Defending champion Viswanathan Anand was stretched a little by challenger Boris Gelfand of Israel but the Indian ace found his way to a draw in the ninth game of the World Chess Championship here on Wednesday.
Anand managed to sign peace following a timely queen sacrifice leaving the scores level at 4.5-4.5 after the ninth round.
As expected, Anand decided to shift gears with black and for the first time employed the Nimzo Indian defense, moving from the Slav defense that he had employed in the first four black games here.
Gelfand went for the classical set up giving due importance to development of pieces instead of trying to catch Anand unaware in any subtlety early in the game.
The result was a routine opening that guarantees white a minimal advantage but nothing beyond that.
The middle game had all the features of an intense battle. Anand wanted to equalise early and that's what prompted him to part with his Bishop for a knight on the 13th move.
This was in fact still a theoretical discussion in progress as the move had been played before but the real surprise for Gelfand came just a couple of moves later when Anand surrendered his second, and long diagonal Bishop for white's second knight.
This meant that the reigning champion had reached a position with two Bishops against two knights in not-so-close position, the endgames would have been worse certainly but the middle game still remained.
As the game progressed Anand wanted to create a deadlock in the center, something that Gelfand, to his credit, worked against successfully. The first new move in the game was yet again played by Anand on his 16th turn. Gelfand responded positively as the assessment of the computers also confirmed. White stood slightly better but Anand had judged the position much better.
On the 18th move, Anand declared his real intentions, to sacrifice the queen and to create a fortress soon after. Gelfand thought himself to be better still and four moves later he had queen for a rook, knight and a pawn.
In terms of material balance, this is known as equal but the queen is supposedly superior in such kind of imbalance.
Anand showed why he is the king in very quick time while Gelfand stayed glued to his chair to work out plans to make his better piece count. The discussion continued a long time but after Anand's 37th move the result was never in doubt.
The game was drawn in 49 moves. Anand now has two white games out of the last three in the USD 2.55 million championship.
The scale has tilted in favour of the Indian after his victory in the eighth game and Gelfand will have to probably fall back on something other than the Grunfeld that he has been employing here.
The 10th game of the championship will be played on Thursday.