As the prestigious Tata Steel chess tournament enters its 80th year, Indian chess fans will have plenty to keep track of.
Five-time champion Viswanathan Anand and B. Adhiban return the Masters category. Vidit Gujrathi heads the Challengers field that includes Dronavalli Harika when the action in this invitational event begins in Wijk Aan Zee, The Netherlands on Saturday.
The 14-player Masters field features six of the top-10 players, including the first three: Magnus Carslen, Fabiano Caruana and Shakhriyar Mamedyarov. The presence of Vladmir Kramnik lends further sheen to the competition.
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Anand, who finished third when he last played the event in 2013, and Carlsen will be vying to become the first to become a six-time winner of what is labelled as the “Wimbledon of Chess”. Till 2010, the now-discontinued event at Linares enjoyed that status.
Anand won the title in 1989, 1998, 2005, 2004 and 2006 before Carlsen stamped his authority in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Last month, in the London Chess Classic, Anand suffered one of his worst results in classical format but made a sensational comeback in the shorter versions. He regained the World rapid title and claimed the bronze in blitz . His latest podium finishes have made the world sit up and take note of Anand’s versatility and hunger, even at 48!
Adhiban produced his career-best performance here on debut last year by finishing third – behind champion Wesley So and runner-up Carlsen. One among his four victims was Sergey Karjakin. This fortnight, some more upsets from his fearless competitor are expected.
In the 14-player Challenger category, Vidit opens his campaign against Norway’s Aryan Tari. The only player in the field with a rating in excess of 2700, Vidit will be looking to repeat Adhiban’s success of 2016 and book a berth in the next Masters field.
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For Harika, it will be a great opportunity cause a surprise or two. One of the strongest lady players in the world, Harika is a three-time Women World championship medallist. Like Vidit, she will also play the opening round with black pieces, against second seeded Egyptian Baseem Amin.