World champion Viswanathan Anand got tangled in a complicated position and was held to a draw by little-known Spaniard Francisco Vallejo Pons in the first round of the fifth Chess Masters final in Sao Paulo.
It was not a desirous start for the Indian ace, who played with white in the opener against the lowest-ranked player in the tournament, and Anand will be hoping for a better performance especially in the return game against Vallejo.
The six-player double round-robin event got off to a good start for the chess buffs with Armenian Levon Aronian crushing Sergey Karjakin of Russia and Italian Fabiano Caruana doing an early damage to the aspirations of World No. 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway.
Aronian and Caruana shot in to early lead following victories on three points in the unique event that will be split between Sao Paulo and Bilbao in Spain.
Anand shares the third spot on one point under the soccer-like scoring system and giving him company is Vallejo while Karjakin and Carlsen are yet to open their account.
Anand went for a principled variation in the Ragozine defense by Vallejo and a complicated position arose on the board in the middle game that ensued.
Vallejo, to his credit, did not let the position slip out of hands at any point and kept himself in contention by making counter active moves after castling on the king side.
As the game progressed, Anand was not able to make much impact even though the balance was slightly tilted in his favour and once the complexities subsided, the Spaniard came up with a thematic queen sacrifice to reach a theoretically drawn position. The game lasted 59 moves.
Aronian simply outplayed Karjakin in all departments of the game. Playing the white side of a Queen's Indian, the Armenian once again showcased his deep opening preparation as Karjakin was a mere spectator to a massacre after sacrificing an exchange in the opening.
With copy-book technique, Aronian exchanged pieces at will and eventually broke through in the eighth rank to force matters in a mere 30 moves.
Carlsen paid the price for being overambitious out of a seemingly impregnable position. It was a French defense by the Norwegian that did not give anything away to Caruana and the Italian was quite content defending a slightly worse endgame with presence of opposite coloured Bishops.
However, as the game progressed, Carlsen, in his bid to force a winning advantage, missed a tactical trick and was caught unawares as Caruana marched his pawns to glory. It was all over after 91 moves.
Results round 1: V Anand (Ind, 1) drew with Francisco Vallejo Pons (1, Esp); Levon Aronian (Arm, 3) beat Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 0); Fabiano Caruana (Ita, 3) beat Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 0).
The moves: V Anand - Francisco Vallejo Pons 1. d4 d5 2. c4 e6 3. Nc3 Bb4 4. Nf3 Nf6 5. cxd5 exd5 6. Bg5 h6 7. Bh4 g5 8. Bg3 Ne4 9. Nd2 Nxg3 10. hxg3 c6 11. e3 Bf5 12. Qb3 Qb6 13. Be2 Nd7 14. a3 Be7 15. Qa2 a5 16. Nf3 h5 17. Rc1 h4 18. Na4 Qa7 19. Qb3 Be6 20. Bd3 O-O-O 21. gxh4 g4 22. Nd2 Bxh4 23. g3 Be7 24. Ke2 Rh3 25. Qc3 Rdh8 26. Rhf1 Bd6 27. Nb3 Bc7 28. Nbc5 Rh2 29. Kd1 Bd6 30. b4 axb4 31. axb4 Nxc5 32. Nxc5 Bxc5 33. bxc5 Rh1 34. Ra1 Qb8 35. Kc2 Rxf1 36. Rxf1 Rh2 37. Be2 Bf5+ 38. Kd2 Kd8 39. e4 Bxe4 40. Bxg4 b6 41. cxb6 Qxb6 42. Be2 Bf5 43. g4 Be4 44. g5 Bf5 45. Ra1 Rxf2 46. Ra8+ Kd7 47. Ke3 Rh2 48. Qa3 Rh3+ 49. Bf3 Be4 50. Ra7+ Qxa7 51. Qxa7+ Ke6 52. Qc7 Rxf3+ 53. Ke2 Kf5 54. Qxf7+ Kxg5 55. Qg7+ Kf5 56. Qd7+ Kg5 57. Qg7+ Kf5 58. Qd7+ Kg5 59. Qg7+ game drawn.
Photograph: Wolfgang Rattay/Reuters