The fight for the top spot in the Tata Steel Chess tournament has intensified after former five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand was held to a draw in the ninth round by Richard Rapport in Wijk Aan Zee on Tuesday. Playing withoutn any risks and displaying solid positional strength, Anand agreed to a draw after 42 moves. With this result, the fight for the top spot has gained massive intensity with Magnus Carlsen and Russian Grandmaster Ian Nepomniachtchi also entering the fray. Carlsen was held to a draw by US Chess champion Samuel Shankland while Nepomniachtchi secured a crucial win over Indian Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi as all three players ended up on six points after nine rounds. With four rounds still left to play, a slip-up from any of the three players could prove to be costly.
The action now shifts to Lieden, 45 minutes away from Wijk Aan Zee and all three players have a chance to secure the title. The main clash, which could decide the title, will be between reigning champion Carlsen and Anand. The Norwegian will have an advantage playing with white but Anand has shown that he is adept at playing with both colours, having secured two out of his three wins in the tournament with black.
While Anand has already played joint-leader Nepomniachtchi, his next three opponents are all tricky. After the game against Carlsen, Anand will play Polish Grandmaster Jan-Krzysztof Duda but faces a tricky opponent in Chinese Grandmaster Ding Liren in the penultimate round. The final round will be an all-Indian affair, with Anand taking on Gujrathi while Carlsen faces a tricky challenge in Netherlands Grandmaster Anish Giri. Carlsen will also face a tricky challenge against Teimour Radjabov, who is on 4.5 points.
Anand, who was the world rapid champion in 2017 failed to win the remaining games and registered draws from rounds 12 to 15 to finish joint 23rd and squander his chance of retaining the championship. However, 2018 gave the 49-yer-old Grandmaster one bright spot as he clinched the Tata Steel Chess Blitz Championship with a stunning display on the final day. After securing 7.5 out of nine points on the final day, he was tied for the lead with Hikaru Nakamura, considered to be the best blitz player in the world currently. In the ensuing two-round play-off, which was faster than blitz in a reduced time format of a three-minute game, Anand secured a win with white pieces and drew the last game to clinch the title with a score of 1.5-0.5.