Viswanathan Anand could do little with his white pieces as he settled for a draw with world number one Magnus Carlsen in the first round of the fourth Bilbao Final Masters, here.
World number three Levon Aronian of Armenia drew the first blood in the tournament at the expense of Spaniard Francisco Vallejo Pons to emerge as the early leader in the six-player double round robin tournament, played with the soccer-like scoring system.
Also playing draw were Hikaru Nakamura of United States and Ukraine's Vassily Ivanchuk, who both fought hard but could not dispense with parity.
With nine rounds still to come, Aronian leads the pack with three points in his kitty while Anand, Carlsen, Nakamura and Ivanchuk trail him on one point each. Vallejo Pons is at the bottom of the tables yet to open his account.
The unique event which is split into two parts here and the final half at Bilbao in Spain, also has Sofia rules in place to discourage draws but that hardly makes a difference with the advent of Berlin defense as a regular in elite chess.
Anand has been employing the opening as black almost on a regular basis and this time Carlsen used it against the Indian ace successfully to get an easy draw.
It all started in 2000 when Vladimir Kramnik used the Berlin successfully against Garry Kasparov in the Braingames world championship match and over the years the analysis has proved that despite slight deficiency in pawn structure, black has been known to keep the balance ticking.
Anand could do little as pieces kept disappearing off the board and soon enough the players were left with just the Bishops of opposite colours with only a drawn result possible. The peace was signed in 28 moves. Unfortunately for the spectators, the foremost game of day one turned out to be the least exciting.
Aronian, however kept everyone interested with his blend of uncompromising chess. Playing the white side of a Slav, the Armenian was pleasantly surprised to see a relatively less known variation and sacrificed a pawn early to gain space.
Vallejo Pons had to concede the extra material quickly as white started to build a king side attack and it looked as if Aronian was training his sights for an early finish after he came up with a piece sacrifice to dismantle blacks king side.
Vallejo did not give up easily and reached piece plus endgame but whites handful of extra pawns were simply irresistible. Aronian won in 53 moves.
Nakamura tried to prove some advantage in the Bogo Indian game against Ivanchuk. The American exerted pressure in the center but Ivanchuk was up to the task and once the position opened, the pieces changed hands in tandem. A double rook endgame with four pawns apiece was reached and the draw was agreed to in 28 moves.