World Champion Viswanathan Anand [ Images ] split the point with leader Vladimir Kramnik [ Images ] of Russia [ Images ] to remain second after the end of the fifth and penultimate round of Bilbao Final Masters chess tournament.
The draw took Kramnik near the title as he retained his two points lead over the Indian ace with just one round remaining in this category-22 double round robin tournament between four players.
The Russian moved to an impressive nine points aided by two wins and three draws thus far while Anand took his tally to seven, with four draws and a sole win that came against Magnus Carlsen [ Images ] of Norway in the second round.
Carlsen, meanwhile, snatched the third place from Shirov after a hard-fought victory against the latter. Carlsen dumped Shirov in style in the Arkhengelsk variation of the Ruy Lopez in which the Spaniard is supposedly the best player in the world.
In the final round now, Anand will need a win to be in with a chance of catching up with Kramnik or even overtaking him theoretically. In the final round the Indian will have the advantage of white pieces when he meets Carlsen while Kramnik will play with the less favourable colour against Shirov.
On expected lines, Anand did not have to trouble himself much against Kramnik. Playing the black side of a Queen's Gambit declined Anand went for the Vienna [ Images ] variation that Kramnik himself has used successfully on some occasions.
As it happened in the game, Anand did not mind giving Kramnik the Bishop pair advantage early in the middle game and played nonchalantly to first close the center and then operate on the two open files typical of the opening system.
Kramnik did not have many choices and his two points lead in the football like scoring system in use here proved to be a big cushion for him as he decided against any undue risk.
As a result, the pieces flew off the board in a hurry and Anand did not mind that either. First, a couple of minor pieces changed hands and then it was the turn of the queens followed by the rooks and the players reached a drawn opposite coloured Bishop endgame in quick time. The peace was signed on the 37th move.
Anand had already looked at this line back in 2008 before his world championship match at Bonn against Kramnik, "There we already found the slightly original solution of exchanging the bishop for the knight," said Anand.
Carlsen came up with some stunning ideas in the middle game to get the better of Shirov. Playing white, the young star of the world got the momentum with a brilliant knight manoeuvre int he middle game and Shirov was pushed to the wall.
Carlsen later forced Shirov to part with a pawn to stay in the game and a timely attack on the king side later by the Norwegian helped him win the queen for rook and knight. With his pawn mass on the king side heavy against a bare king, Carlsen just needed his technique to be right and that did not desert him at all.
"To be honest Na7 (his knight jump that mesmerized everyone including Shirov) is not the kind of move you come up with without preparation. After that it's unclear but I'm not sure Black has a clear way to equalise after that," Carlsen said.