World Champion Viswanathan Anand was held to a draw by Vugar Gashimov of Azerbaijan in the fifth round of the Pearl Spring Chess tournament Nanjing, China on Sunday.
After a disastrous blunder that resulted in a loss against Etienne Bacrot of France from a seemingly drawn endgame, Anand was cautious in his game against Gashimov and repeated moves in the middle game to remain on a 50 per cent score at the half way stage of this six-players double round-robin tournament.
Magnus Carlsen of Norway continued with his excellent form to down former world champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and remained in sole lead on four points out of a possible five.
Giving Carlsen a run for his money is Bacrot who outclassed Wang Yue of China and took his tally to a very impressive 3.5 points. It may be recalled that Bacrot started off with a loss in the tournament against Carlsen but since then, the Frenchman has regained his composure to score three victories in the next four games.
With five rounds still to come, Anand is on the third spot on 2.5 points while Gashimov is now sole fourth with two points to his credit. Topalov and Wang Yue share the last spot currently on 1.5 points each in the Euros 2,50,000 prize money tournament.
It was more of a 'settling back' game for Anand who could do little with his white pieces against Gashimov. The Azerbaijani employed the same fianchetto variation in the Slav defense that Wang Yue had earlier used successfully to draw against Anand and got an easy draw in the end.
In a symmetrical pawn structure out of the opening a pair of Knights changed hands on move 13 and Anand tried to put some optical pressure on the queen side by advancing his pawn.
Gashimov was quite up to the task in co-ordinating his forces and Anand decided against any risk and repeated moves to agree for a draw. The game lasted just 25 moves.
Carlsen was again on a mission as he crushed Topalov in the middle game after opting for an off-beat Ruy Lopez. With his growing skills in understanding middle game positions, Carlsen proved much superior than Topalov once he found a king side attack rolling with the help of all his pieces.
It was a case of divided forces for Topalov as all his pieces were not adequately placed to carry out the best defence and in the end the Bulgarian fell prey to tactics resulting in loss of a piece. Carlsen won in just 32 moves.
Wang Yue faced the Queen's Indian defence from Bacrot who played black and could not solve his problems in the middle game after the trading of queens. Bacrot handled the intricacies in spectacular fashion and first permanently dented white's pawn structure and later won a piece to force matters. Wang Yue called it a day after 43 moves.