The first major chess tournament of the new year kicks off Saturday with the Tata Steel Tournament getting underway, and runs through 13-28 January – and this year marks a special milestone edition for the fabled Dutch super-tournament, as it marks 80 years of chess in the Iljmond region. It started life as a works tournament in 1938 for the local Hoogoovens steel mill and then, in the postwar years, going professional and moving first to Beverwijk, and from 1968 to the present day, to its ‘spiritual home’ in Wijk aan Zee.
There’s an all-star field for the 80th anniversary event, with the ‘Masters’ led by World champion Magnus Carlsen and ex-champions Vishy Anand and Vladimir Kramnik – and there’s also considerable American interest with last year’s winner Wesley So and Fabiano Caruana also in the mix, both of whom will be looking for a confidence-boosting performance ahead of the Berlin Candidates in March.
The full line up is: Magnus Carlsen, Vishy Anand, Vladimir Kramnik, Shak Mamedyarov, Peter Svidler, Anish Giri, Wesley So (2017 winner), Fabiano Caruana, Wei Yi, Sergey Karjakin, Hou Yifan, Maxim Matlakov, Baskaran Adhiban, Gawain Jones (2017 Challengers winner).
First round pairings:
Giri – Hou
Kramnik – Yi
Svidler – Baskaran
Carlsen – Caruana
Jones – Karjakin
Anand – Matlakov
So – Mamedyarov
The Tata Steel Tournament in Wijk aan Zee has now become the highlight of the chess calendar – but Hastings has the longest tradition of all the international tournaments. The historic tournament at the English Sussex resort began in 1895 and has been staged annually (with the exception of the war years) since 1919, with its Christmas tradition starting in 1922.
Sadly, due to a lack of sponsorship in the past and being eclipsed by the growth in stature of the Dutch tournament in Wijk aan Zee, the once mighty ‘Hastings Premier ‘- which in the past could boast of eleven world champions taking part – has been ‘downgraded’ in status, though the long tradition continues as a lesser international Open, saved by a new sponsorship deal with Tradewise Insurance Services Ltd.
The Tradewise 93rd Hastings Masters ended in a tie for first place between Indian GM Deep Sengupta and the Chinese IM Yiping Lou, with both top-scoring on 7/9. After a surprise setback start to the defense of his Masters title, Sengupta, the 2016/17 champion, scored a dramatic final round win over English hope GM Danny Gormally to catch Yiping.
Photo (© official site): The winners are awarded the Golombek Trophy by Cllr. Judy Rogers, Mayor of Hastings and Dominic Lawson, President of the English Chess Federation.
GM Deep Sengupta – GM Danny Gormally
Hastings Masters, (9)
1.e4 c5 2.Nf3 d6 3.d4 Nf6 4.Nc3 cxd4 5.Nxd4 a6 6.Bg5 This has always been one of White’s most aggressive options against the Sicilian Najdorf. 6…e6 7.f4 Qc7 The favorite choice of the young Garry Kasparov. It is easy to understand the appeal for Black, as play tends to take on a slower pace, with fewer forcing lines than in most Najdorf variations – but the game soon transposes back into the big mainline normally associated with 7…Be7. 8.Qf3 Nbd7 9.0-0-0 Be7 10.g4 h6 11.Bxf6 Bxf6 12.h4 Qb6 13.Nb3 Nc5?! This move is known to be “dodgy”, as it invites an early e5 from White. Much better is 13…Qc7 14.e5 dxe5 15.f5 Nb6! 16.Ne4 exf5 17.gxf5 Bd7 and Black has equalized fairly easily, as seen in Shirov-Dominguez, Sofia 2009. 14.Nxc5 Qxc5 15.e5! Busting the game open and vacating the e4 square for the knight to take a strategically dominant outpost. 15…dxe5 16.Ne4 Qc6 No better is 16…Qa5 17.Nd6+ Kf8 18.g5 with a big advantage and a decisive attack, Negi-Efimenko, San Marino 2009. 17.Bg2 Be7 This retreat is tantamount to an admission from Black that he’s in deep trouble and gone astray here, as he’s trying his best now to avoid being quickly crushed – but to no avail, as White easily forces the win with his dominant position. 18.fxe5 0-0 19.g5 White’s relentless attack comes crashing in nevertheless. 19…Qb5 20.Qg3 h5 21.Nf6+! Not only tempting but the most clinical way to win, as taking the knight leads to a quick mating attack. 21…Kh8 22.Nxh5 Bd7 23.Qg4 Rac8 24.Nf6! [see diagram] It’s déjà vu all over again – only this time, with the d7 bishop under attack, and Qh5+ mating, Black has to reluctantly take the knight. 24…gxf6 25.gxf6 Bxf6 26.Qh5+! 1-0 Black resigns. He was praying for 26.exf6? Rg8 27.Qh3 Qa4! 28.c3 Qxa2 29.Be4 (If 29.Rxd7? Qa1+ 30.Kc2 Qa4+ 31.Kb1 Qxd7 Black is winning.) 29…Bc6 and escaping with a draw. But after the deadly 26.Qh5+!, now 26…Kg8 there comes 27.Be4 and he’s either getting mated or faces a very heavy loss of material.