Leko leads at the halfway stage, Aronian half a point behind and Ivanchuk a further half point behind. The tournament now moves to Linares, Spain, with a scheduled restart of the 3rd March 2006.
Aronian fights back from a lost position to beat Bacrot. Topalov’s pressure pushes Leko toward a draw. Radjabov finds a fascinating king walk to split the points with Svidler. Vallejo and Ivanchuk play to a short quiet draw.
Bacrot – Aronian
Bacrot gets a slight advantage out of a Kasparov variation of the Nimzo-Indian. After first occupying d6 with his queen followed by a knight White’s position is very strong, almost winning. But Aronian fights back in his typical stubborn style and slowly reduces White’s advantage. His key aspects are his active pieces and rampant centre pawns, but he is a piece for two pawns down. Aronian sacrifices another piece to kill off White’s promotion threats, leaving him with a rook and four pawns against a defence of two minor pieces and a rook. Bacrot blunders – perhaps deep in time trouble, and is forced to conceed a rook in an effort to queen his own pawn. Both sides queen at the same time, but Aronian’s threat of queening a second pawn is too much for Bacrot to handle.
Leko – Topalov
Topalov opts for the Sicilian Scheveningen against Leko’s English Attack, and adopts a Jonathan Rowson speciality (7… h5) which serves to hold back White’s aggressive kingside pawns. Leko takes the aggressive option and castles queenside. Topalov sacrifices a pawn and obtains two bishops and the initiative. This keeps Leko busy through the middle game, to the point he forces an exchange of queens, which wrecks his kingside pawn structure. A repetition of position forces a draw.
Svidler – Radjabov
Svidler ventures into a Bb5 Sicilian, presumably to bypass any Radjabov theory, as well as to avoid a theoretical dispute perhaps giving Svidler time to play himself in considering the debacle of the last two rounds. Radjabov equalises comfortably, but Svidler gets a tiny edge into the endgame. After a fascinating king walk, Radjabov secures the position into a draw.
Vallejo – Ivanchuk
Vallejo gets nothing out of a solid variation of the Petroff, and the major pieces quickly get chopped off leaving a barren balanced drawn position.