Every January, the tiny Dutch hamlet of Wijk aan Zee on the north coast temporarily comes out of its winter hibernation, as it plays host to the first major chess tournament of the year. Its origins though goes back to 1938 and humble beginnings as a works’ social club tournament for all the employees of the local Dutch steel giant Hoogovens. But after the war, it became a professional event held in Beverwijk and didn’t move to its fabled Wijk aan Zee venue until 1968.
And like Doctor Who, it has had many regenerations since starting as the Hoogovens tournament. After British Steel merged with Hoogovens in 1999 to form the Anglo-Dutch company Corus, it became the Corus tournament from 2000 to 2010, and then, following more corporate takeovers, the Tata Steel tournament in 2011.
This year’s 78th edition is therefore the sixth Tata Steel tournament as such. But no matter the nomenclature, this tournament is a wonderful tradition and long may it continue! It is also a big favourite of World Champion Magnus Carlsen, who returns to defend his title - and if he wins the title again this year, he’ll join Vishy Anand at the top of the roll of honour with five titles to his name.
Carlsen heads the field of the top-ranking ‘Group A’, and joined by Anish Giri, Fabiano Caruana, Wesley So, Ding Liren, Sergey Karjakin, Pavel Eljanov, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Michael Adams, David Navarra, Evgeny Tomashevsky,Wei Yi, Hou Yifan and Loek van Wely.
Carlsen’s game with Czech No.1 David Navara was the first game to finish, which ended in a safe draw. Highlight of the round though was the brace of wins from the American duo of Fabiano Caruana and Wesley So who respectively beat Pavel Eljanov and Anish Giri; a major set-back for the Dutch star, who is notoriously solid, well-prepared and rarely lost a game the whole of last year.
There’s live commentary video coverage hosted by former US champion Yasser Seirawan each round starting at 13:30 local time (12:30 GMT, 07:30 EST, 04:30 PST) by clicking here.
Hou draw Karjakin
So 1-0 Giri
Ding 1-0 Adams
Navara draw Carlsen
Caruana 1-0 Eljanov
Wei draw Tomashevsky
Mamedyarov draw Van Wely
GM Fabiano Caruana - GM Pavel Eljanov
78th Tata Steel GpA, (1)
Queen’s Gambit Accepted, Vienna
1.Nf3 d5 2.c4 e6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 dxc4 5.e4 Bb4 6.Bxc4 As Caruana explained in his post-game summery: "The pawn sac wasn't my preparation as I didn't expect the Vienna from Eljanov!" 6...Nxe4 7.0-0 Nf6 8.Bg5 0-0 9.Qe2 h6 10.Bh4 Be7 11.Rad1 Nbd7 12.Ne5 This is typical play from White in similar pawn-sacrifice lines: he has a big lead in development, lots of space, potential mating threats looming, and sacrifice tricks on f7 to boot - not bad for a mere pawn. 12...Nb6 13.Bd3 Nfd5 14.Bg3 The last thing White wants to do in such positions, is to voluntarily exchange pieces. 14...Bd7 15.Ne4 Ba4 16.Rc1! The correct move, as after 16.b3 Be8 the hole created on c3 may come in useful for Black - or he could later have ...Bb4 or ...Ba3 at his disposal. 16...Nd7 17.b3 Nxe5 18.dxe5 Bc6 19.Rfd1! Now all of White's pieces are strategically best-placed, as he has his rooks dominating down the c- and d-files. This position will not be easy for Eljanov to defend. 19...a5 20.a4 Qe8 21.h4 Horses for courses here, as Caruana opts to use his h-pawn for a bit of leverage into Black's position. However, during the game, I couldn't help but feel Caruana's best option was preparing to cut to the chase immediately with 21.Bb1 with a follow-up of Rc4 and Qc2 - with the Rc4 primed to now swing over to g4 for the looming kingside assault. But what do I know? 21...Rd8 22.h5 Nb4 23.Bb1 Kh8 24.Bf4! Here Caruana finds an exquisite manoeuvre, by first feigning a 'phantom attack' on h6, covering the fact that he's going to play Bd2 and take the knight on b4, after which he has serious threats of his queen linking up with the bishop on b1 for mating threats. 24...Rg8 25.Bd2 The key part of the plan, removing the knight on b4. 25...Rd5 26.Bxb4 axb4 Black opts to keep the bishop shoring up Black's kingside defences, as after 26...Bxb4 27.Qc2! and suddenly, White has got many threats. 27.Rxd5 exd5 And now, if 27...Bxd5 28.Qc2 leaves White in a strong position. 28.Ng3 Bg5 29.Re1! White can't be too hasty by rushing it with 29.Qd3 g6 30.Re1 Qe6 where Black looks to be covering all the bases. 29...g6 If 29...Qe6 30.Nf5! with the idea of Nd4 will soon be crashing through for White. Stopping for now ...Qe6. 30.Qg4 Qe7 If 30...Qe6 31.Qxb4 White will have his pawn back and still have a very dangerous attack on Black's king. 31.Qd4! Strong. Very strong; either winning back the pawn or serious mating threats. Eljanov, though, begins to crack now. 31...b6 On reflection of what follows, perhaps Eljanov would have been better trying to consolidate his position after all, by returning the pawn with 31...Qe6!? 32.e6+ (See Diagram) 32...Bf6 The awkward-looking 32...Rg7 falls spectacularly to 33.exf7!! Qxe1+ 34.Kh2 Qe7 35.hxg6 Bf6 (There's a study-like finish after 35...Qd6 36.Kg1! Bf6 37.Qf4!! Qxf4 38.f8Q+ Rg8 39.g7+ which would have been dramatic, had it happened at the board.) 36.Nf5!! and White is winning, despite the fact he's a rook down here. 36...Qe5+ 37.f4! and White's winning. 33.Qf4 g5 If 33...Bg5 34.Qxf7 is killing. 34.Qf5 Rg7 35.Qc2 Qc5 36.Qxc5 More clinical was 36.exf7! Rxf7 37.Qg6 Qf8 38.Re6 Bd4 39.Rxc6 Bxf2+ 40.Kh2 Bxg3+ 41.Kxg3 and Black can resign. 36...bxc5 37.Nf5 Rg8 38.exf7 1-0