General Jan 14, 2023 | 1:47 PMby Tarjei Svensen

Carlsen on 2900 target: "I've put that goal on hold a bit"

Magnus Carlsen is chasing his 9th victory in Wijk aan Zee, but does not take anything for granted and considers this year's event a fun, exciting challenge. The unlikely target of breaking the 2900 barrier has been put on hold, the world champion says.

Can Magnus Carlsen win Tata Steel Chess for the 9th time? | photo: Jurriaan Hoefsmit, Tata Steel Chess

The chess year 2023 takes off today with the traditional Tata Steel Chess tournament in the Dutch coastal town of Wijk aan Zee. Magnus Carlsen is chasing his 9th victory, but faces particularly tough opposition this year from a new generation of rising stars such as Nodirbek Abdusattorov, Arjun Erigaisi, R. Praggnanandhaa, D. Gukesh and Vincent Keymer, in addition to more established players such as Ding Liren, Wesley So, Fabiano Caruana and Levon Aronian.

“I think it's exciting that it's such a strong field like this, but I can't expect to win on demand or anything even close to that. I see it as a fun, exciting challenge,” Carlsen told TV 2.

At 32, the World Champion is actually the second oldest player in the field, behind perhaps his biggest rival in the last decade, 40-year-old Aronian. The two will face each other in Round 1, their 68th encounter in classical chess, with Carlsen having won 17 to Aronian's 8.

Carlsen comes fresh from having won two world championship titles in rapid and blitz, but with the announcement that he would not defend his title in classical, he set a new goal before last year: break the “impossible” 2900 rating barrier.

He hasn't come close. At 2859, he is 5 points further away than he was at the same time last year.

“I feel that I've been playing pretty well, but my rating has been steady at around 2860. I highly doubt that I've become any better or worse since the last time I played classical chess,” he told TV 2.

He once again admits that breaking 2900 is an unlikely goal.

"The goal of breaking 2900 has mostly been about motivating myself to be in top shape when I play classical chess. I've put that goal on hold a bit, so instead I'll bring it back up if I get closer,” he says.

Carlsen's expected score in the field is around 8.7 points, which means he needs at least 9 points in order to gain rating.

The 2023 field in Tata Steel Chess Masters. | photo: Tata Steel Chess

Here are the winners of Tata Steel Chess in the last decade:

  • 2022: Carlsen (9.5 points)
  • 2021: Van Foreest (8.5 points)
  • 2020: Caruana (10 points)
  • 2019: Carlsen (9 points)
  • 2018: Carlsen (9 points)
  • 2017: So (9 points)
  • 2016: Carlsen (9 points)
  • 2015: Carlsen (9 points)
  • 2014: Aronian (8 points)
  • 2013: Carlsen (10 points)

There will be live commentary on chess24 by Peter Svidler, who will be joined by Laurent Fressinet for the first two rounds, before David Howell joins for the remainder of the tournament.

The games kick off at 14:00 CET (8am ET, 18:30 IST), but for most of the world they’ll be visible from 14:15, since a 15-minute anti-cheating delay has been added. Don’t miss the first big tournament of 2023!

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