Five-time World Champion Viswanathan Anand was held to a draw by Russian Grandmaster Vladislav Artemiev in the first round of Tata Steel Masters in Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands on Sunday.

Anand, playing the major event for the 18th time, faced the Caro Kann defense by Artemiev. Going for the ultra-sharp Advance Anand made his intentions clear but Artemiev was quite up to the task in the opening as he gave little away.

In the ensuing middle game, Anand temporarily won a pawn and later decided to force equality through an exchange sacrifice. On move thirty-one, the draw was agreed with neither player having any real chance.

Reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen of Norway played against one of his arch-rival Anish Giri of Holland and the result was another draw. Carlsen has never beaten Giri in Wijk Aan Zee in eight meetings now and in fact, Giri was the one calling the shots.

Carlsen criticized himself for his computer-like play in the opening and conceded that he was worse after just 11 moves with white pieces. However, the Norwegian made amends to maintain parity in the end.

The biggest headline of the day was 16-year old Iranian Firouza Alireza who made a superb start to his maiden campaign in a super tournament. On the receiving end was Vladislav Kovalev who apparently missed the thread in the opening itself and ended much worse.

For the records, it was a Ruy Lopez wherein Kovalev misplayed early and lost a couple of pawns. Firouza was resourceful enough thereafter to score a clean victory. Firouza is currently playing under FIDE flag and not representing his home country Iran since last World Rapid and Blitz Championship in late December.

Local hopeful Jorden Van Foreest was the other winner of the opening day at the expense of Yu Yangyi of China. The Dutchman did well to gain an early advantage but Yangyi kept hanging in till the rook and pawns endgame that should have been drawn with correct play.

However, one mistake by the Chinese proved too costly as Van Foreest was able to promote his queen first. Several Zugzwang later, it was a well-earned victory.

After the first round, van Foreest and Firouza Alireza are the two leaders with 12 rounds still to come in the 14-player round-robin tournament.

Meanwhile, in the Challengers section being organized simultaneously, Grandmaster Surya Shekhar Ganguly scored a fine victory over Max Warmerdam of Holland while another Indian talent Nihal Sareen played out a draw with Nils Grandelius of Sweden.

Results Masters Round 1: Jeffery Xiong (Usa) drew with Daniil Dubov (Rus); Jorden Van Foreest (Ned) beat Yu Yangyi (Chn); Magnus Carlsen (Nor) drew with Anish Giri (Ned); Fabiano Caruana (Usa) drew with Wesley So (Usa); V Anand (Ind) drew with Vladislav Artemiev (Rus); Nikita Vitiugov (Rus) drew with Jan-Krzysztof Duda (Pol); Firouzja, Alireza (Fid) beat Vladislav Kovalev (Blr).

Challengers: Dinara Saduakassova (Kaz) drew with Rauf Mamedov (Aze); David Anton Guijarro (Esp) drew with Abdusattorov Nodirbek (Uzb); Jan Smeets (Ned) drew with Lucas Van Foreest (Ned); Surya Shekhar Ganguly (Ind) beat Max Warmerdam (Ned); Erwin L’Ami (Ned) beat Anton Smirnov (Can); Vincent Keymer (ger) lost to Pavel Eljanov (Ukr); Nihal Sarin (Ind) drew with Nils Grandelius (Swe).

Karthik Venkataraman, Aleksandrov in joint lead in Delhi Open chess

Indian Grandmaster Karthik Venkatraman continued with his winning ways as he defeated Hose Martinez Eduardo of Peru to share the lead with Aleksej Aleksandrov of Belarus at the end of the fifth round in the Delhi International Open chess tournament in New Delhi on Sunday.

Vernkataraman, who is having the run of his life, registered an emphatic win with black pieces against the Peruvian player. He was tested by Eduardo who played white but the Indian managed to come up trumps in 55 moves.

Aleksandrov defeated seasoned Bangladeshi Grandmaster Ziaur Rahman in a tense battle wherein the Belorussian had the final say.

With two players sharing the lead, C R G Krishna is at joint second with three others on 4.5 points while a pack of 30 players is close behind with four points. This list includes top seed Farrukh Amonatov of Tajikistan and five-time Commonwealth champion Abhijeet Gupta.

Al Muthaiah caused his second big upset of the tournament as he defeated Karthikeyan Murali, the highest rated Indian in the field. After a hard-fought middle game, Muthaiah was able to stage a huge comeback in the Queen and Rook endgame where his queen and rook dominated the important part of the board.

In the other upset results of the day, M Pranesh put it across Stanislav Bogdanovich of Ukraine while Italian GM Alberto David was held to a draw by local talent Aaryan Varshney. V Pranav also did well to hold GM R Lalith Babu. Five rounds still remain in the biggest open tournament of Asia.

In the B category of the chess festival, Himanshu Moudgil of Delhi won the title to pocket a cash prize of Rs 3 lakh.

Important results: Round 5: Karthik Venkataraman (India) 5 beat Martinez Alcantara Jose Eduardo (Peru) 4; Aleksej Aleksandrov (Belarus) 5 beat Ziaur Rahman (Bangladesh) 4; CRG Krishna (India) 4.5 drew with Ivan Rozum (Russia) 4; Florian Kaczur (Hungary) 4 drew with Farrukh Amonatov (Tajikistan) 4; Nguyen Van Huy (Vietnam) 4 drew with Kirill Stupak (Belarus) 4; Pavel Ponkratov (Russia) 3.5 drew with Ortik Nigmatov (Uzbekistan) 4; Al Muthaiah (India) 4 beat Karthikeyan Murali (India) 3; Bharat Kumar Reddy Poluri (India) 3 lost to Abhijeet Gupta (India) 4.