This year’s Paris Rapid and Blitz started off with a bang. All the players were clearly in fighting moods, and the first two rounds had four decisive games each. Fabiano Caruana, Vishy Anand, and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave started out strong with two wins in the first two rounds. Fabi and Vishy drew their round three game, and they currently share first place as MVL lost round three to Ian Nepomniachtchi. MVL is still tied for third with Wildcard Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who had a strong first day with two fine wins over Giri and Grischuk. Let’s take a look at the first day as it unfolded.
Caruana got a comfortable position out of the opening as Black against his compatriot Hikaru Nakamura. Hikaru lashed out on the kingside, but it backfired when his own king became weak, and Fabi won by using a powerful e4 bishop to dominate the entire board. MVL got out prepared by Dubov, but outplayed the Russian in a rook and bishop ending, and eventually pulled off a nice win with the black pieces. Vishy got the better of Nepo in a 6. G3 Najdorf, and used a powerful c-pawn to win material, converting his advantage in convincing fashion. Giri played aggressively as Black against Duda in a Giuoco Piano, and he got a very promising position as a result. The Polish player turned things around in the time scramble, however, and won in an exchange-up endgame. Grischuk got an opening advantage against Mamedyarov, but was unable to make anything of it, and the players agreed to the only draw of an overall bloody round.
Fabiano Caruana had every reason to be happy about his first day
Duda played the Petroff against Fabi, a risky decision which proved to be a mistake, as the American displayed strong preparation to get a superior position on the board and on the clock. While Caruana missed a couple tactical shots that might have secured victory a bit faster, he never let up the pressure, and eventually converted by sacrificing a piece for a slew of pawns. MVL had a poor bishop against Mamedyarov, but once it was unleashed and he took an e4 pawn, White’s position pretty much fell apart. Vishy appeared to be under mild pressure against Giri, but turned the tables by winning a pawn and eventually converted into a rook endgame. Speaking of rook endgames, Grischuk transformed positional pressure into a pawn up rook endgame against Nakamura, and won in instructive fashion. Dubov had a slightly weak king in an opposite bishop position against Nepo, but it proved to be nothing serious and they drew when Black gave a perpetual.
MVL started with nice wins in his first two games, but he stumbled in round 3
MVL looked strong in his first two games, but he got a dubious opening position against Nepo and lost without being able to put up much resistance once his central structure fell apart. Caruana had some nice pressure as Black against Vishy, but the former World Champion defended well and forced Fabi to give a perpetual. Naka got very little against Skakh and it looked like the game was headed towards a draw, but the Azeri mixed up the game by sacrificing a piece. This backfired on him after Hikaru ran his king to safety, however, and the American was able to wrap up his first win. Dubov had some chances against Giri, but couldn’t make much of it and gave a perpetual after giving up a pawn. Duda and Grischuk played a wild game, where the Polish player showed off some fine opening preparation. Jan-Krzysztof missed a couple of chances to finish Grischuk off more quickly, but eventually the pressure on the board and clock forced the Russian to succumb.
Vishy made the most of his chances on day one, and is currently in the lead with Fabiano