Magnus Carlsen played to his reputation and stayed ahead. Defending champion Hikaru Nakamura was next after displaying solidity of old. Viswanathan Anand won and lost in succession to slip to tied third spot.
Overall, the first three rounds of the Tata Steel rapid and blitz chess tournament here produced fair amount of excitement, with second seed Ding Liren made to split points by the Indians.
From the point of view of a large number of spectators thronging the National Library auditorium, the unbeaten run of wild cards P. Hari Krishna and Vidit Gujrathi was more than what they had bargained for.
Anand’s victory over Wesley So was clearly the day's high-point for the crowd, However, the manner in which he lost - in 21 moves - to twice-beaten Ian Nepomniachtchi, left them stunned.
Nakamura, the conqueror of Anish Giri, put Anand’s performance in the right perspective. “These days, Anand plays a good game but follows it up with a bad one. Only he knows how it happens.”
Before Anand’s brain fade between the 14th and 16th moves turned an equal position into an overwhelmingly superior one for Nepomniachtchi, the eternal sentimental favourite scored his first rapid victory in 11 games here.
Last year, Anand remained winless in the nine-round rapid before showcasing his brilliance in the 18-round blitz.
On this day, Anand’s victory in 72 moves came as a result of a blunder committed by Wesley on the 57th move. Till this point, the minor-piece ending was firmly headed for a draw.
Sensing his chance following Wesley’s knight-move, Anand clinically manoeuvred his white-squared bishop and cleaned up the black pawns. With no way to stop Anand’s two pawns, an advanced king and a well-positioned bishop, So resigned.
Carlsen, after a steady start against So, punished Nepomniachtchi and then floored Levon Aronian from the black side. Nakamura, unhappy with the way he let Vidit off the hook in second round, started his title-defence with a comfortable draw with black against Aronian and nailed Giri in his only game with white.
Hari started with a draw with Vidit and then came out unbeaten against Liren and So. Vidit displayed his defensive skills in staying undefeated against Nakamura and Liren.
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