Viswanathan Anand set up a summit clash with defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia after two wins and a draw on the second day of preliminaries at the Chess 960 World Championship at Mainz.
Anand, who started off with three draws on the opening day, defeated Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan and Etienne Bacrot of France in the return game before settling for a draw with Aronian to seal his place in the final to be played later on Thursday.
After a fine 2.5/3 start, Aronian was the worthy winner of the preliminaries after scoring a victory over Kasimdzhanov and drawing the remaining two games with Bacrot and Anand.
The defending champion was quite clinical on his road to the final, where he starts as a slight favourite given his experience in this variant of the game.
The final will be played over four games with 20 minutes on each clock with a five-second increment after every move.
Anand, who is playing Chess 960 for the first time, accustomed himself much better on the second day and scored a fluent victory over Kasimdzhanov.
After winning the first game of the day, the Indian warded off complications in the return game against Bacrot in great style to emerge winner.
Theoretically, there might have been a defense for Black, but practically it remained a much difficult position for the French especially with the clock ticking away.
Eventually time pressure and difficult defense proved too much for Bacrot and a couple of tactical errors led to his ouster from the championship.
It turned out to be a forgettable day for Kasimdzhanov, who started the second round of prelims as joint second with Anand on 1.5 points.
After losing to Anand, Kasimdzhanov was hardly given a chance by Aronian. An error gave Aronian a pawn after which it was child's play. Kasimdzhanov lost the final game against Bacrot too to finish at the bottom of the table in the double round-robin.
Final Standings preliminaries Chess 960 championship:
1. Levon Aronian (Arm, 4.5); 2. Viswanathan Anand (Ind, 4); 3. Etienne Bacrot (Fra, 2); 4. Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzb, 1.5).