Viswanathan Anand played out a draw against Peter Svidler in the penultimate round of the Alekhine Memorial on Monday,but results elsewhere bumped him up a slot to second on the points table,and within touching distance of the title. The eighth round saw draws on four boards,but the shake up at the top was due to overnight (joint) leader Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) falling to his first defeat of the tournament.
His opponent Nikita Vitugov had opted for the Caro-Kann,a solid opening which generally results in drawish games. True to reputation,the game reached a balanced middle game and looked set for a deadlock until Vachier-Lagraves inaccuracy allowed the black queen a lot of activity in the 6th,7th and 8th ranks.
With his position worsening,Vachier-Lagrave blundered towards the end and resigned when he was on the verge of getting check-mated.
Anand could,however,not take much advantage of the result,though he was playing a woefully out of form Svidler,currently placed last in the tournament.
The Ruy Lopez never really got out of the technicalities and with neither player taking too many risks,it meandered into a drawn rook and pawns endgame. The 35-move game lasted just close to two and a half hours.
Despite the draw,Anand could have found himself in the joint lead had Vladimir Kramnik managed to convert his edge against the other overnight leader,Boris Gelfand.
Gelfand had given up a piece for two pawns and was barely holding on for long stretches,but Kramnik was unable to convert the advantage and let the game steadily slip away. After 74 moves and close to six hours of play,the draw was agreed.
In the final round,Anand will be playing the sole leader Gelfand,and though currently joint second along with three others,the Indian could still have a shot at the title if he beats manages to win.
However,against an in-form Gelfand,with whom he had played out 10 draws in 12 games during the World Championship match last year,it will be quite a task.
Results (Round eight): Viswanathan Anand (4.5) drew with Peter Svidler (2.5); Liren Ding (3) drew with Michael Adams (4.5); Laurent Fressinet (4) drew with Levon Aronian (4.5); Vladimir Kramnik (3.5) drew with Boris Gelfand (5); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (4.5) lost to Nikita Vitugov (4).
Final round pairings: Peter Svidler vs Laurent Fressinet; Boris Gelfand vs Viswanathan Anand; Michael Adams vs Vladimir Kramnik; Nikita Vitiugov vs Ding Liren; Levon Aronian vs Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.