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Games : Chess

The Investbanka tournament in Belgrade is set for an exciting final round, as all three leaders drew their eighth-round games. Vassily Ivanchuk, Viswanathan Anand and Alexei Shirov now enter the last round neck and neck on 51/2 points.

The penultimate round was a nervous affair as the trio, all playing White, tried and failed to overcome opponents below them in the tournament table. The first to concede a draw was Ivanchuk, for whom the opening went curiously wrong against Joel Lautier. Ivanchuk's attempt to avoid a mainline Sicilian Defence with 1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 e6 3.c4!? Nc6 4.Nc3 was answered by the apparently time-losing 4...e5(!) In the position reached, however, White's knight on f3 makes it difficult for him to advance his pawn to f4. After 5.a3 d6 6.Rb1 a5 7.d3 f5, Black had a perfectly easy game and a draw was agreed on move 18.

Anand had much more fun in his game, but may at the end have been relieved to have escaped with a draw. Belyavsky's opening play led him into a rather dubious line of Philidor's Defence and Anand played as though determined to punish him for it. With 9.Bh6 followed by g4 and h4, he launched a direct attack on the black king, but he may have missed the clever idea of 16...Nfxg4! and 17...g5.

As a result of Black's piece sacrifice, the white queen was incarcerated on h6, and for the rest of the game White had a desperate struggle to save her from attack by the black knight.

19.Rdf1 was an essential preparation to meet ...Nf7 with Rxf7, but after 20...Rf7 Black threatened to double rooks on the f-file and force a series of exchange that would end in Nf7 trapping the queen. Anand's 21.Bc4! was a clever way out. The immediate threat was 22.Bxe6 Qxe6 23.Qxg5+, and 21...Nxc4 would have been met by 22.Rxf7 when Qxf7 allows Qxg5+ again, while Kxf7 would be met by Qxh7+.

Black therefore exchanged a pair of rooks before accepting the gift of the bishop on c4, but White's 23.Rf6! renewed the threat of Qxg5+ and re-established material equality to leave the position in a level endgame. Having had enough excitement for the day, the players shook hands on a draw.

White: Viswanathan Anand

Black: Alexander Belyavsky

1 e4 d6 14 Nh3 Rad8

2 d4 Nf6 15 h5 Rfe8

3 Nc3 g6 16 Nf4 Nfxg4

4 Be3 e5 17 fxg4 g5

5 f3 exd4 18 Nxe6 fxe6

6 Qxd4 Bg7 19 Rdf1 Rf8

7 0-0-0 0-0 20 Nd1 Rf7

8 Qd2 Be6 21 Bc4 Rxf1

9 Bh6 Bxh6 22 Rxf1 Nxc4

10 Qxh6 Nbd7 23 Rf6 Qg7

11 g4 Qe7 24 Qxg7+ Kxg7

12 h4 Ne5 25 Rxe6

13 Be2 c6 Draw agreed

While all this was going on, Shirov had been trying to overcome the resistance of Ljubomir Ljubojevic. he seemed to obtain a slight initiative from the opening, but the Yugoslav grandmaster played calmly first to beat off the threats, and then to force Shirov on to the defensive. When a draw was agreed after 34 moves, Ljubojevic seemed to have some advantage, but his poor placing in the tournament table gave him little reason to work hard to extract more than half a point from the game.

In the final round, Ivanchuk plays Kramnik, Anand plays Gelfand and Shirov faces Belyavsky.