World Champion Viswanathan Anand has bowed out of contention for a top place in the Grenkeleasing World Rapid Chess championship after being eliminated in the preliminary round.
Having lost two of the first three games, Anand needed exceptional results with some luck to make it to the finals and even though he tried hard, the lady luck did not smile on the world champion.
The 11-time winner here, Anand scored 2.5 points in all after drawing all the three games in the return games of the prelims and finished third while the top place went to Levon Aronian of Armenia and Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia finished second.
Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany finished at the bottom of the tables in the prelims.
Anand had theoretical chances of making it to the finals but the first game of the second day seemed to indicate that the Indian ace had not yet overcome his ordinary form here.
Playing with Black against Aronian in the fourth round and the first game of the day, Anand opted for the Grunfeld and got an almost equal position after the opening.
This, however, developed into an endgame in which Aronian had a passed pawn on the queen side and every right to play for a win and it took Anand a fine defensive effort to draw.
Meanwhile, Arkadi Naiditsch took his revenge for yesterday's first-round loss by beating Nepomniachtchi in the other game of this round. In a Sicilian Najdorf, Naiditsch sacrificed a pawn to gain the initiative and this strategy paid off when the young Russian crumbled under pressure.
In the fifth round game, Anand played as black against Nepomniachtchi and it was a less tactical but no less dramatic battle. On the black side of a Caro-Kann Anand carefully converted an equal position into a slightly better one.
This slight advantage led to a better queen and pawns endgame, and finally Anand had two extra pawns.
While a win looked certain optically, Anand's king could find no place to rest. A win would have given the Indian three points and every chance to qualify for the final and the World Champion indeed tried hard.
But white relentlessly pursued black's king all over the board and after 50 moves in which no pawn advanced and no piece was captured, a draw was agreed.
Now, ironically, before the sixth and final round, Anand could only hope that Aronian would help him to qualify for the final by beating Nepomniachtchi.
While a lot of people expected Aronian to agree to a quick draw to avoid playing Anand in the final, the Armenian showed true sportsmanship by playing a real game against Nepomniachtchi.
However, after committing an error in the opening he was unable to put any pressure on his opponent and finally had to agree to a draw, which secured Nepomniachtchi a place in the final.
While constantly having an eye on Nepomniachtchi's game, Anand tried his best to win against Naiditsch but he also failed to get any tangible advantage. And shortly after Aronian and Nepomniachtchi drew their game Anand and Naiditsch also drew.
"I think the two people who deserved to qualify, qualified. That's life. If you play badly you get punished," Anand said in the press conference.
The Indian will now play Naiditsch in the third place play-off late on Tuesday.
Standings after final round of prelims: 1. Aronian (Arm, 4.5); 2. Nepomniachtchi (Rus, 3.5); 3. Anand (Ind, 2.5); 4. Naiditsch (Ger, 1.5).