Written off by critics and experts, five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand has come back with a big bang and is the most likely contender to challenge Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the next world championship match to be held later this year.
Leading by a full point with five rounds still to come in the candidates, Anand's lead is effectively 1.5 points if one considers the tiebreak according to which the individual encounter comes on top.
With six points in his bag, Anand is followed by Aronian, whom he has beaten 1.5-0.5 in personal encounter, while the rest of the field is at least 1.5 points away.
In the remaining five rounds, the Indian ace has to play three white games as well which could well mean curtains for opposition barring a debacle for Anand or an unlikely huge upswing for opponents.
As things stand, Russians Sergey Karjakin and Vladimir Kramnik share the third spot on 4.5 points and both have white pieces against Anand in the coming rounds. The other player on same points is Shakhriayar Mamedyarov of Azerbaijan who has been having a topsy-turvy tournament.
Given the history, Anand has been coping well with both Russians comfortably and is likely to squeeze through this time also. The Indian has white against Mamedyarov in the next round itself.
If Anand wins, this will be the biggest ever comeback in recent times for anyone as the Idnian ace had been struggling for a long time before this tournament.
Levon Aronian is the man closest and he must be rueing the last game when he lost to Mamedyarov. More than hits, the candidates this year has been more about the misses and Aronian and Kramnik head the list.
While things are far from over, it is clear that Anand holds a dominant position in the 135000 Euros first prize tournament.
The Indian has white games against Andreikin and Svidler too which should give him the confidence to win this tournament, the biggest event since the world championship of 2007 which was played on similar format.
Kramnik on 4.5 points has a lot to worry about too as his game against Anand will be crucial in the coming days. For now the third rest day puts the Indian way ahead of the others.
Pairings round 10: Sergey Karjakin (Rus, 4.5) v/s D Andreikin (Rus, 4); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 4.5) v/s Peter Svidler (Rus, 4); Levon Aronian (Arm, 5) v/s Veselin Topalov (Bul, 3.5); V Anand (Ind, 6) v/s Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 4.5).