Displaying top form, India's Viswanathan Anand cruised to a fluent win over French Grandmaster Etienne Bacrot with black pieces in the first round of the 2nd Mtel Masters International chess tournament in Sofia, Bulgaria.
The victory helped Anand emerge as the sole leader in the super tournament as the other two games of this category-20, 6-player double round robin event ended in draws on Thursday.
World champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria drew with Russian Peter Svidler, while former world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine too got the same result against American Gata Kamsky, who recently made a comeback to competitive chess at the top after a long hiatus.
Anand dominated Bacrot in all departments of the game in the opening round of the event which is being played under classical time control.
The fact that the Indian ace won with black pieces must have sent warning signals to Topalov who is fighting to keep his top position in the ELO rating list intact.
Playing the Queen's Indian defence, Anand survived some scare in the middle game before stamping his absolute authority over Bacrot.
The middle game was quite intense with Anand having some problems in tackling initially. But giving his best under difficult circumstances, the Indian ace took most of the opportunities offered by Bacrot who made a positional error.
Cashing in, Anand put his queen against two uninspiring white rooks of Bacrot. With not many open files to operate on, Anand knocked down one queen side pawn to turn the tide decisively in his favour.
Bacrot's pieces were saddled with the task of performing a thankless defence from here onwards and the Frenchman called it a day after 54 moves.
Talking about the game later, Anand agreed that he did not have a great position and it was only after Bacrot made some positional errors that he was able to win the match.
"It is quite funny. I was following a game which Sasikiran had played two days ago in Bosnia in which he deviated and I decided to simplify in the end game," Anand said.
The Indian has a big game in the second round when he meets Topalov.
Topalov could do little with black against Svidler who employed the in vogue English attack against the Sicilian Nazdorf of the Bulgarian.
Topalov chose the variation he has been quite successful with in the past but this time did not get more than equality as Svidler was on his guard right till the end.
The middle game featured routine manoeuvres by both players and even though Topalov got a whiff of an advantage sometime in the middle game it was only short-lived as Svidler quickly liquidated to a level rook and opposite colour bishops endgame.
From here the result of the game was in doubt but both carried on for another 25 moves before engineering a draw in the last game to finish in the day. The game lasted 71 moves.
Ponomariov came close to winning against Kamsky who played passively after getting a tenable position through a Ruy Lopez opening. Playing white, Ponomariov got the advantage in the ensuing endgame where he had a Bishop against Knight but Kamsky came up with a stubborn defence to keep his rival at bay. The draw was agreed to after 64 moves.
Results Round 1: Etienne Bacrot lost to Viswanathan Anand (Ind); Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr) drew with Gata Kamsky (USA); Peter Svidler (Rus) drew with Veselin Topalov (Bul).
Standings after round 1: 1. Anand 1; 2-5. Kamsky, Ponomariov, Svidler, Topalov 0.5 each; 6. Bacrot 0.
Pairing round 2: Kamsky v/s Bacrot; Svidler v/s Ponomariov; Topalov v/s Anand.
The moves (Viswanathan Anand vs Etienne Bacrot)
1. d4 Nf6 2. c4 e6 3. Nf3 b6 4. Nc3 Bb7 5. Bg5 h6 6. Bh4 Be7 7. e3 Ne4 8. Nxe4 Bxe4 9. Bg3 d6 10. Bd3 Bb7 11. O-O Nd7 12. e4 Bf6 13. Rc1 g5 14. Bb1 h5 15. h3 Rg8 16. b4 g4 17. hxg4 hxg4 18. Nh2 Bh4 19. Bf4 Bg5 20. Qxg4 Qf6 21. Be3 Bxe3 22. Qxg8+ Ke7 23. Qxa8 Bxa8 24. fxe3 Qg6 25. Rf4 e5 26. Rf5 Qh6 27. Re1 exd4 28. exd4 Qd2 29. Nf3 Qxb4 30. Rc1 Bb7 31. Rb5 Qa3 32. Re1 Qc3 33. Rb3 Qxc4 34. Bd3 Qa4 35. Rc3 c5 36. Bc4 Qb4 37. Rcc1 cxd4 38. Nxd4 Ne5 39. Nf5+ Kd7 40. Bd5 Bxd5 41. exd5 Qf4 42. Rf1 Nf3+ 43. gxf3 Qxf5 44. f4 Qxd5 45. f5 Qd2 46. f6 b5 47. Rce1 Kc6 48. Ra1 Qd4+ 49. Kg2 Qb2+ 50. Kg3 b4 51. Kg4 d5 52. Kg5 Qg2+ 53. Kh4 Kd6 54. Kh5 a5 -- white resigned.