World Rapid champion Viswanathan Anand came up with an inspired performance to outplay Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France and jump to joint lead on 3.5 points after the end of the seventh round of Altibox Norway Chess tournament in Stavanger.
The win came after five draws and one battle against Chinese Ding Liren that was declared as a non-played game after the latter withdrew.
Anand came up with a surprise weapon by going for the open Spanish and as expected, Vachier-Lagrave chose a double edged continuation that gave Anand enough chances.
Although more than 20 years older than the Frenchman, Anand showed why he is still a force to reckon with. The Indian ace simply out-calculated his opponent when it mattered.
It was an exchange sacrifice by Anand that set the tone. Vachier-Lagrave did not think much was wrong with his position and while his judgement was right, his calculation was not as Anand almost immediately ended up in a winning endgame after the trade of queens. Vachier-Lagrave could have avoided the absolute slump but the move he missed was easy to miss.
"The board was set on fire by Anand's 21st move and the initiative swung immediately. Then suddenly here I had the sensation, what am I playing for? And I was already playing for an advantage. It went too quickly for me to adjust," said Anand after the game.
Anand shared the lead with world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway and Wesley So of United States. Anand was pragmatic in this new situation in the tournament.
"Just like the game took a sudden turn, suddenly I find myself in the lead. It's kind of random, so I haven't given it too much thought," he said.
While Magnus Carlsen had an off day, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan played out a draw withWesley So, while Armenian Levon Aronian signed peace with Sergey Karjakin of Russia. The other game of the day also ended in a draw between Americans Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura.
Anand next plays with Caruana as white and that game might well decide the outcome of the tournament for the Indian. Carlsen has to play with Mamedyarov and the local hero will try and make up for the loss he suffered against Wesley So.
Results round 7: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra, 2/6) lost to V Anand (Ind, 3.5/6); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 3/7) drew with Wesley So (USA, 3.5/6); Levon Aronian (Arm, 3.5/7) drew with Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 3/6); Fabiano Caruana (USA, 3/6) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (USA, 3/6).