Round 1 summary: So, Aronian and Esipenko in the lead
Wesley So, Levon Aronian and Andrey Esipenko share the top spot after a fighting first round of the WR Chess Masters. They won the first three decided games of the tournament.
So and Esipenko benefited in very different ways from opening disasters on the part of their opponents Jan-Krzysztof Duda and Vincent Keymer. While So needed 48 moves but comfortably took an unchallenged point, Esipenko had to fight for more than seven hours and over 101 moves to wrestle down the doggedly resisting Vincent Keymer. Aronian, meanwhile, won a pawn against Praggnanandhaa in the early middlegame. In the rook ending he proved that this moderate surplus was decisive.
The nominal tournament favorite Ian Nepomniachtchi was content with a quick half-point against Nodirbek Abdusattorov. Faced with the choice of submitting to a move repetition or fighting on without an advantage, "Nepo" took the draw. Anish Giri and Gukesh also drew, but after a fight that lasted almost seven hours. Giri had pressed for the full point for a long time, ultimately in vain.
A detailed report on the first round will follow.