Magnus Carlsen declared he was "quite happy" today after getting his Meltwater Champions Chess Tour Finals campaign off to a perfect start.
The World Champion savaged Poland's World Cup winner Jan-Krzysztof Duda with two wins and draw to end the match with a game to spare.
Carlsen began the $300,000 event with a four-point head-start over his closest rival Wesley So as a result of topping the Tour leaderboard over the course of the season.
And Carlsen showed no sign of giving up that hefty advantage with a quick-fire win that picked up the maximum three points.
The pressure was well and truly piled up on So, who faced a tough opponent in Azerbaijan's Shakrhiyar Mamedyarov. But the American, who beat Carlsen in two events on the Tour, responded to win 3-1 and stay within touching distance of the lead.
"It's a very long tournament so one match at a time," So, playing from St Louis, said.
So added that he would go for it and that playing catch-up he has nothing to lose and everything to gain.
"Someone's gotta catch Magnus! He is in a comfortable lead and the best player, but someone's gotta try. I just wanna play good chess."
Carlsen, meanwhile, will himself face Mamedyarov in Round 2.
"I don't think I have played him in a KO match on the Tour, so it should be interesting," Carlsen said. "I know it won't be easy."
While Carlsen's fast-start was an ominous sign for the rest of the field, for Duda it was also a disheartening day to forget.
"I've played terribly today," Duda said, who has been a thorn in Carlsen's side this year. "I was out of form and blundered tactics all the way."
Asked how he would pick himself up for the next round, Duda added: "Hopefully, tomorrow I will forget about this performance."
In the race for placings, all three of the other matches went to tiebreaks. After four draws, Vladislav Artemiev beat Teimour Radjabov in the blitz section while Dutch number 1 Anish Giri scored a win over Hikaru Nakamura.
The final match to finish between Levon Aronian and France's top player Maxime Vachier-Lagrave went to an Armageddon play-off. It ended with a scramble as Aronian, winning on the board, ran out of time to leave MVL the victor.
The Finals of the 2021 Meltwater Champions Chess Tour sees the world’s best chess players face off across nine rounds of rapid chess from September 25 to October 4.
Tune in on www.chess24.com, YouTube or Twitch starting at 17:00 CET each day.
For further information, please contact:
Leon Watson, PR for Play Magnus Group
+44 7786 078 770