The 2023 Grand Chess Tour kicked off today with Round 1 of the Superbet Chess Classic Romania, a 10 player elite round-robin taking place in Bucharest, Romania, featuring newly crowned World Champion Ding Liren as well as challenger Ian Nepomniactchi. After the first round of action Wesley So jumped into the sole lead as he managed to score the only decisive result of the day, defeating Alireza Firouzja with the Black pieces.
Check out the full replay of live coverage from the day here. The time control for the event is 90 minutes for 40 moves, followed by an additional 30 minutes, with a 30 second increment starting from move 1.
A festive opening ceremony took place last night and featured the drawing of lots, artistic performances, talks by prominent figures and a simul featuring the players along with the 13th World Champion, Garry Kasparov.
“The game has a great future, because we know we have solid supporters that are making sure that our game will always be treated as it deserves.” - Kasparov. | Photo Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
For more photos of the opening ceremony, check out the Grand Chess Tour’s Flickr page.
DING - VACHIER-LAGRAVE | ½-½, 34 moves
In his first game as the new World Champion, Ding encountered the Queen’s Gambit Accepted from Vachier-Lagrave. He opted for the solid 7.b3 line, but failed to get much pressure. MVL was well-prepared and successfully liquidated all the material to force a drawn endgame.
From one champ to another – Garry Kasparov made the opening move for Ding Liren. | Photo Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
NEPOMNIACHTCHI - RAPPORT | ½-½, 42 moves
An interesting match-up featuring the recent World Championship challenger Nepomniachtchi, facing off against the main second of his match opponent, Ding Liren. Repeating one of Ding’s openings, Rapport opted for the French Defense, against which Nepomniachtchi once again chose the 3.Nd2 variation (as he played in the match). Soon after Nepo managed to reach a pleasant endgame where he could play against Black’s isolated queen pawn, but sturdy defense from Rapport allowed him to equalize and force a three-time repetition.
Nepo had a clear edge out of the opening, but couldn’t increase his advantage. | Photo Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
DUDA - GIRI | ½-½, 39 moves
The players entered a sharp variation of the Queen’s Gambit Accepted (3.e4 e5), where it seemed like Giri was the better prepared player, as Duda started to spend lots of time out of the opening. The Polish No. 1 then found a concrete path to force a series of trades and reach an equal middlegame, where more exchanges left the players in a dead-drawn rooks and opposite colored bishops endgame.
After 16.Kf2 White’s rook on a1 is hanging, but the threat of b6-b7 will allow him to win the material back.
It seemed like Duda was under pressure, but he managed to find his way out. | Photo Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
CARUANA - DEAC | ½-½, 49 moves
A rare line in the Nimzo-Indian Defense saw the players reach a complicated but balanced endgame, with two bishops but worse development for Caruana. For the most part Deac defended well, but in time-trouble allowed a very strong opportunity that would have given Caruana a near decisive advantage. Unfortunately for Fabi he missed the one chance, and the game soon petered out into a drawn rook ending.
After 33…Bh5, Caruana missed the chance to play 34.Bxc5 Rxc5 35.g4! Bg6 (35…Bxg4 Rg1+- is the main point, where Black loses a piece) 36.Bd5+-, with a huge strategic advantage as Black’s light-squared bishop is shut out.
Caruana had a brief chance to win the game, but he let Deac off the hook. | Photo Courtesy of Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
FIROUZJA - SO | 0-1, 72 moves
At first the game started off rather quietly with a fairly typical Italian game. But after a few trades and a lot of maneuvering So seized the initiative with 37…g5, a tremendously kingside advance with the idea of displacing White’s knight. The problems were too tricky for Firouzja to handle, as So quickly won a pawn and took control over the position. In mutual time trouble, So didn’t find the most decisive path to victory but rather took the game into an endgame, where he was able to generate two passed pawns on the queenside and convert his advantage.
After 37…g5!, So put heavy pressure on Firouzja’s position, threatening to play g5-g4 next.
Good technique earned Wesley So the early lead. | Photo Courtesy Grand Chess Tour, Lennart Ootes
The 2023 Superbet Chess Classic continues Sunday, May 7, with tournament action live starting at 6:50 AM CT with Grandmaster commentators Yasser Seirawan, Var Akobian, Cristian Chirila and International Master Nazi Paikidze on grandchesstour.org and on the Saint Louis Chess Club’s YouTube and Twitch.tv channels.