From Saturday: The world elite in Wijk aan Zee

by André Schulz
1/10/2020 – Starting tomorrow the chess world will look again towards the tiny Dutch village of Wijk aan Zee. There, the crème de la crème of the chess world will drink pea soup with some very hungry young players at the Tata Steel Chess tournament, which kicks off Saturday with Round 1 of both the Masters and Challengers groups.

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Traditional festival in Wijk aan Zee

The year's super-tournament season is traditionally opened with the tournament in Wijk aan Zee, which holds its opening ceremony on Friday. The long history of tournaments in the tranquil spa town on the Dutch North Sea coast dates back to 1938. This year the 82nd tournament is being played. The main sponsor of the tournament remains the steel factory in Ijmuiden, which is now part of the Indian Tata group. 

The Tata Steel chess tournament has a real festival character. In addition to the two majors — the Masters and Challengers, there are countless other tournaments over a fortnight. Indeed, the special folksy atmosphere in Wijk aan Zee arises in large measure from the fact that amateurs, club players, top professionals and the world elite all play in close proximity at the De Moriaan sports hall in the centre of town. If you play in one of the open tournaments here, you might meet Magnus Carlsen, Fabiano Caruana, Vishy Anand, or one of the many other top players on the planet in the hallway, or at the local restaurants. Maybe pick up a few Elo points through osmosis? Who knows?

Closing video from the 2019 festival

In addition, the tournament organization with Jeroen von den Berg at the top has a special knack for putting together interesting tournament fields. This year, the world's best players meet some ambitious young talents. And while bringing together the best players from all over the world, the organizers in the Netherlands never forget their own youngsters who get a phenomenal annual proving ground.

Wijk aan Zee is just 30 Km northwest of Amsterdam | Source: Google Maps

The Masters

The raking list of the Masters is topped by the number one and number two in the world rankings, Magnus Carlsen and Fabiano Caruana. In addition to the current and 16th chess world champion, the 15th in the form of Viswanthan Anand is also returning. Anish Giri, Wesley So, Nikita Vitiugiv (replacing the withdrawn Ian Nepomniachtchi), Yu Yangyi, although still young, can be considered veterans. While Vladislav Kovalev, Jan-Krzysztof Duda, Vladislav Artemiev, Daniil Dubov, Jeffrey Xioang, Jorden van Foreest and especially Alireza Firouzja are all even younger and no-doubt relishing the chance to spar in such elite company.

The attention of spectators will be particularly focused on Firouzja, who is only 16 years old. Firouzja has just become the runner-up behind Carlsen in rapid chess. He is considered a possible future World Championship contender. This is his first big tournament where he meets the world's best players in a classical time control. But other young players have also attracted attention with their successes, not least the young Polish GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda, who shares the fifth spot on the starting list with Anand.

Players in the Masters

  Name Fed. Rating Rank
GM Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2872 1
GM Caruana, Fabiano USA 2822 2
GM Giri, Anish NED 2768 9
GM So, Wesley USA 2765 10
GM Anand, Viswanathan IND 2758 14
GM Duda, Jan-Krzysztof POL 2758 15
GM Vitiugov, Nikita RUS 2747 19
GM Artemiev, Vladislav RUS 2731 23
GM Yu, Yangyi CHN 2726 25
GM Firouzja, Alireza FID 2723 27
GM Xiong, Jeffery USA 2712 33
GM Dubov, Daniil RUS 2683 53
GM Kovalev, Vladislav BLR 2660 82
GM Van Foreest, Jorden NED 2644 110

Elo avg: 2741
Category: 20
FIDE ratings from January 2020

The Challengers

The Challengers in Wijk aan Zee is the undercard of the event, but with an average of over 2600 it is also a very strong top tournament. Here, too, young players compete in an interesting field along with experienced players. In addition to tournament veterans such as Pavel Eljanov, Surya Shekhar Ganguly, Rauf Mamedov, Erwin l'Ami, the young and younger participants include the world's best players for their age: Nodirbek Abdusattorov (15), Nihal Sarin (15), Anton Smirnov (18), Lucas van Foreest (18) and Vincent Keymer (15).

Lucas van Foreest is the reigning Dutch champion. Max Warmerdam (19) qualified through last year's "top nine-round event". This tournament is now called "Tata Steel Qualifiers". Jan Smeets also represents the Dutch colors. 

Dinara Saduakassova is the only female participant. In October 2019, she received her first GM norm at the tournament on the Isle of Man and advanced as high as number 11 on the women's world rankings.

Players in the Challengers

  Name Country Rating
GM Anton Guijarro, David ESP 2694
GM Grandelius, Nils SWE 2673
GM Mamedov, Rauf AZE 2659
GM Eljanov, Pavel UKR 2650
GM Ganguly, Surya Shekhar IND 2636
GM Abdusattorov, Nodirbek UZB 2635
GM Nihal Sarin IND 2618
GM L'Ami, Erwin NED 2606
GM Smirnov, Anton AUS 2604
GM Smeets, Jan NED 2585
IM Keymer, Vincent GER 2527
GM Van Foreest, Lucas NED 2523
IM Saduakassova, Dinara KAZ 2519
IM Warmerdam, Max NED 2498

Elo avg: 2602
Category: 15
FIDE ratings from January 2020


The 82nd edition of the Tata Steel chess tournament will take place in Wijk aan Zee from January 10th to 26th, 2020. The 5th round on January 16th will be held at the Philips Stadium in Eindhoven. Entry to all rounds of the Tata Steel chess tournament is free of charge. The games can also be followed online at or the official website

Rest days in the Masters and Challengers are on January 15th, 20th and 23rd. Rounds start at 12:30 UTC (13:30 CET / 7:30 AM EST), except January 16th in Eindhoven when it starts 30 minutes later.

Round-up show schedule

Date Round Author
Jan 11 1 Lawrence Trent
Jan 12 2 Daniel King
Jan 13 3 Yannick Pelletier
Jan 14 4 Daniel King
Jan 15 Rest day  
Jan 16 5 Daniel King
Jan 17 6 Lawrence Trent
Jan 18 7 Lawrence Trent
Jan 19 8 Yannick Pelletier
Jan 20 Rest day  
Jan 21 9 Yannick Pelletier
Jan 22 10 Daniel King
Jan 23 Rest day  
Jan 24 11 Yannick Pelletier
Jan 25 12 Yannick Pelletier
Jan 26 13 Daniel King

Translation from German: Macauley Peterson


André Schulz started working for ChessBase in 1991 and is an editor of ChessBase News.


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