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7 Reasons To Watch Tata Steel Chess 2022 On Chess.com

7 Reasons To Watch Tata Steel Chess 2022 On Chess.com

NathanielGreen
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Here at Chess.com, we will have our own unique on-site live feeds from the tournament hall for the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee. Add in the internet's largest chess community and best commentators (in any language—English, Russian, Portuguese, you name it), Chess.com is the place to watch.

But how does this small seaside resort in the Netherlands still captivate the chess world, even after the better part of eight decades? By hosting the only tournament that has been held every year without fail since World War II, the site of some of the greatest games in chess history, and starring the highest class of player.

How to watch the 2022 Tata Steel Chess Tournament
You can watch the 2022 Tata Steel Chess Tournament live on Chess.com/TV. You can also enjoy the show on Twitch channel and catch all our live broadcasts on YouTube.com/ChesscomLive.
Tata Steel Chess Danya Naroditsky Hess Fiona Steil-Antoni


The world champion, GM Magnus Carlsen, has won it a record seven times; the master he replaced as champion, GM Viswanathan Anand, won here five times, the second-most in history. In all, 10 world champions have won a tournament at Wijk aan Zee. No other tournament can boast that.

Here are seven reasons you won't want to miss this year's edition of Tata Steel Chess right here on Chess.com. (And you won't want to miss #5 especially!)


Carlsen Begins Push For 2900

After the thrill of victory in the FIDE World Championship and the agony of defeat at the 2021 World Rapid & Blitz (although top three in the rapid would thrill most anyone else), Carlsen plays his first over-the-board classical chess since the title bout against GM Ian Nepomniachtchi

Magnus Carlsen
Carlsen looked happy enough in victory, but does the world champion title still captivate him? Eh. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen immediately made additional news after that victory, claiming he would only defend his title against the "next generation" which everyone took to mean as one person: GM Alireza Firouzja. Firouzja won't be here (see below) but Carlsen gave us something else to watch for: an attempt to hit an unprecedented rating (for anyone) of 2900.

How tough would it be to reach 2900? Well, if the world champ scores 13/13 at Tata—if he wins every single game—he reaches his goal by the end of this tournament. With a rating of... 2906.

That gives him enough wiggle room to make it with one draw, but not two. If you think that sounds crazy unlikely, that's because it is. But it's theoretically possible, and if "technically correct is the best kind of correct," then theoretically possible is the best kind of possible.

Obviously, Carlsen does not expect to make it to 2900 all at once, but that shows just how monumental his task is. Even a legendary performance on par with GM Anatoly Karpov's 11/13 at Linares 1994 and GM Fabiano Caruana's 8.5/10 at Sinquefield 2014 wouldn't quite cut it; he'd have to exceed even those memorable massacres.

Carlsen's rating every rating list since 2006. Good luck reaching that boundary we added at 2900.
Carlsen's rating on every rating list since 2003. Good luck reaching 2900.

A bad performance, meanwhile, could effectively end Carlsen's latest quest before it begins. That would be a surprise too—less of one statistically, but perhaps more of one narratively—so it is also something to watch out for.

...And Other World Championship Storylines

The lofty 2900 goal wasn't the only storyline coming out of the World Championship, of course. GM Daniil Dubov, notably, remained on Carlsen's team of seconds even though Carlsen's opponent was also Russian. A third countryman, GM Sergey Karjakin... wasn't happy. Now that controversy lords over the Karjakin-Dubov matchup that we'll see in Wijk aan Zee much more than whatever national kinship they still feel.

Carlsen's game with Karjakin will have its own intrigue as a rematch of the 2016 World Championship, of course, and never mind the 2018 rematch with Caruana. Carlsen could not outperform either of them in classical in those matches, and now they are two of his toughest opponents on the attempt at 2900. And although Carlsen and Caruana have played countless times, this encounter will be their first since Carlsen famously said he was glad not to be facing Caruana or GM Ding Liren in the 2021 FIDE World Championship.

Dubov and Carlsen catching up at the 2021 Rapid & Blitz. Despite the facial obstruction that will confuse observers in 2042, we think present-day readers can tell which one is Carlsen. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Carlsen also has to play against not one but two players who have intimate knowledge of his opening prep, having helped him in the 2021 World Championship: Dubov and GM Jorden van Foreest. How his games with them start, and how they end, will be of note. Not to mention, did Dubov and Van Foreest learn anything about each other in the process?

And, Van Foreest, where have we heard that name before? That's right, he won in Titled Tuesday a little bit ago. No, wait, wasn't there a bigger event? Ah, yes: this one.

Last Year's Storylines

The previous Tata Steel Chess Tournament in 2021 was a doozy. Citizens of the host country had to be thrilled that it ended in a tie between the two Dutch competitors, Van Foreest and GM Anish Giri, although disappointed that only one could be named champion after tiebreaks. 

In only the second-ever tiebreak since the rule was implemented in 2018, Giri fell to 0-2 in such situations—after suffering the same fate against Carlsen in '18, which he might also want to avenge—as Van Foreest pulled off the armageddon upset.

Both players return this year. (Not returning this year is Firouzja, who had his game interrupted in the final round in 2021 to make room for the tiebreaks.) Giri, who multiple times came oh-so-close to being the first Dutch player to win this Dutch tournament since 1985, only for the younger, lower-rated Van Foreest to beat him to it and beat him doing it, will want to reassert his dominance. Van Foreest, meanwhile, will look to back up his 2021 victory with another strong showing throughout the 2022 tourney.

While Van Foreest was the surprise winner in 2021, early in the tournament there was a surprise leader: GM Nils Grandelius. He's also back this year, looking to improve upon that performance after he faded late, including a final-round loss to Van Foreest that allowed the latter into a tie for first. You see, it's all interconnected.

And by the way, remember the recent controversy about the tiebreak system at the World Rapid Championship, where only two players made the playoff even though there was a four-way tie for first place? Well, so did the Tata Steel organizers. Until two days before the tournament, a repeat of the World Rapid was possible, as unlikely as a multi-way tie is when there are only 14 players. But now we don't have to worry about it—maybe it's even time to root for a three-way tie for first.

Tata Steel 2022 Carlsen Caruana
And the two players excluded from the 2021 World Rapid tiebreak? Carlsen and Caruana, seen here in 2017. But who wanted to watch those two play chess, anyway? Well, at least we have another chance coming right up. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Grand Prix Warmup

The next big classical chess tournament after Tata will be the FIDE Grand Prix. No fewer than six Tata Steel participants will also travel to Berlin and/or Belgrade for the Grand Prix starting in February: Giri, Dubov, GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, GM Richard Rapport, GM Vidit Gujrathi, and GM Sam Shankland.

In this tournament, those last two might be looking especially forward to their games vs. Duda and Karjakin, respectively, who knocked them both out in the quarterfinals of the FIDE World Cup last August. Shankland-Karjakin was an especially brutal slugfest back then, in which Karjakin won not once but twice in an on-demand (win-or-go-home) situation.

Tata Steel FIDE Grand Prix Chess 2022

With so much Grand Prix overlap, several games in Wijk aan Zee are likely to see rematches in the next few months. Depending on how things shake out, it's possible albeit unlikely that two players in the last rounds at Tata could face each other again in less than a week, for the first rounds of the Grand Prix.

How will players react if they win a big game at Tata, but in exchange show their opening prep for an eventual Grand Prix match? Remember, the Grand Prix will decide the last two players for the 2022 Candidates Tournament. Speaking of which...

Candidates Preview (#5!)

You'll want to know everything that happened at Tata once the Candidates arrives in June. Depending on how the Grand Prix shakes out, there could be as many as five candidates that we look back on as having played here. 

As of writing, we know three players who would have qualified for the Grand Prix but don't need to play because they are already in the Candidates: Caruana, Karjakin, and GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda. The latter two will be playing a rematch of the World Cup finals (not the football kind, how good at Poland and Russia at that anyway?) where both players had qualified for the Candidates. The same finals, by the way, that Duda reached by stopping Carlsen, who had been on a huge roll in the event—so that's another Carlsen matchup with a storyline to watch for.

Caruana-Karjakin, meanwhile, will be a review as well as a preview, as the winners of the 2018 and 2016 Candidates face off. Not only that, but they each tied someone else for second place the year they didn't win. 

As for the Caruana-Duda matchup, the Polish player has yet to beat the American in a classical game in his career (0-3). Snapping that with a win in Wijk aan Zee would be a great sign for Madrid (site of the Candidates).

A great step for Caruana, meanwhile, would be if he could get that rating back to 2800 at Tata, which we must say is far likelier than Carlsen getting to 2900 here.

Youth Movement

The only players we've yet to mention are the two juniors (age under 20) at Tata 2022: GMs Praggnanandhaa R and Andrey Esipenko. This brings us to yet another Magnus storyline (who knew the guy was so active?) we haven't gotten to yet. In 2021, before Duda beat him at the World Cup, Carlsen had been toppled at this very tournament by Esipenko.

Carlsen got some measure of revenge at the World Cup, eliminating Esipenko, albeit only after another monumental fight. But a win at Tata would be much more poetic revenge for the world champion.

As for Praggnanandhaa, he may be the lowest-rated player in the field, but he is also the youngest and has a chance to shock the world with a strong performance. He'll also be looking to avenge a loss to Esipenko at the 2019 Tata Steel Challengers tournament, not to mention how many people will have a national interest in his game against Vidit. (Another intra-national bout to watch will be Caruana-Shankland, while Carlsen-Grandelius will be a fight for Scandinavian dominance.)

The Next Great Game

Wijk aan Zee has been the site of some of the greatest chess games of all time, including perhaps the single greatest ever in 1999, between GMs Garry Kasparov and Veselin Topalov. In anticipation of the great chess we will soon witness, enjoy this Mount Rushmore set of Wijk games, won by GMs John Nunn, Vadim Zvjaginsev (at the open tournament, but you'll see why we just had to include it), Kasparov, and Anand, all annotated by Chess.com's NMs Anthony Levin (for Cifuentes vs. Zvjaginsev) and Sam Copeland (the rest).

Who will play the next masterpiece? There's only one way to find out. As you've read throughout, the stakes are certainly high enough.

Conclusion

So it is time. This classic tournament of classical-style slow chess begins anew on January 15. After coming all this way with our preview article, surely you won't want to miss a second of the rest of Chess.com's coverage.

Who do you think will win Tata Steel Chess 2022? What matchups are you particularly excited for? Let us know in the comments, and then watch the tournament unfold on Chess.com starting January 15!

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