Once the lots for colours for the GRENKE Chess Classic were drawn at the Kongresszentrum in Karlsruhe, the three open events of the festival went underway with close to two thousand participants making their first move together. The GRENKE Chess Festival, thus, officially began with a star-studded field consisting of renowned names like Etienne Bacrot, Gata Kamsky, Anton Korobov, Alireza Firouzja and many more in the A group.
The bustling playing hall during round 1 | Photo: Georgios Souleidis
In the A group, most of the matchups were largely one-sided with rating disparities reaching up to five hundred points. Needless to say, the stronger players had a happy outing in most encounters. However, every board didn’t have the same story to tell. The rating disparity also occasioned a couple of David versus Goliath tales.
On the top board, GM Etienne Bacrot hardly broke a sweat to defeat FM Tom Wiley in a French Exchange. White’s expansion on the kingside, in combination with the strongly posted knight on e5 (diagram below) had, perhaps, given Black cold feet. In an attempt to drive the knight away immediately, black resorted to the dreadful looking 15…f6.
Position after 15...f6
If the knight retreats or exchanges itself, it doesn’t look all that bad for black. But Bacrot had no such intentions, he plunged right in with 16.Nxg6 hxg6 17.Bxg6 and went on to win in an instructive manner. The final position of the game was especially tragicomic as black remained defenceless against white’s slowly advancing ‘h’ pawn which threatened to take the black knight by force.
Another relentlessly rolling rook pawn was seen in the game between Anton Korobov and Markus Boehme. Boehme, as black, played brave and went for the Benko Gambit but had little to show as compensation after Korobov managed to liquidate the position having gulped down the flank pawns. Once the black pieces had been stymied, Korobov’s extra pawns marched down the board to bring home victory.
But while the stronger players prevailed on most boards, deep down the pairing list, on boards 26 and 29, Grandmasters had to suffer casualties at the hands of their lower rated opponents. In the matchup between Benno Zahn and GM Andrey Sumets, the former decided to sack his knight in the middle of the board from the white side of a Sicilian Kan.
Position after 16.Nd5
While the computers weren’t impressed by this, Zahn did manage to unsettle his opponent and get a better position. Over the next few moves, all of white’s pieces had amassed around the Black king. The queen and the bishops were pointing diagonally at g7 while the rook had brought itself up and over to g3. It did not take long before Sumets decided to throw in the towel.
The game between GM Rainer Buhmann and Singaporean youngster Siddharth Jagadeesh witnessed the latter thoroughly outcalculate his grandmaster opponent to seal the win. The clash had seen a fair share of ups and downs before the following position was reached.
Position after 27.Nd3
White attacked the queen here with 27.Nd3, hoping to gain a tempo on the queen. But his illusion was ruthlessly shattered when the 12-year-old Siddharth uncorked 27…Qxe2!! There followed 28.Qxe2 Neg3+ 29.hxg3 Nxg3+ and white not only recovered his queen but soon got himself a decisive advantage.
Besides earning his 18 rating points, this win must surely have boosted the young lad’s confidence. It will be interesting to see how he fares over the rest of the event.
Tomorrow onwards begin a series of double round days which will last until the end of the tournament. Rounds will be played on 9:00 AM and 3:00 PM daily. However, tomorrow, on account of Good Friday, games will not be broadcasted live. Daily reports will still be published. In addition, videos about the event, player interviews and daily impressions can be found on our YouTube Channel, GRENKE Chess.