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Zurich Chess Challenge 2014 (1)

Favourites Carlsen and Aronian both start with wins in Zurich

Carlsen beat Gelfand in Zurich Round 1. Photo ©

Carlsen beat Gelfand in Zurich Round 1. Photo © |

The top seeds World Chess Champion Magnus Carlsen and world number two Levon Aronian who just completed a dominating performance at the Tata Steel Chess tournament both won their first round games. These were Anand and Carlsen's first classical games since their world chess championship match in Chennai and their contrasting fortunes seemed to mirror their play from that match. Carlsen took his opportunity and Anand miscalculated something.

Magnus Carlsen was delighted with his first round win over Boris Gelfand even after an extremely slow start to the game. Carlsen said he was somewhat surprised by Gelfand's Nf6 and took 32 minutes on 9.Bf4 "I was in a coma there.". Carlsen soon "remembered how it was to play chess again." and came up with the excellent 15.g4! "too nice an idea to turn down" which left Gelfand thinking for half an hour. Carlsen quickly opened up the position at the expense of his pawn structure but in return he got very active pieces, even if they were pretty much on the squares they started on the change in pawn structure made a huge difference. There were later computer moves that could have kept Gelfand in it but in practice it was impossible to stop. Carlsen commented afterwards "A very fun game today, been a while since last time. Probably not Boris' best day." "Threats and counter threats, this is the kind of chess I want to play!"

Levon Aronian also managed to win but not in quite so convincing a manner against former World Champion Viswanathan Anand. Anand miscalculated something important in playing 17...Bd5 (17...Bc6) in that he couldn't later play Qa8 and Rxa5 and this left his position close to being busted. 22...Bxe4 was a sacrifice that created many practical chances especially as Aronian (joking or not he mentioned that he suddenly noticed there was no increment) entered time trouble. Aronian said he was initially pleased with 30.f3 but it didn't turn out so well and 36...Rc8 may have led to a superior version of the game. In the end time control came just in time for Aronian and his 41.Nd1 was the only way to continue to play for a win and good techinque brought home the full point.

Hikaru Nakamura didn't have the best of the opening against Fabiano Caruana but somehow eventually did get a small advantage into the ending, probably never enough to win and the game was drawn.

Round 1 Standings: Carlsen, Aronian 1pt, Caruana, Nakamura 0.5pts, Anand, Gelfand 0pts.

Round 2 Fri 31st Jan 2014 2pm GMT: Carlsen-Aronian, Anand-Nakamura, Gelfand-Caruana.

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