Ian Nepomniachtchi, right, is top of the standings on 5.5 points with five rounds to go ©FIDE/Lennart Ootes

Russia's Ian Nepomniachtchi maintained his half-point lead after round nine of the International Chess Federation (FIDE) Candidates Tournament in Yekaterinburg, with a draw against compatriot Alexander Grischuk.

Nepomniachtchi now has 5.5 points.

The winner of the competition - which sees eight players play each other twice each - will face Magnus Carlsen for the world title later this year.

Dutchman Anish Giri now joins two other players on five points after winning a vital match against China's Wang Hao, who remains on four points in fifth position.

Giri sits in fourth position, but is level on points with American Fabiano Caruana and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France.

Caruana drew with Kirill Alekseenko of Russia.

After a long match, Vachier-Lagrave salvaged half a point against bottom-of-the-table Ding Liren of China.

The draw keeps Vachier-Lagrave third place and half a point off the leader, with Caruana second.

Ding sits half a point afoot at the bottom of the table on 3.5.

Alekseenko, Grischuk and Wang all have four points.

The eight-player event began on March 15 2020, but the FIDE halted competition after 11 days due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The tournament returned after a 390-day hiatus yesterday, still taking place in Yekaterinburg in Russia.