Anand Grabs Early Lead in Masters Final, Upsets in European Club Cup | Update: VIDEO

Anand Grabs Early Lead in Masters Final, Upsets in European Club Cup | Update: VIDEO

| 35 | Chess Event Coverage

In the first round of the Chess Masters Final, Viswanathan Anand immediately grabbed the lead. In the clash between ex-world champions, Anand defeated Ruslan Ponomariov after 61 moves in a King’s Indian game. Francisco Vallejo Pons and Levon Aronian drew after 46 moves in a Nimzo-Indian.

The European Club Cup's first round saw quite a few upsets, including a spectacular win by Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom over former world championship contender Peter Leko.

Update: here's our video of the first round:

Masters Final

On a separate podium, elevated about two feet and decorated with a red carpet, the four participants of the Masters Final played their first round in the Euskalduna Conference Centre, alongside the European Club Cup participants. It was Bilbao mayor Ibon Areso who started their clocks, and the games began just a little after 3 p.m.

The time control in the Masters Final is faster than in other tournaments: the players get 90 minutes for the first 40 moves, which is normal, but without the 30 seconds per move (which the ECC players do have). There is an increment, but only starting from move 41, and it’s only 10 seconds per move.

As a result, the games tend to reach a climax about an hour earlier in the round. Today, one of the two games finished right after the first time control, after three hours of play. In Vallejo vs Aronian, from a Nimzo-Indian Defense, Black got a small advantage but he failed to convert a promising ending.

“The opening went quite wrong today, so I guess a draw is fine”, said Vallejo, who won the Spanish Championship right before this event. “Basically for the last month and a half I’ve been playing very well. The results are quite good, but especially the chess level I’m showing. Although today I’m not sure.”

“I think my position was very good but at one moment I got tempted to go for a forced line which ended up being maybe not so good as it looked,” said Aronian. The Armenian number one is one of five players who came to Bilbao right after the very strong Sinquefield Cup in St. Louis, USA.

Is it possible that Aronian suffered from jetlag? “I thought I didn’t… I went to sleep around 1 a.m. in the evening and woke up around 1.30 p.m. today. So I guess there is something because normally I don’t sleep for twelve hours!”

The players are not allowed to agree a draw without the arbiter’s permission, but that was not an issue in this game because at the end the players were simply repeating the moves. Nonetheless, both of them can find a “1” behind their name in the standings, because in this tournament the players get 3 points for a win, 1 point for a draw and 0 for a loss.

Below you'll find reactions from both players in two short video interviews:

Exactly two hours later the other game finished, and here it was Vishy Anand who beat Ruslan Ponomariov. The 2002 FIDE world champion tried the double-edged King’s Indian Defense, but right after the opening something went wrong.

“I should have played more interesting, more aggressive chess,” Ponomariov said afterwards.

Update: the correct translation is that Ponomariov was trying to play more interesting, aggressive chess and because of this things got a little out of control.

Ruslan Ponomariov before the game, chatting with his compatriot Zahar Efimenko.

Even though his win in the Candidates’ Tournament in March was Anand’s last tournament with a classical time control, the Indian GM didn’t seem rusty at all. “It’s just a nice tournament, and I’m happy to play again!”, he said.

Especially after trading the light-squared bishops, when he got a beautifully centralized queen on d5, Anand knew he was going to win the game. “Yes, then I was in full control. I probably made one inaccuracy somewhere, but it didn’t seem to be too expensive because anyway I seem to be better everywhere.”

Vishy Anand starts with a good win.

Whereas computer engines said that he had zero chance of holding the draw, Ponomariov rightly played on for quite a while. “It’s actually possible for White to be careless”, admitted Anand, who showed a number of nice winning lines at the press conference.

Anand's gave some brief comments after the game:

2014 Masters Final | Pairings & Results

Round 1 13.09.14 15:00 CET   Round 4 17.09.14 15:00 CET
Vallejo 1-1 Aronian   Ponomariov - Aronian
Anand 3-0 Ponomariov   Anand - Vallejo
Round 2 14.09.14 15:00 CET   Round 5 18.09.14 15:00 CET
Aronian - Ponomariov   Aronian - Vallejo
Vallejo - Anand   Ponomariov - Anand
Round 3 15.09.14 15:00 CET   Round 6 19.09.14 15:00 CET
Anand - Aronian   Aronian - Anand
Ponomariov - Vallejo   Vallejo - Ponomariov

2014 Masters Final | Round 1 Standings

# Name Fed Rtg Perf + = - Pts SB
1 Viswanathan Anand IND 2785 3517 1 0 0 3
2-3 Levon Aronian ARM 2804 2712 0 1 0 1 0.25
2-3 Francisco Vallejo Pons ESP 2712 2804 0 1 0 1 0.25
4 Ruslan Ponomariov UKR 2717 1985 0 0 1 0

European Club Cup

The European Club Cup is a Swiss event over seven rounds, which means that the top clubs will be meeting each other later in the tournament. In the first round they faced lower rated opponents, and so there were lots of victories with high scores.

However, on the individual boards there were quite a few upsets. The first one given here is arguably the biggest: Dutch IM Manuel Bosboom, who once defeated Garry Kasparov in a blitz tournament in Wijk aan Zee, defeated crushed a world class player: Peter Leko of Hungary. Here's that game, part of the match Malakhite (Russia) - En Passant (Netherlands:

Here's Bosboom about his spectacular win:

A shocking loss for Peter Leko.

The game didn't influence the overal result very much as Malakhite won the other five games. Alexei Shirov played a pretty combination –- can you find it?

Malakhite vs En Passant. | Photo © David Kaufmann.

The top seeds, SOCAR of Azerbaijan, played without Shakhriyar Mamedyarov and Veselin Topalov (who did drop by, and watched the games for a while) dropped a half-point in their match with Viking from Sweden where Evgeny Agrest held Mickey Adams to a draw.

Veselin Topalov visited the playing hall at the start of the round.

The Italian team Obiettivo Risarcimiento started without its top boards Fabiano Caruana (already in Bilbao) and Hikaru Nakamura (arriving later) but won 6-0 anyway against the Belgian team KSK Rochade.

Another favorite, St. Petersburg, had some trouble with Royal Salzburg from Austria and only won 4-2. Both playing White, Nikita Vitiugov and Maxim Matlakov were held to a draw by Julian Geske and Alexander Seyb respectively, and Sergey Movsesian even lost:

St. Petersburg: not too impressive.

Noby Bor, which is defending it title this year, also won 5.5-0.5, against HMC Calder of the Netherlands. On board one, David Navara was one of the first winners in the whole playing hall, and again let's do this one in a puzzle:

The biggest upset, however, was the match Sestao Naturgas Energia, who finished second in the Spanish league only a few days ago, playing 3-3 vs Cercle d'Echecs Fontainois. Both Ivan Salgado Lopez and Salvador Del Rio De Angelis lost their games to 2200 players. 

More upsets were Rainer Polzin (Berlin) beating Evgeny Najer (Moscow), Rick Frischmann (The Smashing Pawns Belvaux) beating Chanda Sandipan (Solingen), Peter Wells (White Rose) beating Arkadij Naiditsch (Gros Xake Taldea), Santul Kosmo (Shakkivelhot) beating Alberto Martin Fuentes (Solvay) and Peter Roberson (Grantham Sharks) beating Daniel Hausrath (Muelheim Nord).

The women's section is an all-play-all, and the arbiters have made sure that the three Russian teams and the two Israeli teams will face each other in the early rounds. As a result, the first round immediately saw two top matches: Ugra-SHSM Moscow (2.1-1.5), and Batumi Chess Club "Nona"-Cercle d'Echecs de Monte-Carlo (2.5-1.5).

Monaco vs Batumi. | Photo © Lennart Ootes.

This first report cannot do without a slightly strange disclaimer: there might be some errors in this article!

What is the case? On the first day the organizers had to cope with huge technical problems. Because of server issues, the tournament websites had to be stripped down to the bare minimum, but the live pages were still almost impossible to reach all day.

And, at the end of the day there were many contradictions between the results of the games in the live PGN files, and on the actual results pages. As it turns out, many games that were shown live, had the wrong names. 

Now, several hours after the round has finished, basic data such as games and results are still not available. Hopefully all this will be better tomorrow.

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