Pavel Eljanov is the very early leader of the 2017 Tata Steel Masters after scoring the only win of Round 1 when Richard Rapport’s inventive chess backfired. The most anticipated clash saw Magnus Carlsen demonstrate some left-over World Championship preparation to score an easy draw with Black against Wesley So, while only Adhiban came close to a win as he tortured Loek van Wely in the longest game of the day. The Challengers was more fun, with top seed Ragger beating no. 2 Xiong, two more decisive games and some very near misses.
Tata Steel Masters Round 1 (click on a game to replay it with computer analysis)
It may not quite have been the explosive start we’d hoped for, but Tata Steel Chess is always a celebration for chess fans, as the organiser's video captures:
Let’s get straight to the game of the round, where Pavel Eljanov won his fourth game in a row against Richard Rapport. Eljanov joked afterwards that he played 1.Nf3 to avoid Rapport playing 1…g5, but if so, it only delayed the inevitable by three moves! Peter Svidler takes us through a game where Rapport’s opening wasn't the problem, since he found himself strategically outplayed in the middlegame:
The draws weren’t all identical, but moments of drama were few and far between. Jan Gustafsson mentioned during commentary that he couldn’t say too much about Magnus Carlsen’s Slav Opening against Wesley So, since he knew too much from working with Magnus for the World Championship match.
Indeed, there were echoes of New York as Magnus’ preparation with Black once again proved to be both sharp and rock solid. Up to his 13…e6 they were still following Kovalenko-Andreikin from last year’s Poikovsky tournament.