Wijk Aan Zee :World Champion Grandmaster Viswanathan Anand remained on course for his sixth title after a hard-fought draw against Hikaru Nakamura of United States in the ninth round of the 'A' group of 73rd Tata Steel chess tournament.
Anand and Nakamura were joined at the leaderboard on six points by Russian Vladimir Kramnik and Armenian Levon Aronian who notched up victories over Erwin L'Ami of Holland and Alexei Shirov of Spain respectively.
While it has got crowded at the top, world number one Magnus Carlsen of Norway and France's Maxime Vachier-Lagrave are not far behind with a draw between them in this round.
The duo shares the fifth spot on 5.5 points and with just four rounds to come in the category-20 super tournament it looks like the battle is only going to heat up.
Anand employed the Nimzo Indian defense as black and faced a new move by Nakamura on the 13th turn. The Indian ace sensed something wrong with white's intentions and quickly seized the initiative with his wily ways.
"I was clearly better after the opening," said Anand, who quickly transposed into an end game while maintaining his advantage.
"And it was clearly very unpleasant for white because his bishop was much worse than mine. I had to do something pretty fast because such an advantage clearly does not last forever. But, although I had a feeling I was close, I could not find anything. Still, a draw is not a bad result, considering I had black," said Anand.
Kramnik was awarded the best game prize of the day for his fine victory against L'Ami. It was an English opening by the Russian that allowed a king side attack pretty early and L'Ami threw the towel in after just 23 moves.
For Aronian, it was a far more difficult win against Shirov who fought on till the very end and had reasonable chances to play out a draw. However, form deserted Shirov once again in the tournament.
Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly suffered another defeat in the 'B' group when he blundered against Vladislav Tkachiev of France. Luke McShane of England, Wesley So of Philippines and Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia share the lead in this section on six points apiece.
Meanwhile, Tania Sachdev's GM norm prospects suffered a setback after she lost her ninth round game against Mark Bluvshtein of Canada. Tania now needs to score heavily in order to come back near the norm again in the remaining four rounds while Daniele Vocaturo continued with his winning ways and took his personal tally to 7.5 points.