By WGM Alina l'Ami
Even though we are living in a World of numbers and statistics, the first round results should not deceive us!
True, one decisive game out of six is not much, and some may say we almost did not see any gladiator's blood flowing. In exchange, the spectacle was worth every single penny, all the games were interesting and hard fought. Draws did not come in easily; we have the extreme case of Nakamura who, with less than a minute on his clock, took big risks in a heroic attempt to avoid a peaceful result.
The positive first round spirit is reflected by the attitude of Anish Giri, the only player who had to drink the bitter cup of defeat. Anish declared himself happy with his play despite the final result in a display of true sportsmanship.
Boris Gelfand - Anish Giri
The only decisive game of today was complex, complicated and rather balanced during the middlegame - an interesting Slav with 4.e3, where Anish sacrificed an exchange close to the time control. It seemed to give promising compensation, but he started to drift from that point onwards and with accurate play, the experienced Boris Gelfand converted his material advantage into a full point.
In the game 28...Qd8
was played but 28...Qc5
is perhaps better, preventing the regrouping Bf1
, and later on it was essential to play g5
in order to stop f4
. Gelfand then confidently pressed to a win.
In their previous encounters, Giri had scored two full points with the same colour of today's round: Black! Maybe the Dutch should have remained faithful to his Dutch opening from Beijing...
Laurent Fressinet - Ruslan Ponomariov
What might look as a rather dull draw in a Bb5-sicilian is actually just the top of the iceberg. During the press conference many hidden tactics and subtleties have been revealed, all of which had to be taken into account by the players! But all we see is just very accurate moves and we have to dig further to understand what was actually going on!
Black reached the ideal setup with Rfd8, Be8 then 21...Kh8! in the above position was a good profylactic move against Nd5. And the last precise manouevre was 22...Ne5-c6 when Black is completely fine.
Converting the small advantage White had into something much more serious was not so easy; we might speculate further that the game basically never went out of balance. So the draw is then a completely justified result.
Alexander Grischuk - Wang Hao
Wang Hao had an absolutely fine position in a rare line with 3.Nc3 in the French Defence, but then, in the press conference, the players agreed that 16...Rae8?! was a bit careless.
Instead, both grandmasters agreed 16...e5 would have been better. After 16...Rae8 Grischuk managed to develop an initiative with a few powerfull moves.
But, as Grischuk said, he should have played:22.Rac1! (instead of 22.Ng4 which was played in the game) 22...Qd8 23.Ng4 Ref8 24.Nxf6+ Rxf6 25.Rf3 Rxf3 26.Qxg6 and gxf3 with a big advantage. With a series of beautiful sacrifices, White has managed to obtain a strong initiative only to "blunder several moves later...in the game I missed the defense 23...Qc2! and was relieved to find the perpetual." (Grischuk)
A very interesting and exciting game!
Hikaru Nakamura - Evgeny Tomashevsky
A Marshall gambit which is in general very interesting but even more so when the players are out of theory and have to find their own way! Both players forgot their preparation... The critical moment was:
21.h3 should have been played (in the game Nakamura went for the very natural but less precise 21.Ke1), threatening g4! The only reply is 21...e4 and now the forced line 22.Kc2 (22.Ke1 Bg4! is unclear) 22...Be6 23.g4 (23.Qh8+ Kf7 24.Qxa8 exf3 is fine for Black) 23...Nb4+ 24.Kc1 Qc5 25.Qxh6+ Kf7 26.Qh7+ Kf8 27.Qxe4 Bd5 28.Qd4 Qxd4 29.Nxd4 White has a much better endgame. But in these crazy lines there is certainly room for improvement so please let us know if you find them!
We actually have a little insight from the press conference: Tomashevsky believed he was following his home preparation, but unfortunately couldn't remember the lines...he didn't anticipate this critical and forcing variation would appear on the board; for Nakamura the situation was much the same. Remembering your analysis is always a challenging task, even for the most experienced players! After all, they do play everything...
Vassily Ivanchuk - Leinier Dominguez
A rather short draw, not without critical moments though! Probably the most interesting continuation could have arised after 11...Bf8:
The players looked at 12.Ne5 but Ivanchuk was not sure of 12...Nxe5 13.dxe5 Rxe5 14.Nb5 d4! 15.Nxd4 Rd5, though during the press conference he changed his mind and thought White may have some pressure after 16.Bc4.
Dominguez replied he was intending to play 15...Rg5, with the idea to meet 16.Nf3 with 16...Rd5 (16...Bxf3 17.Qxf3 Qxd3 18.Qxa8! is an important point) 17.Bxf6 gxf6 but here the computer-suggestion 18.Ne1! seems strong. Another question is 15.Nxc7 Rc8 16.Bxd4 Rg5 17.f3 which seems to lose a piece to 17...Rc7 but 18.Bxf6! and Bxh7 is then winning. In short, 12.Ne5 may have given White some advantage.
Fabiano Caruana - Etienne Bacrot
A very interesting game from a theoretical viewpoint. Fabiano deviated from their previous game in Thessaloniki with 14.Qf3, and seemed to get some small advantage from the opening. At least his opponent was seriously down on the clock! It never got to a problematic advantage though, mainly due to White's bishop on a1. In the final position neither side could avoid the repetition.
Maybe a small critical moment was on move 22, when Caruana had originally planned 22.a4 but then realised that after 22...Nd5 23.Bxc4 Bxc4 24.Rxc4 Nf4! only Black can be better. ('I was hoping for this' Bacrot said)
All in all, an exciting round; most of (if not all) the players have reasons for contempt. At the same time, all but one may hope for the better on the next round... Are you as curious as me to see how this will be reflected in the results of tomorrow?!
The first round games are available for download
More photos are available here