World Champion Viswanathan Anand could not break the ice for the third day running and drew with Fabiano Caruana of Italy in the third round of fifth Final Chess Masters in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
Anand, in fact, had to defend for a long time against the youngest participant here and it was only after a stubborn defence that the Indian ace could force a draw.
Draws were the order of the day as Levon Aronian of Armenia did not find a way to break through the defences of Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain while Norwegian World No 1 Magnus Carlsen was held to a draw by Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine.
As a result, the lead positions remained unchanged and Caruana continued to top the table with seven points with a soccer-like scoring system that is being followed.
Aronian, with five points, comes second with seven rounds still to come while Carlsen is a point behind. Anand, with three points earned from three draws, is in fourth spot, a point ahead of Vallejo Pons while Karjakin remains at the bottom of the table with just one draw so far.
Anand did not get any chances against Caruana. The Italian's success in this tournament can be easily attributed to some excellent planning in the opening and pre-game preparation.
The only time Caruana was seemingly in trouble was in round one against Carlsen.
Going for the Sokolsky variation against the Sicilian and avoiding any serious opening discussion, white turned out to be a good strategy against Anand as Caruana maintained a slightly better position going in to the middle game.
The Italian knocked down a pawn, showing immaculate technique and Anand was left to defend a worse position for a long time.
However, as the game was always heading of a draw, Anand's defensive skills were tested but the world champion was never in serious danger.
On move 56 Caruana traded the last set of minor pieces to reach a rook and pawns endgame wherein he left Anand to find the easiest way to top a draw. The game lasted 70 moves.
Levon Aronian's attempt to go for extreme complications backfired against Vallejo Pons as the latter came up with some fine counter-play to keep the balance out of a queen pawn opening.
Aronian opted not to castle and opened both wings to get a double edged position early in the middle game but a timely penetration of rook on the seventh rank forced the Armenian on the backfoot and peace was signed after a repetition of moves.
Magnus Carlsen was up against a Queen's Indian defense by Karjakin and got the better prospects out of the opening.
Given Karjakin's poor form, many expected Carlsen to score his second victory in a row but Karjakin turned out to be a different player and put up stiff resistance.
The pieces changed hands at regular intervals and Carlsen could only get an optically better minor piece endgame that was drawn in 67 moves.
The first leg of the Final Masters here seems to be going Caruana's way but the Italian will have to be a little cautious going in to the rest day.
After two more rounds, the attention will shift to Bilbao in Spain where the final half of the super-tournament will be played.
Results round 3: Fabiano Caruana (Ita, 7) drew with V Anand (Ind, 3); Levon Aronian (Arm, 5) drew with Francisco Vallejo Pons (Esp, 2); Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 4) drew with Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 1).
The moves: Fabiano Caruana V Anand 1. e4 c5 2. Nf3 d6 3. Bb5+ Bd7 4. Bxd7+ Qxd7 5. c4 Nc6 6. Nc3 g6 7. d4 cxd4 8. Nxd4 Bg7 9. Nde2 Nf6 10. f3 O-O 11. O-O a6 12. a4 e6 13. Bg5 h6 14. Bh4 Rfd8 15. Rb1 Qc7 16. Kh1 Rd7 17. Rc1 Re8 18. Nd5 exd5 19. cxd5 Qb6 20. Bf2 Qxb2 21. dxc6 bxc6 22. Rxc6 Rdd8 23. Rxa6 Qb4 24. Rb6 Qc4 25. Nd4 Ra8 26. Nb5 Red8 27. Rxd6 Rxd6 28. Nxd6 Qxa4 29. Qxa4 Rxa4 30. Rd1 Nh7 31. Ne8 Be5 32. Bg3 Bxg3 33. hxg3 Ng5 34. Rd8 h5 35. Nf6+ Kg7 36. e5 Ra1+ 37. Kh2 Ra2 38. Kg1 Ra1+ 39. Kf2 Ra2+ 40. Kf1 Ra1+ 41. Ke2 Ra2+ 42. Rd2 Ra5 43. Nd5 Ne6 44. Kf2 Rb5 45. f4 Rb3 46. Rd1 Rb2+ 47. Kg1 Ra2 48. Kh2 Ra4 49. Nf6 h4 50. Rf1 g5 51. f5 Nc5 52. Re1 Nd3 53. Re2 Ra5 54. gxh4 gxh4 55. Nd7 Nc5 56. Nxc5 Rxc5 57. Re4 Rc3 58. e6 fxe6 59. fxe6 Kf8 60. Rxh4 Re3 61. Rh8+ Kg7 62. Re8 Kf6 63. g3 Re4 64. Kg2 Re3 65. Kh3 Re4 66. g4 Re1 67. Rf8+ Kg7 68. Re8 Kf6 69. e7 Kg7 70. Kh4 game drawn.