78th Tata Steel tournament begins on Friday

by Sagar Shah
1/15/2016 – It is called the "Wimbledon of Chess" and takes place in Wijk aan Zee, Holland. The Tata Steel event attracts the very best chess players in the world – this year the world numbers 1, 3, 5, 10, 11, 12, 13, etc. Magnus Carlsen, the defending champion, will be looking for his fifth title, equaling Anand’s record. We look at the 14 participants in both the Masters and Challengers section and give you a preview of what you can expect!

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The 78th Tata Steel Chess Tournament takes place from January 15 to 31, 2016, in the coastal village of Wijk aan Zee, North Holland. It is one of the most prestigious events in the international chess calendar. The "Wimbledon of Chess" attracts the very best chess grandmasters in the world, along with thousands of amateur players, live event visitors and online visitors from around the world.

The tournament has two main player groups, each with 14 players. They are known as the Tata Steel Masters and the Tata Steel Challengers. The event attracts the very best chess grandmasters in the world. Visitors to the tournament have witnessed the domination of the biggest names in the chess world including Magnus Carlsen and Gary Kasparov. Below are the masters participating in the 2016 tournament (with FIDE ratings January 2016):

Tata Steel Masters

Ti. Name
GM Carlsen, Magnus
GM Giri, Anish
GM Caruana, Fabiano
GM So, Wesley
GM Karjakin, Sergey
GM Ding, Liren
GM Eljanov, Pavel
GM Mamedyarov, Shakhryar
GM Adams, Michael
GM Navara, David
GM Tomashevsky, Evgeny
GM Wei, Yi
GM Hou, Yifan
GM Van Wely, Loek
Average rating: 2748 – Category: 20

Tata Steel Challengers

Ti. Name
GM Nisipeanu, Liviu-Dieter
GM Baskaran, Adhiban
GM Safarli, Eltaj
GM Dreev, Alexey
GM l'Ami, Erwin
GM Bok, Benjamin
GM Sevian, Samuel
GM Antipov, Mikhail
GM Abasov, Nijat
WG Ju, Wenjun
IM van Foreest, Jorden
IM Batsiashvili, Nino
IM Admiraal, Miguoel
WG Haast, Anne
Average rating: 2569 – Category: 13

The Masters Group

Unlike most of the elite events where all the players are hovering somewhere around the top ten in the world, Tata Steel provides a refreshing change. There are the super-elite guys like Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Michael Adams and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and there are also players who knocking on the doors of becoming the best in the world, like Ding Liren, Pavel Eljanov and Evgeny Tomashevsky. To add to the spice we have the best woman player on the planet Hou Yifan, the most promising youngster Wei Yi, the winner of last year’s B group David Navara and the local boy Loek van Wely. They will all be fighting for a total prize fund of €25,500 and the first prize of €10,000. Let’s have a look at the participants:

The Ultimate King

Many people said 2015 wasn’t particularly Carlsen’s year. Yet he was adjudged by many experts as the best player of the year! This means that Magnus’ bad is better than other people’s good! With the London Chess Classic, Grand Chess Tour and the Qatar Masters Open under his belt in December 2015, the World Champion is without a doubt the biggest favourite at the Tata Steel 2016. Magnus has played in all the Tata Steel editions barring 2014 and has won it four times. This year he will be looking to equal Vishy Anand’s record of five victories in Wijk aan Zee.

Magnus Carlsen recaps year 2015

The super solid trio

Fabiano Caruana, Michael Adams, Anish Giri

We all know how solid Anish Giri is. One example of this is the Grand Chess Tour where the Dutch grandmaster remained unbeaten in 27 rounds, against the best players in the world. Not a single loss! While Michael Adams is also super-solid, what is Fabiano doing here? Well, Caruana and Adams both had the unique distinction of drawing all the nine games at the London Chess Classic 2015! Caruana and Giri are real threats to Carlsen in his bid to win the title.

Number 10, 11 and 13!

Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Pavel Eljanov

Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin, Pavel Eljanov are ranked number 10, 11 and 13 on the rating lists as on January 2016! Wesley had a mixed year when he had some personal issues, but he came out strong and won the Bilbao Masters in November 2015. Sergey Karjakin will be remembered for his heroic victory against Peter Svidler after being 2-0 down at the World Cup finals. And what do we say about Pavel Eljanov? He started 2015 being a super strong grandmaster with a rating of 2726 and ended the year as one of the elite with 2760! It is not very often that we see Eljanov playing in the same tournament as top guys like Carlsen, Caruana, Giri, Karjakin and So. It will be interesting to see how he fares.

The entertainers

Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Evgeny Tomashevsky, David Navara and Loek van Wely

At the Qatar Masters 2015 Mamedyarov seemed to have come with only one intention – to entertain the audience! His games against Lenderman and Khismatullin are definitely worth a look. Tomashevsky’s games as White in the past year are also something that we can learn a lot from. His attacks have a trademark style – he plonks his knight to e5, pushes his h-pawn down the board, brings his queen into the danger zone and a rook lift usually finishes things off. It would be interesting to see how Evgeny fares against the best in the world. The game of the year in 2015 was surely Navara’s amazing king march as white to the h8 square against Wojtaszek! He has the capacity to play such crazy games against the best in the world. Loek van Wely is the last seed and is no longer as strong as he used to be, but he is ambitious and will surely give all the players a run for their money.

The Chinese!

Ding Liren, Hou Yifan and Wei Yi

There are three Chinese grandmasters in the elite section and only two Russians – amazing, isn’t it! And these three are the best in their country. Ding Liren is the highest rated Chinese player in the world, Hou Yifan is the best woman on the planet (by quite a margin), and Wei Yi is easily the most talented youngster in the chess world today! Chess lovers are excited to see a Magnus Carlsen vs Wei Yi game, which is bound to happen here!

Pictures of Ding Liren and Loek van Wely by Alina L’Ami
Picture of Pavel Eljanov by Anastasia Karlovich
Rest of the pictures of eleven players by Amruta Mokal


Playing schedule + Playchess commentary

The two main tournaments are round robins. Both groups start on the 16th of January 2016 in Wijk aan Zee. The Masters move to Amsterdam on January 21, and to Utrecht on January 27. All rounds in Wijk aan Zee begin at 1.30 p.m., except for the last round on 31 January 2016, which begins at 12.00 p.m. Round five will take place in the Science Center NEMO in Amsterdam, and round ten in the Spoorwegmuseum in Utrecht. Both these external rounds start at 2.00 p.m.

Date English commentary German commentary
Saturday, 16 Jan GM Daniel King GM Klaus Bischoff
Sunday, 17 Jan GM Simon Williams GM Klaus Bischoff
Monday, 18 Jan GM Simon Williams GM Klaus Bischoff
Tuesday, 19 Jan GM Simon Williams GM Klaus Bischoff
Wednesday, 20 Jan    
Thursday, 21 Jan GM Daniel King GM Sebastian Siebrecht
Friday, 22 Jan GM Yannick Pelletier GM Sebastian Siebrecht
Saturday, 23 Jan GM Daniel King GM Klaus Bischoff
Sunday, 24 Jan GM Yannick Pelletier GM Klaus Bischoff
Monday, 25 Jan    
Tuesday, 26 Jan GM Daniel King GM Klaus Bischoff
Wednesday, 27 Jan GM Yannick Pelletier GM Sebastian Siebrecht
Thursday, 28 Jan    
Friday, 29 Jan GM Adrian Mikhalchishin GM Sebastian Siebrecht
Saturday, 30 Jan GM Karsten Müller GM Klaus Bischoff
Sunday, 31 Jan GM Karsten Müller GM Klaus Bischoff


The games are being broadcast live on the official web site and on the server Playchess.com. If you are not a member you can download a free Playchess client there and get immediate access. You can also use ChessBase or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Sagar Shah is an International Master from India with two GM norms. He is also a chartered accountant. He loves to cover chess tournaments, as that helps him understand and improve at the game he loves so much. He and is the co-founder and CEO of ChessBase India website, the biggest news outlet in the country related to chess.
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disneychannel disneychannel 1/19/2016 04:13
Wei Yi-Carlsen didn't turn out as a complicated game as I expected.They both played it safe.
disneychannel disneychannel 1/19/2016 04:12
Anand not interested in winning a 6th title,he plays the Gibraltar!
disneychannel disneychannel 1/19/2016 04:11
Giri not having a particularly good tournament.He is at 1.0/3.Hope he come backs.Best wishes!
disneychannel disneychannel 1/19/2016 04:10
Caruana is on 2.5/3.He is dominating.Good luck on crossing 2800 again,Fabi!
disneychannel disneychannel 1/19/2016 04:09
Nakamura was not even that afraid till the GCT.He is avoiding Carlsen.But we shouldn't be talking about it.Nakamura might see...:)

nhanduyenhoahop nhanduyenhoahop 1/16/2016 06:20
Naka should put more effort to imitate Giri's play!
DJones DJones 1/16/2016 03:32
@johnmk that's ridiculous. Gibraltar is probably paying him a bigger appearance fee than what Tata Steel was offering and Nakamura probably wants to try to defend his title from last season's event. If he was avoiding Carlsen he would have skipped the Grand Chess Tour events last season.
MJFitch MJFitch 1/16/2016 01:12
Looking forward to some great chess, analysis & commentary!!!... I hope they're all in form!!!
fons fons 1/15/2016 07:40
Linares used to be the Wimbledon of chess, but that title was always better suited for Wijk aan Zee imo, just look at the size and history of the tournament.
ubernomics ubernomics 1/15/2016 02:55
Tata bagged the 4 youngest of the top 10. Also have the youngish Ding Liren (age 23) and Karjakin (26), but missed out on the rapidly improved Lagrave (25). No oldsters (e.g, Topalov, Kramnik, Anand) except for Van Wely (native) and Adams (near-native from across the channel).

The real loss is the C Tournament. Gone are the precocious youngsters aged 10 to 15, and female players a bit weak for the B tournament.

Wei Yi (age-16-going-on-17-in-2016) is no longer so young - only seems that way due to late appearance on the international stage, in mid-2014. And Sevian (age-15-going-on-16) has to make a big push to prove he is on a top ten trajectory, and not just random prodigy.
johnmk johnmk 1/15/2016 02:31
Possibly Naka is not so crazy about competing with Magnus again.
stephen brady stephen brady 1/15/2016 02:21
It's a shame that Gibraltar is going on during this tournament. MVL, Nakamura, and Anand are playing there instead.

@Hawkman, I guess it depends on how you look at it. You could also say, 3 of the top 5 are playing!
mozartiano123 mozartiano123 1/15/2016 02:08
I love this tournament.
There is something special about Wijk ann Zee that I cannot express. I remind you that this was the first chess tournament to have a video camera transmission. It was really amazing to see Garry Kasparov arriving to the board and fixing the position of his knights before the start of every game.
Wijk Ann Zee has always been known by mixing top 10 with other very entertaining players, that is why there are only 4 of the top 10 players here.
I suggest the guys that commented before to stop complaining and enjoy the next 2 weeks of chess.
Hawkman Hawkman 1/15/2016 01:42
3 of the top 9 is pretty sad.
Jarman Jarman 1/15/2016 01:32
The definition of "Wimbledon of Chess" seems laughable as only 4 of the top 10 are participating - more like a Masters 1000 event, I would say. There's no way so many top 10 tennis players would skip Wimbledon unless injured.
Omoplata Omoplata 1/15/2016 10:19
People forget to mention that Carlsen also won the World Rapid Championship this year, which is no small achievement... Amazing line up as always at Wijk ann Zee with a mix of very interesting players. It's great to see Eljanov on the list; he's earned it and deserves more super-tournament invites.
digupagal digupagal 1/15/2016 10:14
yes chess = carlsen and carlsen = chess

We should only follow chess to enjoy his games and understand his opinions.