Tata Steel Chess: Anand stays on the bubble, Carlsen opens five-point lead

Viswanathan Anand, needing to finish sixth or higher for place in the four-man finale, was tied for fifth spot alongside Ding Liren and Ian Nepomniachtchi.

Five time World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand in action against Hikaru Nakamura at the Tata Steel Chess tournament on Monday.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

The suspense around Viswanathan Anand’s qualification to the Grand Chess Tour Finals in London next month remained following his roller-coaster ride in the first nine rounds of blitz games in the Tata Steel chess tournament here.

Needing to finish sixth or higher for place in the four-man finale, Anand was tied for fifth spot with an already-qualified Ding Liren and a resurgent Ian Nepomniachtchi. Still on the bubble, Anand has to strike better in the remaining nine rounds to ensure qualification on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Magnus Carlsen (21.5 points) opened a massive five-point lead despite losing to Liren. World No. 1 blitz player Hikaru Nakamura (16.5) kept his second spot ahead of Wesley So (13.5) and Anish Giri (13).

Anand, scheduled to play against Nakamura, Carlsen and Liren in the last three rounds, lost to the Norwegian rival and drew with the other two. As seen in the rapid format, Anand won against Levon Aronian and So but lost to Nepomniachtchi and Carlsen.

In fact, Viswanathan Anand recovered well after taking off on the wrong foot against Nepomniachtchi. He immediately made amends by scoring over the day’s favourite ‘whipping boy’ Aronian, who lost six times! Later, Anand’s victory over So stood negated following the defeat to Carlsen.

“Against Vishy (Anand), it was a decent game, but it was a draw for most of the time,” said Carlsen on asked to reflect on his standout game of the day.

If Anand added 4.5 points from nine games, Carlsen netted 6.5. He defeated Vidit Gujrathi and P Hari Krishna before losing to Liren. Returning with a vengeance, he took out Nepomniachtchi, Aronian and Anand on the trot to show the stuff he is made of.

Matching unbeaten Nakamura’s tally of 5.5 points was Nepomniachtchi. Having suffered four losses in the first five rounds of rapid, the youngster recovered with four wins and five draws. He stumbled following two defeats, including one to Hari, in the next three rounds
before signing off by beating Aronian.

Anish Giri became the first player to be declared “lost on time”, against So. “I focussed too much on the board and lost sight of the time. It happens sometimes in this time-control, with a three-second-delay for every move. Even Carlsen has lost in his manner,” explained the man who collected four points from blitz games.

The results:

18th round: Ding Liren (Chn) drew with Viswanathan Anand; Magnus Carlsen (Nor) drew with Wesley So (USA); Hikaru Nakamura (USA) drew with Vidit Gujrathi; Anish Giri (Ned) drew with P. Hari Krishna; Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) bt Levon Aronian (Arm).

17th round: Anand lost to Carlsen; Hari bt Nepomniachtchi; Vidit drew with Giri; So drew with Nakamura; Aronian bt Liren.

16th round: Nakamura drew with Anand; Carlsen bt Aronian; Vidit drew with Hari; Giri lost to So; Liren drew with Nepomniachtchi.

15th round: Anand drew with Giri; Nepomniachtchi lost to Carlsen; Hari lost to Liren; Aronian lost to Nakamura; So drew with Vidit.

14th round: Vidit drew with Anand; Carlsen lost to Liren; Nakamura drew with Nepomniachtchi; Giri bt Aronian; So drew with Hari;

13th round: Anand bt So; Hari lost to Carlsen; Aronian drew with Vidit; Nepomniachtchi bt Giri; Liren drew with Nakamura;

12th round: Anand drew with Hari; Nakamura drew with Carlsen; Vidit lost to Nepomniachtchi; So drew with Aronian; Giri drew with Liren.

11th round: Aronian lost to Anand;  Liren lost to Vidit; Carlsen drew with Giri; Hari lost to Nakamura; Nepomniachtchi drew with So.

10th round: Anand lost to Nepomniachtchi; Aronian lost to Hari; Vidit lost to Carlsen; So drew with Liren; Giri drew with Nakamura.

Standings (after nine rounds each of rapid and blitz): 1. Carlsen (21.5 points), 2. Nakamura (16.5), 3. Giri (13.5), 4. So (13), 5-7. Liren, Anand, Nepomniachtchi (12.5 each), 8. Hari (12), 9. Aronian (11), 10. Vidit (10).

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