World Champion Viswanathan Anand scored an emphatic victory over world number two Levon Aronian of Armenia to jump to joint lead with two others after the fourth round of the Tata Steel chess tournament, at Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands, on Wednesday.
Having gone through a rough patch in the past seven months since winning the world championship match last May, this is a big recovery for Anand in the early stages of the first super tournament of the year and the way it came left all chess buffs awestruck.
World No 1 Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Russian Sergey Karjakin now share the lead with Anand on three points with the former extending his winning streak at the expense of P Harikrishna while the latter was lucky to escape with a draw against American Hikaru Nakamura.
After a little lull in the first three rounds the day produced as many as five decisive games. Italian Fabiano Caruana defeated Ivan Sokolov of Holland, Dutchman Loek van Wely won against compatriot Erwin L'Ami while the all-Chinese duel between Wang Hao and Yifan Hou ended in favour of the former.
In the other game of the day, local star Anish Giri signed peace with Hungarian Peter Leko.
With nine rounds still to come in the category-20 super tournament between 14 players, the three leaders enjoy a full point lead over Leko, Wang Hao, Nakamura, Harikrishna, Caruana and van Wely who all have two points each.
Another half a point adrift are Aronian, Giri, L'Ami and Sokolov while former women's world champion Yifan Hou is at the bottom of standings with one point to her credit.
Anand went for the Slav defense and caught Aronian unawares in one of the deeply analysed variations.
"I had prepared this variation for Boris (Gelfand) for the match but I had to remember a lot of variations," Anand said.
As it happened, Aronian could not quite recover after Anand came up with a spectacular sacrifice on move 15 and another spectacle followed on the next move when Anand put his knight en prise.
Aronian won Anand's rook but by then it was over. With effortless display, Anand took his queen to king side to deliver the knockout punch. This game will probably go down as the game of the year according to pundits and will surely find its way in the best games ever list.
"This could easily be one of the best games I have played. To win a game like this against Levon, who is my nightmare opponent, as you probably know, is definitely wonderful," Anand said.
"I ran into a theoretical trap. I was not aware of Bc5, which is very strong. Vishy said he had prepared it for somebody else. I should study openings better," said Aronian.
Carlsen over-powered Harikrishna out of a Ponziani opening that does not find many takers these days. Harikrishna went for the complications early and had a tangible position in the middle game but the debutant Indian could not find the best moves under pressure. Carlsen sacrificed a couple of pawns and it was all over once he won them back.
The matches will resume after the first of the three rest days planned during the tournament. In the fifth round, Anand will take on Carlsen.
The moves: Levon Aronian V Anand
1. d4 d5 2. c4 c6 3. Nf3 Nf6 4. Nc3 e6 5. e3 Nbd7 6. Bd3 dxc4 7. Bxc4 b5 8. Bd3 Bd6 9. O-O O-O 10. Qc2 Bb7 11. a3 Rc8 12. Ng5 c5 13. Nxh7 Ng4 14. f4 cxd4 15. exd4 Bc5 16. Be2 Nde5 17. Bxg4 Bxd4+ 18. Kh1 Nxg4 19. Nxf8 f5 20. Ng6 Qf6 21. h3 Qxg6 22. Qe2 Qh5 23. Qd3 Be3 white resigned.