Edition: January 1st 2019, Written By: Seringe S.T. Touray
For chess enthusiasts, the TATA Steel Chess Tournament, set to occur from the 11th to the 27th of January 2019, can easily be the crème de la crème, hosting the best of the best grandmasters worldwide.
Held yearly in the coastal Dutch village of Wijk aan Zee, North Holland, the Chess Tournament has been around since 1938, facing many a grandmaster against expert chess challengers. Sometimes referred to as the “Wimbledon of Chess,” the contest not only draws in the world’s greatest players but invites over a thousand amateur participants and thousands of live and online audiences to witness the event.
The tournament will centre on two main player groups, each consisting of fourteen chess players that make up twenty-eight elites. The tournament brands these groups the Tata Steel Masters, and Tata Steel Challengers. This current grouping, it is worth noting, is a far cry from what the tournament looked like from its foundation in 1938, when the small tournament allowed for a tiny group of four players, with entry to the competition restricted only to Dutch nationals. With the increasing interest in the game, the competition would soon double in size to eight players from 1943 onwards. However, it was not for another few years before it went international, consequently expanding the field to ten players with the inclusions of Belgium and Sweden in the first international event.
American-born grandmaster Robert James Fischer, also a former TATA Steel title-holder, was and is still widely considered the greatest chess player of all time, demonstrating prowess from the age of thirteen and winning the U.S. Chess Championship a year later to become a grandmaster. His mastery of chess draws close comparisons to current chess champion Magnus Carlsen, a Norwegian grandmaster who also came into the spotlight from the age of thirteen, obtaining the grandmaster title just then. Currently, Carlsen maintains the world record for most wins at the TATA Steel Tournament, having a total of six titles to his name. Other famous names that have echoed through the halls of the chess tournament are Indian grandmaster Viswanathan Anand and Russian-born grandmaster Gary Kasparov.
Twenty-eight-year-old Carlsen, a sure favourite in any tournament, first participated in TATA Steel in 2004, the year he proved himself a grandmaster and secured himself a place in the global chess spotlight. Expectedly, Carlson was a child chess prodigy with immense proclivity for the game, having finished first in a tie in the World U20 Chess Championship in 2002, just a little time before growing into a grandmaster. Since his first appearance in the TATA Steel Tournament, he's appeared in the prestigious contest ten additional times to demonstrate his prowess.
The 2019 tournament’s field of chess masters is already decided, with the organizers confirming the identities of the fourteen grandmasters set to challenge one another. Among the participants are Hungary’s Richard Rapport, Magnus Carlsen, Russia’s Vladimir Kramnik, Viswanathan Anand, the Netherland’s Anish Giri, Jorden and Lucas van Foreest, Erwin l’Ami and Stefan Kuipers. With all challengers known for their distinct styles, Richard Rapport and Magnus Carlsen are branded favourites by some chess observers, with Rapport known for his viciously offensive style of performing. Among the players, Rapport was the only one to defeat World Champion Magnus Carlsen.
As usual, the Netherlands continues to be a hotspot for global events, with the TATA Steel Chess Tournament being merely one of many events to look out for throughout the next twelve months. The roster of this year’s competition, which includes some of the most known names in the world of chess, ensures the event will elicit as much tension as previous contests.