Anand plays out draw with Caruana in Sinquefield opener

Up against a French defense from the Italian turned American Grandmaster, Anand had a complicated game on hand but Caruana was quite up to the task in maintaining the balance.

Anand summed up the day admitting he was surprised by Caruana early. “He obviously caught me off-guard. I noted he played the French, he even played it against me, but that was some years back."   -  v. ganesan

Five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand played out a draw with Fabiano Caruana of United States in the first round of Sinquefield Cup, a part of the Grand Chess Tour that got underway here.

Up against a French defense from the Italian turned American Grandmaster, Anand had a complicated game on hand but Caruana was quite up to the task in maintaining the balance.

The first day in the third instalment of the GCT saw two decisive games and the hero of the day was Wesley So of USA, who won his first ever classical chess game against compatriot Hikaru Nakamura. Veselin Topalov was the other winner who got the full point at the expanse of Russian Peter Svidler.

Wildcard Ding Liren of China played a solid game with white to start with a draw against defending champion Levon Aronian of Armenia, while in the other game of the day Dutch Anish Giri missed out on a promising position and had to sign peace against top seed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France.

Topalov and Wesley So emerged as the early leader in the 10-player round robin tournament that has a total prize pool of USD 300,000 while Anand shares the third spot along with Fabiano, Giri, Liren, Aronian and Vachier-Lagrave. Nakamura and Svidler are at the bottom after the first round.

Anand summed up the day admitting he was surprised by Caruana early.

“He obviously caught me off-guard. I noted he played the French, he even played it against me, but that was some years back,” said the Indian star.

Caruana offered to enter into the razor-sharp Winawer variation, but Anand wasn’t keen on finding out what was in store for him in the complexities. Caruana was up against an exchange variation something that doesn’t find many takers in elite chess and that was probably Anand’s point.

As it happened, Fabiano ran a little short of time, making any outcome possible but ultimately made it to the first time control after 40 moves. It was still complicated as the American had a certain draw through repetition and did not risk further.

Wesley So and Nakamura blitzed out the opening moves in quick time but the latter forgot his analysis on move 17 and ended up in a bad endgame. Wesley So was spot on thereafter.

Topalov defeated last-minute inclusion Svidler when the Russian failed to spot a hidden tactic. Losing a piece soon after, Svidler had to call it a day.

Anish Giri came out with a spectacular new idea on move 27 against Vachier-Lagrave and could have pushed for much more. However, the Frenchman is unbeaten this year and this was not the day when his streak would break.

Results after Round 1: Vishwanathan Anand (IND) drew with Fabiano Caruana (USA); Wesley So (USA) beat Hikaru Nakamura (USA); Anish Giri (NED) drew with Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (FRA); Ding Liren (CHN) drew with Levon Aronian (ARM); Veselin Topalov (BUL) beat Peter Svidler (RUS).