Viswanathan Anand played out an easy draw as black with Richard Rapport of Hungary to stay in joint lead on six points after the end of the ninth round of Tata Steel Masters chess tournament here.
Tackling his first of the two back-to-back black games in a row with ease, Anand had a level position on board for the major part and is now in a three-way tie with four rounds still remaining in the first super tournament of the year.
Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia joined Anand and world champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway in the lead following a fine victory over Indian Grandmaster Vidit Gujrathi.
Ding Liren of China played out a draw with tailender Vladimir Kramnik to be joint fourth alongside Dutchman Anish Giri who was held to a draw by compatriot Jorden Van Foreest.
In the other decisive game of the day, Teimour Radjabov slipped against fellow Russian Vladimir Fedoseev and both are now at a fifty percent score with Duda Jan Krzysztof of Poland.
For Anand, the Queen's gambit declined has been working well for a long time and the ninth round was no different. Rapport tried his hands at a variation that leads to early endgame and the queens got traded as early as on the eighth move.
The trading of queens led to a minuscule advantage for Rapport and that's what it remained when the game ended.
The Hungarian is known for his uncompromising approach but the aura of Anand baffles even the greatest of swindlers in the chequered squares. In the end, a draw was agreed when the players reached a rook and opposite coloured bishops endgame.
Anand's big test comes as early as in next round when he takes on Carlsen who will have white pieces. The chances of Anand winning will rise hugely if he can hold Carlsen as he will have two white games to bank on in the next three rounds.
Carlsen was up against recently crowned American champion Samuel Shankland and for once he also did not get any complications running. Shankland remained slightly better for most of the game while the Norwegian was solid and the draw was a just result in the end.
In the challengers' section, Grandmaster R Praggnanandhaa suffered a defeat at the hands of Russian-turned-Canadian Evgeny Bareev. The French defence by Bareev led to a pawn plus heavy piece endgame where the young Indian could not hold his position.
Pairings Masters round 9: Richard Rapport (Hun, 3.5) drew with V Anand (Ind, 6); Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (Aze, 3.5) drew with Duda Jan Krzysztof (Pol, 4.5); Samuel Shankland (USA, 4) drew with Magnus Carlsen (Nor, 6); Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus, 6) beat Vidit Gujrathi (Ind, 4); Anish Giri (Ned, 5.5) drew with Jorden Van Foreest (Ned, 4); Vladimir Kramnik (Rus, 2.5) drew with Ding Liren (Chn, 5.5); Teimour Radjabov (Aze, 4.5) lost to Vladimir Fedoseev (Rus, 4.5).