Anand beats Vachier-Lagrave to take joint lead

Facing a lot of pressure in the early part of the middle game and till much later, Anand put up stiff resistance and his counter-strike was simply brilliant as Vachier-Lagrave suffered his first loss in Classical chess this year. Anand shares the lead with Aronian, Topalov and Wesley.

Anand came back strongly to defeat World No. 2 Vachier Lagrave in the second round of the Sinquefield Cup.   -  V. Ganesan

Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand played a brilliant defensive game to get the better of World No. 2 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France in the second round of the Sinquefield Cup, a part of the Grand Chess Tour, here today.

Facing a lot of pressure in the early part of the middle game and till much later, Anand put up stiff resistance and his counter-strike was simply brilliant as Vachier-Lagrave suffered his first loss in Classical chess this year.

Armenian Levon Aronian added to the woes of Peter Svidler of Russia who succumbed to his second straight loss while Hikaru Nakamura of United States bounced back from a first round loss to beat Dutch Grandmaster Anish Giri.

The other two games of the ten-player round-robin tournament ended in draws with Fabiano Caruana of United States surviving some anxious moments against Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria and Chinese Ding Liren getting a draw against the third American Wesley So.

With seven rounds still to come in the USD 300,000 (Rs. 20 million approx.) prize money tournament, Anand shares the lead with Aronian, Topalov and Wesley. So while Caruana, Liren and Nakamura are in close pursuit with a full point to back them.

Vachier-Lagrave and Giri share the eighth spot on a half point while Svidler is yet to open his account.

It was a botched-up opening by Anand when in the Caro Kann defense the Indian found the going tough early on with his black pieces. The black was forced to take an early walk to the queen side and to his credit Anand hung in there just long enough for the French star to make a mistake.

“I’m literally just hanging on every move, trying not to lose on the spot,” he said. “It was extremely scary,” Anand said after the game.

As it happened, Vachier-Lagrave fell prey to wrong calculation. The culprit was a single move, which cost him the game and ended his streak of unbeaten games which stood at 67 before the start of this round. Anand was quite happy to spot the rejoinder and crashed through with all his forces.

“My fortune has been better in the last month,” Vachier—Lagrave remarked. “But this can happen. I’ve been on the other end as well.”

Aronian made use of his excellent technique to convert a difficult endgame against Svidler while Nakamura put up a fine defense to thwart Giri’s attempt to dismantle his king side.

Results: Round 2: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra, 0.5) lost to V Anand (Ind, 1.5) Fabiano Caruana (Usa, 1) drew with Veselin Topalov (Bul, 1.5); Ding Liren (Chn, 1) drew with Wesley So (Usa, 1.5); Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 1) beat Anish Giri (Ned, 0.5) Levon Aronian (Arm, 1.5) beat Peter Svidler (Rus, 0).