Mainz, Germany:World champion Viswanathan Anand continued to struggle with his form and settled for a tied third place finish in the Grenkeleasing world rapid chess championship here.
After being eliminated in the prelims of the annual event that he had won 11 times earlier, Anand did not quite motivate himself to play well for the third place and all the four games against German Arkadiz Naiditsch ended in draws leaving the third place to be shared by both of them.
Meanwhile, Armenian Levon Aronian won his maiden title on Mainz soil with a clinical performance against Ian Nepomniatchchi of Russia in the finals.
The former world junior champion from Armenia scored victories in the first two games itself and then sealed the event and the winner's jacket in his favour with a draw in the third game of the four-games final.
Nepomniachtchi also drew the fourth game, leaving the scoreline to read 3-1 in favour of Aronian.
Anand failed to overcome his poor form and his play in the match for the third place against Naiditsch was strangely uninspired and lacked punch.
"Well, as there is not that much at stake in the match for third place, it is very difficult to motivate oneself," Anand said later at the press conference.
The first game showed how difficult both Anand and Naiditsch, who had also played in the Ordix Open where he finished second to Mamedyarov, found to motivate themselves.
Anand had White and chose a quiet Italian game, which ended in a listless 26-move draw.
In contrast, Aronian lived up to his role of favorite in his first game against Nepomniachtchi. From the white side of an English Opening he managed to convert positional pressure into something tangible when winning two pawns.
Yesterday, the Russian had overcomed a two-pawn-deficit against Anand, but against Aronian, Nepomniachtchi was not that lucky. In fact, his only hope was the clock.
Aronian had only seconds on the clock but the five second increment per move proved to be enough for the Armenian to seal his first win in the finals.
In the second round, Naiditsch and Anand went into a well-known line of the Ruy Lopez and did not mind a draw when all rooks were swapped on the a-file.
Nepomniachtchi did everything one tells beginners not to do. He neglected his development, left his king in the centre and advanced both his a- and his h-pawn in an effort to put pressure on Black.
Aronian developed quietly and when all his pieces were ready and his king had castled, he countered in the center and suddenly things were critical for White. With little time on the clock, Nepomniachtchi went astray and fell victim to an assault on his king that was stuck in the centre.
With two clear wins from the first two games Aronian was on the brink of winning the match and had no problems to clinch the title in the third game.
With Black, Nepomniachtchi put his hopes on the Gr? Defense but Aronian always had things under control and in an ending where Nepomniachtchi had no winning chances at all, the Russian finally agreed to a draw and Aronian won the title with a game to spare.
Anand and Naiditsch shunned all excitement and after 23 moves the game was over.
The fourth game between Nepomniatchchi and Aronian was a mere formality. Nepomniachtchi played an unusual opening, which inspired Aronian to an unusual rook maneuver.
After this rook had done his duty, Aronian decided to sacrifice it. Black had a serious material disadvantage but the computer still liked Black's chances better. However, Aronian decided not to tempt fate and opted for a draw through perpetual check to win the match by a convincing 3-1 margin.
Anand and Naiditsch again didn't harm each other much and played the fourth draw to share the third place.
Anand will have to wait for next year's Chess Classic to get "his" title back on one of his favourite hunting grounds.
"It's fun to play against someone who is tough. And Anand is really tough," Aronian said.
Organiser Hans-Walter Schmitt later promised Anand a wild card and he won't be the only one who is happy to return.
"This is such a wonderful tournament, everybody likes to play here," Aronian said.