Impressions from Tata Steel 2018

by Frederic Friedel
2/5/2018 – The Tata Steel Tournament, often called the "Wimbledon of Chess", is held in a wind-swept Dutch coastal resort, Wijk aan Zee, in the middle of winter. It is very prestigious and attracts top players from around the world, as well as hundreds of amateurs, who play in subsidiary tournaments or simply come to watch the action in the top groups. We bring you impressions of this year's 80th anniversary event, and a wonderful chess study to solve. You can win a Fritz 16 signed by the winners!

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A look back

The Tata Steel Chess Tournament was formerly known as the Corus Chess Tournament (2000-2010) and before that, from 1938-1999, the Hoogoven-schaaktoernooi. I have been to Wijk aan Zee for the event many times, but left out a number of editions. In fact my last visit was in 2009. But this year it was celebrating its 80th anniversary, and a lot of my best friends in chess would be present. So I could not resist, and drove down for the last three days, together with our English language editor Macauley Peterson.

Before I give you some impressions of my visit in Wijk, here's a look into the past.

Maggie and Anish Baba, back in 2009 at the "Corustoernooi" in Wijk aan Zee

Nine years ago Magnus scored 7.0 / 13 points in the Grandmaster Group A and came fifth. At the time I told him that Vishy Anand had started calling him Maggie. "Are you okay with that?" I asked. Magnus replied: "He is World Champion, he can call me anything he likes!"

Anish finished the Grandmaster Group C in 2009 as equal second with 8½ / 13. With that he completed his final GM norm and became a full grandmaster, at the age of 14 years, 7 months and two days. That was when I got to know him — a pleasantly precocious, independent, quadrolingual lad. I called him Anish Baba, Hindi for small male child, baby boy. This year he came to me and with a smirk said: "It's me, Anish Baba." He remembers!

Magnus and Anish today, answering questions in the press room after their playoff last Sunday

While we are strolling down memory lane, here are four players at the Wijk aan Zee tournament back in 2009:

(Clockwise) Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Sergey Karjakin and Hou Yifan

Fast forward to 2018, when the 80th edition of the event was staged. We reported daily and extensively, and you can revisit the reports to see what the above players look like today. I attended the last three days and took tons of pictures. Here are a few impressions.

That's ChessBase English news editor Macauley Peterson, left, working in the press room, opposite GM Ian Rogers, who made the trip all the way from Down Under (Sydney, Australia)

The modern workplace: Macauley watching the action on an Android phone while writing his report

Legendary World Champion Anatoly Karpov watching postgame analysis by Challengers winner Vidit Gujarathi. Incidentally Anatoly will soon be playing a rapid chess match in China against Hou Yifan.

Old friends: Peng and Judy, in the press area of Tata Steel

Judit Polgar is the strongest female ever to play chess and needs no further introduction. I have known her since she was seven. GM Peng Zhaoqin was three times Chinese women's champion (1987, 1990 and 1993). After that she moved to Holland and proceeded to win the Dutch women's championship, can you guess how many times? I met her after she won the Dutch championship in 1997. She went on to do it again, twelve times in a row, from 2000 to 2011.

One of the most interesting people I know: Maria Jose Yarur Rescaglio from Chile

I met Maria Jose during the World Championship between Anand and Kramnik in Bonn, 2008. She came to visit in Hamburg soon after that, and we had a marvelous time with the artist and singer. You check out her activities by googling "Juga di Prima". Start with this Juga di Piaf performance. Or maybe this one — schedule about an hour for your explorations. Maria Jose, who has just launched a new Juga Musica web site, works on the board of the Judit Polgar Chess Foundation

GM Erwin l'Ami analysing his game against Michal Krasenkow. He is coming back to Hamburg again soon, to record new Fritztrainers. One important condition: he must bring his wife...

... Alina l'Ami, a dear friend who has supplied us with stunning visuals over the years.

The playoff: both Magnus Carsen and Anish Giri finished undefeated with 9.0 / 14 points and rating performances of 2885/2891

Everyone wants to see how it ends. Spoiler: Magnus won.

Oh the intensity! Vidit Gujarathi, Erwin l'Ami and Adhiban Baskaran watching the playoff Carlsen-Giri in the press room.

Dark secrets: Macauley interviewing Vladimir Kramnik on a Tata Steel balcony.

A truly amazing study

During the day Hans Böhm does popular commentary on the games and on chess in general...

... which is extremely popular and attended by an impressively large audience [photos of the commentary hall by René Olthof]

Hans Böhm is a Dutch International Master, writer, journalist and presenter, who did the live onsite chess commentary and wrote many columns during the event. Hans also works for radio and TV, and during my stay I saw a beer ad that had a voice-over spoken by him. So it was appropriate that I met him late in the evening in the hotel restaurant over a glass of beer.

That's Fabiano Caruana in the hotel restaurant, playing blitz. In the background Hans Böhm, whom I have known for decades, showed a Belgian couple some studies.

When I joined Hans and his friends he was showing them a position I instantly recognized: it was the wrong bishop study I had myself used with strong players for a long time. So he gave us another one to work on, and I would like to share it with our readers.

Hans Böhm showing us the study. I have blurred out the position on the board, because it is well into the solution — and I want our readers to put some effort into solving it themselves

Chess Endgames 1 - Basic knowledge for beginners

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A few things are obvious in the above position: White cannot promote the pawn because of the knight fork on c7. Moving the king allows Black to defend the queening square e8 and use his own superior forces to settle the game. Moves like Nxd3 or Bf2+ don't remove the basic dilemma of White actually striving to win this position, which after a while seems quite preposterous.

Autographed Fritz 16 coverAnyway, try to work out the solution on the live diagram above, where you can move the pieces around. Or whip out your chess board and analyse with friends, like we did in the restaurant of the Zeeduin Hotel in Wijk, with Hans refuting every wrong try.

You can also fire up your chess engines, which will hopefully struggle a bit over the position. In this context I need to tell you that I lost a bet with Hans that my Fritz 16 engine would solve it in less than a minute. I owe him a glass of draft Dutch beer.

We will publish the solution to this lovely study in a week, together with the source and interesting additional information.

In the meantime you can send us your solution or comments you may have, using our feedback form (and not the commentary section below!) to be entered into a random drawing for one copy of Fritz 16 signed by Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Viswanathan Anand, Judit Polgar, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, and Vidit Gujarathi!

Fritz 16 - He just wants to play!

Fritz 16 is looking forward to playing with you, and you're certain to have a great deal of fun with him too. Tense games and even well-fought victories await you with "Easy play" and "Assisted analysis" modes.


Editor-in-Chief emeritus of the ChessBase News page. Studied Philosophy and Linguistics at the University of Hamburg and Oxford, graduating with a thesis on speech act theory and moral language. He started a university career but switched to science journalism, producing documentaries for German TV. In 1986 he co-founded ChessBase.


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