upGrad Mumba Masters-1687461510604
upGrad Mumba Masters won their opening game against Triveni Continental Kings Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UpGrad Mumba Masters and Ganges Grandmasters secured victories on the opening day of the inaugural edition of the Global Chess League being held in Dubai on Thursday.

In the first match, led by Levon Aronian, a super Grandmaster who has long been among the world’s best players, the Triveni Continental Kings played a steady match upGrad Mumba Masters. Despite the initiative of the first move, the Kings failed to capitalise on their advantage.

Better position

In a slightly better position and with more time, Aronian misplayed and allowed Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (another Icon player of the Global Chess League) to equalise and bring the game to a draw. The team faced another setback when Chinese Grandmaster Yu Yangyi suffered a defeat at the hands of Russian heavyweight Alexander Grischuk, giving upGrad Mumba Masters an important victory. Despite Yu’s compatriot Wie Yi scoring a victory against India’s Vidit Gujrathi and earning three points, the Kings were still a point short.

Unfortunately for them, all three other games ended in a draw. This meant that the final score saw upGrad Mumba Masters secure eight points while the Triveni Continental Kings ended on seven. Apart from the eight points achieved in their games, the winning team is awarded another three points for winning the match.

New concept

“This event is unusual for us as we are in a team with players we know well, but with whom we have never actually been playing as team members, and, also, this event features a completely new concept,” both Levon and Maxime noted. “I feel a lot of responsibility. You are familiar with these players but usually as opponents, not as members of the same team. Also, as the leading player in the team I feel I have to motivate others,” said Aronian.

“In our team, Sasha Grischuk [one of the most experienced top players in the Global Chess League] made us all feel inspired. He showed us motivation and that is what is needed when in a new surrounding, playing a new event”, said Vachier-Lagrave.

Both agreed that this new concept brings “excitement” and “novelty” to chess which will improve the way the game is seen.

New vibe

The second match was between Ganges Grandmasters and Chingari Gulf Titans. The Ganges team has seasoned and experienced world players such as the five-time world champion Viswanathan Anand as well as the former women’s world champion Hou Yifan.

The advantage of playing with white pieces and experience came in handy as Anand managed to defeat Jan-Krzysztof Duda, the former winner of the World Cup. Anand’s early victory gave an important boost to the Ganges team. Hou Yifan was the second to score, defeating another former women’s world champion Alexandra Kosteniuk. Those two victories were the only decisive games of the match as the other four ended in a draw. In the end, the Ganges Grandmasters won with 10 game points, while the Titans ended on four.

Anand said: “My team started well and that’s great. We are in unchartered waters here. This is a new vibe for chess. We all came here curious to see what will happen and how this will play out and so far it is proving to be exciting and promises a lot.”