The Tata Steel Chess Tournament which begins tomorrow (Jan 11) is one of the biggest events in the chess calendar. This year is the 81st tournament and although its name has changed in that time, it has always been held in the Dutch town of Wijk aan Zee. It regularly attracts the best players in the world – Magnus Carlsen will be playing for the fifteenth time – and six of the world’s top ten players will be competing this year. The second seed behind the world champion is the Azerbaijani, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, known throughout the chess world as Shakh. He is the current world number three and for those who think Carlsen is unassailable these days, it is worth noting that he and Shakh met nine times last year in all formats with Carlsen only winning once and that was in a blitz tournament. Here is Shakh’s neat victory over the champion at Biel in the summer where he finished clear first by one and a half points.

White:  Shakhriyar  Mamedyarov (2801)      Black:  Magnus Carlsen (2842)

 Biel International Chess Festival 2018 

The average ELO rating in the Masters Tournament is 2753 and there is also a Challengers Tournament where the average is 2580. Both sections have fourteen players. The website has all the information you need and a lot more. The archive is worth a look – it provides details of the most games played (of current players, Vishy Anand 221) and the highest win percentage. Of this year’s competitors it is not Carlsen but Ding Liren with 63.46% so perhaps he is worth a punt if you are a betting person. One curious feature of the Masters Tournament is that for the past six years it has gone ‘on tour’ with two of the rounds taking place in alternative venues to Wijk aan Zee. This year Round 5 will take place in Alkmaar (see below) and Round 10 in Leiden.
In addition to the two major tournaments, there are also several events for those mere mortals quaintly described on the official site as ‘amateurs’. These tournaments attract thousands of entries. Finally there is the Tata Steel Chess Festival on January 19-20 and if you can understand Dutch, there is more information here  (I couldn’t find a translate button). The Masters gets under way on Saturday and there will be updates on this site from our Dutch correspondent, Rook van Zugzwang.

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