Report from hotel Zeeduin

| Chess
| Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands

Hotel Zeeduin is indeed at the sand dunes next to the beach in Wijk aan Zee. It has been my home most of January for the 10 years in the A-group (of Tata Steel Chess) since 2007. As usual the weather is interesting and varied. We’ve had strong winds intermingled with quite periods, and bursts of snow, rain and sunshine already. Today was particularly beautiful.

In this 79th edition of the tournament, the organizer has brought together a strong field including five top 10 players.

Already in round 1 I played Wesley So, fresh from his London Classics and Grand Chess Tour 2016 overall victory. He is ranked as number two in the event and the only 2800 player in addition to me. As expected he did not take any risk despite playing white, and by finding a few decent moves I equalized early on. We drew after just two hours play. Sole winner in round 1 was Eljanov (against Rapport).

In round 2 I played white against Radoslav Wojtaszek (2750). When he started working with Anand years back he soon became a 2700+ player and occasionally plays in elite events. This was our fourth encounter in classical chess, and all games have been decisive with white winning 4-0!

I started with 1.e4 allowing the Sicilian. Wojtaszek knows mainline theory and I went for 6.a3 inspired by Karjakin’s choice against Giri in round one. 7.Nf5 was inspired (but maybe slightly dubious). Anyhow I got a playable position with a strong unchallenged bishop on d5. I’m not sure how I could have made progress against stubborn defense as he had a solid king and possible counterplay on the queenside. Importantly it was easier to play white. As defense is not his main strength, he seemed quite pessimistic, probably beyond what was objectively warranted by the position. After spending too much time in the middle game he was quite short on time before the first time control and started to drift with Ra6 etc. I couldn’t find any decisive blow but gradually improved my position and he resigned facing the loss of a second pawn without any significant compensation.

Despite winning the last three times I’ve played here in Wijk (in 2013, 2015, 2016) I usually have a slow start. Consequently I’m very satisfied with winning my first white game this time.

Dimitry Andreikin, another very strong Russian born 1990, whom I played in my first international youth championships back in 2002, was my opponent in round 3. I was surprised by his Bf4 but is satisfied with the way I responded. Having equalized I was hoping for more. However, I could not find a way to make progress in a seemingly nice position and repeated moves after three hours play.

Shared 2nd behind early leaver Eljanov is fine for now.