Viswanathan Anand began with a reasonable show on his maiden appearance in the Chess 960 world championship as the Indian managed to draw all three games on the opening day of Mainz Chess Classics.
Anand, who has never played before in the Chess 960 variant in which position of the pieces is randomly changed at the start of the game, survived a few anxious moments before drawing with Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan in the first game of the day.
Thereafter, Anand faced Etienne Bacrot of France for a similar result and finally salvaged a difficult position against defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia.
After the end of the third round, Aronian emerged as the sole leader on 2.5 points after blanking both Kasimdzhanov and Bacrot.
Kasimdzhanov defeated Bacrot to keep himself on 1.5 points along with Anand while Bacrot is now firmly in the cellar on just a half point.
The return games of the prelims are still left and top two players from here will play a match amongst themselves to decide the winner.
In Chess 960, the opening theory is still in its infancy and without doubt even the strongest chess players make mistakes early.
Anand, though had no such problems in his first official Chess 960 game, found himself blundering a pawn and landing in a worse rook endgame against Kasimdzhanov.
In the final game of the day against Aronian too, it was a similar situation for Anand as he lost a pawn and later found some ingenious defence to salvage a half point.
"I think I coped reasonably well. However, you have to be careful because h- and a- pawns can be without protection right from the start and you have to overcome a mental block because you just cannot imagine that some squares are not protected," Anand said after the third game.
Kasimdzhanov was simply aghast at not being able to beat the Indian after a promising position.
While the pundits attributed this to Kasimdzhanov running behind on time and having just a minute when the winning position came, the Uzbek did not agree entirely.
"Okay, I was in time trouble, but I only played natural moves and couldn't win," he said.
Kasimdzhanov also mused about the five seconds increment, which the players receive after each move, "Well, you quickly find out that five seconds aren't much. You play quickly, but discover that you don't gain any time," he said.
Aronian agreed that in his opening round win against Bacrot, he did not get anything special from the opening but the final tactical shots were quite interesting. However the Armenian was simply at his best in crushing Kasimdzhanov.
Aronian advanced his f-pawn in the opening straightaway to f5, which guaranteed him a structural advantage and later developed considerable pressure. Winning a pawn, Aronian went on to register a smooth victory.
Standings after round three:
1. Levon Aronian (Arm, 2.5 pts);
2-3. V Anand (Ind), Rustam Kasimdzhanov (Uzb) 1.5 each;
4. Etienne Bacrot (Fra, 0.5).