As seen in Aronian vs Kramnik on day 3, the opening was e4 which Levon Aronian rarely plays. It later turned into the Berlin variation.

The article from FIDE says

Francesco Tristano, a classical and experimental pianist from Luxembourg, made the ceremonial first move for the round. By chance, it was in the game between Aronian and Kramnik, and he started with 1 e4, a move that Aronian almost never plays.

Why did FIDE allow Francesco Tristano to open for white in Chess Candidates tournament 2018? What if the person chooses a "relatively" bad opening like f3 or h3?

source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f86OTmsnI1c

2 Answers 2


It is very common in top tournament that a local celebrity or other people who like attention such as politicains, people from FIDE, etc, make the ceremonial first move. This is purely for the photographers, and of course it is perfectly fine to take back this move and make your own move.

In the game you mention however Aronian chose to stick with 1. e4 which is of course also an option. I don't think that Aronian was in any way influenced by the choice of Francesco Tristano, i.e. he would have played 1. e4 anyway.

  • 1
    That's right. After hearing the commentators closely, i learnt that the e4 move could have been taken back.
    – ABcDexter
    Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 19:24
  • It is definitely allowed, and common, to take back the ceremonial first move and play the one you want. Aronian had planned to go 1.e4 in this game, and Francesco Tristano's choice had no influence whatsoever on the game.
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 8:23
  • 1
    @Evargalo I always assumed that Aronian just informed Tristano earlier that he'd prefer 1. e4. Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 14:36
  • @HarryWeasley that also happens. I don't know how exactly it was done in Berlin, but at least in Kramnik said in his comments that he was expecting Aronian to take back 1.e4
    – Evargalo
    Commented Mar 17, 2018 at 14:41

Having a celebrity make the ceremonial first move of a chess match is a PR thing, similar to a ceremonial first pitch in baseball. It got interesting when Mikhail Gorbachev made the ceremonial first move in an exhibition match between Anatoly Karpov and Judith Polgar in Lindsborg, Kansas, in 2005, and then insisted that Karpov leave the move 1.g4 on the board:

President Gorbachev arrived at 4 p.m. and they were ready to start. Anatoly had white in the first game. Therefore, President Gorbachev would make the first move for Anatoly. As he arrived at the board, he told the audience that this is a wonderful match between two great champions. “I am going to cause some difficulties for the older player”, he said, then proceeded to play 1.g4 without asking Anatoly. Both Anatoly and Susan looked up at President Gorbachev in shock. Anatoly thought that the President was joking as Anatoly mentioned that he would like to make another first move. But the President was firm in saying there is no take back in chess. Then the players started their first game.

This was probably the only time Karpov ever played Grob's Attack.

  • How did that game end? Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 22:16
  • @user1583209 en.chessbase.com/post/che-for-peace-with-mikhail-gorbachev — the article linked in the answer. Commented Mar 13, 2018 at 22:27
  • 2
    Any game score anywhere? Couldn't find it in the Chessbase article or chessgames.com.
    – Allure
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 4:33
  • @Allure Sorry, I don't know.
    – bof
    Commented Mar 14, 2018 at 6:40
  • To save a click: From the article, "Anatoly won the first game." The author claimed that she got a good position and then lost due to being flustered when Gorbachev poured her some water, but the author is her manager (and, in 1 year, husband) Paul Truong so I'm not sure what to make of this. Commented Aug 27, 2021 at 16:49

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