10 things that made the Tata Steel Chess India 2019 special

by Sagar Shah
12/2/2019 – The Tata Steel Chess India 2019 was held from November 22nd to the 26th, 2019 in Kolkata, India. It was truly a trailblazing event being the strongest tournament ever to be organized on not just Indian but Asian soil. IM SAGAR SHAH reflects on the ten things that according to him made the Tata Steel Chess India special. A photo / video retrospective.

Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen Master Class Vol.8: Magnus Carlsen

Scarcely any world champion has managed to captivate chess lovers to the extent Carlsen has. The enormously talented Norwegian hasn't been systematically trained within the structures of a major chess-playing nation such as Russia, the Ukraine or China.


Kolkata GCT conquers all

Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, National Library of India, huge fans, the cricket touch, Grand Chess Tour, Tata Steel and the organizers, the Anand quiz, the ChessBase India coverage and last but not the least the amazing players themselves — all made the Tata Steel Chess India special!

Tata logoThe Tata Steel Chess India 2019 was the strongest ever chess tournament to be held not just on Indian soil, but throughout Asia! For a country that is crazy about chess, the Tata Steel Chess India super tournaments have been just what the chess fans wanted! The first edition in 2018 was a very successful one. Things only improved in 2019. Here are ten things that made the 2019 edition special!

1. Magnus Carlsen

It goes without saying that this tournament would never have reached the same popularity levels if it were not for Magnus Carlsen and his brilliant play at the event.

Magnus with trophy

Magnus Carlsen won the event in a smooth fashion, giving others absolutely no chance! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It was not just that Carlsen played good chess over the board. He simply won the hearts of the spectators.

For the World Champion, there was always a bit of security around | Photo: Amruta Mokal

If left alone, a huge crowd of fans would gather | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Whenever you see Magnus with his tournament face on, you would witness him walking fast, trying to get away from the crowd. At the closing ceremony he clarified this:

I am not always forthcoming with autographs and selfies. It has to do because I try to be focused on my game. But I will be available for it at the end of the day. Please be patient, don't push! Everything will be fine.

Magnus was magnanimous with his time and gave autographs after closing ceremony | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Behind the stage, there was a player's resting area where all the players would relax after their round. There was food and air conditioner and overall they would have their own space. However, Magnus always has his own way of doing things. After four rounds of rapid chess and before facing Anish Giri in round five, the World Champion needed some air and exercise. So what does he do? He goes to the terrace of the venue, takes off his shoes and socks and with his bare feet begins playing Football! The spectators and the journalists were simply awe-struck!

Dribble level: World Champion | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

When I got to know this was taking place, I ran over with my DJI Osmo Pocket and shot this!

It was a pleasure to have the World Champion in India and we hope that his visits to the country grow more frequent in the years to come!

2. Vishy Anand

For many years chess in India was synonymous to just one man! Vishy Anand. The five-time World Champion is single-handedly responsible for the chess boom in the country today. It was amazing to see Vishy playing and giving it his best in Kolkata.

Anand came to Kolkata with his better half Aruna | Photo: Amruta Mokal

On December 11th, 2019, Vishy will turn 50 years old. But the Indian legend is still holding his own against the best in the world. In fact against the recently crowned Fischer Random World Champion Wesley So, Anand scored three wins in three games. He beat him in the rapid and also in both the blitz games! Vishy is nowhere close to stopping just yet!

For Anand playing in India is never easy! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Carlsen vs Anand

Anand-Carlsen is always an anticipated match | Photo: Amruta Mokal

No matter who is leading the event, who is winning it, in India the largest cheer from the crowd always goes to Vishy Anand!

3. National Library of India

In 2018, the venue for Tata Steel Chess India was the Indian council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). While the venue was nice, the seating capacity inside the playing hall was limited. This time the organizers decided to shift the venue to the National Library of India. This was much bigger, grander and greener!

The National Library of India is the biggest library of the country | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It holds close to 2 million books! In the Pre-Independence era it used to be the house of the Viceroy of India!

Tata Steel Chess India 2019 participants in front of the National Library | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The best part about venue was the clean and green environment | Photo: Amruta Mokal

playing hall

The majestic playing venue! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

One could definitely say that the venue this year played a vital role in popularizing the event.

Feel the atmosphere of Tata Steel Chess India 2019

4. Huge fans

"The huge number of fans that you (India) have at this tournament is the most exciting part for me. It has made a huge impression on me and I quite like it," says Jeroen van den Berg, the famous tournament director of Tata Steel Chess in Wijk Aan Zee, Netherlands and now also the tournament director of Tata Steel Chess India.

crowd in the venue

The venue reached its capacity on the third day of the event and some spectators had to stand and spectate | Photo: Sagar Shah

Sagar with kids

I was just walking around the premises of National Library and suddenly a few kids recognized me and formed a crowd | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Who are the youngsters' favorite?

A vidit fan who went the extra distance | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Deepak Vaze

Well-known organizer Dr. Deepak Vaze travelled over 2000 kilometer to get signatures of the players | Photo: Amruta Mokal

fans in the audience

People just loved the setting where they could see both players' expressions and the games | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

5. The cricket touch!

The most popular sport in India is cricket. They say it is more than just a sport. Cricket in India is like a religion! Until now chess and cricket had never really come this close to each other. But the main organizers of the Tata Steel Chess India were Gameplan Sports Private Limited, who are into the organization of cricket in a big way. It was their idea to bring chess and cricket closer.

Former Indian cricket captain, newly elected BCCI President Sourav Ganguly made a few draws in drawing of lots | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

tandem blitz

The cricketer teamed up with Vishy Anand to play a couple of moves against Magnus Carlsen | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Carlsen and Anand at cricket match

Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen rang the ceremonial bell on the second day of 1st Pink Ball Test cricket match at Eden Gardens | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Carlsen at cricket

Magnus Carlsen keenly observes cricket | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Giri with Sourav Ganguly

Anish Giri with Sourav Ganguly | Photo: Anish Giri's instagram

Rahul Dravid with Vidit Gujrathi

The two Mr. Dependables of India: Rahul Dravid with Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Vidit Gujrathi's Instagram

6. Grand Chess Tour

In 2019 Tata Steel Chess India became a part of the Grand Chess Tour. This meant that the prize money shot up in a big way. While the total prize fund in 2018 was US $40,000, the first prize this year itself was US $37,500. The total prize fund in 2019 was US $150,000.

Magnus Carlsen received US $37,500 for his efforts in winning Tata Steel Chess India 2019 | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Tania Sachdev and Giri

Tania Sachdev was the only commentator of GCT team who was present at the venue | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

live commentary

WGM Jennifer Shahade, GM Peter Svidler did live commentary from Saint Louis Chess Club studio along with GM Maurice Ashley

The entire production of live stream was done by three individuals from USA: Tony Rich, Marcus Batton and Kevin Duggin | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Graham Jurgensen

Graham Jurgensen - Technical Director of Grand Chess Tour | Photo: Amruta Mokal

He was present at the venue and was the main coordinator between the event and Grand Chess Tour. He ensured that everything was in order at the event.

Vishy Anand had played really well in the entire Grand Chess Tour of 2019. He just needed 5 points to make it to the London Finals starting from the 2nd of December. This brought a lot of excitement in the event and until the very last day whether Vishy would qualify or not was unsure! In the end, the Indian GM missed it by a whisker, but it goes without saying that Grand Chess Tour added a completely new flavour, a better flavour, to the event this year!

7. Tata Steel and the organizers

Tata Steel has already powered chess across the world with its famous event in Wijk Aan Zee, which is into its 82nd edition. Taking a page out of their book, the Tata Steel Chess India begun in 2018. In a year it has become a part of the Grand Chess Tour and the sponsors Tata Steel couldn't have been happier with the progress.

Chanakya Chaudhary, VP of Corporate services of Tata Steel Pvt. Ltd | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

"Our support to this event will continue and in the coming years you will see it taking place in Kolkata and growing from strength to strength," says Chanakya Chaudhary. So why does Tata Steel support chess in such a big way. Isn't chess supposed to attract less eyeballs as compared to say a sport like Cricket or Tennis or Badminton? Chanakya clarifies Tata Steel's position.

I joined the company 31 years back and till today we have a tag line which we have remained true to — At Tata Steel, Sports is a way of life! If you come to any of our operating units in Jamshedpur or even in Jharkhand or Odisha where we have our mining operations, you will see that we invest a lot in the infrastructure for sports. We have stadiums, we have academies, we have training centres. GM Dibyendu Barua was with us and he was a part of the chess training centre in Jamshedpur. Chess has been a part of our curriculum. We do not promote sports for eyeballs. We sincerely feel that there is a huge talent pool in the country which needs to be honed. We want to be the facilitators. We do not see the return on investment. That comes for our steel making business. Our aim is to make the infrastructure for the talents, train them, and then throw him/her in the water and let them swim! 

Interview with Chanakya Chaudhary, VP, Corporate Services Tata Steel Pvt. Ltd


The most important forces who came together to organize the event

Usman (Senior member of National Library of India), Chanakya Chaudhary (VP of Corporate Sales of Tata Steel Pvt. Ltd), Malavika Banerjee (Director of Gameplan), Dr. K K Kochukoshy (Officer on special duty at the National Library of India) and Jeet Banerjee (Director of Gameplan).

The main organizers of the event were Gameplan

A team of competent individuals. (From left to right standing): Jeet Banerjee, Surendra Sinha, Viraj Kejriwal, Guru Ramabadhran, Supriyo Ghosh.

(From left to right sitting): Sukanya Das, Roshni Adhikari, Supratim Majumdar, Pratiti Ganatra.

Interview with Jeet Banerjee, the director of Gameplan Sports Pvt. Ltd.

Jeroen van den Berg

The Tournament director Jeroen van den Berg's presence gave a feeling of familiarity to all the participants! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

AICF officers

A proud moment for All India Chess Federation | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The arbiters of the tournament Anantharam R (centre), Biswanath Banerjee (left) and Gopakumar Sudhakaran (right) | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

8. The Anand Quiz

At the Tata Steel Chess India 2019, I handpicked nine positions from Vishy Anand's career-best games and posed them in the form of a quiz to Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Vidit Gujrathi, and Erwin l'Ami. The reason why I did this was because the super tournament was being held in India and the Indian maestro was soon going to turn 50 years old. I felt that it would be a nice way to pay our respect to the greatest chess player that the world has ever seen.

The challenge was to not only guess the moves Vishy played in those positions but also recognize the opponents they were played against. So how did the five top-class Grandmasters, including the current World Champion himself, fare in the test? To know, check out the videos below.

Anish Giri remembers different positions in different ways

Erwin l'Ami is Giri's second for a reason

Vidit Gujrathi grew up studying Vishy Anand

Carlsen became World Champion by beating Anand in 2013, clearly his knowledge of the maestro is impeccable

Speed King Hikaru Nakamura attempts at answering the positions

Hikaru Nakamura is a modern day player and relies heavily on chess computers and engines. He admitted even before the quiz began that he didn't know Vishy's games very well. But that didn't stop him from being a good sport.

After the above interviews were over, I got in touch with Vishy himself. Anand, who was found in a relaxed mood after the tournament, spoke unreservedly and went down the memory lane relating many untold stories connected to these masterpieces.

Vishy Anand on the nine best moments of his chess career

This quiz made the event more exciting. You could even hear Peter Svilder and Jen Shahade talk about it on commentary and the Magnus video now has over 150,000 views in the last one week. We are happy that people enjoyed it.

9. The ChessBase India coverage

The most intense on site coverage of the event was done by ChessBase India. We were a four member team present at the venue who brought you articles, photos, videos and social media updates on a daily basis.

(L to R) Sagar Shah, Shahid Ahmed, Satanick Mukhuty and Amruta Mokal

Most popular videos

One of the major efforts taken by ChessBase India in covering the event was to give you the feel of being present at the venue. In this aspect we feel that there is no better medium than videos. We used the ChessBase India YouTube Channel to publish some of the videos and many of them became very popular. Here we jot down the ones that have over 50000 views! Mind you the view count would change quite drastically if you are reading this after a few hours, because many of the videos are growing in view counts very aggressively.

The shortest game of Magnus Carlsen's chess career, and 1.2 million views!

Magnus Carlsen recalls 8 out of 9 Vishy Anand gems - 165,000 views

What happened when Giri offered a draw to Carlsen on move 4 - 145,000 views

How does Magnus Carlsen relax in between the rounds? - 138,000 views

Vishy Anand vs Magnus Carlsen, Blitz game #1 - 111,000 views

Ding Liren beats Magnus Carlsen with a powerful counter-attack - 92,000 views

Check the famous Nakamura expressions - 87,000 views

The reason why Magnus Carlsen is a genius! - 62,000 views

Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Rapid - 61,000 views

Anish Giri vs Magnus Carlsen, Rapid - 58,000 views

Those are nine videos that have above 50,000 views just a couple of days after the event has ended. We are sure that by next month, many more will join.

Check out the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz playlist on YouTube. It has 90 videos already!

10. The Amazing Players!

None of this would have been possible without the 10 amazing players who fought it out with all their might for five days at the event! Thank you Magnus, Ding Liren, Vishy, Anish, Levon, Hikaru, Wesley, Ian, Hari and Vidit! Each one of you made these five days memorable!


Sagar is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India, the biggest chess news portal in the country. His YouTube channel has over a million subscribers, and to date close to a billion views. ChessBase India is the sole distributor of ChessBase products in India and seven adjoining countries, where the software is available at a 60% discount. compared to International prices.


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