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Tata Steel Starts with Tame Seas Print E-mail
By Macauley Peterson   
January 13, 2013
Wijk aan Zee - The 75th annual tournament in Wijk aan Zee , the Netherlands, got under way this weekend with the welcome news that Tata Steel had agreed to sponsor the event for a further year, in 2014. Amid a difficult global economic environment, there had been worries that this impressive gathering of professional and amateur players, might be in jeopardy.  But for now, it seems, there will at least be a 76th edition.
 
This year’s field includes the newly minted number one player of all time, Magnus Carlsen, making his tenth consecutive appearance. Levon Aronian, last year’s winner, returns as the number two seed. Wijk aan Zee has played host to every World Champion since 1938, save Fischer, and Viswanathan Anand is once again in attendance. Anand comes to the seaside village with his lowest rating since 2004, and in recent months he has fallen out of the top five in the world for the first time in over a decade.
 
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The current world number five, Fabiano Caruana, is making only his second trip to the A-group (the first was in 2010). After a sensational string of strong elite performances in 2012, Caruana finds himself in the enviable position of having to turn down tournament invitations. After Tata he will play in smaller round-robins in Baden-Baden and Zurich, then both of the next two FIDE Grand Prix tournaments in April and May. That forced him to decline the super-strong new tournament in Stavanger, Norway, also planned for May.

In December there was even talk of Caruana playing in the U.S. Championship, but unfortunately he is not in fact eligible this year. Caruana, who holds dual American and Italian citizenship, expressed interest in playing in St. Louis, but because the tournament is a FIDE Zonal qualifying event for the World Cup, and Caruana currently plays under the Italian flag, FIDE rules prohibited his invitation, according to Franc Guadalupe, the Zonal President, after consultation with FIDE officials.

Caruana, who lives in Lugano, Switzerland, is a four-time Italian Champion, but has never competed in the U.S. Championship, which is a Zonal qualifier only every second year. He may be able to participate in 2014.

In Holland, it was gloriously sunny and atypically calm for the first two days of competition, and the early going, was also relatively peaceful.

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Amateurs and spectators arriving by bus for the start of round two.

Caruana was paired with black against Carlsen in round one, and made a solid draw, a fine start to this fortnight of competition, as he explained on Saturday.

“I was slightly worse after the opening. My position was pretty safe, but he can play for a long time, so of course this is the type of position he likes.”


“I think at some point he played a bit inaccurately. It was probably 28.a4 instead of Qf2, this was a critical moment for him. After [Qf2], it's probably very close to equal, but it could be unpleasant,” Caruana observed. “Of course I had to be very careful. He's always playing for a win, he's always very aggressive, and you can't really let your guard down. And I had to make sure that I didn't start like pretty much all my other tournaments where I started with a loss, or with a bad game. So I'm happy with the result.”

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Wijk aan Zee remains unique among elite tournaments, as a fourteen player single round-robin; it’s a marathon rather than a sprint. Caruana has previously won the two lower B and C tournaments played concurrently, so he’s no stranger to the format. “It's a difficult tournament, you really have no idea what will happen. Everything can change at any moment. Usually it all comes down to the last few rounds, so I'm trying to keep my energy.”

On Sunday, he drew with Pentala Harikrishna, last year’s B-group winner, who currently leads the field along side Sergey Karjakin with 1.5/2, after beating Anish Giri in round one.

Karjakin benefitted by a first round blunder from ex-Women’s World Champ Hou Yifan, the lowest seed, who is making her A-group debut. During the opening ceremony, she was mistakenly introduced to the crowd as the current Women’s World Champion, in an embarrassing moment, that saw her hide her face in her hands.


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The only other American player in any of the three GM groups is the U.S. Champion, Hikaru Nakamura, who has also started with an even score. He made a quick draw with Anand in round one shortly after the World Champ passed up an opportunity to get a queen for rook and bishop, in favor of a repetition of moves. Nakamura survived a lost position against Ivan Sokolov on Sunday. It is the first time he has participated alongside Caruana as the lower rated of the two.

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All games in the second round finished in a draw.

Both Nakamura and Caruana play with the black pieces in Monday’s third round. Nakamura faces Peter Leko  while Caruana is paired with Anand. You can follow the games live at www.TataSteelChess.com. The web site has been augmented this year with integrated video interviews and limited live webcams.

 
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