World Champion Viswanathan Anand (2804, +4) has reclaimed the #1 position on the FIDE ratings chart… if only but for a short while. Magnus Carlsen’s (2802, -24) performance at the Pearl Spring Invitational at Nanjing, China will certainly put him back on top. However, Carlsen will end the year at the London Chess Classic against a strong field in December.
Besides Anand’s ascendancy there were a few changes in the top ten including Levon Aronian (2801, +18) moving one spot to #3. His recent performance at the European Club Championship put him over 2800 for the first time and is only the sixth player to reach that level. It seemed not long ago that there were only three 2700-rated players. Now there are almost 40. Perhaps this is the new era where 2800 will become the new standard for “SuperGM”.
Vladimir Kramnik edged back up toward 2800 (2791, +11) while Veselin Topalov’s ELO is in freefall after a horrendous Olympiad. He recently had a lackluster tournament at Pearl Spring and will jettison even more points. Some speculate that his adjusting to his marriage has caused the dive. Nevertheless, he is a fighter and will be back for the Candidate’s tournaments next year.
The other top ten are Alexander Grischuk (2771, +11) who gained a handful of points, Vassily Ivanchuk (2764, +10) who continues his resurgence, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov (2763, +7), Sergey Karjakin (2760, +13) who had a fantastic Olympiad winning a gold medal and irrepressible Wang Yue (2756, +24) who regained his top ten spot. Big gains were seen by Gata Kamsky (2726, +21) and a big loss by Pavel Eljanov (2742, -19) who plummeted from his top ten perch.
The junior list is headed by Carlsen (2802) followed by Karjakin (2760) and Ian Nepmniachtchi (2720, +14). Fabiano Caruana (2709, +9) and the surging Maxime Vachier-Lagrave (2703, -18) round out the top five. The name creating the most buzz in the top list is Anish Giri who has gained 100 points in the past year (2682, +5). Many project that he will be a force in the future.
In the women’s group, Judit Polgar (2686, -4) has company in her realm. For so long, she had outdistanced the next woman by more than 100 points, but the gap has closed by Koneru Humpy (2600, +7) who got back at 2600. Polgar still spurns offers to compete in the Women’s cycle, but if others continue to gain, she may feel compelled to show that she is indisputably the strongest. There is no question that she is the strongest woman ever to play the game. The only woman to ever reach the top ten in the overall list.
However, players like China’s Hou Yifan (2591, +13) and a core of other young girls will be looking to threaten her position. The Kosinteva sisters (Tatiana and Nadezhda) led Russia to a gold medal at the 39th Olympiad and are also approaching 2600. One of the brightest stars is another Chinese by the name of Ju Wenjun (2524, +8) who has shown steady progress.
What can be said about the lists is that ratings are slowly inflating, but that does not mean that it is easier to gain ELO points. What is happening is that the field is leveling and players are becoming stronger at the top at the expense of weaker players. Thus, top players appear to have a considerable edge at this point. The top twenty players on the top list have not changed much in the past year, only the order.
There will always be new entrants in the top 100 such as Radoslaw Wojtaszek (2726, +89 since 2009), but players are staying active longer and maintaining their high levels. This means that the younger players can expect to fight the old guard for the championship crown for many years. For all the talk about Carlsen, there are so many others in the mix. We can expect Aronian, Nakamura, Karjakin and rising stars like Caruana and Giri to compete. Until Anand, Ivanchuk and Gelfand continue to play strong chess, they will always remain a threat. Chess has become exciting once again!