Tata Steel Chess: And they're off!

by Macauley Peterson
1/14/2018 – One down, twelve to go; Tata Steel Chess is often described as a "marathon" — more of a "Belmont Stakes" than a "Preakness" — where anyone can recover from a loss and the early lead isn't necessarily indicative of how things will be down the stretch. Still, it's nice to be out in front! Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik and Anish Giri, jumped out to an early lead on Saturday, as Anand starts his bid for a record busting sixth Wijk aan Zee title. The 2018 Tata Steel Masters and Challengers takes place January 13th to 28th. Grandmaster Daniel Fernandez breaks down the action in our extensive round one report. | Photo: Alina l'Ami Tata Steel Chess on Facebook © 2018 Tata Steel

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Champions quick out of the gate

In Friday's preview, we noted some key historical stats, and one you will definitely want to keep in mind is the record for the most Wijk aan Zee tournament wins, currently shared by Magnus Carlsen and Viswanathan Anand, with five apiece. Anand has the upper hand for the moment, defeating the newcomer to Wijk aan Zee, Maxim Matlakov, in round one.

It's a bit surprising that Vladimir Kramnik has competed in Wijk eleven times, yet finished in first place only once — in his first attempt 20 years ago in 1998 — when he tied with Anand on 8½ / 13. In Saturday's first round, he overcame Wei Yi, who is making his third consecutive appearance in the Masters group (he finished with 6½ in 2016, and 7½ in 2017).

Standings after round one


Click or tap a player name to see rating progression, or on a result to open a game via live.chessbase.com

Commentary and analysis by GM Daniel Fernandez

The battle between the two rating favourites turned out to be a bit of a non-event. Black essayed the Petroff, and in a manner reminiscent of the final classical game of his title defense last year, Carlsen opted to play uncritically and take pieces off. Nobody likes to start a tournament with a loss! However, due to inefficiencies in his vacuuming procedure he found himself in some small difficulties at one point. My comments below are necessarily rather 'hand-waving' in nature, and there are no long lines.


Caruana and Carlsen

A solid start for Caruana; black against Magnus is generally not a welcome first round pairing | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

Caruana commented after the game, "I kind of felt like I don't have to force a draw. I thought I had a promising position with my knight on d5 and my pawns advancing. But maybe I was a bit too ambitious."

GM Yannick Pelletier also took a look for our daily round-up show, which you can see live at 21:00 CET (3 pm EST):

Round-up show (part 1)

Equally uneventful was the game between the English GM Gawain Jones and Carlsen's opponent from the above-mentioned encounter. 


Jones: "I knew I couldn't out prepare him" | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

The final draw was arguably quieter in terms of chances for advantages, but it is a bit less boring thanks to the opening, which I have felt the need to comment on at length.


The next game was one where both myself and the engine are convinced of White's opening edge, and then suddenly it isn't there anymore. And this occurs not once but twice! The chess culture of Peter Svidler is arguably the greatest in the world, but in this unprincipled Short System position he was not able to keep a tight enough grip on his opponent's resources.



Baskaran Adhiban makes his second appearance in the Masters. He scored 7½ / 13 (3rd place) in 2017 | Photo: Alina l'Ami © 2018 Tata Steel

When it comes to wins, we begin with the one I felt was least likely to happen. The second Petroff of the round was presumably Black's attempt at starting off solidly, but one cannot play for a draw against a master of draws. Nevertheless, it almost came off, and Black survived an awkward queen ending only to make an instructive mistake in a pawn ending.


After the win, Giri was asked about his brief stint (mid-round) as world number two a few years ago, and subsequent slide in the world rankings:

Giri: "One game doesn't mean anything" Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Next we see a game that was a bit 'all over the place'. White's tactics seem to fizzle out multiple times, but ultimately the knights are just very tricky pieces and in moves 30-40 king safety is of extra importance...


In his post-game interview, Anand was asked about the tournament wins record shared with Carlsen, and pointed out that Magnus' wins all came in the years after Anand's last (in 2006, when Carlsen one the Challengers — then called 'Group B').

"If I win now, I'm winning after 12 years, so it's not like I've been blazing but, well, I'll try for sure."

Follow Anand's comments in the game viewer above! Tata Steel Chess YouTube

GM Pelletier also dove into this game in his live re-cap of the day's highlights:

Round-up Show (part 2) available at Videos.ChessBase.com

Finally, a technical masterpiece, because I always prefer technique to tactics! Wei Yi might be a future world champion, but even he must still respect that which has come before.


Asked if he and Anand could "show the youngsters who's really the boss" he quipped, "I'm afraid they know already that we are not, so I don't think they have any illusions, and we also do not."

Complete Round 1 commentary

Commentary by GM Robin van Kampen and Yasser Seirawan | Tata Steel Chess YouTube

Three also lead Challengers

Jorden van Foreest, Anton Korobov and Dmitry Gordievsky all won their respective games, to take the early lead in the Challengers group. Van Foreest was obliged to "beat up" his little brother! It's wouldn't be unusual for the arbiters to ensure siblings (or teammates) play each other in the first round, to avoid any possibile appearence of conflict of interest later on, but in this case it looks like it simply happened by chance:

Van Foreest's brief remarks after the game

Standings after round one


All Challengers games


Additional photos

Alina l'Ami is publishing delightful photo galleries to the tournament's Facebook page.

Round schedule

All rounds start at 13:30 CET except where noted.

  • Round 1: Saturday 13 January
  • Round 2: Sunday 14 January
  • Round 3: Monday 15 January
  • Round 4: Tuesday 16 January
  • Round 5: Wednesday 17 January (Masters in Hilversum starts 14:00)
  • Free day: Thursday 18 January
  • Round 6: Friday 19 January
  • Round 7: Saturday 20 January
  • Round 8: Sunday 21 January
  • Free day: Monday 22 January
  • Round 9: Tuesday 23 January
  • Round 10: Wednesday 24 January (Masters in Groningen starts 14:00)
  • Free day: Thursday 25 January
  • Round 11: Friday 26 January 
  • Round 12: Saturday 27 January
  • Round 13: Sunday 28 January (12:00 Noon)


Macauley served as the Editor in Chief of ChessBase News from July 2017 to March 2020. He is the producer of The Full English Breakfast chess podcast, and was an Associate Producer of the 2016 feature documentary, Magnus.


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