Round one of the Tradewise Gibraltar Masters, was played on Tuesday 24th January. With this kind of open tournament, early pairings can often be slightly ‘unfair’ in appearance, with stronger players facing much weaker opponents on paper.
This round was no exception to that, with the top seeds all landing opponents that were at least a couple of hundered rating points below them. And as such, it saw the likes of Caruana, Nakamura, Ivanchuk, Topalov, all scoring points and getting their 2017 campaign on the rock off to a fine start.
World #2, Caruana, got the better of his opponent in an English opening. Rakesh Kumar Jena developed his light-squared bishop quite poorly and Fabiano targetted this immediately, doing his best to make this a longterm problem and indeed, the piece became quite hemmed in on the Queenside, where White applied quite a squeeze. Caruana confidently sacrificed rook for knight and pawn and this resulted in some initiative. Then came the tactical blunder of 35…Qa6?? by his opponent, which allowed White to pounce decisively with 36.Rb8+!! And after 36…Bf8 37.Qxa6 Rxa6 38.Bxe7 Rxe7 39.d6, White had two powerful passed pawns, one of which would claim back a rook. White soon had the point on the scoreboard.
At the end of the day, ratings are only numbers and there were a few results that went a little against expectations. GM Nigel Short (2675) drew with FM Peter Lombaers (2314). Playing Black, Nigel was up against it for much of the Nimzo-Indian but his opponent’s 44.Rb4(?? c5!) was just not good enough and allowed Black right back into the game. After this Nigel had no difficulties in holding. GM Boris Gelfand (2721) was also held to a draw by IM Robert Bellin (2353).
Then came a couple of surprising losses, with FMs duffing up GMs. GM Abhijeet Gupta (2645) lost with White to FM Frank Buchenau (2274); and GM Grigoriy Oparin (2625) also lost with White to FM Emilio Miguel Sanchez Jerez (2257).
All of this left a total of 115 players in first place at the end of the first day of play.