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Tata Steel Chess Tournament kicks off the year with some of the best

Wesley So is the current lead of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, pictured here at last year's London Chess Classic.
Saint Louis Chess Club and Spectrum Studios
Wesley So is the current lead of the Tata Steel Chess Tournament, pictured here at last year's London Chess Classic.

Every year the first and longest elite tournament starts in January: Tata Steel!

The Wimbledon of Chess, as it is known, started Jan. 14 and ends Jan. 30. Traditionally held at the town of Wijk aan Zee in the Netherlands, this tournament attracts the best of the best. The event lasts for two weeks and 13 rounds, so physical fitness plays a crucial role in this prestigious tournament. 

This year, both the reigning World Champion, the Norwegian Magnus Carlsen, and his challenger rival, the Russian contender Sergey Karjakin, are participating in the opening super-event. American superstar Wesley So was also invited, and he is among the not-so-secret favorites; So recently broke into 2800 club and is now rated third in the world.

Rivalries continued in December, as Sergey Karjakin clashed again with his great rival and World Champion, Magnus Carlsen. It was a last round thriller. Karjakin was trailing Carlsen by half a point, but he managed to tie with Carlsen by winning his last game against Jobava. This was the second time Carlsen and Karjakin tied, (the Carlsen-Karjakin match was a 6-6 tie, and Carlsen retained his title after defeating Karjakin 3-1 in the tiebreaker); however, the tiebreakers favored the Russian player this time in the Blitz World Championship. The Tata Steel tournament is projected to be the continuation of their developing rivalry.

The organizers also invited upcoming talents, Wei Yi, the Chinese Champion, and last year’s strongest junior player Richard Rapport from Hungary. Rapport, who boasts a rating of 2707 and ranked inside the top 40, played an unofficial World Junior Championship match with Wei Yi. The match was held in Yancheng, China from Dec. 20 to Dec. 23. The classic segment ended in a 2-2 draw, but Richard won the tiebreak 2,5-1,5 winning the last two games and claiming the match. It is interesting to compare the similarities of the World Chess Championship match and the match between Rapport and Wei Yi, as both matches were decided in a faster time control.

The Tata Steel super tournament started with a surprise. The initial leader of the tournament was neither a World Championship candidate, nor a junior player, but a player from Ukraine: Pavel Eljanov. He scored three wins and only dropped a half-point against the Indian, Pentala Harikrishna. Thirty-three year old, Eljanov, is a seasoned grandmaster, who was a helper of Boris Gelfand, who was fighting for the World Championship title against Anand, in Moscow in 2012.

Eljanov’s fairy tale-like lead ended on round five, and the leader at the moment is none other than Wesley So. Apart from leading the event, So also established a record by playing 53 elite games without a single loss.

The Tata Steel Chess Tournament continues on January the 25th and finishes on the 30th.

Denes Boros was third at age 14, at the Hungarian Junior Championship, became U16 Olympic Champion in Denizli. He scored his first Grandmaster norm with 10 out of 11 points. He was a Grandmaster Journalist at Carlsen-Karjakin Match. He provided expert Grandmaster commentary for the New York Times.