Round one of the 2020 Candidates Tournament opened with a Chinese upset as the underdog Wang Hao, playing with black pieces, defeated his compatriot – and one of the favorites of the tournament - Ding Liren. The second decisive outcome was produced in the game between Anish Giri and Ian Nepomniachtchi in which the local player prevailed. After the first round, Ian Nepomniachtchi (Russia) and Wang Hao (China) lead the field, with four players on half a point and two on zero.
The 2020 Candidates Tournament is probably the only high-profile sporting event taking place in the world. In light of the concerns regarding the coronavirus, various measures
have been put into place. Players and arbiters are supplied with masks, sanitizers, and the audience is not allowed in the playing venue. In chess terms, this event
is unique given that it has the highest prize fund ever for a Candidates Tournament (500,000), and that for half of the players (Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Ian Nepomniachtchi, Kirill Alekseenko, and Wang Hao) this is their debut at the event.
Traditionally, the opening round started with the first-move ceremony. FIDE President Arkady Dvorkovich made the first move in the game Ding Liren – Wang Hao, Russian football star Dmitri Bulykin made the first move in the game between Vachier-Lagrave and Caruana, the head of Yekaterinburg City Chess Federation Mikhail Vakhrushev did the honors in the Russian duel between Alexander Grischuk and Kirill Alekseenko and the 12th World Champion Anatoly Karpov opened the game between Anish Giri and Ian Nepomniachtchi. Interestingly, while Giri did shake hands with Karpov, Nepomniachtchi refused, in light of the concerns about the global coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest upset of the day came in the Chinese duel where Wang Hao (who is playing his first Candidates event) defeated Ding Liren (who finished the 2018 Candidates without a single loss!).
For the first time in the Candidates, two Chinese players were playing each other. Following the English Opening, the compatriots ended in a seemingly peaceful position in the midgame, with the queens exchanged. White (Ding Liren) had a tiny advantage - a strong knight on c4 and good control of the flow of the game, while Black had a passive bishop on c7. The position was, however, roughly equal.
White then decided to open the position with 30.f4, but it allowed Black's pieces to spring to life. Wang Hao got a chance to take the initiative, and several moves down the road he was dominating on the kingside, while at the same time blocking any chances for White.
Facing an imminent collapse of his position Ding Liren decided to resign.
Ding Liren did not appear at the press conference after the game. In his analysis of the position, Wang Hao highlighted 30.f4 as a bad move, pointing out that White had some advantage before that.
This game was interesting for one other reason: over a million people tuned in from China to watch the live broadcast on the official website. The Chinese commentary being provided by non-other than the highest-rated female player in the world Hou Yifan, and three-time champion of China and 14-time champion of the Netherlands, Peng Zhaoqing.