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10 things that made the Tata Steel Chess India 2019 special

by Sagar Shah - 30/11/2019

The Tata Steel Chess India 2019 was held from the 22nd to the 26th of November 2019 in Kolkata, India. It was truly a path-breaking event being the strongest tournament ever to be organized on not just Indian but Asian soil. What were the things that made the event special? Who are the people who worked day in and out to make this a success? In this article, IM Sagar Shah tells you about the ten things that according to him made the Tata Steel Chess India special - Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, National Library of India, huge fans, the cricket touch, Grand Chess Tour, Tata Steel and the organizers, the Anand quiz, the ChessBase India coverage and last but not the least the amazing players themselves! 

The Tata Steel Chess India 2019 was the strongest ever chess tournament to be held not just on Indian soil, but throughout Asia! For a country that is crazy about chess, the Tata Steel Chess India super tournaments have been just what the chess fans wanted! The first edition in 2018 was a very successful one. Things only improved in 2019. Here are ten things that made the 2019 edition special!

1. Magnus Carlsen

It goes without saying that this tournament would never have reached the same popularity levels if it were not for Magnus Carlsen and his brilliant play at the event.

Magnus Carlsen won the event in a smooth fashion, giving others absolutely no chance! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

It was not just that Carlsen played good chess over the board. He simply won the hearts of the spectators.

Being the World Champion, there was always quite a bit of security around Magnus | Photo: Amruta Mokal

But whenever the fans would find him alone, a huge crowd would gather around him! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Whenever you see Magnus with his tournament face on, you would witness him walking fast, trying to get away from the crowd. At the closing ceremony he clarified this, "I am not always forthcoming with autographs and selfies. It has to do because I try to be focused on my game. But I will be available for it at the end of the day. Please be patient, don't push! Everything will be fine."

And Magnus kept his word. On the last day Magnus was magnanimous with his time and gave autographs to the over 200 fans who had been waiting for it since day one! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Behind the stage, there was a player's resting area where all the players would relax after their round. There was food and air conditioner and overall they would have their own space. However, Magnus always has his own way of doing things. After four rounds of rapid chess and before facing Anish Giri in round five, the World Champion needed some air and exercise. So what does he do? He goes to the terrace of the venue, takes off his shoes and socks and with his bare feet begins playing Football! The spectators and the journalists were simply awe-struck!

Magnus Carlsen playing football in between the rounds of the Tata Steel Chess India blitz on the terrace of Bhasha Bhavan had to be the highlight of the entire event | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour
When I got to know this was taking place, I ran over with my DJI Osmo Pocket and shot this!

It was a pleasure to have the World Champion in India and we hope that his visits to the country grow more frequent in the years to come!

2. Vishy Anand

For many years chess in India was synonymous to just one man! Vishy Anand. The five-time World Champion is single-handedly responsible for the chess boom in the country today. It was amazing to see Vishy playing and giving it his best in Kolkata.

Anand came to Kolkata with his better half Aruna | Photo: Amruta Mokal

On 11th of December 2019, Vishy will turn 50 years old. But the Indian legend is still holding his own against the best in the world. In fact against the recently crowned Fischer Random World Champion Wesley So, Anand scored three wins in three games. He beat him in the rapid and also in both the blitz games! Vishy is nowhere close to stopping just yet!

For Anand playing in India is never easy! No matter whether he plays well or not, the media covers him with the same enthusiasm! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Ever since their two World Championship matches in India and Russia in 2013 and 2014, games between Anand and Carlsen have always drawn huge numbers! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

No matter who is leading the event, who is winning it, the largest cheer from the crowd always goes to Vishy Anand!

3. National Library of India

In 2018, the venue for Tata Steel Chess India was the Indian council for Cultural Relations (ICCR). While the venue was nice, the seating capacity inside the playing hall was limited. This time the organizers decided to shift the venue to the National Library of India. This was much bigger, grander and greener!

The National Library of India is a heritage structure and the biggest library in the country. It holds close to 2 million books! In the Pre-Independence era it used to be the house of the Viceroy of India! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

All ten players in front of the National Library building! This one is for posterity! | Photo: Lennart Ootes

The best part about venue was the clean and green environment. So many trees, some even several decades old! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

The majestic playing venue! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

One could definitely say that the venue this year played a vital role in popularizing the event.

Feel the atmosphere of Tata Steel Chess India 2019 from this video

4. Huge fans

"The huge number of fans that you (India) have at this tournament is the most exciting part for me. It has made a huge impression on me and I quite like it," says Jeroen van den Berg, the famous tournament director of Tata Steel Chess India in Wijk Aan Zee and now also the tournament director of Tata Steel Chess India.

On 24th of November, the third day of the event, being Sunday, the entire hall was so packed, that many people didn't even have seats. They stood there (in the distance) and enjoyed the spectacle! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

I was just walking around the premises of National Library with my camera and suddenly a few kids recognized me as the man from ChessBase India and then a few more and very soon we had a nice crowd that had gathered. After which I shot this video: | Photo: Amruta Mokal
An interesting unplanned video to know who are players that the youngsters support!


A Vidit fan who went the extra distance to make a portrait for his idol! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Well known organizer Dr. Deepak Vaze had travelled all the way from Mumbai to just get the signatures of the players on a chess board that would become his prized possession as a chess lover! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

People just loved the setting where they could see the games on big screens and also witness the expressions of the participants! | Photo: Ashwin Subramanian

5. The cricket touch!

The most popular sport in India is cricket. They say it is more than just a sport. Cricket in India is like a religion! Until now chess and cricket never really had come close to each other. But the main organizers of the Tata Steel Chess India were Gameplan Sports Private Limited, who are into the organization of cricket in a big way. It was their idea to bring chess and cricket closer.

Former Indian cricket captain, God of offside, and BCCI President Sourav Ganguly was invited for the opening ceremony | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The cricketer also teamed up with Vishy Anand to play a couple of moves against Magnu Carlsen! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Vishy Anand and Magnus Carlsen also went to the 1st Pink Ball Test happening and the Eden Gardens and rang the ceremonial bell before the start of day two! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Magnus trying to understand the basics of cricket! | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

As the cricketers and chess players were staying in the same hotel Taj Bengal in Kolkata, we would often get to see such images being posted on social media - Giri with Ganguly! | Photo: Anish Giri's Instagram

The two Mr. Dependables of India! Rahul Dravid with Vidit Gujrathi | Photo: Vidit Gujrathi's Instagram

6. Grand Chess Tour

In 2019 Tata Steel Chess India became a part of the Grand Chess Tour. This meant that the prize money shot up in a big way. While the total prize fund in 2018 was US $40,000, the first prize this year itself was US$37,500. The total prize fund in 2019 was US $150,000.

Magnus Carlsen took home US$37,500 for his efforts of winning the Tata Steel Chess India 2019 | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The presence of Tania Sachdev as a part of the commentator's team at the venue, thanks to the Grand Chess Tour, made sure that the views of the players were always brought in front of the fans | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

From the studio back in Saint Louis, we had WGM Jennifer Shahade and GM Peter Svidler who did the live commentary along with GM Maurice Ashley

The entire production of the live commentary was done by three individuals from the USA - Tony Rich, Marcus Batton and Kevin Duggin | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Graham Jurgensen, the technical director of Grand Chess Tour, was present at the venue and was the main coordinator between the event and the Grand Chess Tour. He ensured that everything was in order at the event. | Photo: Amruta Mokal

Vishy Anand had played really well in the entire Grand Chess Tour of 2019. He just needed 5 points to make it to the London Finals starting from the 2nd of December. This brought a lot of excitement in the event and until the very last day whether Vishy would qualify or not was unsure! In the end the Indian GM missed it by a whisker, but it goes without saying that Grand Chess Tour added a completely new flavour, a better flavour, to the event this year!

7. Tata Steel and the organizers

Chanakya Chaudhary, VP of Corporate services of Tata Steel Pvt. Ltd | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

Tata Steel has already powered chess across the world with its famous event in Wijk Aan Zee, which is into its 82nd edition. Taking a leaf out of their book, the Tata Steel Chess India begun in 2018. In a year it has become a part of the Grand Chess Tour and the sponsors Tata Steel couldn't have been happier with the progress. "Our support to this event will continue and in the coming years you will see it taking place in Kolkata and growing from strength to strength," says Chanakya Chaudhary. So why does Tata Steel support chess in such a big way. Isn't chess supposed to attract less eyeballs as compared to say a sport like Cricket or Tennis or Badminton? Chanakya clarifies Tata Steel's position. "I joined the company 31 years back and till today we have a tag line which we have remained true to - At Tata Steel, Sports is a way of life! If you come to any of our operating units in Jamshedpur or even in Jharkhand or Odisha where we have our mining operations, you will see that we invest a lot in the infrastructure for sports. We have stadiums, we have academies, we have training centres. GM Dibyendu Barua was with us and he was a part of the chess training centre in Jamshedpur. Chess has been a part of our curriculum. We do not promote sports for eyeballs. We sincerely feel that there is a huge talent pool in the country which needs to be honed. We want to be the facilitators. We do not see the return on investment. That comes for our steel making business. Our aim is to make the infrastructure for the talents, train them, and then throw him/her in the water and let them swim!"

Interview with Chanakya Chaudhary, VP, Corporate Services Tata Steel Pvt. Ltd

The most important forces who came together to organize the event. (from left to right): Usman (senior member of National Library of India), Chanakya Chaudhary (VP of Corporate Sales of Tata Steel Pvt. Ltd), Malavika Banerjee (director of Gameplan), Dr. K.K. Kochukoshy (officer on special duty at the National Library of India), Jeet Banerjee (Director of Gameplan). 

The main organizers of the event were GamePlan. A team of competent individuals. (From left to right standing): Jeet Banerjee, Surendra Sinha, Viraj Kejriwal, Guru Ramabadhram, Supriyo Ghosh. (From left to right sitting): Sukanya Das, Roshni Adhikari, Supratim Majumdar, Pratiti Ganatra. | Photo: Amruta Mokal
Interview with Jeet Banerjee, the director of Gameplan Sports Pvt. Ltd.

The Tournament director Jeroen van den Berg's presence gave a feeling of familiarity to all the participants! | Photo: Amruta Mokal

A proud moment for the All India Chess Federation. Their efforts have culminated to finally super tournaments taking place on Indian soil | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

The arbiters of the tournament R. Anantharam (centre), Gopakumar Sudhakaran (right) and Biswanath Banerjee (left), ensured that the tournament was conducted smoothly with no interruptions | Photo: Lennart Ootes/Grand Chess Tour

8. The Anand quiz

At the Tata Steel Chess India 2019, I handpicked nine positions from Vishy Anand's career-best games and posed them in the form a quiz to Magnus Carlsen, Anish Giri, Hikaru Nakamura, Vidit Gujrathi, and Erwin l'Ami. The reason why I did this was because the super tournament was being held in India and the Indian maestro was soon going to turn 50 years old. I felt that it would be a nice way to pay our respect to the greatest chess player that the world has ever seen.


The challenge was to not only guess the moves Vishy played in those positions but also recognize the opponents they were played against. So how did the five top-class Grandmasters, including the current World Champion himself, fare in the test? To know, check out the videos below.

Anish Giri was his usual candid self... It is interesting to see how he could remember the different positions in different ways. Some he had come across in training, while some just on social media! A delightful insight into the mind of one of World's best chess players!
Erwin l'Ami is Giri's second for a reason... How many positions was he able to recognize? Check it out in this video! 
Vidit Gujrathi grew up studying Vishy Anand. No wonder he was exceptionally good at recognizing the games of his own idol!
Magnus Carlsen became the World Champion by defeating Vishy Anand in 2013. He defended his world title once again in 2014 against Anand. Clearly his knowledge of the legend's life and career is quite extensive.
Hikaru Nakamura is a modern day player and relies heavily on chess computers and engines. He admitted before even the quiz began that he didn't know Vishy's games very well. But that didn't stop him from being a good sport.

After the above interviews were over, I got in touch with Vishy himself. Anand, who was found in a relaxed mood after the tournament, spoke unreservedly and went down the memory lane relating many untold stories connected to these masterpieces.

Vishy Anand on the nine best moments of his chess career. You can find the transcript of the above video interview here.

This quiz made the event more exciting. You could even hear Peter Svilder and Jen Shahade talk about it on commentary and the Magnus video now has over 150,000 views in the last one week. We are happy that people enjoyed it. 

9. The ChessBase India coverage:

The most intense on site coverage of the event was done by ChessBase India. We were a four member team present at the venue who brought you articles, photos, videos and social media updates on a daily basis.

From left to right - Sagar Shah, Shahid Ahmed, Satanick Mukhuty and Amruta Mokal

Here are our daily articles which you can read and get a complete recap of the event:

Curtain raiser: Everything you wanted to know about Tata Steel Chess India 2019

Press conference: The Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz 2019 press conference

Pre tournament activities: So, Ding, Nakamura, Hari and Giri take Kolkata by storm

Opening ceremony: When Magnus Carlsen took on the Vishy Anand quiz

Side event: Somak Palit wins Tata Steel Chess Festival 2019 Open blitz

Live games: Live games and updates from Tata Steel Chess India 2019

Day one: Magnus Carlsen dominates day one of Tata Steel India Rapid 2019

Day two: Football, Cricket, chess - Magnus Carlsen impresses one and all

Side event: Pralay Sahoo wins a dream moment

Day three: Carlsen performs at an astronomical rating of 3027 to win Tata Steel India rapid

Day four: Scandinavian, cheap tricks, brilliant tactics at Tata Steel Chess India blitz

Side event: Aronyak Ghosh wins Tata Steel Chess Festival 2019 Open Rapid

Day five: Express report - Magnus Carlsen is the champion

Day five full report: Vishy misses his ticket to London, the biggest ever event on Indian soil comes to an end

Interview with Anand: Vishy on Vishy gems


There was extensive coverage also on and you can find all the articles here.

India's ace photographer Amruta Mokal captured many excellent pictures at the event. In this link you can find 166 photographs taken by her.


All videos by Hindi ChessBase India and Niklesh Jain can be found here. The most popular one being Carlsen vs Vidit game which ended in five moves.

The Hindi ChessBase India YouTube Channel is slowly and steadily becoming very popular! This video has already over 23,000 views.

Most popular videos:

One of the major efforts taken by ChessBase India in covering the event was to give you the feel of being present at the venue. In this respect we feel that there is no better medium than videos. We used the ChessBase India YouTube Channel to publish some of the videos and many of them became very popular. Here we jot down the ones that have over 50,000 views! Mind you the view count would change quite drastically if you are reading this after a few hours, because many of the videos are growing in view counts very aggressively.

409,122 views! The shortest game of Magnus Carlsen's chess career
152,770 views! Magnus Carlsen recalls 8 out of 9 Vishy Anand gems
119,376 views! How does Magnus Carlsen relax in between the rounds?
77,557 views! Ding Liren beats Magnus Carlsen with a powerful counter attack
70,120 views! Vishy Anand vs Magnus Carlsen, blitz game no.1
65000 views! What happened when Anish Giri offered a draw to Magnus Carlsen on move 4
54,659 views! The reason why Magnus Carlsen is a genius!
52,855 views! Magnus Carlsen vs Ian Nepomniachtchi, Rapid 2019
51,068 views! Magnus Carlsen versus Anish Giri, Rapid section
50,675 views! Check the famous Naka expression at the end vs Carslen

Those are nine videos that have above 50,000 views just a couple of days after the event has ended. We are sure that by next month, many more will join. In each of the video we had the logo of Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz. According to us this is great value for any sponsor as his logo is seen innumerable times in the videos.

Check out the Tata Steel Chess India Rapid and Blitz playlist on YouTube. It has 90 videos already!

10. The amazing players!

None of this would have been possible without the 10 amazing players who fought it out with all their might for five days at the event! Thank you Magnus, Ding Liren, Vishy, Anish, Levon, Hikaru, Wesley, Ian, Hari and Vidit! Each one of you made these five days memorable!

ChessBase India giveaway!

We have a special prize for all our readers. Write down in the comments section below as to why you enjoyed the Tata Steel Chess 2019. The most interesting and creative answer will win the ChessBase 15 DVD (above) signed by eight participants of the event! It's a memory for a lifetime, so don't miss this opportunity!

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