Tata Steel 2015 Preview

by Alejandro Ramirez
1/8/2015 – The first Super-Tournamnet of the year is upon us! The 77th edition of the Wijk Aan Zee chess tournament, or the Tata Steel, begins with its first round this Saturday! The field is bolstered with super stars and upcoming powerhouses, both in the Masters and Challengers section. Leading the Masters are Carlsen, Caruana and Aronian, but they face very, very stiff competition!

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The first major tournament of the year is only a few days away! The Tata Steel super-tournament will have its first round this Saturday, 10th of January - the drawing of lots and the opening ceremony will be held one day prior.

The Tata Steel Chess Tournament has two main tournaments. They are played according to the 'round robin' system, whereby each competitor plays in turn against every other during the tournament. The Tata Steel Masters has 14 participants and the Tata Steel Challengers has 14 participants. Both groups start on January 10th 2015. All rounds in Wijk aan Zee begin at 13.30 hours, except for the last round on January 25th, which begins at 12.00 hours.

Master's Section

World Rkg.
Carlsen, Magnus
Caruana, Fabiano
Aronian, Levon
Giri, Anish
So, Wesley
Vachier-Lagrave, Maxime
Wojtaszek, Radoslaw
Radjabov, Teimour
Ding, Liren
Jobava, Baadur
Ivanchuk, Vasily
Hou, Yifan
Van Wely, Loek
Saric, Ivan

The return of Magnus Carlsen certainly makes any event exciting. The World Champion skipped the 2014 edition of Tata Steel but he is back! His closest competitor is Fabulous Fabiano Caruana, who had an amazing 2014 with important tournament wins, including the Sinquefield Cup where he started with a brilliant 7-0.

Carlsen didn't win every tournament he played, but he had a good year nonetheless

The defending champion is Levon Aronian. At the start of last year, and especially after his victory in Wijk Aan Zee, Aronian was considered to be the most dangerous rival of Magnus Carlsen and a very likely opponent for him in the World Championship match. However Aronian has had somewhat of a rough year, dropping down to the sixth position in the world rankings. This is his chance to prove his mettle and regain his third or even second position world-wide.

Caruana will certainly be shooting for the top spot

Just behind Aronian are two rising stars. Anish Giri has rapidly climbed the rating ladder and winning Tata Steel would cement his position as one of the very elite. In a similar position is Wesley So, who recently switched federations to USA and has had an outstanding year - let us not forget that he won $100,000 in the Millionaire Chess open in October.

100,000 reasons to smile

The field continues with more stars: Maxime Vachier-Lagrave and Radoslaw Wojtaszek are two very powerful chess players, both known to be opening experts with amazing preparation. On the other side of the coin are Ding Liren and Baadur Jobava - especially the latter is known as a creative player with little to no opening preparation!

Vasily Ivanchuk is always a wildcard: you never know if he will have the tournament of his life or fall flat on his face. Either way, he provides entertaining and amazing chess.

World Women's Champion Hou Yifan returns to Wijk Aan Zee

Hou Yifan returns to Group A in Tata Steel. She played the 2013 edition and her 2687 performance was quite good, but she finished 11th out of 14. After her amazing 2014 she has skyrocketed to 2673 in rating, only two points away from the recently retired Judit Polgar. Hou Yifan is definitely someone that can pull off more than a few surprises.

Ivan Saric had a brilliant performance in the Challengers; can he repeat it in the Masters?

Rounding up the field are Loek Van Wely, a traditional figure at Wijk Aan Zee, and Ivan Saric - the winner of last year's B group.

Challengers Section

Name Fed Rtg
Navara, David CZE 2729
Wei, Yi CHN 2675
Shankland, Sam USA 2652
Van Kampen, Robin NED 2615
l'Ami, Erwin NED 2613
Potkin, Vladimir RUS 2608
Saleh, Salem UAE 2603
Timman, Jan NED 2593
Michiels, Bart BEL 2563
Gunina, Valentina RUS 2538
Klein, David NED 2517
Sevian, Samuel USA 2511
Haast, Anne NED 2352
Dale, Ari AUS 2291

The Challengers group in Wijk Aan Zee is always filled with a combination of chess legends, strong players and upcoming powerhouses. This year is no exception.

The Chines prodigy: Wei Yi

The group has a clear rating favorite in David Navara, the Czech number one who has been a top level player for a few years now. The next three in the rankings are upcoming players... even with their high ratings! Wei Yi, Sam Shankland and Robin Van Kampen are all rising quickly in the world rankings. Wei Yi was until recently the youngest GM in the World while Sam Shankland demolished the reserve board at the Olympiad and single handedly carried his team's results in that tournament.

Samuel Shankland roping in an individual gold in the Olympiad

Speaking of upcoming players, it will be the international debut of Samuel Sevian in an important round robin event. The 14-year-old became the World's youngest GM only a few months ago. He trails the legendary Jan Timman by 82 rating points and 49 years of age!

Currently the World's youngest GM: Samuel Sevian

Valentina Gunina, who won the European Championship and the Russian Championship last year, is a player that will be looking to find the top spots in this event.

Valentina Gunina (right) moments before becoming the 2014 European Women's Chess Champion.
Oh she also won the Russian Championship. And helped her team obtain the gold medal in Tromso...


The tournament has a slight change this year. Most of the rounds will be played in the traditional De Moriaan Community Centre in Wijk Aan Zee, but two of the rounds will be played elsewhere. Last year the tournament traveled to the National Museum in Amsterdam and the High Tech Campus in Eindhoven.

This year the fifth round will be held in De Rotterdam. De Rotterdam is a building on the Wilhelminapier in Rotterdam, designed by Rem Koolhaas in 1998.

Rotterdam is ready to host Tata Steel!

The tenth round will be played in the International Press Cnetre Niewuspoort in the Hague. Councillor Karsten Klein of The Hague had this to say: "The Hague is honored to be able to host the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2015 at the heart of the Dutch parliamentary democracy. Our city has a long history of international chess tournaments, a tradition which is continued in this manner. "

Commentary on Playchess

This being the first major event of the year, it is clear that we will be bringing you live commentary on our server www.playchess.com!

Day Date Round English
Saturday January 10 Round 1 GM Alejandro Ramirez
Sunday January 11 Round 2 GM Alejandro Ramirez
Monday January 12 Round 3 GM Alejandro Ramirez
Tuesday January 13 Round 4 GM Daniel King
Wednesday January 14 Free  
Thursday January 15 Round 5 GM Daniel King
Friday January 16 Round 6 GM Simon Williams
Saturday January 17 Round 7 GM Nicholas Pert
Sunday January 18 Round 8 GM Simon Williams
Monday January 19 Free  
Tuesday January 20 Round 9 GM Daniel King
Wednesday January 21 Round 10 GM Simon Williams
Thursday January 22 Free  
Friday January 23 Round 11 GM Daniel King 
Saturday January 24 Round 12 GM Simon Williams
Sunday January 25 Round 13 GM Daniel King


The games will be broadcast live on the official web site and on the chess 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 12 or any of our Fritz compatible chess programs.

Grandmaster Alejandro Ramirez has been playing tournament chess since 1998. His accomplishments include qualifying for the 2004 and 2013 World Cups as well as playing for Costa Rica in the 2002, 2004 and 2008 Olympiads. He currently has a rating of 2583 and is author of a number of popular and critically acclaimed ChessBase-DVDs.


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