Anish Giri soared into an early lead as Magnus Carlsen’s space-themed online chess event blasted off in style.
The Netherlands No.1 rounded off Day 1 of the $220,000 Magnus Carlsen Invitational with three wins in a row including a stunning triumph over Carlsen.
The Norwegian had looked in fine form as his own event, the fourth leg of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, got under way.
Carlsen dispatched new Wijk aan Zee champion Jorden van Foreest in Round 1 and then French No.1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave.
But a tough draw in a hugely-anticipated game against 17-year-old Alireza Firouzja seemed to knock Carlsen off his stride before Giri inflicted the champion’s first loss.
The world number 1 did bounce back, however, with a comfortable win over Spanish champion David Anton to stay in touch on the leaderboard.
Carlsen, who is still searching for his first Tour event win, was still pleased with his start when asked afterward.
He said: “I don’t think I played particularly well but the score is good. The most important thing on the first day is not to mess up.”
Giri, who beat Carlsen exactly a year ago in the first MCI, had greater reason to be pleased.
He said afterward: “Any day you can beat Magnus is a great day for a chess player.”
Giri also celebrated on Twitter:
Happy Anniversary. ✌️💙#ChessChamps— Anish Giri (@anishgiri) March 13, 2021
The Dutch No.1 ended the day on 4/5 sitting joint-top of the leaderboard with Carlsen half a point behind alongside Levon Aronian.
Down the leaderboard, Tour leader Wesley So had a disappointing day as he suffered two rare defeats to lie joint ninth alongside Firouzja on 2.5/5.
Russia’s No.1 Ian Nepomniachtchi, another big hitter, also suffered a slow start as he collapsed to 1.5/5. However, with 10 rounds to go, there is plenty of time to catch up.
Fight for KO places
The round-robin stage continues tomorrow and Monday before the bottom eight are eliminated and the top eight progress to the knockouts.
The Magnus Carlsen Invitational is the return of the online event that kicked off a revolution in chess while the world was in lockdown.
Now part of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour, which carries a record $1.5 million prize pot, the event features 16 of the best players in the world.
The Magnus Carlsen Invitational is supported by Breakthrough Initiatives and the Breakthrough Junior Challenge. It is leg four of the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour hosted by the Play Magnus Group.