Tata Steel Chess Tournament Opens With Carlsen-Giri
The Masters together at the opening ceremony. | Photo: Tata Steel Chess.

Tata Steel Chess Tournament Opens With Carlsen-Giri

PeterDoggers
PeterDoggers
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49 | Chess Event Coverage

The Tata Steel Chess tournament will start on Saturday with Magnus Carlsen vs. Anish Giri and Fabiano Caruana vs. Wesley So. The tournament's opening ceremony took place on Friday afternoon with the drawing of lots.

Round 1 pairings Masters
Xiong, Jeffery - Dubov, Daniil
Van Foreest, Jorden - Yu, Yangyi
Carlsen, Magnus - Giri, Anish
Caruana, Fabiano - So, Wesley
Anand, Viswanathan - Artemiev, Vladislav
Vitiugov, Nikita - Duda, Jan-Krzysztof
Firouzja, Alireza - Kovalev, Vladislav


Round 1 pairings Challengers
Saduakassova, Dinara - Mamedov, Rauf
Anton Guijarro, David - Abdusattorov, Nodirbek
Smeets, Jan - Van Foreest, Lucas
Ganguly, Surya Shekhar - Warmerdam, Max
L'Ami, Erwin - Smirnov, Anton
Keymer, Vincent - Eljanov, Pavel
Nihal Sarin - Grandelius, Nils

Barely a week into the new year, it's time for the first super-tournament of 2020. In Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands, the Tata Steel Chess tournament will be held for the 82nd time. The top two players in the world, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana, head the field.

You can follow the live games here as part of our live portal. Live commentary will be provided on Chess.com/TV starting from Saturday, January 11 at 13:20 CET (7:20 a.m. New York, 4:20 Pacific). Commentary will be provided by GM Robert Hess and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni during the first week, and GM Peter Leko and IM Sopiko Guramishvili during the second week.


2019 was a bad year for Tata Steel Netherlands. With steel production declining worldwide, and even more so in Europe, the Indian multinational corporation announced a restructuring measure in November that involved cutting nearly 3,000 jobs across its European operations. For the Dutch division, 1,600 to 1,700 jobs from a total of 9,000 might disappear.

In this light, the chess fans should count their blessings that a 82nd edition is coming up.

Tata Steel smoke Wijk aan Zee
The Tata Steel fumes as seen from Wijk aan Zee. Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

And so, a tradition that started in 1938 is still continued after all these years. A new tournament is starting this Saturday, with four players from the world's top 10 this time, including the two highest-rated players.

Carlsen will be playing in Wijk aan Zee for the 16th time, since he debuted in 2004 when he won the "grandmaster group C," two months after turning 13. He won the highest group—called masters for a few years now—a record seven times.

The big question is what the world champion can show in the new year, after having his most successful year in his career just behind him—a year in which he managed to win 10 tournaments.

And yes, there is also this streak of not losing in classical chess for 107 games in a row. This included two games he played in late 2019 in the Norwegian league against players rated below 2400.

Carlsen himself is "not counting the league games towards the streak," but everyone else does and so he can break Sergei Tiviakov's record of 110 games in round four in Wijk aan Zee.

Magnus Carlsen
Magnus Carlsen is four games away from breaking Tiviakov's record. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

There are 13 opponents who will try to prevent this from happening. It could be especially tricky if the world champion were to face one of his major rivals in the early rounds. This will be known after the drawing of lots, which will take place during the opening ceremony on Friday afternoon. (Chess.com will be attending, and for the latest news on this and elite chess in general, it's recommended to follow ChesscomNews on Twitter.)

"Best of the rest" is Caruana, who is 50 Elo points behind Carlsen on the January rating list. The American is coming back to the chessboard after two months of rest; his last tournament was the Superbet Grand Chess Tour in Bucharest. 

The American number-one did play four official games last Monday, albeit at the fast time control of 10 minutes plus a two-second increment online. Caruana played his first match in the PRO Chess League for the St. Louis Archbishops against the New York Marshalls and scored 3/4, but his play wasn't too convincing yet and he might need to warm up a little more for Tata Steel.

Fabiano Caruana
Fabiano Caruana. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Between Caruana and the third seed Anish Giri, there's an even bigger gap: 54 Elo points. Like Caruana, Giri is playing Wijk aan Zee two months before a more important event: the FIDE Candidates' Tournament. That means, like Caruana, the Dutch grandmaster will have to play the Tata Steel tournament with an opening repertoire that does not include his main weapons.

For a player who relies fairly strongly on openings that could be a problem, but it could also work in his favor, as he'll be surprising his opponents here and there.

Giri attended the traditional meet and greet event for local media last Tuesday in Eindhoven with Jorden van Foreest. Why Eindhoven? Because that's where the fifth round of the tournament will be held, in the Philips Stadium, home of local football club PSV.

Also among the favorites are Wesley So, the winner three years ago, and of course Vishy Anand, a five-time winner.

So is a bit of a question mark. He is a very strong player, but he seems to have suffered from motivation problems recently when it comes to classical chess. He has stated more than once in interviews that he likes other time controls and even variants more these days, and his Fischer Random World Championship title fits that outlook.

Wesley So Magnus Carlsen Fischer Random
So playing Carlsen at the Fischer Random world championship. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

Anand is a legend, and it's just amazing that he's still playing at the level he does at age 50. He will definitely be capable of fighting for the top spots, and depending on how the tournament goes and his form, an even bigger surprise cannot be ruled out either.

A few days ago Anand gave an inspiring interview to India Today:

The 82nd edition is an interesting one for the fact that, more than ever, the field has many young players. The average age is a bit over 25, and there are nine players who are 25 years old or younger.

That includes the top two juniors in the world: Alireza Firouzja (16) and Jeffery Xiong (19). Most eyes will be on Firouzja, who made such steep progress in 2019 and grabbed the silver medal at the world rapid championship two weeks ago. In Wijk aan Zee, the Iranian player will once again be playing under the FIDE flag.

Alireza Firouzja Wijk aan Zee 2020
Alireza Firouzja. Photo: Maria Emelianova/Chess.com.

The strong Russian grandmasters Daniil Dubov, Vladislav Artemiev and Nikita Vitiugov are also in the field. The latter took the place of Ian Nepomniachtchi, who withdrew from the tournament on January 2 citing fatigue after a busy year, and the desire to prepare for the candidates instead.

Like the Russian trio, players such as the Chinese GM Yu Yangyi or the Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda are unlikely to play for first place, but they will definitely be able to make life hard for the top five players in the field. And that's probably also the case for Vladislav Kovalev of Belarus, who qualified from the challengers last year.

2020 Tata Steel Tournament | Masters

# Fed Title Name Rating Rank Age
1 GM Carlsen, Magnus 2872 1 29
2 GM Caruana, Fabiano 2822 2 27
3 GM Giri, Anish 2768 9 25
4 GM So, Wesley 2765 10 26
5 GM Anand, Viswanathan 2758 14 50
6 GM Duda, Jan-Krzysztof 2758 15 21
7 GM Vitiugov, Nikita 2747 19 32
8 GM Artemiev, Vladislav 2731 23 21
9 GM Yu, Yangyi 2726 25 25
10 GM Firouzja, Alireza 2723 27 16
11 GM Xiong, Jeffery 2712 33 19
12 GM Dubov, Daniil 2683 53 23
13 GM Kovalev, Vladislav 2660 82 25
14 GM Van Foreest, Jorden 2644 110 20

In the the shadow of the masters, there's a challengers group with both experienced GMs, rising stars and several local heroes. Sadly, there's only one female player this year: Dinara Saduakassova of Kazakhstan.

The top seeds are David Anton of Spain, Nils Grandelius of Sweden, Rauf Mamedov of Azerbaijan and Pavel Eljanov of Ukraine. The latter has dropped significantly in rating; in May 2016 he was the world number-12 with a rating of 2765. He played three times before in Wijk aan Zee, and always in the top group.

Pavel Eljanov
Pavel Eljanov. Photo: Peter Doggers/Chess.com.

This group also has some young players that will be interesting to follow, such as the trio of 15-year-olds Nodirbek Abdusattorov of Uzbekistan, Nihal Sarin of India and Vincent Keymer of Germany, alongside the 18-year-old Anton Smirnov of Australia and the 18-year-old Lucas van Foreest of the Netherlands.

The Dutch fans will also be rooting for Erwin l'Ami and Jan Smeets, two 34-year-old grandmasters who were born on the same day. Both are not that active anymore; l'Ami often joins Giri to tournaments as his second. 

Smeets semi-retired a few years ago and is working at the Amsterdam Stock Exchange these days. He plays his first serious classical tournament since November 2013.

2019 Tata Steel Tournament | Challengers

# Fed Title Name Rating Rank
1 GM Anton Guijarro, David 2694 45
2 GM Grandelius, Nils 2673 72
3 GM Mamedov, Rauf 2659 91
4 GM Eljanov, Pavel 2650 106
5 GM Ganguly, Surya Shekhar 2636 146
6 GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek 2635 149
7 GM Nihal Sarin 2618 198
8 GM L'Ami, Erwin 2606 241
9 GM Smirnov, Anton 2604 249
10 GM Smeets, Jan 2585 347
11 IM Keymer, Vincent 2527 692
12 GM Van Foreest, Lucas 2523 731
13 IM Saduakassova, Dinara 2519 759
14 IM Warmerdam, Max 2498 1004

The 82nd Tata Steel Chess tournament will be held between January 11 and 26 in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands. The masters group will play one round at an external location: on Thursday, January 16 in Eindhoven.

Just like in previous years, the official video broadcast will be "proudly powered" by Chess.com, which you can watch on both tatasteelchess.com and Chess.com/TV. All rounds start at 1:30 p.m. local time (7:30 a.m. New York, 4:30 Pacific) in Wijk aan Zee, except for two rounds:

  • On January 16 (Eindhoven) the round starts half an hour later, at 2 p.m.
  • The final round, on Sunday January 26, starts 1.5 hours earlier, at noon local time.

Commentary will be provided by GM Robert Hess and WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni during the first week, and GM Peter Leko and IM Sopiko Guramishvili during the second week.

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