Carlsen, Nakamura Tied For 1st After Paris GCT Rapid Day 1

Carlsen, Nakamura Tied For 1st After Paris GCT Rapid Day 1

Two big favorites, Magnus Carlsen (as the world champion) and Hikaru Nakamura (as a speed chess specialist), are tied for first place after the first of two days of rapid chess at the Paris Grand Chess Tour.

With such a promising pro-am event on Wednesday and that spectacular trailer video we showed yesterday, expectations were high for this first edition of the Paris Grand Chess Tour. And it did not disappoint.

The older fans visiting the Maison de la Chimie (which is located in the seventh arrondissement close to the Assemblée Nationale), made comparisons with the Immopar rapid tournaments held in the early 1990s in the French capital.

These tournaments are remembered for their wonderful ambiance and professional organization. Garry Kasparov, who won the first and third editions back then (Dutch fans will remember who won the second!), is now the driving force behind the Grand Chess Tour, and in this capacity he appeared on stage today to make the first ceremonial move in the game between Laurent Fressinet and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.

Kasparov, who is joined by his wife Daria in Paris, was one of roughly 250 visitors who came to the venue today. Even with about 20 percent being invited guests, that's not a bad number for a Thursday afternoon and with an entry fee of 20 Euros (or 15 for members of the French Chess Federation). The hall was about 80 percent full, and will probably be packed in the weekend.

What the spectators get is not just a (nicely lit) stage with five chess games played between 10 top players. It's also quite easy for them to wander around and see GMs Alejandro Ramirez and Maurice Ashley working from a small, open studio for the St. Louis broadcast (which we embed on Chess.com/TV), or Yannick Pelletier and Almira Skripchenko doing the French broadcast from a beautiful, bright, big studio.

And they might just bump into a player or two, who have to pass the corridor if they want to catch some fresh air in between rounds. In an atmosphere that is more relaxed than during classical events, they don't mind taking some photos or signing some autographs. Veselin Topalov was even caught analyzing a game, still under way, on a big touch screen together with some amateurs.

The local fans were definitely enjoying the first day, and showed some good old French patriotism. Every time one of the Frenchmen won a game there was  loud applause from the audience, which could be heard in the live broadcast.

All in all the event looks fantastic, and things went rather smoothly for a first day. (The only thing the organizers seemed to have completely forgotten about is a press room. It doesn't exist. Apparently they hadn't really expected chess journalists to come over and do some work from the venue!)

Five rounds of rapid were scheduled today. Like at the London Chess Classic, the players were sitting in the front row and were asked on stage one by one by co-organizer Malcolm Pein, but not before paying tribute to Viktor Korchnoi.

The first round started with a shocker. Taking quite a bit of risk, Magnus Carlsen had built up a winning advantage against Wesley So but then unexpectedly lost on time.

The world champ called it “complete lack of clock awareness.” Right before he had seen that he had one minute on the clock, he said. Apparently time also flies when having fun calculating the quickest win.

Perhaps inspired by the presence of The Boss, Veselin Topalov played the Scotch against Fabiano Caruana. Things went terribly wrong for the Bulgarian, who would finish in last place on the first day. ”Recently I'm used to it. I'm playing really badly,” he said.

Not a great day for Veselin Topalov. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

An angry Carlsen was back with a vengeance in round two as he completely crushed MVL with the black pieces. Carlsen would win three games in a row, in fact, before being held to a draw by Nakamura.

After losing on time, Carlsen won three in a row. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

Laurent Fressinet replaces Vishy Anand in this tournament (the Indian is playing in León, Spain this weekend) and won't have too high expectations. However, against Caruana he certainly wasn't “too weak, too slow” and he got the biggest applause of the day. It was the last game of the round still going, and Carlsen (who coined that phrase) was a spectator on stage.

A big win for Carlsen was his game against Levon Aronian in round three. Although the world number one has a good score against the Armenian player, Carlsen referred to Aronian when he said “he has outplayed me more than anyone in the world.” See how the world number one deals with slightly more active pieces.

The crunch game between Topalov and Kramnik, who still haven't smoked the peace pipe, was another disaster for Topalov. Like against Caruana he was just completely outplayed.

Carlsen's third straight victory was mostly a technical win, as Caruana blundered a pawn in the opening without getting any compensation. 

The penultimate round of the first day saw five decisive results, and then the last round had five draws. Carlsen and Nakamura were both leading with 6.0/8 (with rapid wins counting for two points and draws for one), so their mutual game was a nice end to a good first day. 

The players drew in a position where Nakamura was still better. The American felt it wasn't anything special, but in the studio in St. Louis Yasser Seirawan said he would have played on in the final position. Carlsen: “Maybe there is a way to be better, but he didn't see it.”

Nakamura, tied for first with Carlsen. | Photo Grand Chess Tour.

On Friday the last four games will be played, and then on Saturday and Sunday 18 rounds of blitz follow, where the scoring system is back to normal again. The Grand Prix Points will be based on the overall standings of both tournaments.

Paris Grand Chess Tour | Rapid, Round 5 Standings

# Name Rtg Perf 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 0 Pts SB
1 Carlsen,M 2878 2917 chesspawn.png 1 0 2 2 2 7.0 8.75
2 Nakamura,H 2846 2923 1 chesspawn.png 1 1 2 2 7.0 7.50
3 So,W 2652 2876 2 chesspawn.png 0 1 2 1 6.0 7.75
4 Vachier-Lagrave,M 2784 2823 0 2 chesspawn.png 2 1 1 6.0 7.50
5 Kramnik,V 2799 2759 1 1 0 chesspawn.png 1 1 5.0
6 Giri,A 2738 2727 1 1 chesspawn.png 1 1 0 4.0 5.00
7 Aronian,L 2739 2679 0 0 1 1 chesspawn.png 2 4.0 4.50
8 Fressinet,L 2695 2723 0 1 0 chesspawn.png 2 1 4.0 4.25
9 Caruana,F 2829 2677 0 1 1 0 chesspawn.png 1 4.0 4.00
10 Topalov,V 2771 2635 0 0 2 1 0 chesspawn.png 3.0

The Paris Grand Chess Tour takes place June 9-12 in the Maison de la Chimie in Paris, France. First there are two days of rapid (Thursday and Friday, nine rounds), then two days of blitz (Saturday and Sunday, 18 rounds).

In the rapid, a win yields 2 points and a draw 1 whereas in the blitz it's the regular 1 for a win and ½ for a draw. An identical tournament will be held in Leuven, Belgium next week. The Tour also includes the Sinquefield Cup in August and the London Chess Classic in December. chesspawn.png

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