The 2019 Croatia Grand Chess Tour kicked off with a bloody first round. The first decisive result came from the World Champion himself, who has been completely dominant lately. Magnus Carlsen defeated Anish Giri in twenty three moves with the black pieces. Fabiano Caruana, Ian Nepomniachtchi and Wesley So followed suit by defeating Hikaru Nakamura, Viswanathan Anand and Ding Liren respectively. There are now six players tied for first place. To kick off the event, legendary World Champion Garry Kasparov made the ceremonial first move in Giri - Carlsen and joined the commentary to talk about the games. Tomorrow promises to be another exciting round.
The World Champion continued his streak with a quick win. Carlsen decided to play an offbeat move in the opening, which he described as “stupid” but he wanted to face his opponent rather than his preparation. Giri sank into a deep think and went astray quickly when he abandoned his kingside and went pawn grabbing on the queenside with his queen. The mating attack was too devastating, forcing Giri to resign in 23 moves. The game received the praise of Garry Kasparov, who explained that the reason Carlsen won this game is simply because he had a deeper understanding of the position.
Garry Kasparov making the ceremonial first move
Fabiano Caruana vs Hikaru Nakamura 1-0
Commentator Yasser Seirawan described this game as finished before it began. Caruana came to the game very well prepared, blitzing out the first twenty moves and unleashing a novelty on move 19. Much to his surprise, Nakamura shared that he was also in his preparation, even though his greedy pawn capture on move 24 was a costly error. Caruana converted without any trouble, sealing the deal on move 40 when both of his rooks penetrated the 7th rank.
Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura in the postmortem
Welsey So vs Ding Liren 1-0
For a long time, this game looked like it was headed towards a draw even though So had the pair of bishops and a better pawn structure. Slowly, Ding Liren started worsening his structure and worsening his position, specifically by putting his rook on an awkward square. The Chinese star was already headed towards trouble when he got his bishop trapped. In his interview, Wesley So pointed out that Ding Liren has been playing a lot lately, and may be fatigued coming into Croatia.
Viswanathan Anand vs Ian Nepomniachtchi 0-1
The Russian Grandmaster played a sharp, fashionable line against the Italian. He felt that he erred by castling too early, which allowed Anand to begin an attack against his overextended kingside pawns. Nepomniachtchi was unhappy about his positions and felt that Anand made questionable decisions which he could not quite understand. Anand never finished his development and had to resign after his opponent’s active pieces dominated his position. This win allowed Nepomniachtchi to leapfrog Giri, putting him in the number four spot on the live rating list.
Viswanathan Anand and Ian Nepomniachtchi
Shakhriyar Mamedyarov vs Sergey Karjakin ½ - ½
Mamedyarov chose the 4.f3 variation of the Nimzo Indian, an opening he has played several times before. This led to a sharp theoretical battle, where Karjakin sacrificed a piece for two pawns and to weaken his opponent’s king permanently. Mamedyarov declined capturing the second piece which would have allowed a perpetual. The game remained imbalanced for a few more moves until Karjakin found another perpetual, forcing a draw.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave vs Levon Aronian ½ - ½
Unsurprisingly, this was the quietest game of the round as Aronian essayed the extremely solid Berlin Defense. Both players have extensive experience in this line as they both play it regularly Aronian played a novelty on move thirteen and kept the game balanced throughout. The players agreed to a draw on move 50 in the two versus two rook ending.