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A Promising Start
levon vladimir2013 World Team Chess Championship has started today in a very combative mood, perhaps the stormy weather in Antalya inspired players to fight at any cost, who knows? In any case, fortunately for chess fans, the opening round was rich in chess content and almost all the games were very instructive and exciting.

The most important pairing of the round was obviously the epic Russia-Armenia battle. The main favourites of the tournament fought until the bitter end. Perhaps the most expected game of the tournament, Kramnik-Aronian, saw a very sharp struggle in a Botvinnik Slav. The exchange sacrifice of Kramnik resulted in an queen+bishop vs. queen+rook ending, where Kramnik had two pawns for the exchange. The position was in dynamic equilibrium and although Kramnik tried a bit to play for a win, Aronian never let him get anything and finally the ex-champion decided to repeat the moves. On the second board Movsesian achieved a nice advantage and wanted to torture Karjakin which didn't materialize in the end as Karjakin managed to exchange pieces to relieve the pressure and saved the game. Also on the fourth board Armenia seemed to have the advantage but when Sargissian missed the double attack 39...Qa7 he had to concede the draw to his resourceful opponent Nepomniatchi. The last game was Grischuk-Akopian in which Russians hoped that Akopian would falter under the pressure of Grischuk in a rook endgame up a pawn but their hopes haven't got realized and the experienced grandmaster Vladimir Akopian saved the game and the match for Armenia: 2-2!

Another heavyweight battle was between Ukraine and USA. Perhaps under the influence of recent Anand-Carlsen match Nakamura wanted to employ the impenetrable Berlin Wall but Chucky preferred not to bother dealing with it and chose instead the old Two Knights System. As he didn't manage to create something out of this well studied line however the game ended in a draw. Moiseenko-Onischuk was also a quiet affair in which neither side could imbalance the game. On the remaining two boards Akobian couldn't convert his nice positional edge into a full point due to the dynamic defense of Kryvorouchko and thus when Korobov punished Kamsky's over-optimistic pawn sacrifice in a long endgame it was time to cheer for Ukrainians. USA will for sure try to make a comeback in the race for the world team champion title.

Actually the first match to finish in the first round was Netherlands-China. On first board after a Caro-Kann opening Anish Giri decided to force a repetition in a balanced position pretty quickly whereas second and fourth boards saw two longer draws in which Dutch players showed strong and solid play, giving their Chinese opponents no chance to take advantage of white pieces. The only decisive result of the match came from the Tiviakov-Bu Xiangzhi game. Bu had obviously prepared thoroughly for Tiviakov's pet line Alapin Sicilian and even being perhaps the most formidable expert of the variation Tiviakov couldn't achieve any advantage with white. To make things worse for Netherlands he soon lost control of position under time pressure and collapsed giving China the chance to score an important match victory.

One of the most exciting games of the round was played on the fourth board of Germany-Egypt match between Bassem Amin and David Baramidze. Feeling perhaps the need to win as the leading player of Egypt, Amin didn't allow a threefold repetition and instead moved his king to h4 in a complicated middlegame with queens on the board! It was a very risky decision which was at the end efficiently punished by Baramidze. What was perhaps unfortunate for the representative of Africa was the fact that although in the first three boards they were definitely the underdogs they managed to held their ground and their cause of defeat came from the most unexpected board. But such is chess!

Finally in the first round the hosts had a tough challenge against the Azerbaijani team but they were obviously hoping to get a good start to the championship. The positions of Turkish players were looking mostly fine at one point however Azeris didn't give them a chance to score a win in the end and the defeat of Yilmaz at the hands of Nidjat Mamedov meant a disappointing loss for the Turkish team. Let's see if the host country will be able to make use of their home advantage in the coming matches.

The second round will be played tomorrow again at 3 pm local time, featuring this time a classic match: USA-Russia! Also don't forget to follow the live commentary by GM Oleksienko and IM Arduman.

See you all tomorrow!
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