Tata Steel Chess 2017 Preview by Colin McGourty

Jan 13, 2017, 7:21 PM |

The real start to the chess year is the first round of Tata Steel Chess, and the wait is over to usher in 2017! World Champion Magnus Carlsen and his challenger Sergey Karjakin are both playing the 14-player Masters that gets underway in Wijk aan Zee on Saturday. So, Aronian and Giri are among the others to watch, while young stars Wei Yi and Rapport will get a chance to shine. World Junior Champion Xiong can join them a year from now if he wins the Challengers. We’ll have live commentary here on chess24 with Peter Svidler, Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent.



A football theme to the Tata Steel Chess Masters 2017, with one of the rounds set to take place in Feyenoord's stadium | photo: official website


Let’s get the practical details out of the way first. The drawing of lots took place this afternoon and gave us the following pairings for the Tata Steel Masters:



The schedule is given below, including live commentary here on chess24 by Peter Svidler, Jan Gustafsson and Lawrence Trent. Note games start at 13:30 CET in Wijk aan Zee unless stated otherwise:  

Saturday 14: Round 1 – Peter & Jan
Sunday 15: Round 2 – Peter & Jan
Monday 16: Round 3 – Peter & Lawrence
Tuesday 17: Round 4 – Peter & Jan

Wednesday 18: REST DAY

Thursday 19: Round 5 (14:00 in Feyenoord Stadium, Rotterdam) – Peter & Jan
Friday 20: Round 6 – Peter & Jan
Saturday 21: Round 7 – Peter & Jan
Sunday 22: Round 8 – Jan & Lawrence

Monday 23: REST DAY

Tuesday 24: Round 9 – Jan & Lawrence
Wednesday 25: Round 10 (14:00 in De Philharmonie, Haarlem) - Jan & Lawrence

Thursday 26: REST DAY

Friday 27: Round 11 – Jan & Lawrence
Saturday 28: Round 12 – Jan & Lawrence
Sunday 29: Round 13 (12:00) – Jan & Lawrence

For this tournament the live commentary and chat will be exclusively for chess24 Premium Members. If you’re not yet Premium why not try it for $9.99 a month, when apart from 13 rounds of commentary you of course get unlimited access to all our video series, the Tactics Trainer, cloud analysis and much more.

There’s also a special offer. If you take out a 1-year or more Premium Membership you’ll get a coveted chess24 mug signed by Peter Svidler. 



Peter hard at work during the World Championship | photo: Oliver Koeller


You’ll also be entered into a raffle for a chance to win:

  1. Exclusive coaching with Peter Svidler. Peter will analyse up to 3 of your games
  2. A high quality chess set
  3. One of three DGT3000 chess clocks.

We realise not everyone is able to go Premium and hope you’ll understand the need to experiment occasionally in order to find ways of funding things like lights and Jan’s ties. You can of course follow all the moves with computer analysis on chess24, we hope to have recaps from our commentators that are open to all, and if you need an alternative live broadcast you can head to the official website, where Yasser Seirawan will be the master of ceremonies.     

So let’s get back to the chess tournament that’s about to start, and go through the line-up roughly in order of rating.     

Old rivals: Carlsen (2840) and Karjakin (2785)

Magnus and Sergey must be getting a little tired of their meetings. As if 12 classical games and four rapid in New York weren’t enough they then met in the World Blitz Championship in Doha, with Karjakin finally provoking a losing blunder and – with some adventures – taking the gold medal. Karjakin won clear first in Wijk aan Zee in 2009 (Magnus was 5th) and must have a lot of unused preparation up his sleeves, but it’s unlikely he’s hugely motivated to post the big score needed to win the year’s longest supertournament round-robin. 

The Russian hashtag means roughly "Go, Karjakin!"

In an interview yesterday with Sport-Express his focus was on 2018:

I hope I’ll play normally in the Netherlands, and then I’ll plan how to organise my preparation up to the Candidates Tournament.

For Magnus, meanwhile, there is something to prove, at least to himself. The World Championship victory was dicey and tying the classical part of the match meant he shed rating points to find himself on 2840, a “mere” 13 points clear of Fabiano Caruana on 2827. Magnus would no doubt like to have increased that gap before Round 9, when Caruana will start playing in the Gibraltar Masters.    

So Carlsen has got more reason than usual to want to post a good score, not that his will to win has ever been in doubt. He has five victories in the top event in Wijk aan Zee to date, and winning in 2017 would be his third triumph in a row. Only a brave man would bet against him.



Magnus reflects on life... in Wijk aan Zee

A man apart: Wesley So (2808)

Wesley has developed ninja skills at doing well in or winning tournaments without drawing much attention to himself, but he’s going to be in the limelight in Wijk aan Zee. His stunning second half of 2016 – unbeaten since July, cruising to Grand Chess Tour victory and crossing 2800 – means chess fans will be watching how he handles his new status. 



Wesley was in Wijk early and attended the Challengers Drawing of Lots - he'll get a chance to make a fast start when he has White vs. Magnus Carlsen in Round 1! | photo: official website


The one glaring absentee in his biggest successes in 2016 was Magnus Carlsen, who didn’t play the Sinquefield Cup or London Chess Classic but still managed 4th place on the Tour. Their head-to-head encounter in Round 1 will be one to watch, while if Wesley aspires to being Magnus’ equal he’ll have to show he can rack up a big score in a varied field like the Tata Steel Masters rather than "just" drawing and taking his chances in events with no underdogs.

Time to bounce back: Aronian (2780) and Giri (2773)

2016 was a year to forget for these star players, at least in chess terms, with both failing to qualify for the 2017 Grand Chess Tour (Levon still has a chance if someone drops out). That can all change quickly, though. Anish made an early New Year’s resolution:



And frankly it now seems he can't fail!