Vishy Anand is the oldest player in the Bilbao Masters Final but he continues to demonstrate excellent poise, which tells us about his top physical and mental alertness, when dealing with his opponents.. On Thursday, playing his foutth round match against Spanish champion Francisco Vallejo Pons, Anand displayed great patience, spotted small errors from Vallejo and claimed one piece after another from the board with utmost ease. In scoring another victory in the tournament, Anand moved way ahead of Aronian on the points table. In a nutshell, Anand appears to be using his performance at Bilbao as a precusser to his World Championship re-match with Norway’s world No.1 Magnus Carlsen as the two chess giants come face to face at Sochi, Russia in November.
Anand looked sharp and in great shape as he scored a comprehensive fourth round win against Spain’s Vallejo Pons in the Bilbao Masters Final. That result opened up Anand’s lead over Aronian to 4 points in four matches because the Armenian drew another of his game against Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov. Anand sat without emotions and waited quite like a bird of prey to pounce on any small error that the Spaniard made. As a matter of fact, it was smallest of an error that cost Vallejo the match. Anand watched Vallejo play the Queen’s Gambit Accepted but he erred in the next move. Anand devised a zero-risk plan and feasted on small inaccuracies from the Spaniard. In the end, it was a smooth finish from Anand as Vallejo had to resign after 33 moves.
In the other match between Levon Aronian and Ruslan Ponomariov, the Ukrainian drew advantage from an early sacrifice of a pawn and stretched Aronian. But the Armenian was too good for Ponomariov and refused to yield to the tactics of his opponent. It was the longest match of the day and it saw Ponomariov taking the initiative with white and tried to force his second consecutive victory against the reigning champion Aronian. Incidentally, Ponomariov, at 18 was the youngest ever world champion but on Thursday, Aronian was in no mood to allow him to take an advantageous position. With the match ending in a draw and Anand winning against Vallejo, Aronian finds himself in a difficult situation to regain the title, which he won last year in the tournament’s 6th edition.
As fate would have it, the tournament organizers pulled a fast one on the players. The participant expected that after playing the first round-robin, the second round-robin would be mirrored pairings. This is what happens wherever double round robins are organized. So Ruslan Ponomariov had actually prepared for Anand but he was horrified to learn that his opponent happened to be Aronian. With the organizers swapping the wrong rounds, the confused Ukranian not only ended up playing Aronian instead of Anand, he had to play with the White pieces in three consecutive rounds; 3, 4 and 5. On the other hand, Vallejo was consigned to playing with Blacks three times. The error was brought to the notice of the tournament director but the guy nonchalantly decided to continue with the published pairings.
With two more rounds left, Anand is sitting pretty on top. One look at past history will reveal that usually it is the last day, when the winner is known. But if the five-times world champion Anand beats the Ukrainian Ruslan Ponomariov tomorrow, the result of the Bilbao Masters will become known tomorrow itself. With 13 points against his name Anand will become unbeatable on account of a mathematical improbability.