CHENNAI: Viswanathan Anand will be looking to start 2019 on a positive note, when the 81st edition of Tata Steel Chess Masters gets underway in Wijk aan Zee, The Netherlands, on Saturday.
It will be the first big tournament of the season, with world champion Magnus Carlsen, Vladimir Kramnik, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ding Liren and Anish Giri competing. The 14-player round-robin tournament will have 13 rounds. Anand, a five-time winner, had a good tournament last year, finishing joint-fifth. Anand will hope for a podium finish and to improve his rating. Importantly gaining 20 points will put him on the right track to qualify for next year’s Candidates through rating. To be in contention for the top spots, the five-time World champion will have to win more games, which is possible if Anand can strike a purple patch.
“If Vishy gets a good start, he can fight for the title. Would be nice if he can win this time and share the highest number of Wijk aan Zee victories with Carlsen,” said India No 4 B Adhiban on Anand’s chances in the category 21 tournament. “Anand would have a decent chance of a top finish. However, one can’t say he is among the absolute favourites to win,” said India GM Sundararajan Kidambi.
Vidit Santosh Gujrathi, another Indian in the fray, had a breakout 2018, winning the Tata Steel Challengers, which earned him a spot in this year’s main event. He also had a fruitful World Cup, reaching the third round before going down to eventual runner-up Ding Liren. One can expect Vidit to end the event with a plus score. Of course, it’s going to be a real test because he will be competing in such a strong field for the first time. “I think Vidit will prove to be quite a surprise,’’ reflected Kidambi.
Fresh from winning two World titles (classical and blitz) in two months, Carlsen will be gunning for his seventh title in the coastal town of Wijk aan Zee. His main challengers for the title will be Shakhriyar Mamedyarov, Ding Liren, Vladimir Kramnik, Anand and Anish Giri. Improving his performances in the classical format will be one of the goals for Carlsen in 2019. With other top players getting stronger and stronger, his ability to produce more decisive games has reduced considerably over the last 24 months. If he doesn’t get bogged down by draws, the Norwegian will be favourite to win the crown.
Praggu out to make a mark
R Praggnanandhaa, who became the second youngest GM at that time in 2018, will be looking to make a mark in the Challengers section, which will take place simultaneously with the Masters. The 13-year-old will be playing in a classical tournament of such scale for the first time.