London: World champion Viswanathan Anand played out an exciting draw with Hikaru Nakamura of the United States in the eighth and penultimate round of the London Chess Classic, on Monday.
After a steady draw with Judit Polgar of Hungary in the previous round, it was a nerve-wracking game in which fortunes fluctuated many a times and the draw was probably a good result from a sporting point of view as both Anand and Nakamura missed many opportunities.
On a day when tournament leader Magnus Carlsen of Norway had a bye, Russian Vladimir Kramnik capitalised on his opportunities and crushed Gawain Jones of England. In other games, English Michael Adams of England could not use his extra pawn to full use and split the point with Levon Aronian of Armenia, while Polgar scored her first victory at the expense of Luke McShane of England.
As things stand, Carlsen remained on 17 points after his bye and Kramnik narrowed the gap to remain within striking distance on 15 points. Adams, on 12 points, remained in third spot, two points ahead of Nakamura who enjoys a two-point advantage over Anand on fifth spot.
Aronian is in sixth followed by Polgar and McShane while Gawain Jones, with just three draws, is at the bottom.
With just one round to come, the stage is set for a fitting finale with Carlsen set to meet an off-colour Anand while Kramnik has a black game against Adams in the last round. In the event of Carlsen drawing with Anand and should Kramnik win, there will be an Armageddon game to determine the winner of this year's Classic.
Exactly a year ago on the same date, Nakamura had celebrated his birthday in style, defeating Anand at the same auditorium in the Olympia. The American, on his 25th birthday, was again Black against the world champion but a well-armed Anand looked set to avenge his defeat.
A strange Najdorf Sicilian led to a dynamic balance, which eventually reached an endgame where Anand had two rooks and two passed pawns against Nakamura's knight, bishop, rook and two passed pawns.
The fortunes changed hands many times from here. From what should have been a draw, Nakamura found himself in a dead-lost position and Anand returned the favour by first leading to a drawn position and further erred to find himself completely lost.
However, the drama continued as Nakamura could not find the precise manoeuvres and Anand managed to create a fortress. The game was finally drawn.
Kramnik had it easy with a thematic exchange sacrifice out of an irregular opening as white against Jones. The English could have defended better but it was not his day.
Results round 8: V Anand (Ind, 8) drew with Hikaru Nakamura (Usa, 10); Levon Aronian (Arm, 7) drew with Michael Adams (Eng, 12); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 15) beat Gawain Jones (Eng, 3); Luke McShane (Eng, 5) lost to Judit Polgar (Hun, 5); Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 17) had a bye.