London: Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand outclassed Andrei Istratescu of France to jump in to sole lead on seven points at the half-way stage of the preliminaries of the London Chess Classic in progress here at the Olympia.
On what turned out to be another fine day as black, Anand came up with some brilliant planning, sacrificed an exchange and romped home without much ado to almost seal a place in the knockout stage of the Classic this year reserved for the top two finishers.
Anand leads his group on seven points in three games under the soccer-like scoring system that gives three points for a win and one for a draw. The Indian ace is now followed by Michael Adams of England on five points after he was held to a draw by compatriot Luke McShane.
McShane on four points is in close proximity of the leaders on four points with three more rounds to come in the double round-robin prelims.
Anand meanwhile will be in the quarters in the 16-player event if he can win just one more game out of remaining three. Giving him a huge advantage are two 'whites' remaining in the next three remaining games.
There were no surprises in the third round as most of the higher seeds had a good day. In the 'B' group, Vladimir Kramnik kept his lead on seven points after a draw with Matthew Sadler of England while Peter Svidler finally staked his claim for a berth in the quarters at the expense of Jonathan Rowson of England.
Boris Gelfand of Israel kept his lead in the 'C' group after settling for a draw with Hikaru Nakamura of United States who remained second in standings while Judit Polgar of Hungary won her first game in the event defeating Gawain Jones of England.
It was a similar story in the 'C' group wherein Fabiano Caruana kept his lead on seven points following a draw with English GM David Howeel while former world championship challenger Nigel Short got the better of Emil Sutovsky to remain in contention.