Magnus Carlsen burst out of the blocks to take a one point lead on the opening day of the Julius Baer Generation Cup, the star-studded seventh leg of the $1.6 million Meltwater Champions Chess Tour.
The World Champion racked up an unbeaten 10/12 pts with wins over Arjun Erigaisi, Adhiban Baskaran and Liem Quang Le with only Dutch No.1 Anish Giri preventing him from taking the maximum.
Behind the favourite are four players on 9pts including the controversial American Hans Niemann who, with Carlsen, has been at the centre of furore in the chess world over the last two weeks.
But Niemann showed he wasn’t going to let internet speculation get to him as he also had a strong day. Carlsen and Niemann are now set for a hotly-anticipated clash next.
It was Niemann who drew first blood in the tournament as the Meltwater Champions Chess Tour event got under way by beating 53-year-old legend Boris Gelfand. Niemann went to finish with an impressive three wins.
Meanwhile, an intriguing first-round game between 17-year-old Praggnanandhaa and 53-year-old chess legend Vasyl Ivanchuk ended with two dramatic blunders and an amazing swindle for the youngster.
Ivanchuk was dominating his teenage oppoent and looked set to strike the first blow for the older generation but tragically first dropped a rook and then left a bishop hanging in time trouble.
The Ukrainian quickly shook off the loss in the next round, however, with a stylish win over the Serb Ivan Saric to pick up his first 3pts. Clearly, the former world no.2 was just warming up.
In Round 3, Ivanchuk’s famed genius shone through as the former world no.2 left Giri stunned with the crushing 34. Bxf6+, which forced the Dutchman to instantly resign.
Then, Ivanchuk showed again he was still on top of his game with a Round 4 win over Poland’s World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda. His performance will bring a cheer from fans of the older generation of players taking part in this event.
Pragg, the Indian teen who has beaten Carlsen twice this season, was heading for top spot after clocking up three wins but was pegged back in the final round. The 17-year-old suffered a shock loss to the youngest player in the event, 15-year-old US prodigy Christopher Yoo.
The final player on 9/12 was 19-year-old Erigaisi, another of India’s super-talents, who recovered from his opening round loss to Carlsen to score three wins. He beat Adhiban, Liem and the Czech David Navara.