Three of the 18 players in the first Grand Prix notched victories in Round 1.

A report with analysis by grandmaster Sam Shankland will appear later. 

The first Grand Prix of 2017 got underway Saturday in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates, with 18 of the world’s best players. The top two finishers in the four-tournament series, which will also include competitions in Moscow, Geneva and Palma de Mallorca, Spain, will qualify for the Candidates tournament next year to select a challenger for the World Championship. There are 24 players in the competitions, with each playing three of the four tournaments.

Each Grand Prix has a prize fund of 130,000 euros, with 20,000 euros for first. The series is being organized by Agon, the company that holds the commercial rights to the World Championship, under the auspices of the World Chess Federation, also known as FIDE, the game’s governing body.

The primary sponsors for the Grand Prix are Kaspersky Lab, a global cybersecurity firm; EG Capital Advisors, an institutional money manager with $3 billion under management; S.T. Dupont, a French luxury goods manufacturer; and Isklar, a Norwegian mineral water company.  

The games are being broadcast live on WorldChess.com, the official site of the World Championship, which is owned by Agon.

Saturday, three of the nine games ended decisively. Perhaps the least surprising was the victory of Michael Adams of England over Salem Saleh, a representative of the host country. Saleh, the first player from his country to play in the World Championship cycle, is also the third-lowest ranked player among the 24 in the Grand Prix, while Adams, No. 16 in the world, is one of the most experienced. Adams, who had White, gained only a small advantage out of the opening, but then he patiently outmaneuvered Saleh until Saleh began to make some errors. Eventually, the cumulative effect was too much and Saleh lost his queen for a rook and bishop. After that, it was just a matter of time before Adams converted his advantage into a full point.

Ding Liren, China’s top player, who is ranked No. 12, lost to Richard Rapport of Hungary, No. 50, after he blundered in an equal position on move 34, dropping a couple of pawns.

The third victory was scored by Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France, No. 5, over Li Chao b of China, No. 30. Vachier-Lagrave, who had White, outmaneuvered Li in an endgame in which Vachier-Lagrave’s bishop pair, and the awkward position of Li’s king, proved to be the crucial difference.

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Dylan Loeb McClain is a journalist with more than 25 years of experience. He was a staff editor for The New York Times for 18 years and wrote the paper’s chess column from 2006 to 2014. He is now editor-in-chief of WorldChess.com. He is a FIDE master as well.