Viswanathan Anand has shown patches of brilliance in 2019 only to squander it at crucial moments. In Wijk Aan Zee and the Shamkir chess tournament, the former five-time world champion had his chances to finish the tournament on a strong note but he lost at crucial intervals to finish in the middle of the table. In both Wijk Aan Zee and Shamkir, the common factor was his loss to reigning world champion Magnus Carlsen. However, in the Grenke Chess tournament, Anand has displayed his class and he is now in the joint-lead with Carlsen after securing a win against Spanish Grandmaster Francesco Vallejo Pons. Playing with black pieces, Anand displayed superb defence to seize the initiative and defeat Pons.
This was Anand’s fourth match and third game with black pieces and the Indian Grandmaster employed the Caro Kann opening to neutralize Pons’ opening. Black’s queen caused all the damage and with an addition to two knights and a rook, Anand’s queen was in a prime position to inflict damage. In the end, Pons tried some desperate tactics but in the end, he resigned in 47 moves. Anand’s win, followed by Carlsen’s draw against Fabiano Caruana in 71 moves, ensured Anand stayed in the joint lead with three points from four games.
The win against Pons, following a brilliant display of defensive match-play and calm display from a poor position against Carlsen in the previous round will boost Anand’s confidence as he aims to break his title drought in classical chess. The 63-move draw between Carlsen and Anand in the third round could prove to be decisive for the Indian champion. Carlsen pressed hard for a decisive advantage from the white side of this English Opening game. Anand was in trouble after 12 moves but his gritty display resulted in a draw. Anand faces a tricky opponent in Caruana in round five and with just four rounds remaining, the Indian Grandmaster will be desperate to avoid a slip-up.
The Grenke Chess tournament began in 2013 and is an elite chess tournament held in the German cities of Karlsruhe and Baden-Baden. The first edition featured six players which Anand won while Carlsen won the 2015 edition of the tournament.