Boy are chess fans being treated at the moment — not only is the battle still raging in Wijk aan Zee, but the Tradewise Gibraltar Chess Festival has just got underway. Described by the Financial Times as “…the strongest and best-organised event of its kind in the world”, it runs from the 25th of January to the 4th of February.
Top seed for the event is America’s Hikaru Nakamura, with his rating of 2787, just ahead of France’s Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and former World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, on 2785 and 2784 respectively. There is a host of recognisable names, however, Jakovenko, Harikrishna, Bacrot, Naiditsch, Short. Among the ladies, are the Muzychuks, Kosteniuk, Cramling, and Stefanova.
The tournament is played over 10-rounds, Swiss format. Time control is 1 hour for 40 moves, then 50 minutes for 50 moves, then the players will get an extra 15 minutes for the rest of the game. There will be a 30 second increment from move 1.
In round 1, things went as one would expect, really. As is often the case in the early rounds of Swiss pairings, some players had very uphill struggles on their hands, even before a move was made. Top seed, Hikaru Nakamura, had a dominant game against Robert Bellin, who made a valiant effort but just didn’t develop at all competitively. This proved costly, and Nakamura was soon winning material and putting a stranglehold on the position.
Alan Tate made a very positive start to his game against Pentala Harikrishna, but in hindsight perhaps freed the position a little too much and allowed his opponent too much space. The ending was a fine display in piece play from Harikrishna, which saw White tied in knots and about to drop material. Shachar–Vachier-Lagrave, saw White punished for hesitant play and become over-powered.
Rather surprisingly, former World Champion, Viswanathan Anand, was unable to assert himself as White againt IM Lazarne Vajda Szidonia, though. It is not so much that the game was drawn, but considering that Anand had the white pieces, the game seemed to me to lack ambition and was a rather tame affair. White was quite content to exchange down in to an endgame where material was equal, both players having a pair of bishops and a passed pawn apiece.
Play continues on Wednesday, January 27th, at 15:00 local time.