Lots of change on the April 2007 FIDE Rating list
Viswanathan Anand on his way to eclipsing Topalov.

Viswanathan Anand on his way to eclipsing Topalov.
(Photo courtesy of ChessBase.com)

There is a new king atop the mountain! Viswanathan Anand (2786, +7) has finally eclipsed the rating charts for the first time in his career after winning the prestigious 2007 Linares tournament. His ascension to the top came with much controversy as the initial list did not include the Linares tournament in their calculations which would mean that Veselin Topalov (2772, -11) would remain at the top. Topalov's poor performance at Linares accented a rather pointed fall from grace for the Bulgarian icon.

Vladimir Kramnik (2772, +6) continues his rebound and moves into joint 2nd on the rating chart. Since winning the World Championship match against Topalov, he has increased the intensity of his play. Unfortunately his Amber Melody victory will not be counted in the FIDE ratings and his match win over Peter Leko was in rapids. Alexander Morozevich has been up and down the past 10 years and a recent surge in his  play (Tal Memorial, European Cup, Pamplona)  vaults him to the #4 spot (2762, +21).

Levon Aronian had once reached the #3 but a poor showing at 2006 Dortmund dropped him a few notches. He has now rebounded after a strong Corus tournament and is now at #5. Months ago, Shakhriyar Mamedyarov  (2757, +3) had previously sprinted past his compatriot Teimour Rajabov (2747, +18) as Azerbaijan's top player, but  the two are pitched in a battle for the nation's bragging rights. They are both #6 and #7 respectively. Vassily Ivanchuk (2729, -21) took the biggest dive dropping seven slots to #12.  There are no major changes in the top 20, but Magnus Carlsen's steady results should push him into the 2700 club soon (2693, +3).

In the women's category,
Judit Polgar (2727, +0) continues to hold the top spot, but there is some activity. However, Koneru Humpy is now at 2575, +9) which is still more than 150 ELO points from Polgar, but she continues to play in strong tournament and at age 20, she'll only get better. The other sensation in the women's category is Hou Yifan who has climbed to the #6 position on the women's charts and #2 (behind Humpy)  on the girl's chart.

China’s Hou Yifan

China's Hou Yifan
(Photo by Pufichek)

Azerbaijan's Teimour Radjabov (2729, +0) has been on top of the junior charts for what appears to be an eternity (three years). Norway's Magnus Carlsen (2693, +3) continues to rise as does Sergey Karjakin (2686, +8).  Hikaru Nakamura (2663, +12) is back on the scene after deciding to take a sabbatical from his studies at Dickinson College.  He started with a strong showing in Gibraltar followed by couple of quick wins in major U.S. tournaments.

Rounding out the top five is China's 
Wang Yue (2656, +12) who is hot on the heels of China's #1 player. That player is not Bu Xiangzhi (2656, +12), but Zhang Pengxiang (2657,  +14). What is amazing about this competition is that Ni Hua (2654, +18) is only three ELO points from #1! The other Chinese sensation is 16-year old Wang Hao (2638, +19) who is #7 among top juniors. This trend will create a competitive environment  which bodes well for China.

GM-elect Pontus Carlsson

GM-elect Pontus Carlsson

In Africa, Morocco's Hichem Hamdouchi dips below 2600 (2598, -4), but remains the #1 player on the continent by a wide margin. Essam El-Gindy (2523, +0) continues to provide a target for up-and-coming talents eighteen-year old Bassem Amin (2514) and nineteen-year old Ahmed Adly (2507). African Vice-Champion Slim Belkhodja (2490, +3) is playing a lot of chess in France and will certainly be in Algeria for the All-Africa Games in July. South of the Sahara, George Michelakis (2425, +0) has not seen action in the past year. Amon Simutowe (2419, +2) of Zambia has developed a slate of tournament in hopes to earn the final GM norm. No other top African player is showing any activity. Robert Gwaze of Zimbabwe (2413, +0) and Watu Kobese (2389, +0) have largely been concentrating on chess training.

In the Caribbean, Cuba's
Lenier Domínguez (2678, +1) won the Cuban Championship once again over Lázaro Bruzon (2620, +6). Bruzon is rebounding after a precipitous crop from grace. Not much activity in the rest of the Caribbean. Still no sign of Maurice Ashley (2465, +0), but maybe 2007 is the year of his return to active tournament play. Emory Tate (2406, -4), recently had his IM title conferred in January and he was followed by  Stephen Muhammad (2384, -10). Tate was recently playing in Iceland and hopes to earn more opportunities to play in strong tournaments. Muhammad told The Chess Drum that he still has ideas of earning the GM title, but is pursuing other professional endeavors as well.  In Europe, Sweden's Pontus Carlsson (2495, +3) recently earned his 3rd GM norm and hopes to have the title conferred in the fall.

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Posted by The Chess Drum: 5 May 2007