Viswanathan Anand made a grand comeback to defeat Levon Aronian of Armenia in the first round of the Zurich Chess challenge that got underway on Sunday.
Anand outplayed Aronian out of a seemingly calm Four Knights’ Game, that suddenly came to life when white allowed his pawn structure to be damaged, but in return got a strong knight on the king side to open an attack.
The material was a bit reduced after the exchange of two pairs of minor pieces early in the middle game and Anand came up with a flourish of tactics to make it count. The chess engines that can count a million moves a second were rooting for blood as early as move 15 and Anand did not disappoint his fans to take the same route.
Anand sacrificed his knight and Aronian had to take it with the king, forcing the opposite king to take a walk outside his own castle. This was not the best thing for royalties and it was no surprise that Anand netted himself a full point after only a few moves by weaving a mating net.
The other two games of the first round ended in draws. Shirov tried to combat Kramnik in another Berlin defense of the elite circles but the latter was quite up tot the task in defence. These days the Berlin seems to be the wall that every king pawn player wants to break.
The story was the same indeed, although at some point Kramnik’s position looked a bit passive, but the Russian has a huge experience with the opening and Shirov found no other way. Kramnik, who does not have great results against Shirov was happy to steer the game to a draw.
In the other game of the day, Nakamura played out a draw with Dutchman Anish Giri. Nakamura played the opening a bit too light-hearted and got into trouble with black expanding on both wings. But although the position clearly seemed to favour black, Nakamura somehow managed to escape into a drawn ending. In the end, only two kings and two pawns were left for a draw.
With four rounds still remaining in the contest, Anand has his task cut out against Giri in the next game while Aronian will hope for a come back. It has been a good start for Shirov and he would like to make his presence count as the rounds continue.