The first round of the GRENKE Chess Classic gave us a number of surprises. Especially the win of Hou Yifan against Caruana made a great stir. Another surprise was the win by Naiditsch with the black pieces against Maxime Vachier-Lagrave. In the other two games, the two German players showed a good performance. Matthias Blübaum defended a slightly worse position against Magnus Carlsen and Georg Meier showed his class when he accepted a draw in a slighty better position against Levon Aronian.
The GRENKE Chess Classic 2017 attracted numerous spectators before the start oft he first round. Many people came to the Schwarzwaldhalle in Karlsruhe to see some top-level chess. Most of them came to watch the world champion play. When the players were introduced by tournament director Sven Noppes, Magnus Carlsen was welcomed with a thunderous round of applause. For a second, one could spot a mischievous laugh on the face of the defending champion.
Speaking of Carlsen…. After his three-month break from chess, the Norwegian surprised the spectators with a new „look“. With his fancy new glasses and longer hair he looks like a model for G-Star. After the game Carlsen explained that he actually needs to wear glasses. He told that he is short-sighted which often causes him a headache. After a number of tests it turned out that he needs to wear some optical aid.
IM Lawrence Trent quipped during the press conference that Magnus would now even see more with his new glasses, but in the game against Matthias Blübaum he did not see enough to win. Carlsen had no problems in a Kings Indian opening and created some pressure in the middle game, but Blübaum defended well and escaped in a slighty worse rook endgame. Carlsen endgame skills are legendary, but even the world champion could not win this one.
The first win of the GRENKE Chess Classic 2017 was scored by Hou Yifan. The 23-year old Chinese played a quiet, symmetrical variation against the Berlin Defence. Caruana obviously thought that it would be a good idea to break the structure with a slighty optimistic pawn move. However, the commentators Peter Leko and Lawrence Trent noticed during the live commentary that he way too optimistic. They analyzed the game with Hou Yifan at the press conference and praised the energetic play of the best female player in the world, who hunted down the black king with some tactical fireworks.
A very complicated and open game was played by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Arkadij Naiditsch. Naiditsch chose the French Defence against his French opponent. "MVL" sacrificed two pawns in the middle game and tried to break the black defence by force. However, with an original knight manoeuvre Naiditsch got the upper hand and won the game in the end. With this win, Naiditsch continued his streak in his favourite tournament. Two years ago he played a fantastic tournament, and was only beaten by Magnus Carlsen in a late night tie-break.
Georg Meier can be very satisfied with his start. Meier needs to hand in his master thesis in May in Stockholm, where he lives, but of course he did not want to skip an event like the GRENKE Chess Classic. Levon Aronian, who chose to open the game with the Reti, could not get an advantage out of the opening. Meier had no problems to equalize and even got a slightly better position, which was not enough to claim a full point though.