Round 1: Candidates’ Tournament starts peacefully
The FIDE World Chess Candidates' Tournament started on Friday with all four games ending in draws. In the first round the players playing the black pieces were all slightly higher rated than their opponents, and all four managed to avoid serious problems.
Over the last few days the IET’s Lecture Theatre has been transformed into an atmospheric chess arena, with specially designed tables, chess pieces and logos. Asked about his opinion, Magnus Carlsen of Norway said: “To say something about that I guess I need to play some more games, and perhaps some longer games as well!" The world’s number one drew rather quickly with world number three Levon Aronian of Armenia.
In what was the top game of the round, Carlsen played the Bogo-Indian and equalized rather comfortably. “In general, Levon with Black, that's as tough as it gets. It's an important game for me but at the same time it's the first round, and sometimes it's going to be quiet.” Aronian said he had “expected a bit more from this game”, but played inaccurately early on and then lost his opening advantage.
Not only the chess fans have been awaiting this event eagerly; 6-times Russian Champion Peter Svidler confessed that the last couple of days were "quite tense" for him. He was happy to start his first game, in which he faced his compatriot Vladimir Kramnik.
It became clear once more just how high the level of opening preparation by the players is when Svidler revealed that he had actually looked at Kramnik’s rare choice of the Semi-Tarrasch. After the exchange of queens, Svidler felt the position should be very close to equality. “Perhaps White has some slight pressure if he is very lucky and accurate with move orders.” Kramnik was “pretty much worried” but still found a good way to solve his problems.
The game between Boris Gelfand of Israel and Teimour Radjabov of Azerbaijan saw an amusing incident at the start of the round. Chief arbiter Werner Stubenvoll of Austria announced that FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhinov would make the traditional opening move for the game “Anand-Radjabov”. At the press conference Radjabov referred to last year’s World Championship match between Gelfand and World Champion Viswanathan Anand. “I wasn’t sure if Boris should feel happy about being the World Champion, or if I should be happy playing the World Champion already without winning the Candidates!”
In yet another Bogo-Indian, Radjabov’s 16…d5 was a straightforward way to solve the opening problems. Gelfand, who actually saw this move coming, said: “I had the feeling White would find something but when I came to the position I couldn't find anything.” Many pieces were traded, and just before the time control the position was a dead draw.
The last game to finish was Ivanchuk-Grischuk, an Open Catalan with Black playing his king’s bishop to the modest e7 square, where a check on b4 is considered to be a safe option. Grischuk’s explanation was: “I saw that two guys played the move …Bb4+ already and Kramnik was threatening it, so I thought I had to be original!” Although Ivanchuk had a tiny advantage at some point, the draw was agreed just after the first time control.
Without exception the players expressed their joy to play this tournament in London. “I'm always enjoying my presence here; it's such a great city!” said Levon Aronian. The Armenian grandmaster has already attended several shows since he arrived. “The only thing I don't like about London is the weather,” said Alexander Grischuk, who is actually the only player who smokes, and who needs to leave the building for it.
And so after the first round the tournament has no leaders nor tail-enders. Saturday, March 16th at 14:00 GMT the second round will be played: Carlsen-Kramnik, Grischuk-Svidler, Radjabov-Ivanchuk and Aronian-Gelfand.
The FIDE World Candidates Tournament is taking place March 14th-April 1st, 2013 at IET London, Savoy Place. It is sponsored by the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR) and organized by AGON and the World Chess Federation (FIDE).
By Peter Doggers
Pictures by Anastasiya Karlovich