Anand reigns supreme

Viswanathan Anand, seeded second, clinched the title when he drew with Ponomoriov in the fifth round. The four players met each other twice in this event, which employed a scoring system different from most chess tournaments: a win fetched three points (instead of one) and a draw one point. By P. K. Ajith Kumar.

Viswanathan Anand could not have hoped for a better warm-up to his challenge for the World chess championship. He showed superb form to win the Bilbao Grand Slam Masters Final tournament in Spain, with a round to spare.

It was the last event for the 44-year-old Indian before the World title match against Magnus Carlsen of Norway in Sochi, Russia, from November 7 to 28. Anand played solid chess to finish ahead of top seed and defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia, Francisco Vallejo Spons of the host nation and Ukraine’s Ruslan Ponomariov.

Anand, seeded second, clinched the title when he drew with Ponomoriov in the fifth round. The four players met each other twice in this event, which employed a scoring system different from most chess tournaments: a win fetched three points (instead of one) and a draw one point.

Anand scored 11 points, with three wins — twice against Pons and once against Ponomoriov — and two draws.

His only loss was against Aronian, but it came in the final round, after he had already pocketed the title. The win helped the Armenian to the second spot with 10 points. Pons and Ponomariov finished with five points each.

Anand would not be losing much sleep over his last round loss to Aronian and should be in a confident frame of mind as he gears up for his rematch with Carlsen. The Norwegian, however, failed to warm up as nicely as his challenger, as he came out second to the brilliant Fabiano Caruana in St. Louis, United States, earlier in September. For Anand though, it has been a great year. He has shown remarkable strength of character to bounce back from the lows of the last World championship in Chennai.

He played sparkling chess to win the Candidates tournament at Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, earlier in the year and had clearly stated his readiness for the battle against Carlsen. At Bilbao, he further underlined that statement.