Indian Grandmasters Pendyala Harikrishna and Krishnan Sasikiran drew their first games as the Chess World Cup got off to an exciting start in Khanty-Mansiysk in Russia [ Images ] with the first round producing a number of surprises.
Harikrishna and Sasikiran drew against Zhao Jun (China) and Sergei Zigalko (Bulgaria) respectively and will now be looking for wins in the second games on Sunday.
Another Indian GN Gopal did well to hold former World champion Rustam Kasimdzhanov to a draw.
Grandmaster Abhijit Kunte scored a creditable draw against Russian Grandmaster Vadim Zvjaginsev, while GM Suryashekhar Ganguly went down to GM Sergei Tivjakov in a hard-fought game.
The World Cup is being played in knock-out format with 128 players. Each of the participants will play two-game matches, with tie-breaker games to be played if required.
Top-seeded Grandmaster Vassily Ivanchuk had an easy time in the first game of his match against Pedro Aderito of Angola. The other favourites, Mamedyarov, Radjabov, Aronian and Shirov scored facile wins in their games against much lower-rated opponents.
However, there were some notable upsets. The biggest surprise of the day was former World champion Ruslan Ponomariov's loss to unfancied Egyptian International Master Essam Al Gindy.
The other prominent casualties of the day were Grandmasters Evgeny Alekseev, Konstantin Landa and Alexander Shabalov. Two players, GM Zammora (Mexico) and Eduardo Iturrizaga (Venezuela) could not make it to the event. Their opponents Ivan Cheparinov (Bulgaria) and Peter Svidler (Russia) got walkovers and advanced to the second round.
Harikrishna came under slight pressure after the opening but he avoided creating any weakness in his position. His opponent could not make any headway against Hari's solid defence and the players agreed to a draw after 30 moves in a level position. Sasikiran played very ambitiously against the Queens Indian defence but Zigalko found some good resources to counter the Indian Grandmaster.
Sasikiran won an exchange but allowed his opponent to pick up too many pawns in the process. He bailed out by returning the exchange and entering a drawn endgame. The players split the point after a keen tussle which lasted 60 moves. Gopal fought a sharp tactical battle against Kasimdzhanov and emerged with material advantage when the dust had settled down. However, his advantage was too slight to trouble Kasimdzhanov and the former world champion safely obtained a draw.
Ivanchuk was completely in control of his game against Aderito and won in 36 moves by outplaying his opponent tactically. Shakhriyar Mamedyarov won a couple of pawns in the middle game against Abdel Razik and coasted to victory in the endgame.