It's a tradition: January is the month of one of the most awaited and strong tournaments of the year: The Tata Steel Masters.
And, traditionally, it takes place in the small town in the north of the Netherlands Wijk aan Zee. This otherwise godforsaken village is situated north-west of Amsterdam, on the North sea. In this season, it's likely to be freezing up there, despite the climate change.
But starting tomorrow, for two weeks, this remote small town will be the center of the action, with 14 super GMs gathering to play the 13 Round Robin event. This year we're missing Hikaru Nakamura, who's progressively retiring from Classic chess, whereas he still kicks strong in Rapid and Blitz; he got second place in both championships, played in late December in Moscow.
The 3-crown Norwegian ace is there in the cold, to try and win this prestigious tournament for the 8th time. Magnus won in Wijk aan Zee in 2008, 2010, 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019. And another great protagonist of the chess scene for more than 25 years will be battling for his 6th title: Vishy Anand. Anand won in 1989, 1994, 1998, 2003, 2004. Looking at the years they won the tournament, you can tell the generational difference between the two GMs, but we know Anand is still going great at 50, and he's always one of the contenders who must be feared.
Fabiano Caruana, who seems to have taken the place of some-years-ago Aronian, holding the second spot steadily in the FIDE ranking, is the other favorite for the final victory.
The Russian Ian Nepomniachtchi - number 5 in the ranking - has withdrawn from the tournament, saying he's too tired from a long series of competitions played in 2019, and he wants to take a break and prepare for the Candidates', which will take place in March. The organization replaced the Russian player with Nikita Vitiugov.
But all the players - of course - are uber-strong:
|Name||Photo||Country||Year of birth||Rating|
|Caruana, Fabiano||United States||1992||2822|
|So, Wesley||United States||1993||2765|
|Xiong, Jeffery||United States||2000||2708|
|Van Foreest, Jorden||Netherlands||1999||2644|
Round 1 starts January 11th at 7:30 AM EST - 13:30 CET - 12:30 UK.
All rounds start at 13:30 in Wijk aan Zee (7:30 AM EST), except for Sunday the 26th when the round starts at 12.00 (6 AM EST). The first round is on 11 January. Rest days for the Masters and Challengers are scheduled for 15 January, 20 January, and 23 January.
Chess on Tour Round (Round 5, 16 January in Eindhoven) starts at 14:00 (8 AM EST).
Rate of play
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.
In case two players share first place in the Masters (if more players share the first place, the first two players will be selected according to the criteria as stated below), they will play a tie-break after the last round, on Sunday 26, January 2020. The time control for two Blitz games is 5 min + 3 sec and possible Armageddon in the third game (White has 5 minutes and Black 4 minutes, + 3-sec increment as of move 60). Drawing of lots will be provided by the Chief Arbiter. A tie-break will start at 18.00 hours sharp. During the tie-break, only a selected number of press photographers and camera crews will be allowed in the playing area.
If other games are still in progress then, they will be moved to the “Amateur section” close to the Masters and Challengers groups, where they will be continued. The Chief Arbiter will decide when these games will be moved and players are expected to abide by this decision.
Tiebreak criteria for the play-off: