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FIDE World Chess Championship: Anand allows Topalov a memorable escape in Game 9, match tied at 4.5

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The World Chess Championship is tantalisingly poised, with just three games left to play. In probably the most exciting games of chess in recent memory, Veselin Topalov fought a bitter battle with the defending champion and emerged with a priceless draw after a mind-numbing 83 moves to earn a slim edge over Viswanathan Anand.

The players resumed hostilities after a day of well deserved rest, with Topalov having wrested the momentum from the champion - thanks to two intense draws and a win in their last three games. The stage is set for a memorable climax to this razor sharp contest of wit and preparation. On a day when Bulgaria was celebrating its Day of Bravery with The Feast of Saint George, the patron saint of the Bulgarian Army,  the players were engaged in a battle inside the Military Club in Sofia for the title of the Undisputed Champion of the glorious game of Chess.

Topalov has recovered from the early blows and in today's game, he made a telling deviation from the distinctly Catalan theme of this match by opting for the Nimzo-Indian defense, moving his bishop to b4 on his third move. The opening was developed by the Latvian-Danish Grandmaster Aron Nimzowitsch in the early twentieth century.

Anand played by the book and chose the Rubinstein system, white's most common refrain to counter Nimzo. He played his e file pawn to the third rank on the fourth move. Topalov castled on move four, the champion responded by castling himself on the seventh move. The first round of action on the board resulted in the players exchanging a pair of pawns on moves seven and eight, creating room for the game to evolve. The Bulgarian spent some time on the 13th move before opting for the popular option of moving the Rook to e8, creating space for the knight.

Anand exchanged his queen for a pair of rooks in an effort to press forward; any error on the part of the challenger would have proven fatal at this stage. But Topalov was alert to the risk as he prepared for this by moving his queen to d6 and eliminating the possibility of the white bishop marching forward to d4, curbing black's freedom on the king side of the board.

On the 25th move Anand offered his bishop in exchange for a knight, by moving the white bishop to c4, but Topalov would have none of that, as he blocked it effectively by choosing to play Bd5. While it appeared Anand was content playing for two results, the challenger was showing a sign of nerves in opting for the risky Qb4 on the 26th move instead of Qd7, which was the more solid option. But the Bulgarian did cover that, by bringing the knight to d7 on the 27th move.

In the middle game Anand played a perfect game of attrition emerging better off by two rooks over the Bulgarian, who was continuing to defend all he can. Anand did trouble the king by playing the rook in front to keep the king rooted to the eighth rank.

Meanwhile, Topalov may have erred in choosing to take a pawn on the 46th move, only to lose his in return. In hindsight, g5 could have been a better option instead of gxh5 that he went with. The game was now swinging clearly in favour of white, with black having to fight a game of narrowing odds.

As the game turned into the longest battle in the championship Anand was under pressure for time and this may have contributed to him playing 57 - Rhd5 instead of probably going up the ranks, as the experts suggested. He still had an advantage; Topalov had to play for dear life and hope to survive the assault. And he was doing just that advancing his pawns at every opportunity to mitigate his disadvantage and force a draw.

The average sports fan that is used to the physical action of most sport would be oblivious to the palpable excitement and the thumping hearts of the many thousands that were now riveted to this most exciting of games. Unashamedly, one was trembling in the excitement that was unfolding.

Anand had yet another chance, when he could have had a better opportunity with Rdd7, he opted for kg3, allowing the Bulgarian some breathing space. With Anand engaged in his effort to neutralise the advanced pawns, Topalov found room to attack the white king with the queen and force an invaluable draw.

This was a Houdini like escape for the challenger as the great Indian champion had many opportunities to take the game and a crucial lead in the final stretch of this championship. As it is, the players are tied at 4.5 each and will head into the final three games, with the Bulgarian having the advantage of playing white in two of those. The tide, it appears is turning and Anand's legendary defensive skills will be put to a gruelling test in the next few days.

This is a war, nothing less and nothing more.

Scores: Anand 4.5 - 4.5 Topalov

Moves: Access a visual representation of the entire match here.

Story so far: Game 1, Game 2, Game 3, Game 4, Game 5, Game 6, Game 7 & Game 8.

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