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Kramnik, Nakamura Early Leaders In Zurich's 'New Classical'

Kramnik, Nakamura Early Leaders In Zurich's 'New Classical'

Does the "new classical" time control work in making more decisive games? It's early in Zurich, but so far the limited sample size has given good returns, especially if your "science vs. sport" pendulum swings toward the latter.

Both GMs Vladimir Kramnik and Hikaru Nakamura won in the opening round of the 45+30 time control at the 2017 Korchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge. There really should have been three winners, but somehow GM Peter Svidler found an antidote to neutralize GM Ian Nepomniachtchi's virulent attack. Svidler, a huge follower of pop culture, might be submitting his game for the next episode of "The Survivors."

That's three out of four interesting games, as only GM Boris Gelfand and GM Grigoriy Oparin's draw lacked luster.

Now deep into their fourth decade of doing battle, Kramnik beat GM Viswanathan Anand, which is no small thing since in "normal" classical their lifetime head-to-head draw rate is about 80 percent. 

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GM Vladimir Kramnik. "Big Vlad" is looking for a big score, and has big support for big ideas, like FIDE moving to Zurich.

The Indian hastened defeat by offering an exchange in a slightly worse position. 

Gelfand correctly predicted that White would invade the eighth rank. Once that happened, Anand's defeat was assured.

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GM Viswanathan Anand outdid GM Garry Kasparov today—on the latter's birthday. He put his watch back on before the game even began, but that turned out to be premature.

Nakamura kept up his winning ways from the opening blitz. He beat the lone Swiss player GM Yannick Pelletier yesterday, and the American ordered fondue again today. The slow buildup allowed the dish to simmer, and Pelletier knew he was cooked when the a-pawn served as the thermometer on his position.

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GM Hikaru Nakamura surprisingly prefers 45+30 rather than the FIDE rapid time control of 15+10.

"[This time control] probably suits me more than rapid," Nakamura said, explaining that there's more time to "settle in" at the start. "With rapid for some reason I seem not to play well at it. The 25 minutes screws around with me a little bit." He cited his last two performances at the World Rapid Championship as evidence. "I haven't come remotely close to finishing at the top."

For his game today, the bishops can simply run to the queenside before any of Black's pieces can help.

Nakamura told Chess.com that despite GM Wesley So's knights' bamboozling during the rapid playoff earlier this week in St. Louis, he still prefers the two bishops no matter the time control.

Chess.com also conducted a video interview with Nakamura, where he discussed how he handles clock advantages in rapid chess.

Nepomniachtchi's pieces swarmed his countryman's king after Svidler bravely castled directly onto a half-open file. White didn't hide any intentions, quickly getting the other two heavies over to their appropriate fighting stances.

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GM Peter Svidler played the same player he opened with in yesterday's blitz first round -- Nepo. Today, they were more serious at the start.

So how did Black escape? White needed to swing his knight into the attack. "Three pieces is mate" didn't apply this time; a fourth, the smallest of the army, was needed.

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Gelfand told Chess.com that his review of Oparin's games showed him to be a solid player, and the veteran was right today. White developed no serious threats or initiative as the qualifier rebuffed any winning chances.

Gelfand called a possible return to the Candidates' Tournament a "dream" but not a "goal." He said his best chance is the Grand Prix, although he sounded like he would also play in the World Cup.

"It's a unique event," Gelfand said about Zurich. "The opening ceremony yesterday was a fantastic concert. It's a very friendly and a nice event. Also it is a memory of Viktor Korchnoi whom I'll miss...I didn't do so well against him, because he didn't he didn't say something really mean about me!"

Fans came out to the Kongresshaus Zurich in droves to watch the top grandmasters and also remember the legend. They filled up nearly every seat in the spectator area.

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Commentator GM Daniel King also shared a funny anecdote about both Gelfand and Korchnoi. Late in the former world champion candidate's life, King asked him about "Gelfand." Korchnoi, with failing hearing, kept repeating, "What? My girlfriend?"

Here's some trivia. Pretend you were watching Nakamura-Pelletier from this angle. Name the onlooker on the right.

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How good are you at identifying backs of heads?

Also beginning today were the open tournaments, with a "masters" and "main" section. Everything went according to form, except on the top board! GM Alexei Shirov, only one year removed from playing as an invited player in Zurich, could only draw against Austrian player Patrick Reinwald rated 2155.

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GM Alexei Shirov couldn't figure how how to create enough complications against his untitled opponent in his rook-and-pawn ending.

Korchnoi Zurich Chess Challenge | New Classical, Round 1 Standings

# Fed Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Pts SB
1 Kramnik,Vladimir 2811 3586 1 1.0/1 0.00
2 Nakamura,Hikaru 2793 3341 1 1.0/1 0.00
3 Nepomniachtchi,Ian 2751 2747 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
4 Svidler,Peter 2747 2751 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
5 Gelfand,Boris 2724 2604 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
6 Oparin,Grigoriy 2604 2724 ½ 0.5/1 0.25
7 Anand,Viswanathan 2786 2011 0 0.0/1 0.00
8 Pelletier,Yannick 2541 1993 0 0.0/1 0.00

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