Thanks to two wins and one draw, Anish Giri is the sole leader after the first day of the Superbet Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour. The Dutch GM beat both Wesley So and Sergey Karjakin.
See our preview for the current GCT standings and other information.
Boris Becker, the German tennis legend, was the special guest at the opening ceremony Tuesday at the Stejarii Country Club in Bucharest.
Becker, a good friend of the Romanian former tennis player/coach-turned-businessman Ion Tiriac (who owns the venue), played a brief game of chess with Fabiano Caruana. The three-time Wimbledon champion likes chess.
“Chess is a lot like tennis,” Becker said last month. “I always believed that. Both involve a lot of strategy and focus, in both cases you are on your own, face to face with the opponent. Since I finished my tennis career, I have spent more time on mind sports, a great passion of mine.”
Becker’s first of three Wimbledon titles.
The game itself wasn’t too serious, as Caruana refrained from winning a piece early on, probably to keep things more exciting a bit longer. Eventually Becker lost on time:
The game was one of several short exhibition games between the players and some of the best Romanian junior players and some local corporate executives.
During the opening ceremony, the Grand Chess Tour executive director Michael Khodarkovsky announced that sponsor Superbet has already committed to hosting a classical tournament next year in May.
On Wednesday, the tournament started, traditionally with three rounds of rapid on the first day at 2 p.m. local time. That’s a tough schedule for the commentators in St. Louis, who have to get up early and go live at 7 a.m.
It will be even worse for them with the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid & Blitz (Nov. 22-26), where the rounds will start 1:30 a.m. St. Louis time.
The first day started with a great first round, with three decisive results and some excellent games. One of the first winners was Anish Giri, who bashed out 25 moves of theory with Wesley So (who had played this Open Catalan before, the same way) and then smoothly converted an endgame with a nice final move.
How deep Giri’s prep was (not this morning, but a while back) can be understood from the fact that he had looked at the position with the white king on b5 and his bishop on d6, and knew it was winning with a pawn on g5. Amazing.
Vishy Anand won a nice game as Black against the wildcard Vladislav Artemiev, getting great compensation for an exchange—which he hadn’t planned, it must be added. Afterward he admitted that he had miscalculated something and after that he had to hope for the best, but that worked out pretty fine as Black’s bishop pair was a murderous duo.
Fabiano Caruana needs to do well in Bucharest, because it’s his last event. Levon Aronian, on the same number of points in the standings, does play in India later this month. That was the extra flavor to their individual encounter—a wild game that was pretty impossible to annotate.
Aronian explained the opening and early middlegame:
Giri had started number one and so he played White again in round two, when he drew with Caruana. The Dutch GM is the sole leader thanks to another win in the next round, this time with the black pieces.
Like Caruana, Karjakin still has chances to reach the London playoffs if he does well in his last event here in Bucharest. The Russian GM might have had a similar plan in mind as Maxime Vachier-Lagrave yesterday against Wei Yi in their Najdorf in Hamburg, but Black’s bishop maneuver e7-d8-a5 turned the tables completely and Black was already much better. Such a game is a true nightmare for the white player.
The Superbet Rapid & Blitz Grand Chess Tour games start each day at 14:00 CET, which is 8 a.m. Eastern and 5 a.m. Pacific. You can follow them here as part of our live portal. Commentary is provided by GMz Alejandro Ramirez, Maurice Ashley Cristian Chirila and WGM Jennifer Shahade.
All games from day 1