The start of the blitz portion of the GCT Croatia brought another exciting and emotional day of chess for both the players and the spectators. The tie for the top place was changing until the last moment. No player remained without losses, though it was Maxime Vachier-Lagrave that took away the lead in the blitz, scoring 6.5 points, though it wasn’t enough to catch up with the World Champion Challenger Ian Nepomniachtchi, who is still half a point ahead in the overall standings. It was a tough day for former World Champion Garry Kasparov, who suffered a few tough losses. With less than a few points to differentiate between the top three players, fans will have to watch tomorrow’s final round to find out who will be crowned champion of this year’s Croatia Rapid and Blitz.
Standings after Day 1 of Blitz
Playing Hall of the Croatia GCT and overview of the players | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
After a slow start with 1.5/3, Maxime seems to have found his form being able to manage his time quite well and stay tactically alert. He has a stellar performance in his game against the tournament leader Ian Nepomniachtchi, though luck has been on his side on a number of occasions, including saving lost positions against Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Garry Kasparov.
Maxime Vachier-Lagrave post game analysis | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
After a tough start in the first day of blitz having 1.5/4 points, Ian was able to pull himself together and come back with 4.5 points out of his remaining 5 games. He maintains the sole lead in the overall standings, but will have to stay extra-sharp tomorrow as half a point lead is not nearly sufficient to call it. In his interview at the end of the day he made a supporting comment for former World Champion and legend Garry Kasparov, that he roots for him more than he does for himself.
Anish had a brilliant start of the day taking down 5-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand as well as French super GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. He seems to have found a better form in the blitz portion, though he suffered a tough loss in Round 8 blundering against Anton Korobov in a dynamic endgame where he underestimated the power of two advanced passed pawns. He remains in contention for the top prize as he is only 1.5 points away from the leader.
Alexander Grischuk seems to have found his form winning two nice games against Anton Korobov and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. It is a known fact he typically finds himself in situations of time trouble, yet he has been able to play brilliantly throughout the entire day. But Grischuk also suffered a tough loss against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave which kept him from being the only player not to have suffered a loss in this first day of blitz.
Alexander Grischuk in deep thought | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Jan-Krzysztof Duda was doing phenomenal for most of the day, scoring 4.5 points out of the first 7 rounds. Unfortunately for him, he must have succumbed to the pressure and lost his last two games keeping his result at 50%. He currently shares 4th remains in contention for the top places, though it may be hard to imagine winning the event, but anything remains to be seen tomorrow.
Anand suffered a tough loss in the first game of blitz against Anish Giri, but overall it turned out to be a good day for the former World Champion. He scored 5.5 points which keeps him in a tie for 4th place with Jan-Krzysztof Duda. A match to remember old times was certainly the one against his former rival and World Champion Garry Kasparov, which he won.
Anton Korobov had a solid performance today, scoring 50%. He played an excellent game today against Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and was able to turn the game against Anish Giri from a lost position into a win.
It was a tough day at the office for Shakhriyar Mamedyarov as he suffered four losses and only scored 4 points today. He will have to find his form tomorrow in order to raise up the overall standings and continue his hunt for better overall standings of the GCT.
Jorden Van Foreest
Despite being the youngest competitor of this event, Jorden Van Foreest is fearless. He scored two nice wins today taking down former World Champion Garry Kasparov as well as Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who would have been a point away from sharing the 3rd place in the overall standings.
Jorden Van Foreest keeping it cool | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
Former World Champion Garry Kasparov came out of retirement and jumped into the action taking Ivan Saric’s spot in the blitz portion of this event. Saric’s performance in the rapid portion was fantastic and Kasparov may have felt the pressure to maintain their team position in the overall standings. Unfortunately for him, he had trouble getting some difficult positions out of the opening. He had a dominant position against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, but failed to find a way to convert the game and eventually lost due to time. He is known to be a resilient fighter and we hope to see him strike back tomorrow in the final day.
Garry Kasparov had a tough day at the office today | Photo courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes