Viswanathan Anand survived a few anxious moments, including a checkmate attempt by Maxim Matlakov, before prevailing over rival in the first round of Tata Steel Masters Chess tournament in Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands.
Coming into the event after his title-win at the World Rapid Championship, Anand came up with some fine manoeuvres before dodging the checkmate attempt by the Russian.
The Indian ace is playing in this 80th edition after a gap of four years but proved once again that it remains his favourite hunting ground.
A winner here five times, a record that he shares with World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway, Anand went for complications right from the beginning when he allowed Matlakov to break through on the queen side in a closed Ruy Lopez.
The Russian managed to weaken white’s king side and threatened a beautiful checkmate vide queen sacrifice at one point. Anand came out of that but not without an error that could have left him a pawn less.
However, Matlakov missed his chance and then was subjected to a lesson in a major piece endgame. Anand’s queen and rook dominated the proceedings once the Indian won a pawn and though the technicalities remained, it was all over in 53 moves.
"I was not able to breakthroughs," said Anand in the post-game chat adding that it would have been a huge technical task to convert if his opponent had not blundered.
When asked about his possible sixth title victory here Anand said, "If I win now, I'm winning after 12 years, so it's not like I've been blazing but, well, I'll try for sure."
Grandmaster B Adhiban, the other Indian in the 14-player 13-round field, started off with a draw against Peter Svidler of Russia. In the last edition, Adhiban had caused a sensation here when he finished third ahead of many stalwarts.
Besides Anand, Vladimir Kramnik of Russia and local hero Anish Giri were the other winners in the opening round.
Kramnik ground down China’s Wei Yi while Giri scored against highest-ranked woman Yifan Hou of China. Carlsen was held to a draw by Fabiano Caruana of United States. It was a usually long game arising out of a Petroff defense that the world champion could not break.
In the Challengers section, top seed Vidit Gujrathi was held to a draw by World Junior champion Aryan Tari of Norway. It was a Ruy Lopez where Gujrathi played black and sacrificed his rook to force perpetual checks.
D Harika played out a creditable draw with Amin Baseem of Egypt.
Complete Results round 1 Masters:
Anish Giri (Ned) beat Yifan Hou (Chn); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) beat Wei Yi (Chn); Peter Svidler (Rus) drew with B Adhiban (Ind); Magnus Carlsen (Nor) drew with Fabiano Caruana (Usa); Gawain Jones (Eng) drew with Sergey Karjakin (Rus); V Anand (Ind) beat Maxim Matlakov (Rus); Wesley So (Usa) drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze).
Jeffery Xiong (Usa) drew with Benjamin Bok (Ned); Anton Korobov (Ukr) beat Matthias Bluebaum (Ger); Olga Girya (Rus) lost to Dmitry Gordievsky (Rus); Jordan Van Foreest (Ned) beat Lucas Van Foreest (Ned); Aryan Tari (Nor) drew with Vidit, Santosh Gujrathi (Ind); Michal Krasenkow (Pol) drew with Erwin L'Ami (Ned); Amin Bassem (Egy) drew with D Harika (Ind).