Fabiano Caruana, Sergey Karjakin and Ian Nepomniachtchi are tied for first place after the first day of the FIDE World Rapid Championship in Dubai. The three GMs scored 4.5/5 and are followed by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Magnus Carsen, Laurent Fressinet, Le Quang Liem and Sergei Movsesian who have 4 points. Rounds 6-10 will be played on Tuesday, and the final rounds 11-15 on Wednesday.
Update: here's a video with impressions from Dubai and interviews with Fabiano Caruana, Peter Svidler, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Loek van Wely, and Alexander Morozevich:
Some players, such as Magnus Carlsen, Alexander Grischuk and Ernesto Inarkiev (and the author of these lines), have decided to stay at the hotel closest to the Dubai Chess Club. However, arriving in the playing hall without sweaty armpits after this 9-minute walk (according to Google Maps) is a challenge with a temperature of about 40 degrees Celsius! Consequently, the air-conditioned playing hall feels a tiny bit chilly for some of the players who are wearing very thin shirts.
These are the conditions of the 2014 World Rapid & Blitz Championships which took off on Monday in Dubai. The city, an emirate at the same time, is larger than UAE's capital Abu Dhabi in terms of population (over 2 million) but smaller by territorial size. It hosted the 1986 Olympiad, and these days a strong open tournament is held annually.
Unfortunately the first day of the World Rapid Championship wasn't a showcase of decades of experience in organizing chess events. During the first few hours the wireless internet in the tiny press room was too slow to check its speed (on a site like speedtest.net), the official website was blocked, the transmission of the games on the official site broke down several times, the live commentator was often unintentionally funny and media were sent out of the playing hall after the first three minutes of each round - luckily this rule was dropped after two rounds.
And still, it cannot be denied that we're dealing with a splendid tournament, with a huge and terribly strong field of players (including the world's top 7!), held in a beautiful building - the Dubai Chess Club.
The Dubai Chess & Culture Club
The playing hall is on the ground floor, where a spacious cafetaria is an excellent location for the players to spend their breaks. The top games are shown on TV screens, and even the World Cup football matches can be watched. Usually Magnus Carlsen and his friend & coach Peter Heine Nielsen can be found all the way at the back behind a laptop. On the first day they were both wearing football shirts.
On the first three days there's the World Rapid Championship, which is a 15-round Swiss. This means that the top GMs are facing relatively weak opponents in the first few rounds. Relatively, because they play the top players from the second half of the starting rank, and so we're talking 2600 players. (By the way, there are no less than 23 participants below 2500 Elo even though according to the regulations players must have 2500 or more.)
And some of these 2600 took down a 2700 opponent in the very first round. For example, Hikaru Nakamura, who is top seed in both the rapid and the blitz tournament based on the rapid and blitz ratings, lost to Venezuela's Eduardo Iturrizaga:
On board three Alexander Grischuk was held to a draw by Maxim Matlakov but another Norway Chess participant, Levon Aronian, also lost his first, to one of Vishy Anand's seconds (and a strong GM himself):
Levon Aronian, one of several top GMs to start with a loss
Anand himself was held to a draw by Ivan Salgado Lopez, who has recent practice with rapid chess thanks to his participation in the León tournament. Another Spaniard, the rising star David Anton Guijarro, did even better:
Bassem Amin, Egypt's number one player, beat Teimour Radjabov, who won a pawn but blundered:
After his early loss, Nakamura recovered well with wins against Lu Shanglei of China and Andrei Volokitin of Ukraine but that was followed by draws against Laurent Fressinet of France and Vladimir Potkin of Russia.
Magnus Carlsen beat Kiril Georgiev but already dropped half a point in round two against Gadir Guseinov, who had proved himself to be a tough opponent for anyone in quickplay during the long night in the hotel lobby in Shamkir after the closing ceremony of the Gashimov Memorial!
Round 1, Carlsen vs Georgiev
Carlsen left the playing hall with a smile after he defeated Potkin in a nice attacking game:
In rounds 4 and 5 the Norwegian drew a worse ending against Evgeny Tomashevsky of Russia, and then beat Ernesto Inarkiev (also Russia).
Carlsen, on 4.0/5 after day 1
Don't miss the following game, another absolute gem by Baadur Jobava in the “New Veresov”:
After five rounds, three players scored 4.5 points - two of them despite just having played a tough event in Norway: Fabiano Caruana of Italy, Sergey Karjakin of Russia and Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia. Caruana played both Dutch participants, beat Ivan Sokolov and drew with Loek van Wely. He also defeated Viktor Bologan of Moldavia, Alexander Moiseenko of Ukraine and Baadur Jobava of Georgia.
Karjakin beat Ahmed Adly of Egypt, Vadim Milov of Switzerland, Yu Yangyi of China and Judit Polgar of Hungary, and drew with Jobava. Nepomniachtchi beat Boris Savchenko of Russia, Luka Lenic of Slovenia, Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany and Viktor Laznicka of Czech Republic (after which he was the only player on 4.0/4) and drew with Maxime
Ian Nepomniachtchi, the only player who won his first four
Sergey Karjakin, co-leader after five rounds
Vishy Anand, on 3.5 points
Judit Polgar started with 3.5/4 but then lost to Karjakin
The World Rapid starts today at 3pm local time which is 1pm CET, 7am New York and 4am Los Angeles. The championship will be broadcast live on the tournament’s official website with online games and commentary.