Two weeks aan Zee ahead

| Chess
| Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands

Traveling from Oslo via London and Amsterdam to Wijk aan Zee, I’m reminded of one effect of living close to the Arctic circle. Just a short flight from Oslo there’s already 1,5 hours more daylight mid January.

Tata Steel is celebrating the 80th anniversary (!) of the Tata Steel Chess tournament by inviting a stronger field than in many years. I’m up against five other top10 players, and the rating average of the 14 players is just above 2750. Unfortunately I’m not superstitious otherwise winning in Wijk in most even years from 2004 onwards would have called for some optimism on my partJ

The organizer deserves praise for composing an interesting and varied (and funny) opening ceremony event, and when I drew white in the first round I had reason to be happy with the first day in Wijk in 2018.

Today against Caruana gave less cause for celebration. Maybe I couldn’t expect much after a fairly innocuous opening and early queen trade. I saw a potential longterm pawn structure advantage, but getting there remained too distant to ever materialize. Underestimating his Nd5 plan didn’t help. I did get some slight pressure until he found many good moves despite getting slightly low on time. Just before the time control I didn’t even like my position, and in a drawish position after the time control I made the unusual move (for me) of offering a draw. A reasonable start and 12 rounds to go! Anand followed up his great run in the World Rapid & Blitz with a win against Matlakov and is the early leader together with Kramnik and Giri.

Looking back at 2017 I didn’t fulfill my ambition of improving on my level of play from 2016 in classical chess. The results were not catastrophic, with a few 2nd  and 3rd places in addition to winning the strong Isle of Man Open, and the 2nd half was better than the 1st half. In 2018 my plan is to play quite a lot of classical chess aimed at improving further to close the gap between what I know I can do and how I’m actually performing.

In Rapid and Blitz I have to be very satisfied with 2017. As expected there are some ups and downs, but winning Norway Chess Blitz, Paris, Leuven, the Champions Showdown match against Ding Liren, and the Blitz World Championship brought me the top rating spots in both Rapid and Blitz by a wide margin. Finishing 2017 on a high note with the Blitz victory in Riyadh was important, and it makes me quite optimistic with regard to 2018!