins to stay in contention. That was not to be, as Aronian barely got away with the draw against Vladimir Kramnik, whose own tournament form has ranged from patchy to disastrous. In the Queen’s Gambit Declined, Kramnik obtained an advantage with black pieces that was close to winning but missed a couple of knight maneuvers in the middle game.

Peace move

The mistakes, however, left the position even and the players signed the draw right after the 30th move — players aren’t allowed to sign peace sooner, unless it arrives via three-fold repetition.

In the only decisive game of the round, Veselin Topalov beat Peter Svidler’s Sicilian Defence. Both players are more or less out of contention and despite Topalov’s win and Svidler’s early success in the tournament, they are stuck at the bottom with two rounds to go.

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov employed the 4. f3 Nimzo Indian once more, this time against Sergey Karjakin, but it was the Russian who emerged with a minor edge. Karjakin could not make anything out of the advantage and agreed to a draw, in what was the longest game of the round.

Round 12 results: Anand drew with Andreikin, Topalov beatt Svidler, Aronian drew with Kramnik, Mamedyarov drew with Karjakin.]

Standings after round 12: 1. Anand (7.5 pts), 2. Aronian (6.5), 3-4. Mamedyarov, Karjakin (6), 5-8. Kramnik, Andreikin, Topalov, Svidler (5.5).

Friday is a rest day.

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