Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands :World champion Vishwanathan Anand defeated former FIDE world champion Ruslan Ponomariov of the Ukraine in his opening round in group A competition of the 73rd Tata Steel chess tournament here.
The win, with black in 52 moves from a Sicilian Defence, was an important boost for Anand to regain the top spot in rating list, which he lost to Norway's Magnus Carlsen earlier this month.
International Master Tania Sachdev caused a major upset in the 'C' group being held simultaneously defeating second seed Ivan Ivanisevic of Serbia. Tania emerged as early leader in her group while in the 'B' group, the lone Indian Surya Shekhar Ganguly went down to Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia.
It was a tense first day in the premier group as three decisive games did not exactly justify the intense battles between the best chess brains. Carlsen played out a draw with Levon Aronian of Armenia in which majority of experts believed that the former was in some troubles.
The surprise of the day came from local star Jan Smeets who outwitted Alexei Shirov of Spain through a home-cooked novelty and the best game prize of the day was won by Hikaru Nakamura of United States for his fantastic victory over Alexander Grischuk of Russia.
Anand, Smeets and Nakamura thus emerged as early leaders in the 14-players round robin tournament being played under classical time control.
With four drawn encounters, as many as eight players share the fourth spot after the first round including Carlsen, Aronian and Vladimir Kramnik of Russia.
Anand played in classic style to outplay Ponomariov in all departments of the game. Playing the black side of a Sicilian Najdorf, Anand attained easy equality in the middle game that ensued and slowly pushed for the initiative while Ponomariov appeared at sea.
The Ukrainian blew away his chances when he tried to invade the queen side with his queen and, much to his own dismay, found it trapped. Losing the queen for a knight, Ponomariov continued in vain, prolonging his agony till the 52nd move before finally calling it a day.
Nakamura's victory against Grischuk was best described by GM Ivan Sokolov. "It was a beautiful game, conducted with a steady hand by Nakamura," said Sokolov.
"Grishuk was cramped for space and saw no other way out than to sac a piece for two pawns after only 18 moves. It was an effort to obtain active play but he never got a chance. It isn't often that Grishuk gets clobbered in such a way," he said.
Dutch champion Jan Smeets sprang a theoretical novelty on Shirov on the 22nd move of a Ruy Lopez game. Playing black, Shirov was copying a game which had earned him an easy half point last year, unaware that Smeets had given it special attention.
"Just to make sure it really worked, my second and I had even checked the idea only half an hour before the start of the round," Smeets said.
"You can imagine how glad I was when the line came onto the board. Shirov didn't see it coming. When he realised how strong it was, he sacrificed a piece for three pawns. But that was far from enough. He resigned three moves later."
In the 'C' group, Tania punished Ivanisevic's lackluster play in style. The Serbian Grandmaster, rated over 200 points more than Tania, went for a sacrificial variation in the opening as white and ended up being a rook less in the middle game when the attack boomeranged.
Tania won in just 30 moves.
The other Indian did not have such luck as Sargissian was in his element in a Queen's gambit accepted. Losing an exchange early, the counter play bid by Ganguly did not really materialise.
Results round 1 Group 'A': Ruslan Ponomariov (Ukr) lost to V Anand (Ind); Erwin l'Ami (Ned) drew with Anish Giri (Ned); Jan Smeets (Ned) beat Alexei Shirov (Esp); Magnus Carlsen (Nor) drew with Levon Aronian (Arm); Hikaru Nakamura (Usa) beat Alexander Grischuk (Rus); Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (Fra) drew with Wang Hao (Chn); Ian Nepomniachtchi (Rus) drew with Vladimir Kramnik (Rus).
Group 'B': Vladislav Tkachiev (Fra) drew with Laurent Fressinet (Fra); Friso Nijboer (Ned0 drew with Li Chao (Chn); Luke McShane (Eng) beat Wouter Spoelman (Ned); Radek Wojtaszek (Pol) lost to David Navara (Cze); Le Quang Liem (Vie) drew with Wesley So (Phi); Gabriel Sargissian (Arm) beat S S Ganguly (Ind); Jon Ludvig Hammer (Nor) lost to Zahar Efimenko (Ukr).
Group 'C': Mark van der Werf (Ned) drew with Benjamin Bok (Ned); Sebastian Siebrecht (Ger) drew with Roeland Pruijssers (Ned); Ivan Ivanisevic (Srb) lost to Tania Sachdev (Ind); Kateryna Lahno (Ukr) drew with Mark Bluvshtein (Can); Dariusz Swiercz (Pol) beat J W de Jong (Ned); Illya Nyzhnyk (Ukr) beat Murtas Kazhgaleyev (Kaz); Robin van Kampen (Ned) lost to Daniele Vocaturo (Ita).