Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand started his campaign at the Bilbao Final Masters with a crushing win over former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine.
Playing his last tournament ahead of the World Championship re-match against Magnus Carlsen in November, Anand showed that he was in top form and outclassed Ponomariov in all departments of the game.
The four players double round robin tournament saw the other game between Levon Aronian of Armenia and Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain ending in a draw which also made Anand the early leader in the tournament.
The Indian ace got three points for his win in the Soccer-like scoring system in place here that gives three points for a win and one for a draw. Pons and Aronian share the second spot on one point while Ponomariov is at the bottom now.
Anand played the white side of a King’s Indian defense and his unique approach to the opening left Ponomariov at sea pretty early in the middle game. The Ukrainian struggled to find the right defence and counter-play while Anand controlled the board with some deft manoeuvres.
Anand decided to keep his king in the centre and opened the King side for his advantage. When the Indian ace eventually castled on his 19th move, Ponomariov was already staring at a huge challenge to find his way back in the game.
The Ukrainian sacrificed a pawn to look for counter-play but Anand was in remorseless mood as he not only digested the extra material but also exchanged pieces at regular intervals to reach a winning queen and minor piece endgame. Ponomariov fought on till move 61, but the fate of the game was decided much earlier.
In the other game of the day, Levon Aronian created complexities but Vallejo Pons remained on his guard with his white pieces. For the record, it was Nimzo Indian wherein Aronian went for an early king side expansion with his pawns and Vallejo was left to tackle the task of equalising.
The Spaniard, however, was never in any serious troubles as the pieces changed hands at regular intervals and a rook and pawns endgame was reached in quick time.
Aronian finally signed peace after 46 moves when he found no way to continue in a theoretically drawn ending.
Results round 1: V Anand (Ind) beat Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr); Francisco Vallejo Pons (Esp) drew with Levon Aronian (Arm).