General Dec 7, 2020 | 9:45 AMby Colin McGourty

14-player Tata Steel Masters is on for January!

Anish Giri is the one player so far confirmed for the Tata Steel Masters, with the 2021 chess year set to get off to its traditional start in Wijk aan Zee from 15-31 January. The 83rd edition of the event is being held during a pandemic, which has seen the Challengers and Amateur events cancelled. The elite players will play in a screened-off area with a dedicated entrance, while the usual Chess on Tour days when the players travel to other cities will not take place this time round.

The Wijk aan Zee organisers today announced that after consulting with various sporting and governmental organisations they’ve concluded that January’s Tata Steel Masters can go ahead. It will be the regular 14-player classical single round-robin, held in the normal venue, but the COVID-19 situation has seen the Challenger and Amateur events cancelled. That leaves space for a new set-up aimed at separating the Masters players from other players or, potentially, spectators.

An artist's impression of the setup for the 2021 Tata Steel Chess tournament

Tournament director Jeroen van den Berg commented:

I am very happy that the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021 is on. So many chess events have been cancelled worldwide or turned into rapid tournaments since this spring that players and chess aficionados alike are really pining for big tournaments that actually take place behind the chess board. Well, the Tata Steel Chess Tournament 2021 will be exactly catering to their tastes. And the strong field of participants will undoubtedly lead to spectacular games.

January’s event will not have to compete with the Gibraltar Masters, which was considered impossible to hold during a pandemic – Gibraltar is instead hosting the final stage of the FIDE Women’s Grand Prix from 17-29 January. That may widen the potential field of players, though at the same time the virus situation is likely to prevent many players from outside Europe attending, while others might choose not to play a long event in the current climate. 

Fabiano Caruana was the runaway winner in 2020, though it seems a lifetime ago by now!

Getting up close to the players won't be possible in 2021

So far the one confirmed participant is Dutch no. 1 Anish Giri, who finished runner-up to World Champion Magnus Carlsen in the 2018 and 2019 editions. Spanish Champion David Anton should also play after qualifying by winning last year’s Challengers.

Other players have also referred to the tournament. For instance, French no. 1 Maxime Vachier-Lagrave said he would play Wijk when interviewed after his Speed Chess quarterfinal against Levon Aronian, who said he wouldn’t. MVL plays Magnus in the Speed Chess semi-finals this Friday at 18:00 CET and you’ll be able to watch live here on chess24! 

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