World Cup 2019 Rd 1: Christiansen stuns Wojtaszek, Nihal beats Cori
A power packed performance by Johan Sebastian Christiansen to oust Radoslaw Wojtaszek from the World Cup. Photo: Youtube

World Cup 2019 Rd 1: Christiansen stuns Wojtaszek, Nihal beats Cori

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The Chess World Cup is one of its kind. The 128 player knockout event started on 10th September, and in the first round already, there were a number of higher rated players tumbling down against their supposedly inferior opponents.

The best players from all over the world join this lengthy, tiring tournament in a bid to reach the final and claim a ticket to the Candidates. The top seed is World no.3 Ding Liren (World no.2 at the time of writing, after beating Shaun Press 2-0) followed by Anish Giri, Vachier-Lagrave, Wesley So, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Levon Aronian, etc.

The opening round saw all these favorites proceed without too much trouble, although Aronian did come dangerously close to losing the 1st game with the White pieces against the eldest player in the field, El Gindy Essam:

Much like how Vishy Anand has brought about a revolution in Indian Chess, Norway is slowly beginning to benefit from the exploits of Magnus, with a new crop of players coming forward and securing the future of chess in their country. 21 year old Johan Sebastian Christiansen whitewashed his much superior opponent Radoslaw Wojtaszek 2-0, by playing some excellent chess.

In their first game, Wojtaszek with the White pieces had a strong grip over the centre, until he started to go astray with his pawn moves. Christiansen took the chances on offer and playing normal, principled chess, brought home the full point.

This meant that the Polish star now had to win on demand with the Black pieces- not a pleasant situation to be in. At this point you will expect the White player (especially being the lower rated) to play a safe line and try the best for a draw, right? But Christiansen had none of that. He went straight into the crazily complicated variations of the Najdorf, and emerged victorious with a brilliant game:

Johan Sebastian Christiansen. Photo: Chess.com

Other top guns to get knocked out were David Navara, Bu Xiangzhi (who eliminated Carlsen in the 3rd round of WC 2017!) Sam Shankland etc.

Aravindh Chithambaram. Photo: Gulf News

There was no Armageddon in Round 1, but a couple of matches did go down the wire, including Michael Adams being eliminated in the last blitz game by Aravindh Chithambaram, after 7 draws on the bounce:

Also noteworthy is Peter Svidler's excellent miniature against Albornoz Cabrera, where he completely blew away Albornoz's Sicilian in 21 moves:
Finally, the FIDE President's Wildcard nominee, 15 year-old Nihal Sarin beat his higher rated opponent Jorge Cori 2-0 with some near flawless chess. He first outprepared his opponent and then played the endgame with accuracy and precision to bring home the full point:
Nihal Sarin. Photo: WC 2019 Official Website
Needing only a draw with the Black pieces next, Nihal played very principled chess, first waiting and making useful moves in a closed position, and when the time came, entering complications without fear, and proceeding to the next round:
The 2nd round has some fierce match-ups, like Firouzja-Dubov, Aronian-Maghsoodloo, and the top seeds have their task cut out. What will happen? Will we again see many upsets or will the stronger players stamp their dominance? Let me know your thoughts in the comments section below!