Wijk aan Zee!!!
We've got some exciting news.... in about 9 hours the first ceremonial moves of the 2013 Tata Steel Chess Tournament will be played... and then mass chess excitement will be experienced for a full 17 days!! The traditional Wijk aan Zee tournament is as strong as ever, with 6 of the top 10 players in the world; and as exciting as ever, with the participation of tons of the most talented players from all around the world. With three sections with 14 players each, there will be 21 games for spectators to choose from every day. Can't wait, right??
My goal here is to announce to you Chess.com/TV's live commentary and coverage of this event-- bc what better way to enjoy fantastic chess than with the ChessTV crew. These guys will make you laugh with their jokes, make you understand 2800-level chess games with their explanations... or just make you laugh with their attempted explanations. But before I give you the schedule (which you can always find at http://www.chess.com/tv if you just scroll down), here are the Big Questions for me, as I look forward to one of my 2-3 favorite events of the year:
1. How will Wang Hao do??
2. Will Carlsen continue going up? Will he win Wijk after a couple years?
3. Can Aronian solve the problems with his form, and start increasing his rating again?
4. Can Caruana win a few games against top-10 players?
5. Will Anand be a different man in 2013? Can he regain 2800 as he has declared he aims to?
6. Who is in the best form for the Candidates Tournament?
7. Hou Yifan played little in the last 5 months-- gearing up for this tournament? (Usually she plays a lot). She is severely under-rated in this field. Will she play for wins or draws?
8. Giri returns to the site of his collapse. Last year, he was riding a wave of confidence as an up-and-coming prodigy, with constant references to his potential as a world championship candidate, and no major setbacks. Part-way through the 2012 edition of Wijk aan Zee, his updated rating would have been around 2740 (at 17!!). But then he lost a game, and appeared to have trouble taking his results in stride. He lost again and again, calling Aronian a coffee-house player, rather than looking for answers in his own play, en route to 5 straight losses. Over the past year, Giri had some results where he seemed to stabilize and play well again, and other results where he seemed overly hasty to regain the mantle of future world champion. Will we see a mature 18-year old Anish play a solid tournament, or will he continue to suffer from the demons that first visited him here a year ago?
9. Nakamura suffered a reversal in the FIDE Grand Prix in London, but righted himself super fast in London. Should we expect him to continue rising?
10. Is Harikrishna ready for an A group debut?
11. Which Dutch player will electrify the home audience?
12. Will we see a breakout performance for 16-year olds Rapport or Dubov?
13. Will anything exciting happen in the C group?
Now here is our schedule of coverage (always running from 5:30 am to 8:30 am pacific):
1/12, Round 1, with IM Danny "the Tool" Rensch and Brother Josh
1/15, Round 4, with IM Danny "Poppa Bear" Rensch and GM Ben Finegold
1/18, Round 6, with GM Magesh and IM John Bartholomew
1/19, Round 7, with GM Melik Khachiyan and Brother Josh
1/20, Round 8, with GM Sam Shankland and Brother Josh
1/22, Round 9, with GM Magesh and Jason "The Poet" Stoneking
1/25, Round 11, with IM Danny "Get Some" Rensch and Jason "The Poet" Stoneking
1/26, Round 12, with IM Danny "It's a You Problem" Rensch and Brother Josh
Of course I have no crystal ball, but here are my guesses on some of the Big Questions ~~
1. (You may be wondering why this is the #1 question; that's because Wang Hao is one of the nicest people I've ever met, and personally I am rooting for him above all). Hao will do well! He has been playing well throughout 2012 (though Biel was a particularly good result, and he's not going to start winning super tournaments routinely). He will drop a couple games because he will be playing aggressively, but he will also win more games than he loses :)
2. Carlsen will continue to be the best player in the world and to inch towards 2900. However, if he really wants to achieve the kind of dominance people associated with Bobby Fischer and Garry Kasparov, he should work on putting together a string of tournament victories-- say at least 5 in a row. I'd say he is the favorite to win the tournament this year, but not overwhelmingly so.
3. Aronian will do ok, but there are lots of good players here.
4. I don't think Caruana will yet be able to win more than one game from 4 against: Carlsen, Aronian, Karjakin, Nakamura. But if he does, watch out-- he'll be 2800 next month!
5. Despite Anand's public comments, it'll be more of the same in 2013-- few wins, lots of draws, much suffering :(
6. This is something which basically we'll get an idea of from watching.
7. Hou is not quite ready for this level of competition, and not playing for an extended period in advance is not good preparation. I think it's within her reach to do well here, but am afraid that too much emphasis and pressure has been put on this one event, and that she'll have a hard time. She should definitely play for draws against everyone except L'Ami.
8. I think Giri is still in a learning process, so I neither expect a "wow, the prodigy is on again" nor do I expect horrible struggles.
9. I think Nakamura's a bit under-rated still, because of the one catastrophe in London. Other than that, he's done well every time he's played. At Unive for example he showed that he's simply in a different class than Giri or Hou. He should have a very good result here (competing with Magnus and Levon for first), and move towards #4-6 in the world where he should be.
10. Harikrishna is at his highest rating ever. He has experience playing in Wijk several years. He is motivated, and has been preparing, but has kept up a reasonable playing schedule to stay in shape. He's not going to walk in and take over the A group-- this is far too strong an event-- but he should have a good event and become the third Indian GM to cross 2700. I'm particularly looking forward to his clash with GM Anand!
11. I'm afraid none this year. These top players are just sooo good, I can't predict any feel-good home-town story.
12. Rapport gained 80 points in the first 8 months of 2012, then has not played since. As with Hou, I fear over-preparing for Wijk. Dubov gained 100 points in the first 8 months of 2012 (after having plateaud for a while), then did not play much in the last few months, also probably preparing. Most everyone would be excited to see a breakout performance from one of these youngsters, but it doesn't seem overly likely. I think Dubov will finish higher, but the race for first will be Movsesian v. Naiditsch, two professionals who are here to play in group A next year.
13. I really don't know the names in group C this year, so I don't know what to expect. But I believe something awesome will happen, there'll be great games, and I'll get to know some new "faces" in the chess world. (like Grandelius or Vocaturo in past years).
While I have your attention, there are a couple other incredible things coming on Chess.com/TV, which I *know* you won't want to miss!
Death Match 10 Negi v. Ramirez tomorrow, 1/12, at 6 PM Pacific
Timur Gareev's 1st Online Blindfold Simultaneous, Wed 1/16, 2 PM Pacific
Both of those shows will be open to all members!!!