World champion Viswanathan Anand [ Images ] played an easy draw with black against Spaniard Alexei Shirov while Vladimir Kramnik [ Images ] of Russia [ Images ] drew first blood defeating Magnus Carlsen [ Images ] of Norway in the first round of Bilbao final masters in Bilbao, Spain, on Sunday.
Anand showcased his new found love for the Berlin defense that came in to prominence at the turn of the century in the 'Brain Games' World Championship final between Garry Kasparov [ Images ] and Kramnik, with the later using it to decisive affect in the match.
Since then, a lot of analysis and games have been played on the system though Anand used it for the first time as black.
It can be termed as a decent start for the World champion, as he achieved what Carlsen could not with the slightly unfavourable colour of pieces on the chequered board.
As it happened in the game, Shirov was, at first, surprised and could not get his act together for any onslaught.
"A dry game with no real mistake," was how the experts summed up the motions on Anand's table.
After an early trade of queens that's typical of the ystem, Anand went on an exchanging spree which was clearly a fruition of work at home. The remaining heavy pieces were off the road by the 20th move itself and the draw was the only logical outcome.
However, going by the Sofia rules in place here, the players had to continue the battle as agreeing to draws "unless it's a forced draw" is what the players had to abide by. The game continued in an opposite coloured Bishop endgame and finally the peace was signed after 41 moves.
Kramnik outplayed Carlsen out of a Queen's Indian defense where the former played with white pieces. The Russian went for a solid system and traded the queens early but still kept the dynamic balance he was looking for.
Carlsen has been clearly struggling with his form since the Chess Olympiad and it seems he is desperately trying to find it back. The middle game saw Kramnik employing tactics to keep Carlsen under pressure and the Norwegian super talent collapsed when faced against a difficult choice in the final stages of the game.
It was almost a 'Zugzwang' like situation when Carlsen called it a day on move 45. In just a few moves, Kramnik would have escorted an opponent piece back home and the rest was child's play.
In the next round of the four-players double round-robin contest, Anand will meet Carlsen who helped him for his World championship preparation against Vaselin Topalov earlier this year.
The Indian ace will yet again play black, but in the remaining four games of the super tournament, he will get three whites. That might well be the time for the World champion to strike.
Results, round 1: Alexei Shirov (Esp) drew with V Anand (Ind); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus) beat Magnus Carlsen (Nor).
Alexei Shirov vs V Anand
1. e4 e5 2. Nf3 Nc6 3. Bb5 Nf6 4. O-O Nxe4 5. d4 Nd6 6. Bxc6 dxc6 7. dxe5 Nf5 8. Qxd8+ Kxd8 9. Nc3 Ke8 10. h3 h5 11. b3 Be7 12. Bb2 Be6 13. Rad1 a5 14. a4 b6 15. Ne4 c5 16. c4 Rd8 17. Rxd8+ Kxd8 18. Rd1+ Kc8 19. Kf1 Rd8 20. Rxd8+ Kxd8 21. Ke2 Ke8 22. Kd3 Bd8 23. Bc1 f6 24. g4 hxg4 25. hxg4 Nd4 26. Nxd4 cxd4 27. exf6 gxf6 28. g5 c5 29. Nxf6+ Bxf6 30. gxf6 Bf5+ 31. Kd2 Bb1 32. Kd1 d3 33. Kd2 Kf7 34. Kc3 Kxf6 35. Bf4 Ke6 36. Bc7 Ba2 37. Bxb6 Kd6 38. Bxa5 d2 39. Kxd2 Bxb3 40. Kd3 Bxa4 41. Ke4 game drawn.