Caruana Begins Title Defense of Tata Steel Masters

World No. 2 GM Fabiano Caruana returns to the board – that’s an actual board, with actual pieces – for one of the most-prestigious international competitions of the year: the Tata Steel Chess Tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the Netherlands.  

America’s highest-rated player returns to the coastal Dutch village as defending champion of the long-running, renowned super-event, having won a year ago. He joins 13 other international grandmasters, including World Champion Magnus Carlsen, for the Tata Steel Masters round-robin event. The first round begins Saturday at 8:00 a.m. eastern time. 

 

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The Tata Steel Masters event, affectionately referred to as the “Wimbledon of Chess” beginning its 83rd year of competition, is just about the only recognizable feature of the normally bustling international chess festival. Ravaged by a litany of restrictions due to the global pandemic, Wijk aan Zee has been closed to nearly everyone but the 14 grandmasters and tournament organizers this year, as all other side features – including the secondary Tata Steel Challengers event, all amateur tournaments and even spectators – have been scrapped. 

 

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Even despite the reduced capacity, the effects of COVID-19 have impacted Tata Steel all the way up to the dawn of the 2021 event. Azerbaijani GM Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Russian GM Ian Nepomniachtchi and Uzbekistan GM Nodirbek Abdusattorov had all been original confirmations for participation, but have since withdrawn and been replaced in the Masters lineup.  

All the way up to the tournament’s eve, players woke to the news of another withdrawal: Russian GM Daniil Dubov became the latest cancellation due to a positive COVID-19 test from someone in his close orbit. Dubov has been replaced by German GM Alexander Donchenko, the 22-year-old ranked 72nd in the world. 

The current player list of the 83rd Tata Steel Masters is: 

Player 

Federation 

World Rank 

Rating 

GM Magnus Carlsen 

NOR 

2862 

GM Fabiano Caruana 

USA 

2823 

GM Maxime Vachier-Lagrave 

FRA 

2784 

GM Anish Giri 

NED 

11 

2764 

GM Alireza Firouzja 

FIDE 

18 

2749 

GM Jan-Krzysztof Duda 

POL 

19 

2743 

GM Pentala Harikrishna 

IND 

22 

2732 

GM Radoslaw Wojtaszek 

POL 

37 

2705 

GM David Anton Guijarro 

ESP 

56 

2679 

GM Andrey Esipenko 

RUS 

60 

2677 

GM Jordan Van Foreest 

NED 

67 

2671 

GM Alexander Donchenko 

GER 

72 

2668 

GM Nils Grandelius 

SWE 

78 

2663 

GM Aryan Tari 

NOR 

156 

2625 

 

 

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Despite not having been as visible as others in the plethora of online events seen throughout the quarantine year of 2020, Caruana was active in the few over-the-board events that made it onto the calendar, including the German Schach-Bundesliga in September and Norway Chess in October. Returning as the Tata Steel defending champion, Caruana looks to continue the recent trend of American strength in Wijk aan Zee over the past decade, including a Masters win by US Chess champion GM Wesley So in 2017 as well as GM Hikaru Nakamura in 2011. 

Though no spectators are allowed in person this year, plenty are expected online as Tata Steel shifts its focus to a live stream that features two American commentators. GM Daniel Naroditsky will lead rounds 1-6 alongside Luxembourg WIM Fiona Steil-Antoni, and GM Robert Hess will take rounds 8-13 partnering with Georgian IM Sopiko Guramishvili. 

Each game of the Tata Steel Masters event will be played with a time control of 100 Minutes for 40 moves, followed by 50 minutes for 20 moves, then 15 minutes for the remaining moves with a 30 second cumulative increment for each move starting from the first move. The tournament schedule will run 13 rounds with one game per day, beginning Saturday and concluding January 31. Rest days are planned for Wednesday, January 20; Monday, January 25; and Thursday, January 28. 

All rounds will begin at 8:00 a.m. eastern time, except for the final round on January 31, which will begin an hour earlier. For the event livestream and more information, visit the official Tata Steel website

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