Fabiano Caruana, Vladimir Kramnik and Boris Gelfand started with two wins at the London Chess Classic's Super Sixteen Rapid. It is a 16-player rapid tournament, comprising a group stage followed by a knockout phase. The group stage comprises four groups of four players who play a double round robin. The top two players from each group shall qualify for the knock-out phase.
Vladimir Kramnik, Fabiano Caruana, Vishy Anand, Hikaru Nakamura, Boris Gelfand, Mickey Adams, Peter Svidler, Luke McShane, Judit Polgar, Nigel Short, Matthew Sadler, David Howell, Gawain Jones, Jonathan Rowson are the invited players and they were joined by Emil Sutovsky and Andrei Istratescu, who qualified via the FIDE Open. The group stage started on Wednesday.
The first day of play was marked by two things: a disappointing turn-up of spectators and many topsy-turvy games. The author of these lines arrived during the second of four sessions (fog over London had caused a four-hour delay of my flight), and to my surprise there was only a handful of people in the playing hall and in the commentary room.
The hall was packed during the opening ceremony, but many kids didn't stay long
In the evening it was slightly better, but the number of fans never got close to what I'm used to see in London. Is this the Magnus effect? Is it rapid instead of classical? Or do people simply prefer to watch fore free online instead of paying 25 pounds for a day pass? Perhaps it will be different over the weekend.
On to the games, which were perhaps not of the highest level, but certainly exciting. Vishy Anand blundered and was lost against Luke McShane but still won, Kramnik erred and was lost against Svidler but won, Matthew Sadler turned a winning position into a lost one and also Judit Polgar very close to beating Hikaru Nakamura and eventually lost!
Rapid chess can lead to interesting opening play, and the first day saw some off-beat lines. Kramnik-Svidler started as 1.Nf3 g6 2.e4 Nf6 and Caruana played the London System against Emil Sutovsky (although this game razor-sharp quickly). Nigel Short also avoided opening theory, with 1.c4 c6 2.e4 d5 3.e5 against David Howell and 1.b4 against Fabiano Caruana.
After the first day, Anand and Adams lead the A group with 4 points (1.5/2) following the football score that is used in London. Kramnik started with 2.0/2 and so he's leading the B group with 6 points, followed by Rowson with 3 points. Gelfand also won both games and so he tops the standings in C, two points ahead of Nakamura. Caruana is on 6 points in D, also with two more points than runner-up Howell.
Below you can find all games of the first day.