The importance of the Tata Steel Chess tournament in the Netherlands

Once a year, small village Wijk aan Zee is in the chess world’s spotlights thanks to the traditional Tata Steel Chess Tournament. The event is famous because of its super strong A-group, won this year by Magnus Carlsen, and a B- and C-group which could suit as a prestigious primer tournaments in every city as well.

However, the Tata tournament is really special because of its impulse for the Dutch chess scene. Thousands and thousands of chess enthusiasts visit Wijk aan Zee to watch the games, enjoy the commentary in the pavilion or to play in one of the many amateur events. Others have the chance to compete a grandmaster during various simultaneous exhibitions, held after the tournament. Chess is in the newspapers, on the national TV. All these side events really show the importance of the Tata tournament in the Netherlands.

Audience in Wijk aan Zee

Two young kids having their first experience with chess, watching the games

The tournament of Wijk aan Zee is held in a big sports centre called the Moriaan. In the shadows of the grandmaster groups, many different amateur events are played in the same hall, just a few meters away from the top guns.

The most well-known amateur event is the 10-player round robin, with more than 50 groups. The winners of the two highest groups have the right to play in Tata C the next year: this year the prestigious spots went to FM Etienne Goudriaan and IM Merijn van Delft. However, both winners of group 1A and 1B earned the same amount of prize money as the winner of group 9H, with an average rating of 1300!

Sports Centre De Moriaan, occupied by hundreds of chess amateurs. In the back you will find the grandmaster groups.

Apart from these 9-round events, other tournaments were organised as well: 3-round events (a 4-player round robin, both during the weekend and mid-week), a two-day rapid event and special tournaments for journalists, companies, parliamentarians and even the arbiters. About 2000 people played chess in the Moriaan this year.  

And the Dutch chess madness didn’t stop once the tournament was over! At several places the Grandmasters gave simultaneous exhibitions.

Simultaneous exhibition Russian Embassy in town hall of The Hague

The day after the tournament, Sergey Karjakin, Anish Giri and Sergei Tiviakov played a simultaneous in the town hall of The Hague. The grandmasters faced 30 opponents each, most of them living in region.

Ambassador of Russia in the Netherlands Mr. Roman Kolodkin, Sergei Tiviakov, Sergey Karjakin, Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen and Anish Giri. Photo: Sir Francis.

Sergey Karjakin, ranked number 5 of the world and shared the 3th place in Wijk, had the hardest day of all. He lost 4 of his games and drew 3 of them. The winners were Johan-Martijn ten Hove, Elwin v.d. Auweraert, Boudewijn v.d. Haar and 12-year-old Robby Kevlishvili.

Sergey Karjakin vs. Robby Kevlishvili. Robby is Dutch youth champion U13. Photo: Sir Francis

Anish Giri and Sergei Tiviakov did a better job, drawing respectively two games and one game.
The simultaneous was organised for the second consecutive year by chess club DD, the Consular Department of the Embassy of the Russian Federation and the municipality of The Hague. The theme of the simultaneous was the Netherlands-Russia-year 2013, which consists many events throughout the country.

Sergei Tiviakov pondering about a move against a girl from Barcelona. Tiviakov won the game.

Anish Giri skipped another day at school. After the simul his main focus finally went to the school exams in May.

The town hall is one of the many remarkable buildings in The Hague. Photo: Sir Fancis.


Torentjesschaak is yet another unique simultaneous event – called after The Torentje, the official office of the Prime Minister of the Netherlands. It is an annual event for (former) members of the parliament, political journalists and people with a special connection with the parliament. The event serves as a meeting point for politicians, businesses and chess.

This year, Chinese former World Champion Yifan Hou had the honour to play the simultaneous in the central hall of the House of Representatives building. She beat all her opponents. Afterward she’d choose Gerrit Valk, former member of the House of Representatives, as the one who offered most opposition during the game.

Gerrit Valk receiving the trophy from Mayor of The Hague Jozias van Aartsen. Photo: Sir Francis

Yifan Hou

President of the House of Representatives of the Netherlands Anouchka van Miltenburg and Eric van der Oest, the organiser of Torentjesschaak and manager public affairs Tata Steel Netherlands. Photo: Sir Francis

Chess in the jail
Grandmaster Friso Nijboer gave a simultaneous for the Staff Association of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment. The former chess professional (nowadays Junior Business Engineer at a company called Finaps) showed some highlights from Tata 2013 before simultaneous, and lost only one of his games, against…  Robby Kevlishvili. Again!

Friso Nijboer

As the chess madness took over whole the country, even a simultaneous was given in the jail! 29-year-old Vincent Oudewaal (rated 2050 – no criminal) played a simultaneous at the prison of Zutphen. His report: “After a half an hour safety check we had to leave all our belongings at the entrance, as we weren’t allowed to take anything inside the jail. We arrived on the 2nd floor of the jail’s recreation room, which was secured with these old fashioned metal bars. And there they were: 20 guys, 20 very big guys, talking out loud. I thought this only happened in the movies! And the best was yet to come ... the simultaneously started and ... dead silence! One could hear the crack of brains.”

Vincent Oudewaal in front of the jail in Zutphen

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