By U.S. News Agency / Asian

Wesley So of the Philippines opens the new year with another major tournament when he vies in the 2011 Tata Steel Corus Group B chess championship scheduled Jan. 14 to 30 at the de Moriaan Community Centre in Wijk aan Zee, Netherlands.

So, who vaulted into No. 3 ranking in the world’s top junior players in the recent FIDE rating list with an ELO of 2686, will participate in the 14-player, category 17 tournament to be held in this popular Dutch resort town for the 73rd straight year.

The 17-year-old Filipino champion, who led the country to a surprise silver medal finish in the recent Asian Games in Guanghzhou, China last month, is seeded fifth in the prestigious category-17 tournament formerly known as Hoogvens.

GM Radek Wojtaszek of Poland is the top seed with an ELO of 2726.

GM David Navara of Czech Republic is the second seed with an ELO 2708, GM Laurant Fressinet of France seeded third with an ELO 2707 and GM Zahar Efimenko of Ukraine at fourth seed with an ELO 2701.

The other players entered in the 17-day, all-GM tournament are GMs Gabriel Sargissian of Armenia, sixth with ELO 2667; Le Quang Liem of Vietnam, seventh with ELO 2664; Luke McShane of England, eighth with ELO 2664; Surya Ganguly of India, ninth with ELO 2651; Li Chao of China, 10th with ELO 2649; Jon Ludvig Hammer of Norway, 11th with ELO 2647; Vlad Tkachiev of France, 12th with ELO 2636; Friso Nijoboer of the Netherlans, 13th with ELO 2584; and Wouter Spoelman of the Netherlands, 14th with ELO 2547.

The first round is set on Jan. 14, while the final round is scheduled on Jan. 30. All rounds begin at 13:30 hours , except on the last round which starts at 12:00 hours.

Rest days are on Jan. 19, 24 and 27.

This will be the third straight year that So was invited to take part in this tough, round-robin competition divided into three categories: Group A (category 20/average rating 2740), Group B (category 17/average rating 2659) and Group C (category 11/ELO 2507).

In 2009, So made history when he topped Group C in his maiden appearance in the tournament, beating a star-studded field which included GMs Anish Giri of the Netherlands, Tiger Hillarp Persson of Sweden and Abhijeet Gupta of India.

The Filipino champion then finished with 9.5 points, a full point ahead of Giri and Persson.

Last year, So moved up to Group B and finished in a two-way tie for third to fourth places with GM Erwin l’Ami of the Netherlands with 7.5 points behind Giri, GM Arkadij Naiditsch of Germany and GM Ni Hua of China.

The only other Filipino player who saw action in the 73-year-old tournament was GM Eugene Torre who competed twice — in 1981 where he compiled a 1-7-4 win-draw-loss record, and in 1984 where he amassed a 1-8-4 slate.

“It’s really a big honor for Wesley and the whole country to be invited to play for the third straight time in Corus, which is one of the oldest and most prestigious chess competitions in the world. Let us pray that he will perform just as well this year,” said National Chess Federation of the Philippines (NCFP) president/chairman Prospero “Butch” Pichay.

Southeast Asian zone president and Tagaytay City Mayor Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino also urged So “to play harder every game and bring more honors to the Filipino people.”

This year, Corus has gathered 42 of the world’s top players to participate in Group A, B and C.

In Group A, the participants are GMs Magnus Carlsen of Norway (ELO 2814), Viswanathan Anand of India (ELO 2810), GM Levon Aronian of Armenia (ELO 2805), GM Vladimir Kramnik of Russia (ELO 2784), Alexander Onischuk of Russia (ELO 2773), Hikaru Nakamura of the United States (ELO 2751), Ruslan Ponomariov of Ukraine (ELO 2744), Ian Nepomniachtchi of Russia (ELO 2733), Wang Hao of China (ELO 2731), Alexei Shirov of Spain (ELO 2722), Maxime Vachier-Lagrave of France (ELO 2715), and three Dutch players — Giri (ELO 2686), Jan Smeets (ELO 2662) and l’Ami (ELO 2624).

In Group C are GMs Murtas Kazhgaleyev of Kazakhstan (ELO 2637), Ivan Ivanisevic of Serbia (ELO 2630), Mark Bluvshtein of Canada (ELO 2590), Daniele Vocaturo of Italy (ELO 2570), Dariusz Swiercz of Poland (ELO 2540), IM Ilya Nyzhnyk of Ukraine (ELO 2530), GM Katherina Lahno of Ukraine (ELO 2518), IMs Roeland Pruijssers (ELO 2484), Benjamin Bok (ELO 2453) and Robin van Kampen of the Netherlands (ELO 2443), GM Sebastian Siebrecht of Germany (ELO 2439), IM Mark van der Werf of the Netherlands (ELO 2439), IM Jan Willem de Jong of the Netherlands (ELO 2437) and IM Tania Sachdev of India (ELO 2382).