The Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2017, opened today in the Netherlands. The opening ceremony took place in the congress hall of the Dutch headquarters of Tata Steel, in a place called Velsen-Noord. This is just down the road from the tournament’s Wijk aan Zee home.
I had the pleasure of attending the ceremony for you, which saw the draw take place for the ‘Masters’ group. Each player was called in a random order, and asked to pick a gift bag from Dutch football team, Feyenoord. (Of course, round five of the Masters group will be played in Rotterdam, at Feyenoord’s stadium, ‘de Kuip’.) In this bag there was a football jersey, with a number on it between 1 and 14. Needless to say (but I will anyway) this was the player’s number.
Such draws can be quite a labourious and awkward affair, but I have to say, this one was extremely entertaining. The host for the event did his very best to engage the players in conversation and this was at times quite comical. Quote of the evening has to go to Dutch Grandmaster, Loek van Wely, who plays his 25th tournament in Wijk aan Zee this year. After receiving flowers to mark the occasion, van Wely was asked which of the 25 had been his favourite. “Well, the first,” he said, before adding, “after that I started thinking, “oh shit” and now it’s just a struggle to the end.” It absolutely brought the house down.
World Champion, Magnus Carlsen was on form, also. In previous years, the draw was carried out by rating, the lowest choosing first. Ultimately, this resulted in Carlsen always choosing last, so the organisers decided to change it this year in order to make it a little more random. This was mentioned by the host, to which Carlsen replied, “well, when I complained, if I knew you were going to call me out on it, I would have just left it.” Things got even more amusing when Carlsen nearly ended up drawing last anyway.
One thing that was very clear, is just how fond the players are of this tournament. Levon Aronian described Wijk aan Zee as a place, “filled with the soul of our game.” And Wesley So took the opportunity to thank tournament Director, Jeroen van den Berg, for inviting him so regularly. So said that playing Wijk aan Zee was always a good start to his year.
At the end of the events, the playing schedule for the Masters group was competed and this is given below, along with a few photographs from the evening. As you will notice, we have a very exciting first round in store, with Magnus Carlsen facing Wesley So with the Black pieces. Carlsen will have an extra black game in the tournament and double blacks in rounds five and six. However, looking on the bright side, white or black doesn’t really matter much to him. As extra incentive to make every game count, should Carlsen win the tournament this year, he will have won it the most times in its history, overtaking Viswanathan Anand. In the last round he will face Sergey Karjakin, for the first time (in classical chess anyway) since their World Championship match last year.
I will be reporting on the action for you from Wijk aan Zee, both here on Hot Off The Chess and on our Twitter. I’m sure that you will join me in looking forward to a great couple of weeks of fighting chess!
Full ‘Masters’ Playing Schedule
Round 1 – Saturday the 14th
Harikrishna – Aronian; Adhiban – Van Wely; Eljanov – Rapport; Karjakin – Giri; So – Carlsen; Wojtaszek, – Nepomniachtchi; Andreikin – Wei.
Round 2 – Sunday the 15th
Aronian – Wei; Nepomniachtchi – Andreikin; Carlsen – Wojtaszek; Giri – So; Rapport – Karjakin; Van Wely – Eljanov; Harikrishna – Adhiban.
Round 3 – Monday the 16th
Adhiban – Aronian; Eljanov – Harikrishna; Karjakin – Van Wely; So – Rapport; Wojtaszek – Giri; Andreikin – Carlsen; Wei – Nepomniachtchi.
Round 4 – Tuesday the 17th
Aronian – Nepomniachtchi; Carlsen – Wei; Giri – Andreikin; Rapport – Wojtaszek; Van Wely – So; Harikrishna – Karjakin; Adhiban – Eljanov.
Round 5 – Thursday the 19th
Eljanov – Aronian; Karjakin – Adhiban; So – Harikrishna; Wojtaszek – Van Wely; Andreikin – Rapport; Wei – Giri; Nepomniachtchi – Carlsen.
Round 6 – Friday the 20th
Aronian – Carlsen; Giri – Nepomniachtchi; Rapport – Wei; Van Wely – Andreikin; Harikrishna – Wojtaszek; Adhiban – So; Eljanov – Karjakin.
Round 7 – Saturday the 21st
Karjakin – Aronian; So – Eljanov; Wojtaszek – Adhiban; Andreikin – Harikrishna; Wei – Van Wely; Nepomniachtchi – Rapport; Carlsen – Giri.
Round 8 – Sunday the 22nd
Aronian – Giri; Rapport – Carlsen; Van Wely – Nepomniachtchi; Harikrishna – Wei; Adhiban – Andreikin; Eljanov – Wojtaszek; Karjakin – So.
Round 9 – Tuesday the 24th
So – Aronian; Wojtaszek – Karjakin; Andreikin – Eljanov; Wei – Adhiban; Nepomniachtchi – Harikrishna; Carlsen – Van Wely; Giri – Rapport.
Round 10 – Wednesday the 25th
Aronian – Rapport; Van Wely – Giri; Harikrishna – Carlsen; Adhiban – Nepomniachtchi; Eljanov – Wei; Karjakin – Andreikin; So – Wojtaszek.
Round 11 – Friday the 27th
Wojtaszek – Aronian; Andreikin – So; Wei – Karjakin; Nepomniachtchi – Eljanov; Carlsen – Adhiban; Giri – Harikrishna; Rapport – Van Wely.
Round 12 – Saturday the 28th
Aronian – Van Wely; Harikrishna – Rapport; Adhiban – Giri; Eljanov – Carlsen; Karjakin – Nepomniachtchi; So – Wei; Wojtaszek – Andreikin.
Round 13 – Sunday the 29th
Andreikin – Aronian; Wei – Wojtaszek; Nepomniachtchi – So; Carlsen – Karjakin; Giri – Eljanov; Rapport – Adhiban; Van Wely – Harikrishna.
For the ‘Challengers’ group schedule, please click here