The first day of the blitz portion of the Paris Grand Chess Tour didn’t shake up the standings too much but it did provide both high quality games and entertainment. After a grueling nine rounds, Magnus Carlsen still leads the tournament with Hikaru Nakamura closing the gap and trailing him by only one point. The players will face off one final time tomorrow but in reverse colors. In addition, there was a community service before the round, where local youngsters had the chance to meet their chess heroes, take photos with them and view art pieces from the Grand Chess Tour 2017 exhibition displayed in Paris from the World Chess Hall of Fame.
The day with started with Magnus Carlsen brilliancies, as the World Champion was cruising through the field with a perfect 4/4 score. Unfortunately, trouble came in round five when he flagged against close rival Alexander Grischuk. In a position where he had a knight and a pawn against a bishop, with a few seconds left on his clock, Carlsen hesitated with his king move and ran out of time. Logically, the side with the extra material would never lose such a position, but by FIDE rules if a checkmate is possible with the material left on the board, even if it is a self-mate, the side that runs out of time loses the game. This game shook Carlsen up quite a bit as he only scored two points in the remaining four games. In his own words, he was playing well but too slowly and eventually it caught up with him. He admitted that the culprit to his slow finish was the game against Grischuk. Even so, he is going into the final day of Paris Grand Chess Tour in clear first place.
Hikaru Nakamura had a very strong showing today and won the first day of the blitz tournament with an impressive 7/9 score. This should come as no surprise as Nakamura is hailed to be one of, if not the best blitz player in the world. The winner of last year’s Paris Grand Chess Tour is now only one point behind Carlsen and will have the white pieces against him tomorrow.
Alexander Grischuk ended the second day of rapid on a high note by winning four games in a row but slowed down today by only scoring fifty percent. Of course it helped that one of his wins came from defeating Carlsen but there wasn’t enough consistency in his games to catch Carlsen. The three time blitz world champion is now in third place and still a contender for first place.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave had an excellent day by being the only other player besides Grischuk to take a full point away from Carlsen. He is still in fourth place but proved himself to be extremely dangerous in blitz by winning four games in a row.
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, on the other hand, only scored three points. After a strong showing in the rapid, it appears the faster time controls are not his friend.
The most surprising turn of events came from the other two Americans. Fabiano Caruana had the worst performance of his life in the rapid by scoring 1.5/9, but made a comeback today with 6/9 and actually tied for second in blitz with the likes of Carlsen and Vachier-Lagrave. Unfortunately, he still has too few combined points to compete for any top places. Wesley So, on the other hand, had an atrocious day by only scoring 1.5 points.
Sergey Karjakin, Veselin Topalov and Etienne Bacrot all had a tumultuous day and are out of contention for the first place.
All information is available on GrandChessTour.org. Live commentary by GM Yasser Seirawan, GM Cristian Chirila, and IM Jovanka Houska will give online spectators even more opportunity to experience the tournaments. As last year, GM Maurice Ashley will be on-site in Paris to interview players and will be joined by GM Romain Edouard. Watch live.
Photo credits: Chess Club and Scholastic Center/Kevin Duggin/Spectrum Studios/Lennart Ootes