Norway’s world champion, Magnus Carlsen, is only 24 so after defeating the best players of the older generation, India’s Vishy Anand and Russia’s Vlad Kramnik, his crown might be thought to be secure for a while – but far from it.
Carlsen’s title is targeted by Italy’s world No2, Fabiano Caruana, 22, who brilliantly triumphed ahead of Carlsen at St Louis last year, and also by Anish Giri of the Netherlands and by the former Filipino now American Wesley So, both 20 and already ranked in the world’s top 10. If you extrapolate age improvement, any or all of them could catch the champion.
Hence the importance of Tata Steel Wijk aan Zee, the “Dutch Wimbledon” which starts this weekend as the first 2015 test for the grandmaster elite. Carlsen, Caruana, Giri and So are all in the 14-strong field.
It will be an important event, too, for Hou Yifan. China’s world woman champion, 20, continues to improve and is significantly now scoring good results against men in the top 20-50. Hou at Wijk could upset the conventional wisdom that she will always be in the shadow of the all-time No1 woman, the now retired Judit Polgar.
Tata Wijk also has a B group with its own special clash. China’s Wei Yu, 15, and America’s Sam Sevian, 14, are already grandmasters setting age records. Both are on track to become world title contenders before 2020.
Wijk games are free and available to watch live on the web, starting at 12.30pm daily, with grandmaster and computer move-by-move commentaries plus live video. Watching chess is growing in popularity and is well worth a try if you are not already hooked.
Hastings this week was a comprehensive triumph for Zhao Jun, who with 8/9 was a class ahead of his rivals. Following on China’s 170-nation Olympiad team gold medals, this is another sign that Beijing has its sights on becoming the top chess super-power. Zhao Jun is only No12 in his country.
Zhao Jun’s best win featured original play by White’s b1 knight and Black’s queen. White had the better of the argument since the BQ ended back where it started while the knight made a winning sacrifice at move 23.
Zhao Jun v Jahongir Vakhidov
1 e4 d5 2 exd5 Qxd5 3 Nc3 Qd6 4 d4 Nf6 5 Nf3 g6 6 Nb5 Qb6 7 Na3 c6 8 Nc4 Qc7 9 Nce5 Bg7 10 Bc4 0-0 11 0-0 Nd5 12 Bb3 e6? 13 c4 Nf6 14 h3 c5 15 Bf4 Qa5 16 d5! Qd8 17 Rc1 b6 18 Re1 Nh5 19 Bh2 Bh6 20 Rc3 Bf4 21 Bxf4 Nxf4 22 Qd2 Nh5 23 Nxf7! Kxf7 24 dxe6+ Ke7 25 Rd3 Qc7 26 Qh6 Rh8 27 Ne5 Bxe6 28 Nxg6+ hxg6 29 Qxh8 Kf7 30 Rf3+ Bf5 31 Rxf5+! 1-0
3372 1 f7! Resigns. If Rxe6 2 a7! and a pawn queens.