Viswanathan Anand failed to break through the defences of local lad Francisco Pons Vallejo and had to settle for a draw in the 12th round of the 22nd Linares Super Grandmasters Chess tournament on Tuesday.
The loss put Anand almost out of championship race in the seven-player double round-robin tournament being played under classical time control, as Russian Garry Kasparov took a decisive step forward for his ninth tournament title after crushing Britain's Michael Adams.
Kasparov moved to a near unassailable score of 7.5 points out of a possible 10 and is now virtually assured of the title and the winner's purse of 100,000 Euros barring any disaster in the two remaining rounds as Bulgarian Veselin Toaplov and Anand are now 1.5 points adrift of the leader.
Hungarian Peter Leko is a distant fourth right now with five points while Adams remained on fifth position with 4.5. Vallejo and FIDE world champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan share the sixth spot on 3.5 points.
In the other encounter of the day, Topalov outplayed Kasimdzhanov.
This certainly was not Anand's day as he was pushed to the wall in trying too hard for a victory. Given the tournament situation it was imperative for Anand to win as a draw would not have helped his cause especially after Kasparov pounded Adams in quick time.
Anand's opening surprise was met by the Hedgehog set-up and Vallejo was just content hanging in there with some precise defensive moves even as Anand emerged with a slightly better middle game.
However, as the Indian ace strove harder for victory after the trade of queens, Vallejo found active play on the queenside that resulted in a pawn plus rook and pawn ending for him.
Thereafter, Anand's famous defensive tricks were on display and with a consistent effort he deprived Vallejo of his first victory in the tournament. The peace was signed in 67 moves.
Kasparov was in his element in getting past Adams, who played the white side of a Sicilian Nazdorf.
Going for the delayed English attack the Englishman's plan never got going as Kasparov built a commanding position on the queenside with excellent coordination of pieces.
Ripping apart white's castled position, the Russian offered a queen sacrifice on the 25th move that could not be accepted and just one move later forced resignation.
This was Kasparov's fifth victory in the tournament besides five draws.
Topalov also went for the blood against Kasimdzhanov and had little troubles in achieving the victory.
Playing black, Kasimdzhanov employed the Queen's gambit declined and soon after the opening he was saddled with a slightly passive position. Topalov built on his position quickly and even though the pieces got traded at regular intervals there was little disputing white's advantage that grew rapidly after move 25.
Kasimdzhanov resigned when Topalov threatened a final onslaught on the 32nd move.