CHENNAI: The home stretch has turned out to be quite exciting as there is a crowd now at the top. Two draws and two wins in round 9 at the Tata Steel chess tournament at Wijk aan Zee meant four players shared the lead with 6.5 points each with four more rounds to go.

Joint leaders after Round 8, Viswanathan Anand and Nikaru Nakamura split the point while Vladmiir Kramnik of Russia and Levon Aronian of Armenia won their games to reach the top of leaderboard.

Playing with black and adopting Nimzo-Indian Defence, Anand might have come out of the opening with a slight edge as Nakamura came up with a novel move quite early. “I was clearly better after the opening,” said Anand, who quickly entered an endgame while maintaining his advantage. And it was clearly very unpleasant for white because his bishop was much worse than mine. At the same time, I had to do something pretty fast because such an advantage clearly doesn’t last long. But I just couldn’t find anything. Still, a draw is not a bad result, considering I had black,” Anand said.

Nakamura was realistic about the result. “I think I was a little bit worse out of the opening. It wasn’t the sort of game I wanted to play at all but, fortunately, Vishy was unable to come up with anything concrete. I must admit it wasn’t my most exciting game of the tournament,” he said.

Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France and Magnus Carlsen of Norway, half a point behind the tournament leaders at the start of the round, fought an even battle in a Berlin Wall game. Carlsen, black, offered a draw after 42 moves and took the half point.

Former world champion Kramnik and former junior world champion Aronian grabbed their opportunities to get to the top. Kramnik faced the Gruenfeld against Holland’s Erwin l’Ami and came up with a novelty on move 10. In a matter of 13 more moves, Kramnik sealed the game by penetrating black’s position along the King-rook file. “It’s funny people keep defending with the Gruenfeld when I’m white,” Kramnik said later.”

Standings after Rd 9:

V Anand, L Aronian, V Kramnik, H Nakamura 6.5 each;
M Carlsen, M Vachier-Lagrave 5.5 each;
A Giri, Nepomniachtchi 4.5 each;
W Hao, R Ponomariov 4 each;
E l’Ami, J Smeets 3 each;
A Grischuk, A Shirov 2.5 each.