The playing hall in Wijk aan Zee, with the A-Group on the right, the B-Group on the left
Shakhryar Mamedyarov, 22, Azerbeijan, rated 2760, A Group
The top Azeri GM is currently ranked number six in the world, in spite of a "bad" year in 2007. "Shak" is considered a bit of a loner who turns up at tournaments without a coach or second. In Wijk he came 11th in the A Group, with a 2715 performance.
Teimour Radjabov, 20, Azerbaijan, rated 2735, A Group
Azerbeijan's second strongest GM, ranked number 12 in the world, came equal first last year's tournament. He started 2008 very impressively, winning the ACP Rapid Knockout in Odessa, beating Ivanchuk, Grischuk and Jakovenko. In the A Group of Wijk he came equal 3-4 with a 2796 performance.
Magnus Carlsen, 17, Norway, rated 2733, A Group
Magnus turned seventeen at the end of November and is already rankes 13th in the world. He shows no sign of slowing his meteoric rise to the top of the chess world. He finished the A Group equal first with a 2824 performance.
Vladimir Kramnik, 32, Russia, rated 2799, A Group
Kramnik is an ex World Champion who beat Garry Kasparov in 2000, defended his title against Peter Leko in 2004 and defeated FIDE world champion Veselin Topalov in a reunification match in 2006. He lost his title in September 2007, at the World Championship in Mexico City, but gets to play the new champion Viswanathan Anand in September 2008. He finished equal 7-8 in the A Group with a 2738 performance.
Viswanathan Anand, 38, India, rated 2799, A Group
"Vishy" had a very successful year 2007 (to put it mildly), making place one in the world, crossing the 2800 Elo barrier and winning the World Championship in Mexico City. He started off badly in this event, occupying last place until a steady climb put him half a point behind the leaders. In the last round he missed joining them by a hair. Final standing: equal 3-4, performance: 2792.
Levon Aronian, 25, Armenia, rated 2739, A Group
Lev is an easy-going, fun-loving GM who has chalked up remarkable victories in his still young career. He is currently number ten in the world, and will improve his ranking and rating with his equal first place (with Magnus Carlsen) and 2824 performance.
Michael Adams, 36, England, rated 2726, A Group
For many years now "Micky" has been England's top grandmaster, and often appeared in the world's top ten – currently he is 15-16th in the world. In Wijk he finished joint 7-8th (with Kramnik) and performed at a 2743 level.
Veselin Topalov, 32, Bulgaria, rated 2780, A Group
Topalov won the FIDE world championship title in San Luis in 2005 and went on to achieve the second highest Elo rating of all time (2813). After losing his title to Vladimir Kramnik in 2006 he has alternated between brilliant and dismal results. Wijk aan Zee 2008 counts as one of the latter: he finished 9-11th with a 2713 performance.
Vassily Ivanchuk, 38, Ukraine, rated 2751, A Group
"Chucky" is nine months older than Anand and one of the most profound players in the world. In the final quarter of 2007 he was ranked second in the world, but subsequently dropped to number nine. He plays more games per year then any top players and is obviously ferociously in love with the game. In Wijk he finished 5-6th together with Peter Leko. His performance was 2768.
Judit Polgar, 31, Hungary, rated 2707, A Group
We cannot repeat it often enough: Judit is easily the strongest female who ever played chess. After two children in recent years she dropped out to the top ten slot, but has her sights firmly concentrated on a return. Currently she is 22nd in the world. She finished Wijk equal 9-11 (with Topalov and Mamedyarov) with a 2718 performance.
Boris Gelfand, 39, Israel, rated 2737, A Group
The oldest player in the field had been a serious contender for the World Championship title in Mexico City last September, where he finished equal 2-3 (with Kramnik behind Anand). In Wijk he faltered badly with four losses and only one win. He came equal 13-14 with a 2662 performance.
Loek van Wely, 35, Netherlands, rated 2681, A Group
The bottom seed local boy started off well and after four rounds was in fourth place. However three successive losses towards the end of the tournament spoilt it for him and he finished equal 13-14 with a disappointing 2666 performance.
Sergey Movsesian, 29, Slovakia, rated 2677, B Group
Georgian born of Armenian descent, Sergey has been living in the Czech Republic ever since he was a teenager, but plays for Slovakia, which gave him citizenship. He won the B Group a full point ahead of the field, with a 2787 performance.
Etienne Bacrot, 25, France, rated 2700, B Group
Top French player, former child prodigy who completed his GM title at 14, father of two, Etienne came equal 2-3rd with a 2722 performance.
Nigel Short, 42, England, rated 2645, B Group
"When I won the tournament in 1986," said the former world championship challenger, "most of the players here were not yet born. Except Kransenkov." Nigel meant the A Group, which he won twice, once by a point and a half. His play this year was galvanised when his opponent in round eight, Ivan Cheparinov, refused to shake hands and was briefly forfeited. The game was played the next day and Short trounced his opponent. After that came only wins and draws, and he finished equal 2-3rd with a 2726 performance.
Pentala Harikrishna, 21, India, rated 2664, B Group
His name is Harikrishna, Pentala is his father's name. So call him Harikrishna if you know him well, or Mr Harikrishna if you don't. Hari is from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh and is the country's second highest ranked player. He finished Wijk B on place four, with a performance of 2668.
Ivan Cheparinov, 21, Bulgaria, rated 2713, B Group
He is one of the great Bulgarian talents, and works as Veselin Topalov's second, playing a serious role in Topalov's successes. He gained notoriety by refusing to shake Nigel Short's hand in round eight. The video of that memorable moment was watched on YouTube by 90,000 visitors. The top seed did not fare too well in Wijk, finishing on place six with a 2611 performance.
Koneru Humpy, 20, India, rated 2612, B Group
Like Harikrishna her name is Humpy or Ms Humpy, not Koneru, which is how you address her father. Humpy is a full grandmaster and the second female in history to break the 2600 barrier. All we can say is Judit, watch out! She did not do well in Wijk, finishing 11th with a 2565 performance.
Hou Yifan, 13, China, rated 2527, B Group
One of the most remarkable talents in Wijk, this 13-year-old girl is only a WGM, but don't tell the GMs she regularly crushes (for example Nigel Short in 23 moves in round three). Nobody doubts that this is a future women's world champion and someone the top male players are going to learn to fear. She came 7-10th in Group B with a 2598 performance.
Fabiano Caruana, 15, Italy, rated 2598, C Group
Talking about talent, here's another player to watch. Fabiano is of Italian extraction, grew up in the US and now lives in Hungary. He is the second youngest grandmaster in the world. His debut in Wijk brought victory in the C Group. Did we say victory? He won it by two full points! His performance: 2694. Makes you dizzy, doesn't it?
Parimarjan Negi, 14, India, rated 2526, C Group
They just keep churning them out. Parimarjan, whose surname is Negi (i.e. Mr Negi to you, please), is one of the many extraordinary talents that has come out of India in recent years. He is the youngest ever grandmaster in Indian and was at one stage the second youngest in the history of the game. Pari finished equal 2-3rd with a rating performance of 2572.
Irina Krush, 24, USA, rated 2473, C Group
Born in Odessa (her name is actually pronounced "Kroosh"), Irina migrated with her family to Brooklyn when she was five. At 14 she became the youngest ever US Women's Champion. She finished 5-8th with a 2521 performance.
Li Shilong, 30, China, rated 2502, C Group
One of the many Chinese grandmasters that have raised their country to a chess super-power. He finished 10-11th in the C Group with a performance of 2567.
Peng Zhaoqin, 29, China, rated 2461, C Group
Call her Peng – or 彭肇勤, if you come from her native China. Peng was born in Guangzhou, Guangdong, but has lived in the Netherlands for more than ten years now. She has a full FIDE title of grandmaster and has won the Dutch Women's Championship six times – in a row. She finished the C Group in a disappointing 12-13th place with a performance of 2386.
Anna Ushenina, 22, Ukraine, rated 2484, C Group
Anna is the highest ranked female player in Ukraine, which is the second strongest chess nation in the world. She has a WGM and a (male) IM title. She finised 12-13th (together with Peng) with a performance of 2384.
Viktor Korchnoi, 76, Switzerland, rated 2605, Honorary Group
Introducing Viktor Lvovich would be like introducing Shakespeare of Beethoven. He is one of the strongest players in history never to actually win the world championship title. And at an age where most people are dozing in deck chairs this man travels the world in serach of new chess adventures. He finished third in his group with a disappointing 2545 performance.
Ljubomir Ljubojevic, 57, Yugoslavia, rated 2543, Honorary Group
Yugoslavia is now Serbia, of course. But "Ljubo" lives in Linares, Spain, and is fluent in any language you may care to try on him. He was once rated third in the world and has defeated practically every top grandmaster of his generation. His belligerent comments to postgame analyses are legend. Ljubojevic won the Honorary Group with a performance of 2685.
Jan Timman, 56, Netherlands, rated 2561, Honorary Group
The greatest Dutch chess player since Max Euwe, Jan won the national championship nine times. In the 1980s and 1990s, after Fischer had retreated from the game, he was considered the strongest non-Soviet player. He finished second in the Honorary Group with a performance of 2560.
Lajos Portisch, 70, Hungary, rated 2530, Honorary Group
From the early 1960s into the late 1980s, Portisch was one of the strongest non-Soviet players. He participated in twelve straight Interzonals, and qualified for the World Chess Championship Candidates' cycle a total of eight times. He finished fourth in the Honorary Group with a 2450 performance.
John Nunn, 52, England, rated 2602, Honorary guest
John Denis Martin Nunn is one of England's strongest chess players, once amongst the world's top ten. He is also a mathematician, a subject he took up at Oriel College in Oxford at the age of 15, which made him the youngest undergraduate since Cardinal Wolsey. Today he earns his living publishing and sometimes writing chess books, and occupies himself with science, especially astronomy.
Signe Carlsen, 10, Norway, unrated, sister of Magnus
Signe will turn 11 in February and accompanied her father Henrik on their trip to Wijk. Both assisted and encouraged her brother Magnus. Signe speaks fluent English (like all Skandinavians) and is incredibly cute. Hope she comes to Morelia, Mexico, to support Magnus there.
Photos by Fred Lucas, text by Frederic Friedel
Fred Lucas [Photo by Fred Friedel]
"My relation with chess is simple," says Fred Lucas. "I'm a photographer who is very fond of the game, loves the atmosphere at tournaments – it's if you can really feel all the ideas coming up on all those boards – and I love to make pictures, especially with available light. What I like most when photographing chess players is to get their emotions that are otherwise hard to see, because life immediately proceeds to the next moment. Before the start of a game most players are busy with themselves, concentrating and some give you the impression that they really don't want to pay attention to anything else than the game to come."