By GM Denes Boros
The first tournament of the year starts on January 11 and ends on January the 26th. The Wimbledon of Chess as it is known in chess circles, 2020 Tata Steel is a gruelling event, spreading through two weeks and thirteen rounds. This is physically very demanding, which means only the fittest and brightest players can win this prestigious event. Even though most of the tournaments are nine rounds long, this will be a perfect practice for grandmasters that qualified for the World Championship Candidates Tournament.
This year’s Tata Steel Chess Tournament, will be headlined by the reigning World Champion Magnus Carlsen and World’s No. 2 Fabiano Caruana. This will be their first clash in 2020, but can also be considered as a prologue to their potential return match. Fabiano Caruana, representing the United States, is the number two seed in the tournament, will be looking to start the year on a high note, as he is going to be participating in the Candidates tournament, later this March. Caruana however is not the only one who is preparing for the upcoming World Championship Candidates tournament in this field. Local favorite Anish Giri will try to show his strength at this event, as this Candidates tournament will only be his second attempt to challenge the Norwegian, Magnus Carlsen for the chess crown.
All three of the Grandmasters are eager to show their best at the Wimbledon of Chess, but they will face a young and fearless opposition this year. One of the most anticipated games this year is going to happen between Magnus Carlsen and Alireza Firouzja. Alireza Firouzja, although not the highest rated among the young players, but at age 16, he is already a threat to the best of the best. He achieved second place at the World Rapid Championship, behind Magnus Carlsen. In fact he even had a promising position against Carlsen, but he lost in the end in a dramatic game against the Norwegian World Champion.
What to expect from the tournament?
Carlsen has been in great shape in 2019, and is likely to arrive to Wijk aan Zee in a fighting mood. He is undoubtedly the natural favorite, but Caruana is also capable of winning the event, and is ready to challenge the reigning World Champion. Among the top favorites are Wesley So, Anish Giri and Vishwanathan Anand. All three of them will have a final say in the result, but the open question is how ready are these grandmasters to compete in a thirteen round tournament? The other half of the field will not face that issue, as most of them are only in their young twenties. Namely Duda, Artemiev, Xiong, but they will have to show high levels of consistency in their games to prove challenging for the top 5 seed.
At the moment it’s quite difficult to decide which young phenom will dominate, but according to recent results, Alireza Firouzja and Jeffery Xiong stand out. Jeffery Xiong (19) from the United States showed some fine and consistent play last year winning the 2019 Winter Chess Classic in Saint Louis and beating many prominent grandmasters in the World Cup, most notable was his match win against Anish Giri. In a long tournament such as the Tata Steel Tournament, the most consistent and physically fit prevails, will it be Magnus Carlsen or one of his young rivals, we shall find out!