Linares, March 7: World Champion Viswanathan Anand played out an easy draw with Vassily Ivanchuk of Ukraine to maintain his slender half point lead at the end of the penultimate round of the Morelia-Linares chess tournament here.
It was an easy draw for Anand as Ivanchuk could not make any headway with white. With Magnus Carlsen of Norway also forced to split the point with Levon Aronian of Armenia, the Indian ace now goes into the final round with a half a point cushion and white pieces to back him.
Barring a disaster in his final game against former world champion Veselin Topalov of Bulgaria, Anand is assured of at least a shared first place in the category-21 tournament and is likely to retain the title he won last year.
While not much happened on the leading boards, Topalov kept his date with destiny after scoring a hard-fought victory over tailender Peter Leko of Hungary.
The Bulgarian on seven points is a full point behind Anand, but still has a chance of jointly winning the title if he can have his way against the Indian ace.
The other game of the day was quite catastrophic for Latvian turned Spaniard Alexei Shirov who messed up his endgame in a level position and went down to Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan.
With Anand on eight points and Carlsen half a point behind, the speculation amongst pundits is about who all will tie for the second spot if Anand draws and Carlsen is unable to force the issue against Radjabov. A likely scenario could be a clear second spot for Carlsen while Aronian and Topalov share the third place.