Vishwanathan Anand confirmed his victory at the Bilbao Chess Masters Finals, opening up an unbeatable four-point lead at the top of the table with one round still to be played in Bilbao, Spain.
Friday night (early Saturday morning in India) saw two ties – Vishwanathan Anand vs Ruslan Ponomariov and Levon Aronian vs Vallejo Pons.
The five-time world champion Anand drew comfortably with former world champ Ponomariov of Ukraine. The match was riddled with perpetual checks from both the players, as it ended after 41 moves in a Queen's Gambit Declined.
It was a fierce battle between the two heavyweights, which saw the Indian and the Ukrainian exchanging quite a few pieces amongst themselves. Both players showed a lot of initiative in attacking the other.
Ponomariov, who is at the third place in this four-player tournament, had four points on board before Friday's game. He needed to win both his remaining games to go to the top. The Ukrainian would have required a bizarre set of circumstances to be joint top of the standings with Anand and Aronian, all on 10 points each.
However, with this draw, Ponomariov is out of the reckoning, and can only finish second, if he wins his remaining game against Pons and if Anand beats Aronian.
Meanwhile, the tournament's top seed, Levon Aronian who was on six points before Friday's rounds, managed only a draw against Pons, who is placed at the bottom of the table. Aronian needed to win yesterday's game against Pons and the final game against Anand to win the Bilbao Masters.
However, that is possible no more, after he drew against the Spaniard. Even if he beats Anand in the last game, he would be on 10 points, while Anand already has 11.
This tournament was crucial for Anand, as it is his last competitive tournament before the rematch of last year's World Chess Championship against MAgnus Carlsen, later this year.
The Bilbao Chess Masters is being played amongst four players, with the players playing each other twice. The scoring system in the table is much like the scoring done in league football, with the players getting three points for a win, one point for a draw and no points for a defeat.