Sao Paulo: World Champion Viswanathan Anand could not break the ice for the third day running and drew with Fabiano Caruana of Italy in the third round of fifth Final Chess Masters here. Anand, in fact, had to defend for a long time against the youngest participant here and it was only after a stubborn defense that the Indian ace could force a draw.
Draws were the order of the day as Levon Aronian of Armenia did not find a way to break through the defenses of Francisco Vallejo Pons of Spain while Norwegian world number one Magnus Carlsen was held to a draw by Sergey Karjakin of Ukraine.
As a result, the lead positions remained unchanged and Caruana continues to top the tables on seven points under the soccer-like scoring system in place here.
Aronian, with five points, comes second with seven rounds still to come while Carlsen is a point behind. Anand, with three points earned from three draws, is in fourth spot, a point ahead of Vallejo Pons while Karjakin remains at the bottom of the tables with just one draw so far.
Anand did not get any chances against Caruana. The Italian's success in this tournament can be easily attributed to some excellent planning in the opening and pre-game preparation thanks to which he has excelled.
The only time Caruana was seen in troubles was in round one when Carlsen had let him off the hook.
Going for the Sokolsky variation against the Sicilian and avoiding any serious opening discussion as white turned out to be a good strategy against Anand as Caruana maintained a slightly better position going in to the middle game.
The Italian knocked down a pawn showing immaculate technique and Anand was left to defend a worse position for a long time. However, as the game was always within the boundaries of a draw, Anand's defensive skills were tested but the World champion was never in serious danger.
On move 56 Caruana traded the last set of minor pieces to reach a rook and pawns endgame wherein leaving Anand to find the easiest way top a draw. The game lasted 70 moves.
Levon Aronian's attempt to go for extreme complications backfired against Vallejo Pons as the latter came up with some fine counter-play to keep the balance out of a queen pawn opening.
Aronian opted not to castle and opened both wings to get a double edged position early in the middle game but a timely penetration of rook on the seventh rank forced the Armenian on the backfoot and the peace was signed after repetition of moves.
Magnus Carlsen was up against a Queen's Indian defense by Karjakin and got the better prospects out of the opening. Given Karjakin's poor form, many expected Carlsen to score his second victory in a row but Karjakin turned out to be a different player and put up stiff resistance.
The pieces changed hands at regular intervals and Carlsen could only get an optically better minor piece endgame that was drawn in 67 moves. The first leg of the Final Masters here seems to be going Caruana's way but the Italian will have to be a little cautious going in to the rest day here.
After two more rounds, the attention will shift to Bilbao in Spain where the final half of the super-tournament will be played.