Day 1 of the 2018 Champions Showdown: Chess960 has wrapped up at the Saint Louis Chess Club and all eyes were on Russian Chess Legend and former World Champion Garry Kasparov, as he made his return to competitive chess against long-time rival Veselin Topalov to play the first four of 20 rapid and blitz games in the Chess 960 format.
Kasparov announced his retirement from competitive chess in 2005 but has been playing special tournaments sporadically from year to year. It was still a big surprise when Kasparov was named one of the ten participants in the Champions Showdown, being paired up against former world title challenger Topalov.
This happens to be Kasparov’s first official Chess 960 tournament in his chess career. For those unfamiliar with the growing popularity of Chess960, also known as Fischer Random Chess, this chess variant is similar to standard chess with the only difference being the starting position. With Chess960, there is a possibility of 960 different starting positions, and a random starting position is chosen for each day of this tournament, meaning opening preparation and theory are thrown out the window!
Kasparov had a decent first day of the tournament. While starting slowly in the rapid section of the tournament on the first day, finishing with one loss and one draw, Kasparov responded with a draw and a decisive victory in the final two blitz games of the day.
The Kasparov-Topalov match-up is only one of five total matches being held in Saint Louis for this unique event. Other Grandmasters chosen to participate include Hikaru Nakamura, Peter Svidler, Wesley So, Anish Giri, Sam Shankland, Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (MVL), Levon Aronian and Leinier Dominguez.
There are still three days left in the tournament and 16 games to still be played between all competitors. Day 2 and 3 will feature a new starting position, and two rapid matches (30 minutes per game with 10 second delay), followed by two more blitz matches (5 minutes per game with 5 second delay) on each day. The final day, concluding on September 14th, will feature eight blitz games, with two new starting positions (every four games).