Five-times world champion Viswanathan Anand proved all his critics wrong and won the Candidates Chess tournament after settling for a draw with Sergey Karjakin of Russia in the 13th and penultimate round on Saturday.
It was a marathon against Karjakin and the rest day did Anand a world of good. The Indian held on to his own in the endgame that lasted more than five and a half hours.
The draw helped Anand reach eight points and he benefitted from the biggest upset in the tournament when top seed Levon Aronian of Armenia lost to lowest ranked Dmitry Andreikin of Russia.
On a day that saw Vladimir Kramnik avenging his earlier loss in the tournament against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan played out a draw with Russian Peter Svidler to seal the fate in Anand's favour irrespective of the results tomorrow.
With Anand on eight points, Karjakin, Kramnik, Mamedyarov, Andreikin and Aronian are now 6.5 points each.
Peter Svidler stand seventh on six points while Topalov reamined on 5.5 to fill the last place.
In the last round Anand meets Svidler and the draw could be a likely result as the Indian will play with white pieces.
In the game against Karjakin, Anand equalised quite easily with the Queen's gambit declined and had no troubles whatsoever in finding a thematic pawn sacrifice that made his position easier to play.
However, while trying to work out the right path, Anand erred slightly and faced a difficult but possible defense when he parted with two pieces for Karjakin's rook.
The ensuing endgame was easier for Karjakin and the defense was not easy, yet Anand kept finding the right moves and obtained a passed pawn on the king side that proved vital.
Karjakin was aware at this point that the fight was over but he played on till 91 moves before signing the peace treaty.
The tournament victory gives Anand winner's cheque of 135000 Euros (a little over Rs 1 crore) and the right to a match against Magnus Carlsen of Norway who dethroned the Indian champion at Chennai in November last. This rematch will take place sometime in the last quarter of this year.
Andreikin came up with a sensational performance to beat Aronian who appeared out of sorts once more. The Russian went for the Trompovsky opening as an early surprise and got a comfortable endgame once the queen's got traded. Aronian was saddled with the worse pawn structure and another accuracy cost him heavily as he landed in a lost rook and pawns endgame.
Kramnik had a fine victory against Topalov out of a Semi Slav defense. Playing white, Kramnik was at the top of his game for once in the tournament. Topalov made the mistake of pushing his king side pawns and Kramnik picked one of them with precise calculation. The Bulgaria posed some problems before he faced inevitable loss.
Results round 13: Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 6.5) drew with V Anand(8); Peter Svidler (Rus, 6) drew with Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 6.5); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 6.5) beat Veselin Topalov (Bul, 5.5); Dmitry Andreikin (Rus, 6.5) beat Levon Aronian (Arm, 6.5).
"I did not expect Anand to win the tournament in this fashion. It is good that he gets a revenge match. It is also good for others to see the revenge match," P.Harikrishna, India's second highest rated player, told IANS.
"Going by the games he had played in the tournament, it was clear that he had changed his strategy from what he had played against Carlson in the World Championship match," he added.
Reacting to the news, Anand's wife Aruna told IANS: "I am really proud of him. Hats off to him. Every World title match is important and interesting. This time not many expected him to win. But he succeeded with his single minded devotion."
"Seems we are seeing a new Anand with this win. I am very happy," S.Sujatha, former national women's chess player, told IANS.
"Vishy has shown remarkable resilience," NIIT chairman Rajendra S. Pawar was quoted as saying in a statement issued by NIIT Team Anand.
(PTI and IANS)