Leon, Spain:Grandmaster Vishwanathan Anand cruised into the finals of the Magistral Ciudad de Len Chess tournament with a comfortable 3-1 victory over Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov.
The Indian ace, thus, remained on track to score his second hat-trick of victories at the prestigious event.
Anand will meet the winner of the other semi-final between Bulgarian Veselin Topalov and Rustam Kasimdzhanov of Uzbekistan in the title clash.
The first game set the tone for the four-match rubber.
Ponomariov, playing the black pieces, chose a rare line in the Winawer variation of the French Defense. The centre was closed in the opening and Anand began an attack on the kingside, gaining a lot of space advantage in the process.
The Ukrainian tried to stop Anand's progress by sacrificing a pawn on the kingside and closing that part of the board.
He later recovered the pawn and exchanged queens but continued to have an inferior position. Anand manoeuvred his pieces with skill and kept a strong bind on the position in the endgame.
Having got his pieces in ideal positions, the Indian advanced his passed pawn in the 'h' file and forced his opponent's resignation by winning material on the 49th move.
The game was clearly dominated by Anand and Ponomariov got no opportunity to create counter-threats.
Anand played the sharp Marshall gambit against the Spanish opening in the second game. Ponomariov returned the pawn and exposed Anand's castled king in return. A sharp tactical tussle occurred on the board and Ponomariov was unable to exploit the breaking up of Anand's castled position.
Anand was a little better in the queen and rook endgame due to his strong centre control, but it looked as if Ponomariov would manage a draw.
However, the Ukranian Grandmaster played more ambitiously and grabbed a pawn in the Queen ending. Anand centralised his queen and his powerful central passed pawn began to advance
down the board.
Ponomariov made some tricky attempts to save the endgame, which failed to ruffle Anand. The Indian player kept everything under tight control and obtained a second passed pawn in the king's rook file.
Ponomariov resigned on the 50th move when Anand was about to queen the pawn.
The third game was another French Winawer. Ponomariov improved over his play in the first game and a complicated position was reached in the middlegame.
The Ukrainian once again sacrificed a pawn and managed to activate his pieces. Anand kept his opponent's initiative in check and used tactics to simplify the position.
He gave up two pieces for a rook and took the game into an endgame. Anand's active rook kept Ponomariov's pieces on a leash and the Indian gained a superior position.
However, requiring just a draw to win the match, Anand forced his opponent to repeat moves and secured his passage to the final.