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Hari and Adhiban at Tata Steel Masters 2017

by Sagar Shah - 11/01/2017

When Adhiban won the Tata Steel Challengers in 2016, the entire country erupted with joy. Not only because he had won the strong event, but because he had qualified for the Tata Steel Masters 2017. And now the Wimbledon of chess is here! Along with Adhiban we have India number two Harikrishna as well. India and Russia are the only two countries that have more than one player at this event! This promises to be an exciting tournament as the field is well balanced with class acts like Carlsen, Karjakin, So and mavericks like Rapport and Wei Yi! A curtain raiser.

Pictures by Amruta Mokal


The Wimbledon of chess, Tata Steel Chess Masters at the Dutch town of Wijk Aan Zee will take place from the 13th to the 29th of January 2017. The thing which separates the Tata Steel Masters from other super elite tournaments is the interesting selection of players. Having 14 participants gives the organizers a chance to experiment also give opportunities to new and upcoming talents to rub shoulders with the world class players. Based on the field we have segregated the participants into three categories:

Best in the business

The best part about Tata Steel Masters is the presence of the World Champion Magnus Carlsen. The three-time World Champion is surely to favourite to win the title. He has come to Wijk Aan Zee every year from 2007, except for 2014. This will be his tenth appearance and he has won the tournament four times in all - 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016.


But Magnus will face stiff challenge from the best performer of 2016 Wesley So. Wesley has proved that he is one of the best players in the world by winning the super tournaments at the Sinquefield Cup and the London Chess Classic. But on both the occasions, Magnus wasn't playing. He would want to win a tournament when the World Champion is also one of the competitors.


Sergey Karjakin gave Carlsen a tough fight at the World Championships 2016 and also edged him out in Doha in the World Blitz. The man is also a very big contender for the title.


The remaining two players in our "best in the business" category need no introduction. Anish Giri and Levon Aronian are veterans when it comes to playing in super tournaments. However, Anish hasn't been able to overcome his tendency to draw a lot of games and Aronian has been unable to find his golden touch recently. Both of them have a lot to prove here and perhaps we will see them performing really well at the Tata Steel Masters 2017.

Almost there!

This group consists of players who are just missing out on the "best in the business" category by a bit. One thing which is common to Andreikin, Harikrishna, Nepomniachtchi, Eljanov and Wojtaszek is that they do not have enough experience of playing in the super-elite tournament. Loek van Wely has a lot of experience and has played at the highest level for many years, but is clearly not at his best now. I have included him in this category because I didn't want to create another category for just one player.


Nepomniachtchi is one player who is in tremendous form. He has raced to the 11th spot in the world with a rating of 2767. Every player in this category has the capability of beating the top guys. For eg. Eljanov did it in World Cup 2015, Harikrishna has shown consistency at an unparalleled level, Wojtaszek beat both Carlsen and Caruana at Tata Steel 2015, Andreikin has played at the Candidates in 2014 and knows what it is like to face the best. I wouldn't put my money on one of them winning this event, but I am sure that they will not give Carlsen & Co. an easy time.


As for Loek van Wely, I expect him to play a few inspired games. He has done that in the past and has beaten all of the big names including Anand, Kramnik, Topalov, Karpov etc. However, he is now 44 years old and father to a one-year-old son. Perhaps he has prepared hard for the event, perhaps not. He will have to be careful that something like what happened to Topalov at the London Chess Classic doesn't happen to him.


Wei Yi, Richard Rapport and B. Adhiban are the players that add glamour to the proceedings. When Wei Yi is in great form he produces gems like he did against Bruzon Batista at the Hainan Danzhou in 2015. However, its been a while since Wei Yi has lifted his game to the next level. When he won the Wijk Aan Zee B in 2015 and played in the Masters group in 2016, everyone looked at his games in great anticipation. 11 draws, win against Navara and loss to Caruana was not what the fans had predicted. It was the Wei Yi blood bath that they wanted to see and this is perhaps what we will be treated to in 2017. Congratulations to Jeroen van Den Berg, the main organizer of the event, for persisting with this Chinese talent.


Richard Rapport is a perfect player to add to this mix. He is unpredictable, colourful and lively. He has the ability to play dubious openings and make them work at the highest level. The way he smashed Aronian in the European Club Cup recently shows what he is capable of.


The winner of the Wijk Aan Zee Challengers category in 2016 was B. Adhiban. This will be the first big outing for this 24-year-old from Chennai. 2016 wasn't the best for him. He started the year 2016 with an Elo of 2663 and ended it at 2653. Apart from the Abu Dhabi Open, he hasn't performed well at any of the events he has played, be it the World Rapid or Blitz, Millionaire Chess, Asian Continental or the Indian Championships. But the lad has fire in his belly and would definitely want to prove himself at this level. It will be interesting to see how he fares against the best.

Tata Steel Masters 2017

Player's list: 

Name Country Rating Position
GM Carlsen, Magnus NOR 2840 1
GM So, Wesley USA 2808 4
GM Karjakin, Sergey RUS 2785 8
GM Aronian, Levon ARM 2780 9
GM Giri, Anish NED 2773 10
GM Nepomniachtchi, Ian RUS 2767 11
GM Harikrishna, Pentala IND 2766 12
GM Eljanov, Pavel UKR 2755 15
GM Wojtaszek, Radoslaw POL 2750 18
GM Andreikin, Dmitri RUS 2736 24
GM Wei, Yi CHN 2704 38
GM Rapport, Richard HUN 2702 40
GM Van Wely, Loek NED 2695 49
GM Adhiban, Baskaran IND 2653 102


Average rating : 2751
Category : 21

Time control

100 minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves. Then 15 minutes for the remaining moves with 30 seconds cumulative increment for each move starting from the first move.

The beautiful playing hall where all categories play together

A very different and refreshing interview with the World Champion
When we have Magnus at the event, you can be sure that there would be some Football
One of the biggest attractions at the event is Alina l'Ami's photography. She is one of the best chess photographers in the world and brings us the true flavours of Wijk Aan Zee through her lens.


Both groups start on 14 January 2017. All rounds in Wijk aan Zee begin at 1.30 p.m. (6.00 p.m. IST), except for the last round on 29 January 2017, which begins at 12.00pm (4.30 p.m. IST). The fifth and the tenth round begins at 2 p.m. (6.30 p.m. IST).

Date Round
14th Jan 1st
15th Jan 2nd
16th Jan 3rd
17th Jan 4th
18th Jan Rest Day
19th Jan 5th Rotterdam
20th Jan 6th
21st Jan 7th
22nd Jan 8th
23rd Jan Rest Day
24th Jan 9th
25th Jan 10th Haarlem
26th Jan Rest Day
27th Jan 11th
28th Jan 12th
29th Jan 13th


Participants of the B-Tournament (Challengers)

  Name Country Rating
GM Ragger, Markus AUT 2697
GM Smirin, Ilia ISR 2667
GM Xiong, Jeffery USA 2667
GM Jones, Gawain ENG 2665
GM Grandelius, Nils SWE 2642
GM Lu, Shanglei CHN 2612
GM van Foreest, Jorden NED 2612
GM Bok, Benjamin NED 2608
GM l'Ami, Erwin NED 2605
GM Hansen, Eric CAN 2603
GM Tari, Aryan NOR 2584
GM Dobrov, Vladimir RUS 2499
WGM Tingjie, Lei CHN 2467
IM Guramishvili, Sopiko GEO 2370

Playchess Commentary Schedule

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Date Round Round Up (English) Commentary Live Commentary German
14. Jan Round 1 21:30 Yannick Pelletier 13.30 G. Souleidis/D.Kollars
15. Jan Round 2 21:00 Daniel King 13.30 Klaus Bischoff
16. Jan Round 3 21:30 Yannick Pelletier 13.30 Klaus Bischoff
17. Jan Round 4 21:00 Daniel King 13.30 Klaus Bischoff
18. Jan Free Day        
19. Jan Round 5 21:00 Simon Williams 14:00 Klaus Bischoff
20. Jan Round 6 21:00 Daniel King 13.30 O. Reeh/G. Souleidis
21. Jan Round 7 21:00 Simon Williams 13.30 Klaus Bischoff
22. Jan Round 8 21:30 Yannick Pelletier 13.30 Klaus Bischoff
23. Jan Free Day        
24. Jan Round 9 21:30 Yannick Pelletier 13:30 Klaus Bischoff
25. Jan Round 10 21:00 Daniel King 14:00 Klaus Bischoff
26. Jan Free Day        
27. Jan Round 11 21:00 Daniel King 13:30 O. Reeh/K. Müller
28. Jan Round 12 21:30 Yannick Pelletier 13:30 Klaus Bischoff
29. Jan Round 13 21:00 Daniel King 12:00 Klaus Bischoff

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